She Has Been Found

Future Baby Maker 

I have found my next mare! After looking at hundreds of mares online, doing deep-dives into conformation analysis on a ton of them, and visiting many in-person including several trips to WI and a trip to ND, I have found my next mare. Soul Ridge Xpression Highlight is a 3 ½ year old Canadian mare currently residing in Massachusetts. 

She is quite a bit younger than I was originally hoping for, and shorter, but in the grand scheme of my wish list the most important things – best conformation I could find, good personality, maiden mare, started under saddle correctly or not started yet, and within my budget – all outweighed the age and height thing. Being only 3.5 there is also a strong chance she’ll get a little taller and end up closer to my ideal height.

I was unable to see her in person so though I am very excited the anxious worrier part of me is still feeling unsettled about the whole thing and it has taken a bit of the shine off of the anticipation. We got a few good photos and videos of her and I sent those to Liz Graves for an additional set of eyes to review her conformation and she was happy with what she saw and gave her the green light. We also did an extensive pre-purchase exam, far more than I would have done for a horse I had met myself, but my inner worrier needed as many reassurances as I could give it. I am sure once she is here in person I will fall in love with her, but it is still feeling all a little unreal yet.

Speaking of worry and anxiety, figuring out how to get her from MA to MN has also been an area of concern. After seeking out the advice of many people who have hauled horses long distances, we opted to have her hauled by a professional horse shipper rather than finding a friend with a trailer and some free time. Between coordinating schedules, having to drive through unfamiliar large cities and east coast traffic with a horse trailer, paying tolls and gas, and figuring out when and where to stop and how to give her a break without unloading her, it felt far less stressful to just hire a professional. We opted to go with Brent Daak Equine Transport after getting a really glowing personal recommendation and seeing great feedback online. They have a 3-horse box-stall trailer with cameras in the trailer. One of the things I heard repeatedly from people who have done a lot of long-distance hauling was to use a horse van or a trailer with box stalls so the horses have the ability to position themselves in the best way for them and so you can stop for the night and give them a chance to sleep comfortably without having to actually unload them and find a barn to sleep at. Because they only do three horses at a time the trip is a little more expensive but it is also more efficient and the horses aren’t traveling for much longer than needed. They drive from about 7 AM – 11 PM and then stop for the night and sleep with the trailer and the horses so they are never unattended. They checked all the boxes for the advice I was given and it is one less thing for me to worry about, so instead I can worry about all the other things.

There are still a few more scheduling details to be finalized but right now the plan is for her to arrive around October 17.

We’re getting another horse!

Barn Building Update 6

Roofed and Ready

Phase one of the barn is almost complete. The first five posts can be found here – update 1, and here – update 2, and here – update 3, and here – update 4 and here – update 5.

Considering how long the earlier stages of the build took the roof and sides went up remarkably fast, like days instead of weeks fast. 

There was a minor issue with the very last roof panel, in that they had it almost in position and then dropped it and it bent. This meant they had to order a replacement piece, but while they waited they got the metal up on all the sides as well.

Just a few more finishing touches: garage doors, electricity, trim, and a little more fill so the barn doesn’t look like it’s wearing floods.

Status Update


Finding the time, energy, and motivation to write blog updates has become more challenging recently. For years fall was my favorite season, and from a weather perspective it still is, but from a mental health perspective it is not. As the years have gone by, I find my mental health more and more impacted by the shortening days and that I start noticing the days getting shorter sooner and sooner in the season. I also find myself liking my job less and less and these two things are now fully coinciding. This begs the question, is it really seasonal depression or does my job just make me miserable? Before last year I always assumed it was just the lack of daylight but recently I’ve come to think my dissatisfaction with my work situation is a bigger part of my mental health issues than I had realized. It also doesn’t help that this is the first year in over ten years that I am teaching a full load. Since about 2010 I have taken on various non-teaching roles on campus for which I was “released” from one or more classes to fulfill and the last few years before my sabbatical I was often filling multiple non-teaching roles meaning I was teaching even fewer classes. Not only am I coming back this fall from a year long sabbatical of not teaching, but I’m coming back to a full load with full classes, and I am exhausted! Teaching, well good teaching, is a performance art. To capture and maintain your student’s attention requires a significant level of physical, mental, and emotional energy that I just don’t really have enough of any more. I am giving literally all my energy to my classes and they are leaving me utterly drained and unable to attend to other things, like writing blog posts. My hope is that my stamina for teaching will return, at least a little bit, as the semester wears on and I will have more energy for other endeavors and can get back to writing at least weekly updates if not twice weekly updates.

