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.

Time for a Change?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I haven’t talked much about my full time job; I’ve been teaching math at a post-secondary two-year school in Minnesota since 2005 and for much of that time I have found my job to be highly rewarding. I felt like I was doing good work and making the world a better place by helping students open the doors that a solid math education offers. Unfortunately, I haven’t been feeling that way the last few years. This last year in particular I feel like my desire to provide a solid math education is now directly at odds with what those in charge want and what many of my students want, which is to just get people to and through my classes, learning need not apply. I should add that by the end of the semester many of my students start to see the value in understanding mathematics, but they don’t often feel that way in the beginning and they can be very vocal about it. I have spent untold hours of my time and untold amounts of my mental and emotional energy fighting back against the forces that want to take the learning out of education and I’m tired. I’m not sure I want to spend what is rest of my working life fighting this fight.

I have a degree in mathematics so there are a lot of other job options out there, but throughout my searching I haven’t found anything that I actually want to do or that gives back to our world or our society in some way. Most of the positions I’ve seen feel like made-up busy work for companies that not only don’t make our world better, but are actively destroying our planet, exploiting their employees, communities, and customers, and in general are everything that is wrong with the world today. I don’t want to spend the rest of my working life caught in the crushing wheels of late stage capitalism.

So what DO I want to do… that is the question I have been pondering for months now. As I said in this post, dreaming about what I would all do if we won the Mega Millions really got me thinking. Up until maybe three years ago, if we were talking about winning a lottery or getting a giant inheritance or something, I said I would stop teaching full time, but I would still want to teach part time because I really do like teaching and I think I’m pretty good at it. This year, when thinking about the Mega Millions, my very first thought was to quit my current soul-destroying job and become a full-time rancher/farmer. Not the giant fifty-stall horse breeding barn of my teenage dreams, but something involving healthy food production that improves the land we are on instead of exploiting it and actively tries to heal our planet instead of destroying it. I want to be a regenerative farmer with a small side business breeding and raising quality horses. 

You may be thinking – wait a minute, in this last post you were saying that you weren’t sure you could ever afford to have even your realistic Plan A horse farm, how the h*** are you affording the start-up costs to begin regenerative farming? That of course is the question I have been obsessing over for a while now and I may have some ideas …

Now here is a video of Leeloo and Juniper being extra frisky before breakfast. 


Dream vs. Reality

Who will win?

When the Mega Millions was over a billion dollars the mathematician in me who understands that lotteries are just a tax on people who don’t understand statistics lost out to the dreamer in me who could not help but think of what we could do with that much money! Here is just part of the list I started thinking of:

  • Build the barn and arena I really want 
  • Finish the basement 
  • Finish and pave the driveway 
  • Plant native prairie-based pasture and hay field
  • Put in the fence for the permanent paddock paradise track system
  • Find that third mare (and a donkey, and maybe a gelding)
  • Get a tractor and all the hay making equipment
  • Get an electric pick-up truck
  • Get a horse trailer
  • Build hay and equipment storage buildings
  • Plant more trees

We of course did not win the Mega Millions, which the mathematician in me knew we wouldn’t but the dreamer in me could not help but be disappointed. However, having started really listing all the things that I would like to fulfil my life long dream of having a horse farm I have been facing the reality that without something bordering on the miraculous (like getting picked up as a reality show on the Magnolia Network) or inventing a time machine and getting things done before 2020 (stupid pandemic messing up the stupid economy) that despite having a full time job and working three separate side gigs I don’t think it will happen and I’m not okay with it. This winter has really hammered home that we need to have some sort of indoor space where we can get out of the weather; I know other people have horses in cold climates without any indoor space but I am not those people. I don’t know if I can be happy with only ever having the Plan B version of this dream when my realistic Plan A is already a reality checked version of my ideal Plan A which itself is a massive (and practical) step down from high school Sara’s dream (see drawing below which includes a 50-stall barn, a 100’ x 150’ indoor riding arena, a 100’ x 140’ outdoor riding arena, and a pretty small house – at least teenage Sara and adult Sara still have the same priorities even if teenage Sara had way more energy). As I said in this post, I know this entire thing is a big giant want and that I am lucky and privileged beyond words to even have what we do have, but my heart is just not having it and I’m struggling right now being reasonable when I see other people getting their impractical and expensive dreams and I’m working my a** off and still unable to reach mine.

