Civic Duty

who needs free time

As I mentioned in this post, there have been many, many, things taking up what little free time I have and thus blog writing time. One of those things was being appointed to the City of Dayton MN Planning Commission.

I had attended a few Planning Commission meetings last year with some of my neighbors and had spoken during the public hearings on a variety of topics. After one of those meetings the Chair of the Commission approached us to ask if one of us would be interested in putting our names in to be considered for appointment to the Commission since there was an opening. After several weeks of hemming and hawing I decided to throw my name in. And did not get selected. Apparently there had been a lengthy debate and it had been down to me and one other person and the other person was ultimately selected. Oh well.

A few weeks later I got an email from one of the city administrators asking if I would be willing to apply again because they had another opening and so I said yes, and this time I was appointed. 

It has been a really interesting and valuable learning experience. It took a few meetings for me to get my bearings but I feel like I have settled in well and am enjoying being a part of that body. If you want to see me in action you can view all of the old Planning Commission meetings here.

After one such meeting I was approached to see if I would be interested in running for Dayton City Council and I said no but that I would ask around. I felt like I had just started to get a feel for the Planning Commission and the work I can do there I wasn’t ready to “move up” yet. Then a few weeks late I was asked again by another person to run for City Council. I thought a lot harder about it that second time and ultimately decided to say yes.

I’ll admit I’m still a bit undecided. I feel confident that I would do a great job on the City Council, the issue is time. I am so very busy already and the City Council is a much bigger time commitment than the Planning Commission. But I also feel strongly that if we want our communities to be the best versions of themselves then we collectively need to step up and take on leadership roles within our communities. As they say, the world is run by the people who show up. In reality it is mostly run by the people with money, but those of us who show up do have some influence and it’s time for more of us to take more of that power. 

Because I have recently started up Lantern Farm MN LLC and this website is directly related to that business (that is a whole other post) I don’t feel comfortable using this website as part of any campaigning efforts so this will be the one and only time I post anything about my run for City Council here. I did however make a new (free) website for my campaign so if you want to follow along you can here:

If you are reading this and are Dayton MN resident, please let me know if you would be interested in having a yard sign. And for everyone, no matter where you live, I encourage you to vote in your primary. For Minnesotans that is on Aug 13. In Dayton there are five of us running for two City Council spots and that will be narrowed down to four candidates during the primary. I would imagine in many cities there are similar primaries and we need people to vote. Primaries are just as  important as the main election!


Cute Chicks in Your Neighborhood

First Week of Fluffy!

They are growing so fast! I had meant to start posting once a week again, but the chicks grew way faster than I realized so the first week and a half had a lot of scrambling to keep ahead of their growth and there was no time for anything, much less writing.

Day 1

Day 7

I realize we’re jumping into the middle of a story here so let us back up a bit.

As I wrote in this post back in January 2023 I have been increasingly unhappy with my current full-time job and after much thought have decided to pursue regenerative agriculture as my next career. Work towards that goal has been ongoing as I discussed a bit here, here, and here, but the efforts towards making that dream a reality have increased a lot in the last few months and is one of the many reasons why I haven’t been posting; too many things happening all at once! I will be writing more about all of that in the coming weeks/months but for now lets talk chicks.

It was clear from early research that some form of pastured poultry would be part of our regenerative farm efforts and I have been exploring what that might look like for us. Then one day, after once again not being able to buy my preferred eggs from Lakewinds Food Co-Op because they were out of stock, I decided to contact the farm in question, Acres of Eden, to see if they would be interested in some form of partnership. I was hopeful since they (A) had an amazing product, (B) are a regenerative and organic farm doing the kind of farming I want to be doing, (C) are Minnesota based, and (D) clearly have a strong market since Lakewinds was often sold-out of their eggs.  Joel and I have had a few conversations, and he has come out to our farm to look around and discuss possible partnership options. We are still working out the details of said partnership, the biggest hurdle at the moment has been navigating the organic certification process in some sort of partnership (that will be a whole series of posts on its own). But we both agreed it would be good for me to start with a “tester” batch of chicks to make sure that I did in fact want to work with poultry as my primary, or at least initial primary, focus and to get some of the kinks of raising large a (relatively) large number of birds worked out. It is one thing to read about doing something new and quite another to actually do it. Joel was going to be getting his next batch of chicks on May 9 and he was able to work with his hatchery to send 50 of his chicks my way.

At 7:00 AM on Thursday May 9, fifty ISA Brown chicks arrived for me at the Champlin Post Office.