Piling on to all of this is a new round of grieving for Leeloo. Round one of the barn is almost done, the next blog post will be an update on that, but having it so close to done has totally stirred up all my grief over losing Leeloo. She should be here. She should be the first horse to use the barn with me, to explore it and run around like a crazy and kick up her heels and she’s not and that has just been way harder than I had been anticipating. The few times I’ve started drafting the next barn related update it in my head I immediately get sad and then I switch over to some other task to distract myself. But avoidance is not a healthy coping mechanism so eventually I need to deal with it. Writing those few blog posts this spring was really helpful with that first phase of grieving so I’m hoping setting aside some time to write the next barn update will help me work through this most recent round of grieving.

Just have to keep on keeping on.

The Mare Search Continues – Part 2

New Focus

Last time, on Lantern Farm, disappointed with my search for a mare thus far and inspired by the work of the Livestock Conservancy organization I have decided to align my goals of breeding, raising, and training horses with my goals of conserving at risk native and heirloom breeds and species by switching to a horse breed that doesn’t number in the millions worldwide and instead is at risk of going extinct. There were three such horse breeds under consideration: Akhal-tekes, Canadians, and Cleveland Bays.

Step one was to talk over the new plan with Nate and get his opinion, and yes, his opinion does matter. He was not a big fan of the Akhal-tekes and to be fair they have a very distinct and unique look which doesn’t appeal to everyone. He also pointed out that they were literally born and bred for life in the desert and Minnesota ≠ desert. And if we’re being totally honest, I’m vain enough to want to look good while riding a horse and words that I would use to describe Akhal-tekes include ones like “delicate” and “refined” and those two words have never, in my life, been used to describe me.

That got it narrowed down to Canadians and Cleveland Bays.

Step two was talking with an acquaintance of mine who has spent her entire life working in a wide variety of horse related fields and endeavors with a wide variety of breeds. She has a breadth and depth of knowledge regarding horses that few people have. She said the Cleveland Bays she’s worked with have been very athletic horses who were beautiful movers, but she never liked the personality of a single one and would never choose to work with them if given the choice. She has also had the opportunity to work with Canadian horses and had a friend who raised Canadian horses back in the day and they were also athletic horses and good movers, but had the extra bonus of being likeable. She said she liked every Canadian horse she ever worked with. Therefore, her recommendation was to search for a Canadian mare.

She and I also had a long talk about conformation and breeding. After all my research on horse conformation I have gotten pretty good at identifying faults and flaws with a horse but I don’t necessary know how to rank those faults in terms of importance. I liken it to grading. Students make all sorts of mistakes, but some mistakes are minor, and the student has clearly done A or B work, but other mistakes are worse and indicate C or D level work, then of course there are the “you have literally no clue what you are doing, here is your F” mistakes. I felt confident in my ability to distinguish “A” or “F” horses, but not as confident in my ability to distinguish between the vast majority that fall somewhere in the middle. The reality is that finding a horse with “perfect” conformation was always rare but has become even rarer now that society no longer literally runs on horse power and people have lost touch with what makes a horse not just good looking but also healthy and sound for the long haul. The “A” horses are now rarer than ever and the ones that are out there are totally out of my budget. This means I need to instead be focusing my efforts on identifying the “B’s” (which is still a really good grade) from the “C’s” and “D’s.” I’m optimistic that now, after having spent some time working with her, I can do that. Hopefully.

Thus my search for a mare worth breeding has begun again but with the new focus on finding a solid, but not perfect, Canadian mare. As of right I have found four possibilities and two of them have a great deal of potential. I’m just waiting on more pictures, videos, and information. Fingers crossed I find this mare soon!

Barn Building Update 5

All Trussed UP

Work continues on the barn, the first four posts can be found here – update 1, and here – update 2, and here – update 3, and here – update 4.