I’m not giving up on realistic Plan A yet. I am currently waiting on numbers from a few builders, since lumber prices have finally started to come down, and I’ve discovered a site that sells clearance steel buildings and I’m monitoring that regularly, but it has been a struggle to stay hopeful.


p.s. this post was written by an actual human and not an AI, you can tell because of all the run on sentences. 


2023 – Here We Come

a variety pack of goals and plans for the year

As I was writing this in my head it was quickly turning into a monstrously long and somewhat overwhelming post – so instead of detailing all of the goals and plans we have for the year I’m going to briefly outline them here and then write a few additional posts with more details about some of the bigger and/or more involved goals and plans.

Here are the things we will be focusing on for 2023:

  • Get that barn! As I said in one of the very first posts, I am an indoor cat with an outdoor hobby. This recent extreme cold snap has also convinced Nate that getting the barn built should indeed be priority number one. Luckily the cost of building materials is finally starting to come down so I am hopeful that 2023 will be the year of our barn!
  • Find that third horse. Leeloo and Juniper still make it clear every day that they would really, really, like a third horse. It is not that they spend all day fighting, they just clearly do not like each other and would rather be with pretty much anyone else. I also want a horse I can reliably ride; Leeloo’s lameness is better but it’s hard to know how much better without a decent place to work her. And then there are the future foals. I want to have at least one more foal, hopefully more than one, and I need a mare worth breeding for that to happen.
  • Get the hay field and pastures planted. I still very much want to be able to make our own hay. There is more to it then planting the appropriate grass, but that is step one and I’m hoping we can get that done this year. I also really would like to stop spraying toxins and poisons onto the land we live on and into the water we drink, which means we need to stop leasing it out for traditional agricultural use.
  • Continue the many projects around our current Plan B horse operation:
    • Finish and install the hay box lids for the existing hay boxes
    • Build another six hay boxes and lids
    • Clear out the second stall in the “barn” shelter and find something to block the wind
    • Get some cameras and lights set up around the horse areas
    • Is that it?! There must be more…
  • Get a handle on my mental health. I have been dealing with depression, anxiety, (and maybe ADHD?) since college and I have mostly been able to manage it with lifestyle choices, but this past year has been extra challenging for me and I need to get it back under control.
  • Get a handle on my physical health. My biggest fear in starting this adventure was that my body would not handle the extra physical strain and I was right to be concerned. My back, neck, shoulders, and wrists have not been doing well and I need to find some solution so this adventure can continue.
  • Figure out the purpose and goals of this website. Why did I create this site? Why am I writing these blog posts? What exactly am I hoping to achieve with these efforts?

I have been thinking about many of these things for a while. For some I already have clear steps in mind, others still need a lot more thought. I however am going to be keeping a new mantra in mind for this year. It came to me while cleaning out the shelters after that ridiculous cold snap and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the mess. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just better. 

No matter what happens I am hopeful that 2023 will be a good year – not perfect, but better!

Where Did The Year Go

2022 – Year-End Recap

I was starting to write a “goals for next year” post and was feeling a bit disheartened by all the things I had wanted to get done this year but haven’t gotten to yet and decided that it would be good for my mental health to take some time to reflect on the many things we did accomplish this year.

Just the decision to bring Leeloo home without having the full barn setup that I had been dreaming of was a big deal. There were many conversations with many people, and a lot of thinking about goals for myself and for Leeloo, before we even got to the starting gate. That process was the main focus of these posts:

Then there was putting the fence up and electrifying it, which took the whole summer. I understand now why people are willing to pay an extra $30,000+ to have a fence installed. The entire fence process is detailed in these posts: (Fence Part 1, Fence Part 2, Fence Part 3, Fence Part 4, Fence Part 5, Fence Part 6, Fence Part 7, Fence Part 8) and I need to remind myself how much work that was or I start feeling like we should have gotten more done over the summer.

Getting the first two shelters, anchoring them, starting to build the third shelter, then deciding that building it just wasn’t going to happen, was also more work and stress than I imagined. It is obvious now that we never could have built them ourselves, we just don’t have those skills yet, but that wasn’t always easy for me to accept. I am very happy now that we opted to buy them already constructed and that for the third one we went with the company that anchors them for you. The drama around the shelters was discussed in these posts: Give Me Shelter – Part 1 and Part 2, Second Interlude, So Much to Do, Mish Mash, Know When to Fold ThemHayshed – Delivered.