Mind you my meeting with Joel had been only two weeks before their arrival and for someone like me two weeks isn’t a lot of time to prep and it has been abundantly clear that I was not as ready as I had hoped to be. Not that things are going badly, just that I have been in scramble mode since the end of April and that gets to be exhausting. Part of being behind from the beginning is that I did what I often do and got sucked down various rabbit holes exploring different options and plans for building brooders and I expended way too much time and energy on plans that ultimately didn’t work for me. We did get our brooder mostly built the night before they arrived. I have lots of ideas for how to improve it for the next batch of chicks so I won’t bore you with details on our first draft.

first draft brooder

It isn’t great, but it has done its job and I have learned so very much, which of course was the point of a tester batch of chicks. We got 49 of the 50 chicks through their first week of life, and a 2% mortality rate is pretty good for our first batch of chicks. Lots of sources said to expect a 5-10% mortality rate and that most of the losses would come that first week, so I’m proud of what we’ve done so far.

Here is a video showing their growth over the first week. They were starting to get wing feathers on day 2!

And here are photos from our first week together:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6:

Day 7:

You’ll notice there are no videos or photos for day 3. This happened to be May 11 and because the universe can be a bit of a **** (swear word of your choice) it had to also be the day the chick died, so it wasn’t a day for photos or videos of cute things. But man, oh, man! are they cute! Or were cute… they have quickly become gangly teenagers and aren’t nearly as adorable, but that first week the amount of cute in our house was almost unbearable. For the next batch of chicks I’m going to try to clear my calendar a bit because I found myself just watching them for waaaaay more time than I had available.

So flipping cute!

As always (though I don’t remember to add this each time) this post was written by a human with no assistance of any kind from AI. All the mess ups are mine, thank you very much!

And We’re Back

never too late to start again

Saturday was Leeloo’s birthday and the one year anniversary of her death. I had intended to write a whole post about her but when I sat down to write it I realized I was not up to it. Maybe next year. I still miss her every day.

Meanwhile life keeps on keeping on. A week went by with either nothing to talk about on this website or no mental/emotional energy to write about it. Then a week turned into two weeks turned into a month turned into two months, and then a whole bunch of stuff happened all of which I want to write about but I had even less mental/emotional energy to do it and not one second of free time. 

But spring semester is officially done – last set of grades were posted at 11:45 PM on Sunday (due date was noon today (Monday) so I still had twelve whole hours to spare!) – and now I have some time and energy to write about things that are way more fun than teaching (though at this point in my teaching career most everything is more fun than teaching, including picking up horse poop).

My goal is to write weekly updates again, for there has indeed been much happening all of which I’d love to talk about. One of which is we got 50 chickens!!

I am OBSESSED – they are so f*ing cute!! I will have a whole post about them coming soon (probably many posts about them), but while you wait you can obsess along with me and watch them grow day by day because I will be posting daily videos on my YouTube channel (I cannot believe I just typed the words “my YouTube channel” but that’s where they’ll be).


So join me once again on this adventure!  

p.s. rest assured that none of this has been written or generated by AI, all writing and content is 100% human or animal generated. Not that the chicks are writing their own posts, but their cuteness is absolutely the core of the content.

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

There wasn’t time for a real holiday photo shoot this year but Juniper and Highlight did try out their reindeer antlers. One set had lights and bells which Juniper was fine with but were a bit too much for Highlight.

Juniper with the bells and lights.

Here is Highlight with the regular reindeer antlers.

You can see how toed out highlight is in this picture. She’s still young so we’ll wait to see how things pan out once she is fully mature.

We did film the process of putting the headband with bells on it. Highlight didn’t do terrible, but she is still a baby and we’re still getting to know each other so I didn’t feel it was worth pushing it. Gives us another thing to work on before next year.

And here is Juniper having zero concerns about the bells.


Horse Update-Fall 2023-Part 2

The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Teenager

Now we come to our metaphorical teenager, Highlight.

Highlight’s arrival into our lives was overshadowed by Juniper’s health issues but a few things stand out for me. My very, very first though was “please don’t get hit by a car” since the shipper opted to just park and unload from the road rather than navigate our curvy driveway with his giant rig, but right on its heels was “you are much shorter than I was expecting.” Granted she’s still young and will hopefully get a little taller, but how much taller is an open question and I would be surprised if she gets as tall as I had anticipated she would. The shipper said she was a good passenger and really levelheaded for a horse her age. She seemed to be taking everything in stride (pun intended) as we walked down the driveway and through our yard to her new home. All signs were pointing in a good direction. But I also clearly remember thinking to myself “Do not analyze her conformation, wait until you fall in love with her, then take a good look.” And at first that plan was working. Highlight is a very personable horse, she almost always comes up to say hi if you approach the gate, and if I go out with a halter she comes running up to greet me. She is very curious about the world around her and about people, she pays close attention to what people are doing and she will try to mimic you, which of course can be a double-edged sword. Even when something is new and kind of scary she’s more brave than affraid. It only took a few tries before the overhead door in the arena went from a scary horse eating monster to no big deal. Though the yellow rope used to pull the door shut stayed scary for a few more days. Then two things happened the same day. Juniper and Highlight got introduced together in the same pasture and our farrier came to trim their feet.