At the end of Update 4 they had gotten most of the framing done on the sides and the north end-wall and were getting ready for trusses. 

Watching the trusses go up was a little anxiety inducing. They are large, LARGE, and getting them from their stacked pile and up in place was not an easy feat, or so I imagine. All I did was sit and the house and watch from the upstairs windows, but that was stressful enough for me.

The trusses of course don’t just sit there on their own and need to have all sorts of other things including the purlins installed along the top and additional boards along the bottom of the trusses, which I can’t find the official name for.

Things were moving along smoothly but a large project wouldn’t be one of our large projects without some sort of hiccup. The worst storm we have had all summer blew threw with ridiculous straight line winds. Nate and I watched with mounting concern as the wind just whipped by until the power went out and we opted to hangout in the staircase. Once the storm had abated we checked everything out and all appeared to be well. Except for the port-a-potty. Unfortunately the barn wasn’t quite as untouched as it appeared. The next day when the crew inspected everything it turned out that the storm winds pushed the bracing posts on the north end out of position and everything had shifted about four inches out of square so the rest of the week was spent putting things to rights.

In the end they lost about a weeks worth of work having to reset everything but in the grand scheme of things it could have been much worse. The following week they got back on track and slowly finished out the trusses and the framing.

Once all the trusses were installed they put up the south end-wall up and poured the final concrete into the post holes on the post holes on the south end and finished up the ones near the north end that they had run out of concrete for the first time around.

The city inspector was out Monday to sign-off on the work done so far. Now on to the metal siding!

The Mare Search Continues – Part 1


The search for my next mare, the one that will be the cornerstone of my breeding efforts, has been ongoing and frustrating. I have “known” for as long as I can remember that there are a lot of problems within the horse industry, particularly with starting horses too hard, too fast, and too young and breeding horses for the wrong reasons, usually for fancy names on a piece of paper or for fancy color. Sure that stud has terrible conformation and went lame at four and is utterly unrideable, “but he’s a blue roan!” That is literally what one lady said to me when I expressed concern about her choice of stallion.

At first, I thought that this utter dearth of sound horses with good conformation could work in my favor. Purposely and intentionally seeking out healthy, sane, sound, horses with good conformation to breed would inherently improve my odds of having foals that were healthy, sane, sound horses themselves and that would help me stand out in a very crowded market; it would make my horses something special and worth having. The longer I searched though, the more I realized that a large proportion of riders and horse people don’t have a clue what good conformation is and why it matters. They have simply accepted the current reality where horses are lame by twelve and need corrective shoeing, yearly injections, and all sorts of other maintenance just to stay rideable. This has become the new normal and very few people seem to be questioning it.

I put that word “known” in quotes in the first paragraph because in today’s current world lots of people “know” things that are in fact total bullshit and when I first started this search my “knowing” was based on very hazy remembrance of 4-H horse judging practice sessions, various presentations attended at horse expos and clinics, and my own personal experiences. But that knowledge wasn’t based on any source I could point to and as mare after mare fell short of my expectations I started to wonder if my “knowing” was in fact bullshit and if maybe I was the one out of touch with reality. I have thus spent much of the summer seeking out verifiable references and knowledgeable people with true study and experience behind them to ground my knowing in reality. These sources did confirm my knowledge and I am far more confident and comfortable in declaring that I do actually know what good conformation looks like and that it is in fact important! They also confirmed that  yes, the horse world today is filled with crappy conformation; and yes, horses are in fact started way too hard, way too fast, and way too young; and that yes, the combination of these two things is behind many of the lameness issues horses and their people have to contend with. Below is a list of the references I have been consulting.

Horse Conformation References

Where does that leave me, other than being frustrated and still horseless?

