Lazy Weekend

sometimes you’re productive, sometimes you’re not

The weather was gorgeous this weekend and we could have gotten so much done. But everyone seemed to agree that it was a good weekend for lazing about doing not much of anything. I finished the book Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway (really good book, I liked it a lot and got some great ideas and inspiration from it) and Nate and I both played a lot of bit of Horizon: Forbidden West (I am enjoying it just as much as the first game – which I LOVED) and Leeloo and Juniper spent most of the weekend napping in the sun.

We did get the “barn” shelter all cleared out so that we can feed the girls in there. Everyone is still getting used to the new routine and the efficiencies haven’t materialized quite yet; but I’m hopeful that within a week or so this change in our routine will make a difference. Today they both realized that they needed to be by the big gate and that the hay and treat toy were still back by the water and they had to travel to them. Of course today it is also stupid and rainy and I have most of their hay in the shelters, but they’ll figure that out. Hopefully.

Snow-ver It


Say it with me: at least there are no bugs, at least there are no bugs, at least there are no bugs.

This was not a fun week for taking care of outside animals. Particularly since the wind was coming more from the east and the shelters are all aimed for our more common westerly wind; the end result being that the shelters didn’t do a whole lot of sheltering.

We did all survive, though Leeloo was mighty crabby for a while; okay we were all mighty crabby for a while. Leeloo at least can always be reliably cheered up with her toy no matter the weather.

Treat toy is life.

Because the wind came from a new direction we have drifts in fun new places. Like between me and where we have been dumping the poop.

I fought the drift, and the drift won.

I did find a slightly less formidable drift that I was able to make it up and over, though its harder to get to because I have to sneak behind the three compost bays. How I ever thought three small compost bays would be enough is beyond me. That’s okay though because every mistake is just an opportunity to learn. In this case what I have learned is that we need some sort of tractor or skid steer! I also learned that I prefer this weather a millions times more than 90 degree hot humid bug filled summer so I remind myself of that over and over. Say it with me: At least there are no bugs, at least there are no bugs, at least there are no bugs!

Reading Lists and Projects

some completed, some not so completed

This weekend was not as productive as I had hoped (shocker!). Juniper has been slowly getting pickier and pickier about eating. For most of the fall she would be standing by the gate to the round pen, ready and waiting to eat her breakfast; and she’d eat most of it, or rather, most of it made it into her mouth at some point though she lost a lot in the process. Side note – we’re hoping to find an equine dental specialist and have them out once it’s warmer to take another look at Juniper’s teeth. She is still having too hard of a time eating despite the dental float we had done this fall. Luckily Leeloo is always happy to eat up anything that Juniper drops. Anyway, as the weather has gotten colder we’ve had to add less water to Juniper’s food because even at her most excited Juniper is a slow eater, SLOW, and once the temperature really dropped her food would invariably start to freeze before she would finish it and then she didn’t want it anymore (Leeloo of course had no such compunctions). I have eased back the water to the point where it doesn’t freeze, but this also means Juniper is less interested in finishing it. She’s still super excited for that first bite, but sometimes we barely get much more than that. Some days she decides hay is better and stops eating if she thinks I’m about to come around with the hay sled and bites the bars of the round pen gate until we let her out. Some days she’s thirsty and wants to have a drink in the middle of breakfast. For a while I brought her, her very own small bucket of water for while she was eating breakfast and that worked for a little while, but it has stopped working. Some days she just wants us to hold it for her the way we hold it for Leeloo (I wish I was joking). My hope is that if we can feed Juniper (and Leeloo) in the “barn” shelter that I can throw a little hay in there, and her bucket of water, and then just leave her and Leeloo in there long enough for Juniper to finish eating. I’m also hoping that if we feed in a sheltered area instead of out in the open I can start adding a little more water to her food without it freezing. All of that combined with how much it sucks to stand outside in almost all weather feeding them has really motivated me to get that last “barn” shelter bay cleaned out so we can use it as the make-shift barn as I had planned. We ALMOST got there this weekend, almost but not quite. The stupid ice from last week has made getting in and out of that shelter very treacherous so Nate and I spent much of the weekend trying to rectify that situation instead of finishing the cleanout. The last thing I need is for the horses or for us to slip (again). Fingers crossed that by next weekend we are officially feeding in the “barn” shelter.