The farrier was the first one of my horse professionals to see my new horse and with him there I finally looked at her conformation for myself. She is severely toed out in the front. Severely. And every so often she stands so that her humerus/elbow standout oddly from the rest of her body. How the hell did I miss that?! I know that there is no such thing as perfect conformation, she was going to have some flaws, and I’m not saying this would have been a deal breaker had I known about it, but how did I miss it?! And how did the vet doing the pre-purchase exam not see it and/or say anything to me about it. I’m not saying this makes her a terrible and unusable horse, and it is possible that as she grows up and fills out it may not be as severe as it is now, but after searching so hard and making such a big deal about finding the best conformation it feels anticlimactic and frustrating. All of which I could probably get over if I could just fall in love with her, but she is making that very hard by being a total jerk to Juniper every day.

Horses have hierarchies and these pecking orders are totally normal and totally healthy. This means there are dominant and submissive horses, and Juniper is unquestionably a submissive horse. She will always be the bottom of any pecking order she is ever in. Which doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A healthy herd with a good hierarchy means that the horses on top make sure everyone is okay and following the rules. By the time Leeloo was ten-ish she was the single most dominant horse of a heard of 30+ and she was good boss mare. A good boss mare is always on alert keeping an eye out for danger, deciding when it’s time to go eat, when it’s time to go drink, when it’s time to seek shelter, and when it’s time to rest. They also make sure that everyone is following the rules and behaving themselves. However, Leeloo didn’t even start moving up the hierarchy ranks until she was four or five and even then she didn’t catapult to the top, she slowly worked her way up spot by spot. She didn’t make it anywhere near the top until she was older and mature enough to handle that responsibility. Highlight is three and a half and in no sane world would she be the boss mare of any herd because she’s basically a teenager. You wouldn’t put a teenager in charge of a business or a family and expect it to go well but that’s what we have. When you only have a herd of two and one of those two is Juniper that means the other horse is going to be the most dominant horse and Highlight is not handling it well at all. Thankfully for all involved things are slowly, so slowly, improving. After the first two days I was genuinely concerned for Juniper’s life because Highlight was straight up attacking her. Resource guarding everything, trying to drive Juniper away from everything, pinning her in corners and trying to kick the crap out of her. I took a night off of work to start the process of separating them back out, but the next morning things were a tiny bit better. And the day after that was a tiny bit better. And now things are okay. Not good, but okay enough that I no longer fear for Juniper’s safety. But Highlight’s behavior towards Juniper has put a huge dent into the “fall in love with her and then her conformation flaws won’t matter” plan. It is really hard to fall in love with someone who is tormenting a creature under your care, one that is already having her own set of issues and does not need this shit right now.

And adding to that is my own guilt at not realizing this would happen. I know Juniper was going to be the bottom of their two-horse herd and I know a three-year-old has no business being the dominant horse, but I put them into this situation and now we’re all having to deal with it. This means I am frequently starting out my interactions with Highlight already annoyed at her because of how she is treating Juniper which means I have no patience for her very normal three-year-old behavior. Much as adults are often low-keyed annoyed with teenagers before they do anything so the moment they aren’t perfect the next step up is more frustration/anger than necessary. It took a few less than stellar interactions for me to realize this and as soon as I did I added another layer of guilt to the emotional turmoil I was dealing with – which we all know is super helpful.

What has actually been helpful is to pause and ask myself what I would do if this were “teenaged” Leeloo. When she was three and not listening as well as I would like, or being easily distracted, or just generally misbehaving, how did I react? Highlight deserves the same treatment. It also helps that I am trying to set aside dedicated time at night to work with Highlight and to take a moment to ground myself first. It is not her fault she is not perfect and it is not her fault she’s been put in charge when she doesn’t know how to be in charge, but she’s doing her best and I will do my best and that is all any of us can ask for.

Horse Update-Fall 2023-Part 1

The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Teenager

Literally and metaphorically. Well not literally, well, we thought literally but turns out we were misinformed, never mind – let’s just get in to it.