Upon completion of The Modern Racehorse, I returned the book to the library by actually walking into the library and handing it to an actual librarian, as a book that age is due. Once in the library I couldn’t just leave without taking a turn through the stacks and while perusing I found The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. Another truly amazing book which I will talk more about in a future post, but relevant here was a reference to The Livestock Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the conservation of endangered livestock breeds. While checking out their website I noticed there was a horse category, and within the horse category were a number of breeds I had heard of but several I had not and then it hit me. Why waste my time, effort, energy, and money on trying to fix a breed that numbers literally in the millions and that has drifted so far from the breed standard and good conformation that any good I did in my breeding efforts would be but a single drop of rain in the ocean when there are really nice horse breeds out there whose populations are genuinely in jeopardy and for whom my efforts would make a tangible and lasting difference? Most of the horse breeds listed are not suitable for my personal goals being either too small (there are many pony and small horse breeds on the list) or draft horses who are meant to pull things and are not well suited to riding. That left three breeds that are riding horses capable of doing a variety of disciplines and that naturally get up to at least 16 hands tall or taller:


I found this photo on Wikipedia –


I found this photo on the Breyer Horse website as this was the horse they used as their model for the Canadian Breyer horse – 

Cleveland Bay 

I found this photo on the Livestock Conservancy website – 

Next step – a new mare search with a new focus, but which breed should we pursue?

Edible Forest Garden – July Update

surviving this summer

This has not been the greatest summer to start a garden. The almost complete lack of rain through most of the late spring and early summer, record heat, record low dew points, and a severe drought has not made for a nurturing environment; yet all but one of the plants is alive! The one plant that did die had gotten knocked over by something and managed to live on the ground for a few weeks before giving up the ghost, but everything else is alive, and a few of the plants are actually doing pretty well. I don’t know enough to say if any of the plants are thriving but since I have at least four of everything but the plum tree I have some comparisons and some plants are definitely doing better than their friends.

Here is the garden as a whole with my four quadrants labeled.

Quadrants one and two both have a full layer of cardboard within the various layers whereas quadrants three and four have none. Quadrant three, a non-cardboard quadrant is doing the best with the largest, healthiest looking plants. Quadrant one, a full-cardboard quadrant is doing the worst with the one dead plant and everything else being the absolute smallest and least healthy looking. Quadrant three also has some major weed issues whereas quadrant one has almost no weeds.

Here is a close-up of quadrant one, with it’s full cardboard layer, small plants, but almost no weeds:

Here is a closeup of quadrant three, without any cardboard, much bigger plants, but more weeds

If I only had these two examples to go by I would have some serious concerns about the cardboard. Yes, the cardboard clearly seems to be keeping the weeds controlled, which is a good thing, but it also seems to be hindering overall plant health. However, quadrants two and four tell a different story. They seem to be about equally and reasonably healthy with light to moderate weed pressure. Neither of them are as healthy as quadrant three but they are both doing better than quadrant one. The plants in quadrant four (non-cardboard) might be doing a bit better than the plants in quadrant two (full-cardboard) but the quadrant two plants still look relatively healthy and there are less weeds in the cardboard quadrant than the non-cardboard quadrant

Here is a close-up of quadrant two, with it’s full cardboard layer, decent plants, and a few weeds:

Here is a closeup of quadrant four, without any cardboard, decent plants, and some weeds

The growing season isn’t over yet so I am not ready to draw any conclusions, but I am very glad that I unintentionally did this experiment with two quadrants of each option. I did wonder if it had something to do with the order I planted things in but I doubt it. Quadrant four was the first to be planted and quadrant two was the last one planted and they are both my middle of the road beds.

We did finally start to get some rain so it will be interesting to see if that makes any sort of difference, other than helping the weeds in quadrant three. I should probably get on that…

Oh, I almost forgot. We did get our first wild strawberry harvest! Harvest is arguably a strong word for the fifty total strawberries I picked that are tiny. TINY. But they were very tasty.

I didn’t have a banana for scale so I had to use a pen.

Barn Building Update 4

forms cannot contain us

Clearly my goal of getting back on a regular writing schedule didn’t happen. Hopefully this week will go more as planned  and I’ll get another one written and I can get some positive momentum going to keep at it.

Work continues on the barn, the first three posts can be found here – update 1, and here – update 2, and here – update 3.

At the end of Update 3 they had gotten all the posts installed and standing square and level on the cement discs (which probably have a technical name but I don’t know it). Once all the posts were up they started installing the wall girts which are the boards that run horizontally around the building.  