Though I didn’t make as much progress on the “barn” shelter as I had hoped, I did make a decent dent in my “I want to be a farmer” reading list. This urge to be some sort of farmer/food producer/livestock rancher is not a new thing for me, though it has never felt quite so urgent and immediate as it has now. Over the years I have done a variety of reading related to these farming dreams. Most of these were read back-to-back-to-back so I have a hard time remembering exactly which information I learned from which book, particularly since there is a lot of overlap. The exception being the book by Ruth Stout; that one I remember very well, and I highly recommend it – funny and informative!

books I read a while ago – I recommend all of them:

The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka – this is a book on many “must read” lists regarding sustainable, natural, regenerative, buzz word of your choice, agriculture.

The Soil Will Save Us. How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet. by Kristin Ohlson The subtitle tells you all you need to know, it was actually a pretty hopeful book. If you are feeling depressed about climate change then this book may help you feel better.

Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.

Building Soils Naturally: Innovative Methods for Organic Gardeners by Phil Nauta

Those last two had a lot of overlap being focused completely on soil, how it works, what makes it healthy, and ways to improve it. I learned a ton and if you are interested in soil I recommend them both (mostly because at this point they have merged into one book in my head).

Gardening Without Work. For the Aging, the Busy, and the Indolent by Ruth Stout – HIGHLY recommend. Not only was it informative but it was very entertaining. Her gardening method is extreme mulching and I had planned on trying it out last summer but then I randomly decided to bring Leeloo home and there went every free second.

books I have read in the past week –

The Complete Guide to No-Dig Gardening by Charlie Nardozzi. This one was good, but didn’t offer that much new information having read those previous books. He goes over many things a little bit but not any one thing in depth; mile wide, inch deep sort of thing. He did however give me a few things I want to learn even more about, in particular polycultures and keyhole beds. He also led to another book I’m currently reading, Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway.

The Ultimate Guide to Natural Farming and Sustainable Living by Nicole Faires. This book was meh and I didn’t finish it. Again, very mile wide and inch deep. Though if we’re comparing them it was more like 100 miles wide and a ¼ inch deep – except for the places where you fall in a trench. Perhaps it gets better if you read the whole thing but I have a pile of books I want to read and this one just wasn’t doing it for me so I moved on after only getting about 1/3 of the way through it.

Start Your Farm: The Authoritative Guide to Becoming a Sustainable 21st Century Farmer by Forrest Pritchard and Ellen Polishuk. This book was great! It both got me excited to start farming and also made me stop and think many times about whether I really want to do this. Again more on the mile wide, inch deep end of the spectrum but it was appropriate for the purpose of the book, laying out all the things a new farmer needs to think about and consider before starting a farm related business.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. This is the book I’m currently reading and I am really enjoying it so far.

I am also eagerly awaiting fall because I am hoping to take the Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings Class which is a year long program for new and prospective farmers and it starts again in September.

I’m also supposed to be doing reading for my two education-related classes, but it is much, MUCH, harder to motivate myself to read any of those books, even the ones I was mildly interested in a few months ago. My heart has without question moved on from teaching – now I just need everything else to catch up.

Ice Capades

for the love of drainage

This week has not been super fun in terms of weather. We got a string of unseasonably warm days where it got above freezing leading to a great deal of melting. Of course It didn’t melt all of the snow, it just created a fun layer of ice on everything. This was followed by a day of rain and the only thing that can make ice worse is a layer of water on top of it and the the ground itself is still frozen so the water can’t really go anywhere. Combine that with the location of our shelters on the flattest ground we could get that unfortunately also happens to be near the lowest point on that side of our house. With the ground frozen and a wall of snow that had turned into ice all around the outside of the shelters this meant all that water ran into the shelters and then had no way to get out. The water was ankle deep in the two shelter bays that don’t have mats and was almost as deep in several areas of the bay with mats, though that one still had a few dry spots. In a fit of guilt at making the girls stand in that much water which I knew was going to shortly freeze and turn into an ice rink I opted to sacrifice two bales of our cheapest “forage” hay (one of which was actually kind of moldy so I wasn’t going to feed it to them anyway) to spread out and hopefully soak up some of the water and if nothing else provide traction once all that water froze.