When we got Juniper last fall her previous owner thought she was about seventeen, which would make her eighteen this year and thus a literal teen aged horse. However, every vet who has seen her thinks she’s older than that and is probably in her early twenties. Which would be fine, ponies tend to live into their thirties, however Juniper’s teeth are rapidly approaching their end of life which is problematic since the rest of Juniper is not.

She had been very slowly losing weight all summer, which wasn’t a bad thing at first since she had a little more weight than she needed, but those two back-to-back colics this fall saw her drop close to fifty pounds in two days and went from “we should probably try to get some weight on her before winter sets in” to “holy crap she is too thin, please don’t die.” There are of course several complications to this (I of course have been gaining weight without any complications at all). Juniper has PPID so we have to be careful about gaining weight safely without triggering laminitis or founder, meaning anything high in sugar is out. Her teeth are no longer up to the task of grinding food properly so filling up on hay is out. And she is an unreasonably picky eater and doesn’t like wet food if it has gotten too cold meaning most mashes are out.  

Her original diet was free-choice hay of varying degrees of nutritional value and quality as well as soaked grass hay pellets and some oats fed in the morning. I would have upped the amount of soaked hay pellets but she is a messy eater and drops a lot of food back out of her mouth and won’t eat it again if it isn’t in the dish and if the soaked pellets sit around for too long she won’t eat them anymore.

When I realized she was consuming very little actual hay and was mostly just chewing it and spitting it back out in little half-chewed hay-balls (“quidding” as it is known) I started looking into alternatives. My neighbor had a spare bag of some manufactured chopped hay from trying it out herself a few years ago so we started with that. She had the all herbivore Square Meal Hay Biscuits and they worked okay but most of the chunks were too big/hard for Juniper’s terrible teeth so I had to break the big ones up before feeding which was it’s own pain in the ass. That led us to the senior variety “Senior Supper” of the same brand, which worked great. A little too great, because when we put Juniper and Highlight together Highlight also REALLY liked the Senior Supper and she eats much faster and much more than Juniper does and we just can’t afford to feed that much since they get expensive! They are supposed to be a complete feed so if it was just Juniper eating them I think we could make a go with it because she wouldn’t need any other feed. But we cannot afford to feed both of them the Senior Supper free choice and we are not currently in a position to keep them separated long term (see this post for why).

That led to us buying a mulcher and chopping our own hay which is an ordeal in and of itself.  You have to be very careful when you chop your own hay to make sure you are in fact only chopping hay that is safe for horses to eat. It is always good practice to check your hay as you are feeding, regardless of method, because all sorts of things can get into a bale of hay. I have found in our own hay and the hay at the various places I have boarded Leeloo things like dead snakes, mice, lizards, tree branches, milk weed (which can be toxic to animals), moldy bits and many other things a horse shouldn’t eat. If I find these things when feeding hay normally, I toss them out and depending on what it was I may toss the surrounding flake(s) or the whole bale, but in general I’m not too paranoid about it because our horses always have enough to eat and generally avoid things that they shouldn’t eat. However, once you run it all through a mulcher the good and the bad get mixed together and a horse can’t always tell them apart and will either eat something bad for them or won’t eat any of it at all. That means every flake of hay needs to be broken up and examined before it gets chopped which causes quite a mess all by itself and that doesn’t even touch the dust issue kicked out by the mulcher and the sheer amount of time the task takes. The entire “hay chopping” section of the barn is a mess and the process was taking way too much time, but at least the girls were eating it.

Notice the past tense in that sentence. They were eating it. For whatever reason our homemade chopped hay is no longer good enough and they are both back to eating normal hay. Which is fine for Highlight, but the number of quidding balls I am finding is on the rise and I’m concerned about Juniper’s overall food intake. Making things worse is that with the colder temperatures Juniper won’t finish even her small amount of soaked hay-pellets. If it is too wet and it drops below a certain temperature she stops eating it and if it isn’t wet enough the hay pellets stay too hard and she can’t eat them.

We’re trying to help you Juniper – eat your damn food!

I’m going to look into getting one of those heaters they use in greenhouses to put under seedling trays to see if I can keep her soaked pellets warm enough that she’ll eat all of them and long term we’re going to see if we can figure out how to separate her for at least a few hours every day to eat her special Senior Supper, but until then we’re just going to have to hope she’s getting enough from the regular hay and keep putting out the chopped hay.

She’s also wearing a blanket this winter so she doesn’t waste as many calories staying warm. Doesn’t she look cute in her coat.

This post has already gotten too long so Highlights update will have to wait until part 2.

Post of Reassurance

The Body is Weird

Apparently the, don’t worry I don’t have MS, statement wasn’t as reassuring as I had intended since it leads naturally to the question, “Why do they think MS might even be an option?!”

