Step by step (mine!) the farm is transforming. From nothing but weeds, areas are being tamed. When I decided to buy the farm, I was optimistic. I saw what it could be and felt I could get it there. Alone. With time. However, when I actually moved my travel trailer down to live there and start working, I was overwhelmed. I walked out into the first area I planned to work on – about 5 acres – and as I struggled through weeds over my head, along a fence line that was broken and hard to get to, I suddenly couldn’t cope. I had thought that 2 days hard work would get it ready. Now I felt like I needed a crew of 5 men! There was no way I could do this!
Luckily, I know myself. I just turned around, walked back to the trailer and took a break. I knew I was right, two days of hard work would get it done. But I had to relax first and absorb what that really meant. It meant two days of HARD work, not a few hours. But I could do it.
That first day, I took hedge clippers and cut a fence line for my temporary posts and electric tape. I started with a weed eater, with an actual brush cutting blade on it – but while it cut those tall, thick weeds okay, they were so big they just wrapped around the shaft. It was faster (have I mentioned I am compulsive?) to use the hedge clippers. Hand tools not power tools. I was determined to get an area set up and I cut a 4 foot swath through those weeds. Got my posts up. Got my tape up. And got it hot. It was back breaking hard work – but I felt good! All for an area about 150′ x 150′. If that sounds small and easy, it wasn’t.
My next step was to enlarge it. That went easier and in an afternoon I had it twice the size.
The next step was to get the whole 5 acres opened up. It took another 8 hours, over 2 days, to do it – but it was done!! What a sense of accomplishment. And I had been right – two days of hard work would have done it. I just wasn’t up to the task.
Below is a photo of the 5 acre enclosure after the horses had done a good job of clearing the weeds. The whole area is not visible – it goes up and over the hill to the left, and there is some that can’t be seen to the right.
To tell you how much stronger I am now than day one – it took 2 days of hard work (4 hour days), in the rain, to get the 15 acre section open. Luckily it was in the 60′s and I honestly barely noticed the rain – though it’s been 2 days since I finished and my boots are still wet!
The important thing is that the horses are happy.
Below is a photo taken yesterday as they stood on the hill directly across from my window. I’m sure that now that they’re out of the manicured pastures of Paris, they feel like wild horses foraging in the wilderness. Though it’s not apparent from the photo – the majority of the area, including that part in the photo, is rich in grass. It’s just long and bent over – I think of it as standing (slumped over) hay. It should take them quite a while to eat it down.
I am surrounded on three sides by the horses’ are and love it. As I write this, the horses are visible out my back window, some of them napping and the others watching over them. It doesn’t get much better than that.
I was awakened at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning by the sound of a galloping horse. I waited to see if I’d dreamt it, or if the horses were loose! Had the answer seconds later. REAL! Leaped out of bed, threw on boots and a jacket and ran outside.
Thank goodness it was just one horse. Roxanna, and not the whole herd.
Roxanna is a mustang, and whether or not that is why she is the way she is, I don’t know. But she is very intelligent. She can get out any time she wants – and she is well aware of it. She had already ducked under the electric fence a few weeks ago. I had taken Huey out to hand graze in the big field. We had walked maybe 50 feet when I heard a horse behind us. I turned hoping they had not all broken through in their fear that Huey might leave them for good – but it was only Roxanna, and she had just ducked underneath the gate.
I did graze Huey, and Roxanna stayed right with us the whole time. When I put Huey in, I put a halter on Roxanna and put her away as well. Lesson noted – Roxanna could have gotten out at any time. But didn’t.
She had gotten out before, when we lived in Washington state. I was unable to find where she was getting out – the fence was intact – until she did it right in front of me. Stuck her head under the wire, let the wire lay on her neck, seemed to measure the shock and find it not too bad, then ducked underneath. The funny thing is that once she is out and is ready to go back she gets very upset and can’t figure out how to do it. Then she races around until I hear her – and put her back in.
So it was the other night.
She had also broken out of the dry lot in Paris several times the first year we were there. Just tore it down even though it was 3 strands of the wide electric tape, on T-Posts. Never did it after those first few times.
Needless to say, if Roxanna wanted to leave – Roxanna would be gone.
I have always wondered about the Indians and their horses. They lived on the plains – very few trees – they didn’t have fences and yet their horses obviously stayed around and were at hand when needed. If I had 10,000 acres and turned my horses out, would they be anywhere nearby when I needed them? What about the Arabs? I don’t think they had fences either. In fact, when did fencing in horses start? Look at Mongolia. No trees on the great plains there – and endless vistas of grass. Why did the horses stay around? Were they ALL hobbled? What is the secret?
It seems impossible that is was exactly a month ago – today – that I hauled my travel trailer down here and started working on getting things in shape. It seems much longer.
A lot has changed in a very short time – with a lot of work. And help.