Was it the best idea I ever had? No. Did it help? Maybe? I was not a good scientist and did not leave one shelter bay alone as a control to test my results. What I can say is that the next morning there wasn’t nearly as much water in any of the shelter bays which is a good thing. More importantly, when the flash freeze happened that day we wound up with lots of places that are sheer ice but the shelters with all their hay didn’t freeze solid and the footing in there is fine. Picking poop out of all that semi frozen hay has been awful however, so I’m hoping to find a better solution before we have to deal with this again.

I know the best solution would involve some decent drainage built into the footing of the shelter area, but they are in temporary locations (I will get my barn built!) and I didn’t want to waste money on putting in drainage materials that I would not be able to take back out and repurpose easily. So far everything that we have, from the fences to the shelters, can be moved to their permanent home once the barn is built. That being said, I will be trying to find a way to put some sort of drainage in the shelter area for now because I do not want to deal with this again.

This still leaves the ice rinks in front of the shelters, near one set of hay boxes, and near the water. The University of Minnesota Equine Program had a Facebook post about horse-safe ways to deal with ice and using poultry grit was one of the options. I had a customer come through my lane at Fleet Farm who said the same thing, so I bought a bag (and now two more) and I think it works pretty well. It worked amazingly for me and my boots; once I put a little bit down I have had zero issues with traction. It hasn’t been quite as amazing for Leeloo, Juniper, or Nate all of whom are still slipping here and there, but I think overall it is helping. And I don’t feel bad about spreading small pieces of granite on my lawn the way I would if I were spreading salt everywhere.

Hopefully we won’t have any more random rainstorms in the middle of winter to flash freeze into sheer ice. Snow I don’t mind so much, but ice sucks! (though still better than bugs!)

Managing Oral Issues with Clicker Training

Positive reinforcement for the win!

As I mentioned in this post our goal for the weekend was to help Juniper get over her issues with having oral medications or wormer administered. It went really well!

The original plan was to do six clicker training sessions total, three on Saturday, three on Sunday, and then either worm in the last session on Sunday or on Monday. We got it done in five sessions and probably could have done it in four but I didn’t want to push it. We made videos if anyone wants to watch the process but I’ll also outline it here for people who read faster than the videos play.

Session 1

Our goals for the first session were to reestablish the sound that means “yes, well done” and to get Juniper to accept me having my thumb just inside her mouth. This was by far the longest session and it took Juniper forever to relax and just let my thumb sit there.

One of the hardest things about clicker training for me is getting my timing right. You want to make your “yes, well done” sound the MOMENT they give you the behavior you were looking for or when things are clearly not going where you want them to if they even start to give you what you are looking for. That sounds easy, but in practice it can be pretty challenging. As with everything in life you get better with practice and I am very out of practice.


Session 2

Our goal for the second session was for Juniper to let me put an empty syringe/tube in her mouth in the same location where you would be placing the tube of medication or wormer. Same premise, start slow and in small steps: tube next to mouth, tube just barely in mouth, tube all the way in mouth. The moment she is calm and accepting at each stage I make the reward sound and then give the treats.


Session 3

Our goal for the third session was for Juniper to let me put a syringe/tube with applesauce into her mouth and then squirt applesauce into her mouth. This was also practice for me because I tend to suck at giving wormer. I can never seem to get my hand position correct; I finally get it in their mouth but then can’t deliver the medication because my hand forgets how to work. This was a low pressure way for me to practice administering an oral tube medication as well. Juniper got VERY suspicious once I changed my hand position on the syringe so we had to go back a few steps to just accepting the tube by her mouth, then accepting it just barely in her mouth, before going back to all the way in. Success is in the baby steps!