I have mentioned some of the various health things I have been managing, or attempting to manage, in some of my earlier posts but this summer I started having more and more frequent headaches that didn’t seem to be caused by the usual culprits: sugar, dehydration, and/or neck and shoulder tension. I also have yet to get my Vitamin D levels up to the normal range despite fairly aggressive supplementation and I’ve been struggling to maintain a healthy weight and energy levels despite sticking to a healthy diet and exercise routine. I have been wondering for a while if some or all of these things might be connected and wanted to see an osteopath since they tend to be trained to view the body more holistically than most traditionally trained doctors. That is not to say there aren’t some amazing medical professionals out there with traditional backgrounds, I was just trying to find one who’s response to my various concerns wasn’t always “Well your almost 40 and that’s how it is.” and now “Well you are in your 40’s and that’s how it is.” It was quite a wait to see the osteopath and the headaches were starting to come with vertigo and nausea as well so I went to see a regular doctor this summer. We talked about two possible culprits sinus/nasal issues and muscle tension and she suggested I try Flonase for a few weeks to see if that made a difference, then stop for a few weeks before trying the muscle relaxers for a few weeks. Depending on what happened we could go from there. The Flonase helped with some of the headaches, particularly the vertigo/nausea symptoms, but the muscle relaxers didn’t do much at all and the overall amount of headaches was still higher than it used to be. While I was at that appointment this summer she mentioned that I had some earwax buildup in my left ear and asked if I wanted it removed but our appointment had already gone really long after a long wait in the first place and I was running late for something else so I said no and forgot about it.

Fast forward to early fall and I finally get to see the osteopath and we do an exam and some bloodwork. My vitamin D is still really low despite efforts to improve it and that along with something in the physical exam makes her want me to see a neurologist to rule out MS. Apparently chronically low vitamin D and MS can go together, though it is usually accompanied by other things. I schedule the appointment with the neurologist and of course it takes a few weeks before I can get in to see him. Meanwhile I managed to get sick with a cold, I went to Minute Clinic to rule out strep and during that exam the NP mentions that my left ear has a buildup of earwax and I should try an over the counter thing to get rid of it, but to not do it until I’m over the cold. I buy the stuff and then forget about it. Finally get in to see the neurologist and we do the whole exam and everything seems normal except my persistently low vitamin D, the headaches, fatigue, and some thing with how my eyes track, or rather don’t, when I look up and to the right. This eye thing is also a symptom of MS but like the low vitamin D and fatigue is usually a secondary symptom but he has had a patient in the past who was only showing these symptoms and did have MS and apparently it is very easy to diagnose MS with an MRI, either you have lesions in/on your brain and spinal column or you don’t, so he wants to do an MRI to rule it out. It is at this point that he says, “or it could be the earwax.” Apparently that build up of earwax in my one ear could be causing my eyes to not track right when I look up and to the left AND my headaches. WHAT?! Why has no one mentioned this yet?! Also how are the options MS or too much earwax in one ear?! It seems utterly ridiculous.

I get the MRI scheduled and then immediately start using the over the counter ear stuff and it does absolutely nothing. Or rather it somehow manages to make everything worse. I had my follow-up appointment with the osteopath already scheduled so I figured I’d just ask her about it then. We follow up on the vitamin D, it is still low but it’s improving, I went from 9 to 29! so I’m almost back to the very lowest end of “normal” which is 30-100, though I have read that 50-100 is probably a healthier range, I digress. She also removes the earwax and wow is there a lot. Apparently the body creates earwax as a lubricant and a defense mechanism, as in if a foreign body gets in your ear it creates the earwax to protect itself. Since my right ear has virtually nothing in it she assumes this was a reaction to a foreign body but instead of working itself out like it should have it just kept triggering the protective reaction and building up more and more until it was impossible for it to come out on its own. We are not going to think too long or too hard about what kind of foreign body it may have been because whatever it was it’s gone now.

The weird new headaches went away that day and have not returned. I hadn’t realized how bad they had gotten until they went away. Just gone, like that, it was amazing.

I also had the MRI and everything is fine. In fact the neurologist said my brain was, and this is a quote, “pristine.”

I recapped the results with Nate and after telling him the doctor said my brain was pristine, we both paused and looked at each other, and then it had to be said, “of course it’s pristine, it’s never been used!”

So in the end it wasn’t MS, not that either the osteopath or the neurologist ever really thought it was, it was too much earwax.

The human body is weird!