Finding and installing the round pen wasn’t part of the original plan but I am so glad we have it! We haven’t gotten to use it for its intended purpose very often but, it was so very helpful when we brought the girls home and has been very handy many times since then; including helping to separate Leeloo and Juniper each morning during feeding time. Though we are currently having some issues with Juniper turning into a picky eater; if it isn’t one thing it’s another. We discuss the round pen in Gate Expectations and the Fifth Interlude.

HAY! I had been a little worried about getting decent hay for a price we could afford. One of my long-term goals is to have our own hay field and I still feel that way, finding quality hay has been a challenge particularly since we also need it delivered. Luckily we were able to find a variety of hay for this year, including several different people who would deliver, though the quality has been all over the place. The girls like the most expensive hay best (of course) but now that we finally have some hay nets and some haybox lids they at least can’t toss it all over the ground and waste it (I’m looking at you Leeloo).  Hay post – Fourth Interlude.

Then there was finding Juniper – I didn’t talk much about that process on the website but it took a while for us to find the right pony, even when her only job is to keep Leeloo company, well and be cute of course. Finding that next mare, who will be the cornerstone of whatever comes next for us, is going to take much, much longer (Looking For a Baby Maker) – but now we’re starting to get into future goals and that is for the next post.

The ultimate goal of all of this work was to bring Leeloo and Juniper (once we found her) home, which we did! I sometimes forget what an accomplishment that is – it is the culmination of decades of dreaming. Here are the posts about bringing them home and the fun that has been: Coming Home, First Two Weeks, Sugar is Evil, Copy Paste, She’s Lucky She’s Cute, First Real Snow, Work Harder Not Smarter, Winter Woe-nderland.

One of the things I feel the biggest sense of accomplishment about (now that it is over) was something that we hadn’t planned for at all; dealing with Juniper’s eye infection. That was a huge, huge deal, both in terms of time and money, and I am so very, very, happy we were able to heal it (First Two Weeks, The Joys of Medicating Ponies, Mish Mash, Copy Paste, Juniper Eye Update). There was a very real chance she could have lost that eye and we saved it!

Though we weren’t able to build any shelters, we did get several building projects done including the six hay boxes (First Two Weeks, Projects Galore, Hay Contained) and the three compost bays (How to Make Compost Bays). The lids for the hay boxes are so close to being all done and hopefully we’ll get a chance to finish installing them during this “warm” period.

We’re once again getting into future goals but taking time to look back over this year has done what I had hoped, reset my perspective on what we all accomplished in the last few months and made me feel better. We got a ton done, pushed ourselves way, WAY, out of our comfort zones, and, more often than not, accomplished what we set out to do (even if it almost always took longer and cost more than expected).

One other huge accomplishment that I haven’t written about was getting this website up and running. I have never done anything even remotely like this and every aspect of this website has been a learning experience and has been the cause of a lot of swearing and a lot of crying, mostly in the beginning – the website hasn’t made me cry in weeks. I am very happy with how it has turned out and am really proud of myself.

Looking forward to another year of adventures. And of course Leeloo will be there to help:


Hay shed – Delivered

someday something will go smoothly

I had to cut my Thanksgiving visit with my family in Wisconsin short in order to be home for the delivery of our hay shed (the cost of which still needs to find a budgetary home: third horse budget or pasture/hay-field planting budget?). The ground has been solidly frozen for a while, since that unreasonably cold weather set in right after we finally got a decent amount of rain. Though that has made the actual paddock track area pretty hard to navigate for both the girls and the hay and poop carts it also meant we were confident that when they delivered the hay shed they would be able to make use of the former corn field to back it in to place. That option would have worked great on any morning other than the morning the hay shed was actually delivered. Every other night it has frozen enough that the field would have (probably) been sufficiently firm except the night before they delivered it the weather stayed mild and the field didn’t refreeze; as soon as they drove their truck fully into the field it got stuck. Yay.