The farm had a tenant when I bought it, and I have allowed him to stay. So far rent-free, as he is a worker. He has done a lot of mowing and brush clearing. He has fixed the roof where the metal panels were missing screws. Taken the decrepit “deck” off of the house. Hauled a pickup load of scrap away. And in general, been very helpful. His name is Denny. He has a twin brother (fraternal) named Kenny, who lives in Louisville, and is a licensed electrician.
While Denny was out of town working, I met his uncle (whose name escapes me at the moment – I am bad with names), who came to feed his horses every day. Denny’s uncle has taken up bee keeping and I learned a lot talking to him about it. This spring he’s going to bring a hive to the farm, and I get several quarts of honey in exchange for the bees living here. I do have to make sure the bees have water – but that should be interesting and certainly not much work.
I also recently met the owner of the land that abuts mine to the west and north. He doesn’t live on his farm anymore, but leases the land and it’s nicely maintained. He was very informative.
I had just walked the western-most acreage – checking to see how much of it was fenced. It was quite a hike, as it is not mowed of course, and there are some fallen trees, broken fence, etc. I came to where the fence turned and saw a collapsed building on the other side, which I assumed was on the other person’s property. I also came across a horse skull. I picked it up at first to see if it was a cow or a horse, but it was clearly a horse. It was only when I went to put it down that I realized there was an entire skeleton! The poor horse died right there. So much more dramatic and sad to see the huge skeleton, as opposed to just a skull.
I also ran across an interesting rock formation – totally unexpected – which appeared to have some shallow caves, and clearly some animal activity. It was down a slight embankment and I didn’t go exploring. But will some other day.
Was amazed at how much land was over there. Nice open meadows, what looks to be a creek in the spring perhaps. So much more interesting than just flat open fields.
Anyway, as it turned out, Ralph – the owner of the adjoining land – came by only minutes after I finished my walk. As I told him about my exploration, he informed me that the collapsed building is on my land. Wow! There’s just so much of it. He also said I could drive down his driveway and check out the fence line from his side. Being careful to close the gates behind me, of course, so the cattle don’t get out. Ralph also knew about some of the previous owners. I gave him a brief tour of the house – he had heard that the woman who’d had it before had torn it apart. Which she had. He was pretty amazed. He was very complimentary on how the place is starting to shape up. He is heading to Florida, but we exchanged phone numbers.
Such nice neighbors here.
Below are some before and after photos. And for those interested – click here to see an aerial view of the farm.
I’ve been busy!
I hauled my travel trailer down 2 weeks ago this past Saturday. What a job! Thankfully I had help getting it ready for the road. Neighbor and friend, Jim, came over and assisted with removing the “skirting” that kept the wind out from under the trailer, and the hitching up.
After I got it set up at the farm it was time to go to work on creating an enclosure for the horses. Since the farm has been let go for quite a while, it was a job to clear a line for the electric fence. I bought a brand new weed eater, but the weeds proved too tall for it to be effective. Yes, it cut them, but they ended up twisted around the shaft. In the end I used old fashioned hedge clippers. Talk about a workout! But it worked.
The longer I worked the more I realized how large the task was. Lowering my sights I settled on a 150 x 150 (or so) area for the first horses. The day after I finished it, I went and got Huey and Bettina. My two oldest and hopefully wisest horses. I felt they would be the ones who would do best all by themselves, while I enlarged the enclosure.
The second day they were here, I enlarged the enclosure to about twice the original size. It was getting late, but I was so close to finishing that I kept on. At the end, as I was moving the posts (with tape attached), there was about a 20-30 foot gap that was open. I was in the process of closing it when Huey walked right by me, and out! At first I didn’t think much of it. He and Bettina were just a few feet away. I closed the gap in less than minutes, but when I turned around the horses were gone. Vanished in the dark.
To make a long story short, I notified the Sheriff’s office that they were loose. The following day I notified the local radio station and the vet’s office. On the fifth day the vet’s office called and told me he had spotted the horses on his trail cam. I went to his place and searched for a couple hours with no results. Driving out I stopped at the house on the corner and asked the woman who answered the door if she had seen 2 horses. She had! And her husband had gotten them into a corral! So there they were.
In the meantime, I had hauled Lucy and Chance to the farm, who were very happy to see Huey and Bettina.
The final step was to enlarge the enclosure to several acres, which were mostly fenced but had gaps. I spent an entire day on that project and got it completed just at dark. The following day I took down the line of electric fence that had divided the small area from the larger one. I watched Huey watch me as I pulled up the posts. He kept his eyes on me – and the growing gap – but made absolutely no move to pass through it. In fact, it was a couple hours before any of the horses ventured over to the newly opened area – and then they did not go far. I can only wonder what it was that Huey told them! Maybe he and Bettina didn’t have such a great time after all.
All the horses are now at the farm and I am starting to feel more settled. Thank goodness.