Of course that still doesn’t answer the question about the fatigue and weight issues but we’ll continue to chip away at those issues as soon as my life calms down a bit…. so maybe in a decade or two?


not to be confused with the movie


A little additional context to round out the picture. On top of everything happening with Juniper and the new horse I was also working out a bunch of details to get our first ever cover crop planted this fall (there will be a post about that eventually) which involved coordinating with the county, and then another county because the first situation fell through at the last minute, and a neighbor with a tractor, and finding seed (where do you buy enough winter rye seed for 15 acres?!) etc. and I also had a doctors appointment and an MRI scheduled because my doctor and the neurologist she referred me to wanted to rule out MS as a possible cause for some things I have going on. Both of them thought it was pretty unlikely I have MS but both of them also thought it was likely enough that it should be officially checked on. I will also have a post on that, but I will not leave you in suspense on this one, I do not have MS, but at the time this was all happening I did not know that, I only knew that two doctors thought it was unlikely but still possible.

Back to the horse saga. Tuesday morning is lots of frantic phone calls to my normal vet plus my friend Sarah’s vet who has been treating Juniper, my neighbor, and my friend Hilary who was our back-up ride, trying to figure out when and where Juniper can get a dental but still be home when the new horse gets here. Luckily Sarah’s vet is able to squeeze Juniper in Wednesday morning and Hilary, who helped me bring Leeloo and Juniper home the first time, has a flexible day that day so she can go with me to pick up Juniper from Sarah’s house, bring her to the vet for her dental, hang out with us there while Juniper comes to from being sedated, and then bring Juniper back to my house.

It is at this point that I realize we will have to find a way to separate Juniper and Highlight (I still don’t love that name but I haven’t come up with anything else so Highlight she is) since Juniper will need some careful observation so we know exactly how much she is eating and drinking and to make sure her digestive system is operating correctly (i.e. she’s pooping). I also don’t want to put Juniper through the stress of meeting a new horse when she is clearly not feeling well. However, we are not at all set up for separate pastures. We have one shelter in the fenced in area, it has three bays, but it is one structure. We also only have two gates into the entire fenced in area. After some frantic brainstorming we opt to put up a temporary strand of electric fence coming out from one side of the gate and attaching to the wall of one of the shelter bays which is wood and therefore will not conduct the charge to the entire shelter. We’ll also need to block the tiny passage behind the shelter. This way I can use the gate by the shelters to get to Juniper and then I can walk up and around and use the gate by the house to get to Highlight. Except at the last minute it occurs to me to check in with the seller to see if Highlight has been on grass this summer and of course she has not been, so I can’t just let her out on the grass which is finally doing well with all the rain we got this fall. So now I need to block her off from the grass which means blocking her off from the gate. Then Sarah, who has been taking care of Juniper this summer and through her two colics, asks if I’m worried about Highlight bringing any illnesses home with her. I wasn’t, because she is coming from a very small private location and she passed a wellness exam, and every other horse in the trailer will also have passed a wellness exam, but there is still a tiny chance she could catch something and bring it home. If Juniper were healthy I wouldn’t worry at all, but Juniper is far from healthy right now and it’s just not worth the risk. So, we set up a second temporary set of electric fence on the other side of the gate so that there is a ten-foot space between them and they can’t make contact. I have now effectively created two separate paddocks with their own shelters and a 10-foot space between them. Yay. Neither of them has a gate or access point of any kind. Boo.

Doesn’t matter because I have no other choice as it is now 9 pm on Tuesday night and everyone’s coming home tomorrow!

Wednesday morning – arrival day!

Hilary and I drive separately in case the shipper makes better time than expected and/or the vet runs late. For once things go as planned and the vet sees us right on time. Juniper receives one of the quickest floats I’ve ever seen a horse get and he extracts two molars (photos if you’re curious) but we still need to wait for her to wake-up so she can safely handle the trailer ride. Once we feel she’s coherent enough to hold herself up we head for home, Highlight is scheduled to arrive in 45 minutes!