The driver got out of the truck and asked us what we had available to pull him out and the answer was “nothing.” We have one electric riding lawn mower and two cars purchased for their small and easy to parallel park size and good gas mileage; towing or pulling anything isn’t even in an adjacent realm of possibility much less this one. We do however have some amazing neighbors. After several frantic calls, we were able to come up with a skid steer and two pick-up trucks and it took all three to get the job done. First, they unloaded the hay shed from the truck’s stuck position and used the skid steer to get it into place. That part went fairly well, a few dents notwithstanding. The getting the actual truck and trailer out of the field was much harder and ultimately required two different pick-up trucks to get it out. Our yard and driveway took some collateral damage but they have never been particularly great so in the grand scheme of things that was not that important. I however missed almost all of this drama because in order for one of our neighbors to come over and help I had to go to their house to watch their two grandchildren who were a little too young to bring along; being only four and two. So, while skid steers and pick-up trucks were in use at my house, I was playing restaurant, and make-up party, and fairy princess house, and sleep-over party, and several other games whose premises I was never clear on but we switched gears within five minutes so it didn’t really matter.

I was able to return in time to see the truck and trailer finally pulled from the field and watched as he anchored the hay shed in about 15 minutes. All six anchors in 15 minutes! Let that sink in. It took Nate and I several full weekends to get our anchors in; unquestionably worth it to have him do the anchoring. Now we have our full complement of sheds: shelter shed, soon to be “barn” shed, and hay shed.

We also got a fresh load of free pallets that I didn’t even have to go get! In a fortuitous turn I had contacted the foreman of the crew that built our house about something totally unrelated and right at the end of our conversation he asked if we needed pallets because he had some he had to get rid of. Yes, yes we would! We almost have enough for two full layers of pallets, and we probably do have enough once we can get to the ones currently in-use in the “barn” shed.

Still deciding what to use to block the elements a bit from the two “stall” ends of the “barn” shed. My original idea was to use rigid foam insulation boards or possibly some plywood, but one of our neighbors has used some clear plastic stuff for a door of sorts for her goat shed and feed room I am intrigued. More research will be done i.e. texting as soon as I remember at a time I can actually text; as in not when driving past their house and thinking “I really need to text her about what she used for her goat shed.” Hopefully we can get it all done before it gets super cold again. There is also the complicating factor that one of the “stalls” is currently housing close to 90 bales of hay and Nate and I are still in negotiations about whether that hay will stay there until we use it up in the normal course of things or if it can be moved sooner so I can have my full “barn” shed.

There are still many more projects I would like to get done, but finally feeling like we’re actually getting close to having the full Plan B up and running!

Coming Home

Leeloo and Juniper Move in

Leeloo and Juniper officially moved-in to our new track system last Friday. It was not an easy transition for anyone. Okay mostly for Leeloo and I, Juniper settled in pretty quickly.

Leeloo’s former barn is within sight of our current house as mentioned in this post and I was, and still am, concerned that being so close may encourage something drastic on Leeloo’s part, like attempting (and failing) to jump or fight through the fence to go “home.” I was also concerned about the invariable herd dominance interactions that always happen whenever horses are introduced to one another. I have had some good experiences in the past with taking two horses that didn’t get along on a trailer ride together. The shared trauma of the trailer ride didn’t necessarily make them best friends, but they seemed to get along better afterwards. With those two things in mind, I decided to haul Leeloo with us to get Juniper so that she would feel like she had traveled some distance and would have a chance to spend time in the trailer with Juniper.

I talked out my introduction plans with Marin, the barn manager of Leeloo’s most recent barn since she knows Leeloo better than I do in terms of how she interacts with other horses. In addition to the trailering together idea I had also intended to put one of them in the round pen and leave the other on the outside so they could meet over the fence. Marin suggested putting them both in the round pen together so they had to interact and get used to each other but without corners so no one could get trapped. Also being able to observe their new home from a contained space could help them feel more secure as would putting something up to act as a wall of sorts for part of the round pen because there is no shelter of any kind in that area. I was skeptical because Leeloo is taller than the panels are, but we have a large piece of roofing rubber that we aren’t doing anything with that would work well as a “wall” and it couldn’t hurt – so we hung it up.