They were also getting ready to pour the concrete around the posts. If you are also wondering how they were going to get those concrete forms around the posts that were already installed in any way that would be useful you are not alone.

Turns out they had a plan, but that plan did not work as expected.

As you can see the concrete chose to ignore their efforts at containment with the form and instead just filled the whole cavity. After the first several they just gave up and poured concrete into the entire hole. Unfortunately that meant they ran out of concrete before they were able to finish, having planned for significantly less. This means the last six posts on the northwest corner don’t have any concrete yet; but they will be getting some when the concrete truck comes to do the posts on the south end. 

After the concrete got poured they finished up with all the wall girts and moved on to the and headers and/or eave struts. I’m not totally up on my pole barn anatomy so I’m not as certain on their name, but the larger beams running horizontally along the top. 

Can you tell which holes are missing their concrete?

Next up – trusses!


Barn Building Update 3

Taking Shape

Work continues on the barn, the first two posts can be found here and here.

They used the super big fork-lift thing (I’m sure it has a real name but super big fork-lift thing will have to do) to get the cement discs into each of the holes and then began setting up the posts. 

It was at this stage that I realized the overhead door on the east side of the barn is not where I had wanted it to be in my original plan. After a really good conversation with the crew I realized I couldn’t have it where I wanted and I will just have to sort it out once we get to stage two and putting the stalls in. The frustrating thing is I could have had it where I wanted it and saved money had someone sat down with me sooner and laid out exactly how the building would actually be built and then we would have opted for a smaller door that could have gone exactly where I wanted it to, and been cheaper. But at this stage the plans have been designed and everything purchased and it would cost money to make such a major change. I’m slightly frustrated because I thought I had worked out all these types of details earlier in the process but lesson learned. Not that I will get to apply that lesson since I will not be building another barn, but perhaps some day you, dear reader, can apply that lesson. They may tell you they can build around any size (and they mostly can) but plan everything out in multiplies of eight and plan on eight-foot centers and everything will go smoother.

After the east side was up they moved on to the west side.

The overhead door on the west side also had to get adjusted a bit but that one doesn’t have any ramifications to the stall area.

After both sides were done they put up the north end-wall. They are leaving the south end-wall for very last so they can continue to bring the super big fork-lift, as well as the various other big equipment, in and out while the put everything up.

If you look in the lower right hand corner of the last picture you can see they are still using their Pythagorean triangle to square the building. I still get happy every time I see it. I may no longer have any desire to teach math but I still love math.

Barn Building Update 2

The Foundation

Work continues on the barn, the start of which is documented in this post.

They had originally been using standard hand-held compactors to compact all the dirt and gravel being laid out as the base, but at a certain point that wasn’t enough and they upgraded to this monster of a roller.

They also started putting in some of the drain tile that will go around the edge of the barn to direct water away from the building. That is that little pile of dirt that seems to be just hanging out in the middle. Still need to work out an overall waterflow and containment strategy for our whole property but drain tile around the barn is a good first step.

After everything was rolled and compacted the equipment people came and picked up the big roller and replaced it with another large machine which they’ve so far been using to unload and move the various materials that have been steadily arriving. From the looks of it I think it will also be the machine that gets the trusses up in the air. They spent the rest of the day measuring and remeasuring and then remeasuring and then just one more time lets remeasure the dimensions of the barn (happy they are being so thorough!) and then made my math heart just sing by using the Pythagorean theorem to square the corners! 

The day after that they went around and measured out the location for every support beam and truss and then two of the crew used an auger attachment to dig holes for each location while the other two painted the bottoms of the posts with white rubber roof coating.

Apparently the first round of holes weren’t deep enough because they dug them even deeper the next day. Not sure if I should be concerned that the holes farthest away from the house have water in them. They also re-marked out the locations of everything and smoothed down the tops of most of the dirt piles.

Then they laid out these short cement discs at each hole location as well as the posts that will go in each hole. I have no idea how they got the cement discs in each hole in such a way that it is sitting level and in the correct location but I’m trusting that they know what they are doing. 

Nate and I spend a lot of time wondering how the heck something is going to work or in some cases what they are doing or why they are doing it. Luckily we have some help supervising the work.