Session 4

Repeat of session 3 – really want to establish that having a tube of something squirted into your mouth isn’t that big of a deal and Juniper did really well this second time with the applesauce so it was a very short session. To be fair most people don’t want to have some unknown substance squirted into their mouth, so her general dislike of the process is not unreasonable.


Session 5

Goal is to worm Juniper with no rearing. I opted to dip the wormer tube in some molasses and that helped immensely. To the point that Juniper didn’t want me to take it back out of her mouth and bit on it to try to finish getting all of the molasses. She also kept coming back up to me after we were done hoping for more treats or molasses lollypops even though it had that funny aftertaste. I did do another round of applesauce after the wormer because I didn’t want to end on the bad taste of wormer, though based on how much Juniper wanted to keep going I probably could have.


Some additional notes for making sure clicker training sessions go well.

I try to do all of my handling with Leeloo or Juniper in designated horse-human spaces like the round pen. Once we have a barn that will also be a dedicated horse-human space. I try to leave their overall track system for them as their domain and to not do much of anything with them out there.

I only give treats when we are doing clicker training and then I always have the bright blue fanny pack on. This is a very clear signal to the girls that this is a clicker training session and treats will be involved but also that to get treats they must be polite and do something to earn the treat.

End the session with a big reward to help them realize the session is over but to also not feel too disappointed by it being over. This is one that I still need more work with because Juniper made it very clear that she still wanted to work together after I was done and I felt bad denying her the opportunity to learn and do more with me when she wanted to.

Positive reinforcement training is a very effective tool and this round of worming went SO much better than when I tried to give her oral banamine this fall, that attempt involved a lot of rearing which is not safe for anyone.

If you are interested in doing positive reinforcement training find some good learning materials to start with, here are some of my favorites:

Mustang Maddy

The Willing Equine

The Clicker Center

And remember that everything takes practice – we’re aiming for better, not perfect!

Holding Pattern

Where do the days go?

I had a lot of goals for the week and somehow the week came and the week went and those goals did not happen. Well, some of them got worked on, but nothing got finished.

Goal One – Regenerative Farming Research

As I said in this post I have been unhappy with my job for a while and being on sabbatical and working on the Adult Education Certificate has really brough home the fact that I need a new career. Regenerative farming has sparked a lot of hope and excitement in me, and I wanted to do more digging to figure out how I can make this happen. I did find several books I want to read but haven’t gotten much farther than putting holds on them at the library.

Goal Two – Carpel Tunnel Surgery

I wasn’t going to have it done this week, obviously, but I had hoped to get it scheduled. I did meet with the surgeon and he agrees that surgery makes sense as our next step. Now I’m playing phone tag with his scheduler. The surgeon said I should only need 3-4 weeks of down time (in terms of not doing horse chores) but(!) that I can’t actually damage anything if I over do it, it will just hurt until it is done healing. This is great for many reasons, but the biggest is that it takes the pressure off of Nate to do EVERYTHING for the month. Nate and I are hoping that I can get the surgery scheduled for the very beginning of May (what a wonderful birthday gift that will be). I find that I can ignore the issues with my hand/wrist now that I know a solution is on the horizon.

Goal Three – Finish Hay Box Lids

I was so excited when we got our hay box lid solution figured out, as discussed in this post. However actually finishing the lids hasn’t happened yet because I messed up my measurements a bit. When I took the measurements to LeVahn Brothers to get the rest of the pipe for the lid frames I forgot to account for the corner pieces until I was standing at the register in the store. Instead of reasonably stepping out of the non-existent line to take my time to figure it out, I panicked and tried to calculate it quickly in my head. I did it correctly for one direction on all of the boxes but I was off by 2.75 inches in the other direction on all the boxes. Luckily they are too long and not too short so I can just cut them all down, I just haven’t gotten around to doing that. We are getting very sick of playing the fun game where Leeloo and Juniper shove all the hay out of the boxes and we put most the hay back in the boxes. Thankfully it isn’t muddy (yet) and they eat a lot of the hay back off the ground so they aren’t wasting that much but it will be muddy soon and mud or not it is very annoying so I really have to get these lids finished.