We settle Juniper into her new arrangement and wait for Highlight’s arrival. It is a little delayed but she is there within an hour and a half. It is in getting the two girls into their respective areas that I realize how much of an issue our gateless set-up will be. We set up the fence so there were plastic “grips” on the ends of the hot lines so we could unhook them from the shelter wall to go in and out, the problem is there is no other support structure for the lines so the moment we pull them off the wall they go slack for the entire length of the run and touch the ground, plus there is no place to actually put them so I have to somehow hold the lines in one hand while trying to get myself and various things (water, feed, hay, medicine, pitch-fork) from one side to the other. And of course the moment the lines go slack both girls try to go through to meet each other. This is not a feasible option for doing daily chores. That means I get to very gingerly climb through the fence every time I need to get to the other side and despite my very careful climbing I manage to shock myself at least once every time I do chores. Let me tell you the hot lines hurt, particularly when it’s your inner thigh that makes contact as you attempt to step over it, but the ground line, which under normal circumstances has no charge running through it so you can grab it like normal to hold it out of your way, you know with your entire hand gripping it, that fucking HURTS when you are touching it and then accidently hit a hot line with whatever random other body part you aren’t paying enough attention to (I have been trying to keep the language pg-13 on this blog for reasons I am not clear on, but this situation is without question an F-word situation, but I digress…). So at least once a day, if not multiple times a day, I manage to shock myself while doing chores. “Why don’t you just unplug the fence?” you ask. Well Highlight is a very personable, very sweet, and very smart horse, and she watches you. She watches me climb through the fence every day to feed her and give her hay and pick up poop, and then she tries to do the same thing even with the fence hot. So turning it off seems like a recipe for disaster. And it turns out I’m right, because even with the lines hot Highlight managed to pull one of the hot lines (the one I gingerly step over) off the permanent fence and right across the entrance to her shelter on the night it’s pouring rain. And the way the line fell it is in contact with another hot line so it still has a charge running through it so when I get home from my 12 hour work day and go to give Juniper her PM meds I find a soaking wet, unhappy, and scared Highlight. So I’m standing in the rain on the soaking wet ground pulling a still electrified line of fence out of her paddock muttering expletives with every grab because everything is super conductive in that moment. Then I have to convince Highlight that the shelter will not in fact attack her and she can go in it, and please go in your shelter and get out of the rain. And then, I have to fix it so she doesn’t try that stunt again and get in a worse situation. Did I mention I worked a 12-hour day and it was pouring rain. Good times.

After that I stop going through Highlights fence to feed her and just throw hay over the fence, and push her feed under the bottom line and use a rake to grab it back out. No picking up poop on her side until we work out another option, which is definitely having them together sooner than planned, but this set-up is not sustainable.

And that was our first week.

Imminent Arrival

the joys of logistic planning

Be warned, this post is long and contains a lot of run-on-sentences that I can’t seem to edit, but never-ending run-on-sentences has been my mental state for the last few weeks so it feels appropriate in its own way. Now on to the post!

Free ponies are never free. Not that Juniper was free, but her original purchase price was pretty cheap and it feels like she has been endlessly trying to make up for that. You may be thinking, but Sara, didn’t you just get a new horse, why are we talking about Juniper? Because that little shit has decided to make our lives difficult. Again.

Let us back up a few weeks.

New horse has been located! YAY! New horse is in another state and the logistics of that need to get worked out – less yay. Things to do: find a vet clinic in another state that can do a prepurchase exam for us, figure out how to get a horse from Massachusetts to Minnesota, figure out how and when to bring Juniper back home, figure out how to pay a person a large sum of money for a horse when you are not actually there to collect the horse but the person, for obvious reasons, wants to get paid before putting the horse on a trailer to go to another state, and then actually do all those horse-farm related things we’ve been putting off all summer because at first I was too sad and then it just fell of my radar until suddenly now everything is very much on the radar. The radar is full!

We worked with the seller to find a vet clinic in MA to do the prepurchase exam. Because (A) I hadn’t met the horse in person, (B) my long-term plan is to breed, and (C) I got seriously burned by Leeloo’s many health issues, I am extra paranoid and asked for a more thorough exam than I would have in the past. What I didn’t do was ask for a quote on how much that would cost because I didn’t feel like I had time to find another option because I had managed to find a horse shipping person who already had a scheduled trip from the Minnesota to the East coast and back with one open spot for the ride back and they would be coming back to Minnesota the same week as my school’s fall break which would work perfectly for us in terms of having some time to spend with the new horse (ha!). So, we moved forward with the only vet I had and luckily the seller was able to get the horse into the vet the same week and she passed the vet check. They were very thorough and called me while they were in the midst of the prepurchase exam to talk about everything and answer any questions I had and then also sent me detailed notes afterwards. I was not, however, expecting the bill to be as high as it was, and it wound up cutting into the overall horse budget forcing some renegotiating. That left finalizing shipping details, getting a signed contract, and figuring out how to pay in a way we were both okay with. After a lot of scrambling and freaking out about dates and worries about the US mail (how quickly can they get a check from MN to MA?) by Friday October 13 most everything appeared to be in order: the mare had passed the prepurchase exam and the wellness check, we had agreed on a price and got a signed contract, I had gotten a certified check and mailed it and it got there on time, the shipper and the seller had coordinated a pickup date and time, and we had a tentative window for the new horse’s arrival at our house for Wednesday October 18. The last thing to figure out was who would be able to help us bring Juniper home and when, exactly, should we bring her home.