Goal Four – Make Progress on the Barn

One of the builders I had reached out to got back to me with some questions this week and we had a good conversation about the building but he still has more to do before he can give me a quote. I also started up another round of phone tag with another builder who I had been in contact with in fall but didn’t get final answers from – hoping I connect with him soon.

Then there were two new things that came up this week. Or rather two very old things that I had completely forgotten about that came back up.

First – Lawns to Legumes Grant

We received a Lawns to Legumes grant!! I had completely forgotten that I applied until the email showed up in my inbox saying we had been awarded one of the grants but I am super excited (and actually happy with past Sara for once)! Now I need to figure out what kind of project will satisfy the grant requirements, will make sense with our long-term goals, and will work with our current short-term setup (i.e. our front yard is now mostly horse paddock). There is a webinar for grantees that happens in two weeks and I am going to hold off on any planning until after that – but I will be staying super excited!

Second – Juniper’s Oral Medication Issues

When we brought Leeloo and Juniper home this fall we wormed them both before putting them in the trailer. I asked Juniper’s previous owner to do it since I didn’t know Juniper at all and some horses don’t like being wormed. It did not go well. In the end it took three people way too long, and with way too much rearing, to get it done. At the time I chalked it up to nerves; owner was sad about letting Juniper go but also had a time crunch that morning and Leeloo was having a meltdown in the trailer so I wasn’t exactly radiating calm. However the vet also had issues just trying to do a dental exam and I was unable to get oral banamine into Juniper using the tube. I knew then that this was something we would have to work on but at the time I was also giving her multiple eye medications 4-6 times a day and I could not afford to miss a dose because I had a pony unwilling to be caught or handled because she was feeling salty after trying to work on her oral issues. Then after weeks and weeks of eye meds followed by the onset of winter I forgot about it; until now. Leeloo is showing signs that she may be dealing with some parasites (coat condition isn’t great and she’s trying to itch her tail on everything – including the gate to the round pen which was NOT safe, thankfully I noticed her right away) and I want to worm her but it makes no sense to worm Leeloo and not Juniper at the same time. This has become priority number one and I am hoping that with some clicker training (positive reinforcement training) I can get Juniper over her oral issues this weekend, or at least over them enough that I can worm them both by Monday.

A mentor of mine once told me “Sometimes you have to be a glacier and wear the mountain down one inch at a time.” Inch by inch I am wearing these mountains down.

Time With Friends is Time Well Spent

I was out of town this weekend visiting with some friends and it was a lovely break from everything. Nate very kindly did all the chores while I was gone; yes, I do realize how amazingly lucky I am to have such a supportive spouse. But that means I don’t have any updates or new things to discuss, other than a reminder that spending time with friends is really important and if you haven’t had a chance to spend some quality time with your friends you should. So instead of a post enjoy this video of baby Leeloo:

It is amazing how much better the video quality is from my phone now than it was from a dedicated video camera in 2009.

Water Woes

updates and setbacks

First some updates

  • Hand/wrist update: After a second round of steroids and occupational hand therapy we decided I need to have the carpel tunnel surgery. The question now is timing. I’m not allowed to lift more than 10 pounds for 3-4 months and with horse chores that is going to be a challenge. Particularly for someone like me who can’t seem to recognize my body’s limits (see this post for a prime example). This means Nate will have to do most (all?) the horse chores for 3-4 months, so it has to be a time that is compatible with both our jobs, which right now looks like late spring or early summer.
  • Barn update: Hansen Pole Buildings sells just the materials to build a pole barn and I have been getting quotes for them for the roughly the same building since 2019 which has been an interesting way to track how insane prices have been the last few years. In 2019 we got a quote for x dollars, in 2020 the cost was 3*x , in 2021 it was 5*x, and now, it’s only 1.5*x! We might actually be able to afford this barn! There are still lots of other things we need numbers for, like labor and foundation work, but before this the cost of  materials alone exceeded our budget and now the materials are at least within our budget so there is a small ray of hope.
  • Mental health update: Overall I am doing better, but this week demonstrated that I’m still not fully back to where I would like to be. I was slightly busier this week than the previous two weeks and those fairly minor tasks used way more mental and emotional energy than they would have in the past so I didn’t get nearly as much done this week as I had planned (and would have been able to do in the past). That being said, I am still doing better than I was at the end of December/early January and am heading in the right direction. I am also trying to get my sleep back to a solid uninterrupted eight hours every night, which will hopefully help with everything. I don’t have insomnia, but I wake up several times a night every night. I usually fall back to sleep quickly but if it happens too close to my normal wakeup time it takes me much longer to fall back asleep and then when my alarm does go off, I feel like I didn’t get any sleep at all. I’m trying to be better about wearing my blue-light blocking glasses at night and attempting to end all screen time by 9:00 PM. Hopefully this will help get me sleeping through the night again and sleeping better helps with everything else.

Now the water woes.

We placed the water tank where it is so we could use the spigot on the front of the house to fill it and plug the tank heater into the outlet on the porch. We know spigots and water and freezing temperatures don’t always mix well so we have an expandable hose that we hook up and unhook every time we have to fill the tank and we shut the water off to the spigot inside the house every time. When they built our house the siding people did not place the framed cutout around the spigot correctly and the spigot is too close to the frame making it extremely difficult to get a hose on or off in the best of weather. Nate and I thought it would be better if we put a quick-disconnect hose attachment on it to get the hose on and off more easily while wearing winter gear. It had been working relatively well, though once we had to use the hairdryer to thaw the quick-disconnect piece. The same thing seemed to have happened this week. I used the hairdryer to get it warm enough that the quick-disconnect moved again then attached the hose, turned the water on and…. water came out of all parts of the spigot. Water everywhere in negative everything degree weather is not good. We got that water all turned off and started trouble shooting. We could try the spigot on the back of the house, but we would need to use our two long hoses. The long hoses did not like negative everything degree weather and refused to uncoil. After what felt like hours wrestling with uncooperative hoses I finally got them all hooked up (or so I thought) and turned on the water. I had to go into the house to turn the water on to the spigot and saw water shooting out from everywhere as soon as I stepped outside so I immediately ran back in and tuned the water off to the spigot and assumed I simply hadn’t gotten the hose attached correctly in this stupid weather and decided I needed to get a hose that could handle the cold and another quick-disconnect attachment. After a trip to Fleet Farm for a new 150-foot super special winter proof hose (that discount comes in super handy!) and another quick-disconnect we hooked everything up again, ran the hose from the back of the house out to the water (the new hose is FAR more cooperative in this weather), turned the water on and…. water came out of all parts of the spigot. Insert your expletive of choice.

The girls of course need water, so we’ve been hauling buckets of water to the water tank every day. Though annoying, this option works fine for Leeloo, it doesn’t work for picky miss Juniper. Juniper demonstrated in that previous terrible cold snap that she doesn’t like the taste of the water from inside the house. We got her to drink that time by adding molasses to her water, but I’m not dumping molasses into all of their drinking water, also having PPID means added sugar isn’t good for her (added sugar isn’t good for any of us!). This time I tried some apple cider vinegar and that seems to be working, which is good, but I don’t want to pour that into our already rusty and not in great condition water tank either. The result is that we’ve been hauling individual buckets of water out to Juniper, which means we’re also hauling individual buckets of water out to Leeloo because if Juniper gets something Leeloo wants it too. Leeloo drinks at a normal rate of speed for a horse and usually downs her bucket very quickly.

Here is a video of Leeloo drinking (which also involves a certain amount of playing):

Juniper, of course, takes forever to drink. FOREVER. You would think we could just leave it there for her to finish in her own sweet time but Leeloo, having finished her water ages ago, gets bored and decides Juniper’s bucket looks like a great toy and will promptly dumps the water out everywhere and start playing with the bucket unless we stand there and guard it.

Remind me again why I wanted to have my horse at home with me?!

Here is a video of Juniper drinking and if you turn the sound on you can hear my conversation with Leeloo as I try to keep her distracted.

We have contacted a plumber who can come out next Tuesday and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that (a) we didn’t do any actual damage to the house and (b) he can figure out some sort of winter solution so we can stop with the buckets.

Hoping that next year we have a barn with winter safe water supplies!