We didn’t want the new horse or Juniper to be here by themselves for very long, but the shipping company could only be so exact in their estimate. We had a tentative plan with our neighbor to bring Juniper home either Tuesday or Wednesday and we had a back-up with another friend if that fell through, just needed a more exact window from the shipper.

There were also all those at home projects we needed to do to get ready for horses again, I’ll have another post (or several) about some of those projects, but the salient point was we were swamped with things that needed to get done NOW because it is Saturday and horses are returning to our house on Wednesday, when my friend who has been taking care of Juniper calls me. Not texts me, she calls me. This is not good.

Juniper is showing mild signs of colic. Great. For those of you unfamiliar there are several types of colic, but they all basically boil down to an issue with the horse’s digestive system that if not dealt with can kill them. We decided to have the vet out even though it is a Saturday so it will cost more (it sometimes feels like horses can tell time and know when it will be the most expensive to have a medical emergency) and the diagnosis is an impaction colic. Aptly named because it means there is some blockage in her intestines which is causing pain and preventing food from doing its thing. Lots of things can trigger colic but one typical cause is horses not drinking enough water when the weather is bad and without enough water, food doesn’t move through the system and can cause an impaction and of course we just had a string of cold wet stupid days and who wants to leave their shelter to get water in that kind of weather? My friend caught it early so the vet was hopeful the impaction was still soft enough to pass on its own with only minor intervention (water, oil, pain meds, and a medication to increase gut mobility) instead of a full-on surgery. But part of the process was not allowing Juniper to eat any hay until the impaction had resolved itself so we needed to put her into my friend’s separate sandy pasture that is mostly weeds at this point in the season with some water and wait for the impaction to pass. 

We do these things and Juniper seems to be feeling better and Sunday goes really well so she gets some hay time with her friends, as does Monday morning so she gets more hay time. Everything seems to still be on track; Juniper will get picked up Tuesday night by my neighbor, spend the night at the neighbor’s house, and then come home Wednesday around the same time the new horse arrives.

Then I get another call from my friend Monday night. Juniper is showing signs of colic, again. We have the vet back out and this time it appears to be a sand colic. This vet also looks at her teeth and sees that they are in pretty bad shape. Whether she was accidently eating sand while trying to graze the tiny amounts of grass or if she was purposely eating sand because she was hungry and/or her mouth hurt we don’t know.  I did know that Juniper’s teeth were terrible and I had already scheduled a dental with our normal vet for November once the new horse had a chance to settle in. The issue is that in order to resolve the sand colic Juniper needs to eat a product called SandClear, however Juniper has been unwilling to eat anything other than hay for a while now so there is no way she’s going to eat the SandClear. We hadn’t been overly worried about her not wanting to eat supplemental food because everything else seemed to be fine, and to be honest I was waiting until we had her back home to deal with it, I just hadn’t anticipated it taking this long to find another horse and therefore to get Juniper back home to deal with it. So where does this leave us? Juniper is now dealing with a sand colic and in order to resolve the sand colic I need her to eat the SandClear and in order for her to eat the SandClear she needs to have a dental, and I need to get this figured out NOW because it is Monday night and new horse is coming on Wednesday but it is after hours so every vets office is closed. AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

Not my original work – can’t find source on the internet – thank you person who made this image!

I hate to leave you hanging, but this post has gotten ridiculously long so we’re going to stop here. Check in next time for the shocking conclusion, I promise to have it posted in a few days.



Placeholder Update

we are all here

The last two weeks have been just ridiculous for lots of reasons, all of which will eventually make their way into various blog posts, but for now here is a very quick update.

The new horse (her previous owner called her Highlight which I don’t love but I haven’t found a different name I like better) arrived safely on Wednesday, October 18.

Juniper had two back-to-back medical emergencies right before Highlight got here. Saturday October 14 she had an impaction colic which then led to a sand colic on Monday night which led to an emergency dental and two pulled molars on Wednesday. Yes, the same Wednesday Highlight arrived.

Many things we needed to do in preparation for the re-arrival of horses on the property with incorporation of the (mostly finished phase 1) barn needed to wait until the famer harvested the soybeans and that of course timed out that same weekend so we have been frantically trying to do a million things at once plus a bunch of totally unplanned things because of Juniper’s colic and teeth issues. 

Everyone is currently alive but both Juniper and Highlight are testing my patience in their own unique ways; as is the electric fence.

Full updates on everything coming soon.