My friend Hilary was kind enough to trailer us and we met early Friday morning to get Leeloo loaded into the trailer. Leeloo loaded fine as always, but she doesn’t like staying in the trailer; when I leave, she wants to leave with me. Hilary kept her distracted from the other side of the window as I tied her and got the divider shut. Then we headed out to pick up Juniper. Leeloo was unhappy and pawing the entire trip and continued in a state of  distress the whole time we were picking up Juniper. I hoped having Juniper in the trailer would make her feel better, but she didn’t seem to notice.

Once we got to our house and unloaded I led Leeloo, Hilary led Juniper, and we walked all around the track. Then we put them both in the round pen together. We left Leeloo’s halter on in case we needed to get her out quickly and left Juniper’s grazing muzzle off so she would have all her resources to defend herself if needed, and to remove any additional stressor. The result was that Juniper immediately started gorging on the grass in the middle while Leeloo ran around the edge freaking out. Leeloo would occasionally roll, which was apparently a good sign because rolling, shaking out, and snorting, helps horses release stress hormones; so she was trying to calm herself down, it just wasn’t working. She would run around the edge of the round pen and then go in and herd Juniper around, making her run and switch directions. It was almost identical to what you see trainers do when they first work with a new horse in a round pen. I was too busy watching and stressing out myself to film it; but it was truly fascinating to watch. Eventually Leeloo stopped herding Juniper and let her eat while she paced for a while longer before finally giving up and huddling by that “wall” we had created on one side of the round pen.

After some time of calmness (on Leeloo’s part, Juniper was still busy eating) we decided to take them on another tour of the entire track system and then let them loose in it. I had assumed, since they seemed to have worked out all their issues in the round pen, that there wouldn’t be any more dominance interactions so I put Juniper’s grazing muzzle back on and let them go. However as soon as they were both loose Leeloo would chase after Juniper and Juniper would defended herself, though she always gave way. Eventually Leeloo managed to herd Juniper down to the shelter area and Juniper stood outside the shelter while Leeloo stood in one of the bays with her head in the corner. That is where Leeloo spent the rest of the day. At one point Juniper was over it and headed back up to the round pen area to eat and Leeloo chased after her and tried to herd her back to the shelter but Juniper held her ground and wouldn’t go back, at which point Leeloo gave up and she spent the rest of the daylight hours moping in the shelter while Juniper ate around the round pen.

Saturday morning I went to do chores (I have to do chores every day now – why did I think this was a good idea?!).  They were both separated but calling at each other. Leeloo however was shaking and still seemed very distressed and did not want to leave the shelter area. I walked over to where Juniper was and got her shut into the round pen so I could feed her breakfast. Juniper eats her breakfast very slowly because she gets to have her grazing muzzle off for that and the grass is far more tempting than her breakfast is. Once I had Juniper eating I went over to the shelter area to pick up poop and this time when I walked over to the round pen area Leeloo followed me, and proceeded to pace around the outside of the round pen. Once Juniper was finally done eating I put her grazing muzzle back on and opened the round pen gate. Juniper trotted out and then she and Leeloo acted like they hadn’t spent the whole day together yesterday, with squealing and kicking and being foolish, though no one was hurt. They quit sooner than they had the day before at least and then Leeloo went to pacing in and around the round pen. Eventually she stopped pacing and stayed in the round pen and hid behind the “wall” and just stared at Juniper, who ignored her. Leeloo creeped on Juniper like that for several hours.

Eventually Leeloo left the security of the round pen but she still stuck close to the “wall” just on the other side. Thank you, Marin, for that suggestion!! That “wall” was Leeloo’s refuge for the whole day. As the sun was setting Leeloo herded Juniper over to the shelter area and this time Juniper cooperated and went with her and they both hung out in the shelter, though in respective bays.

In the end I think the move-in plan worked as well as could be hoped. Up to this point Leeloo has always lived with at least other ten horses in, or immediately adjacent to, her paddock so I knew going to just one pony would be a huge change but I hadn’t realized how stressful it would be on her. Leeloo has moved a lot in her past. By the time she was six years old she had lived at seven different boarding facilities and we were moving to her eighth. However, she has been at this last barn for seven years. She had gone from moving, on average, every nine months to staying in one place for seven years.

In many ways I think Leeloo’s experience with this move echoes my own experience when we moved in 2019. All through college and grad school I moved almost every year and it was never a big deal, but then in 2006 we moved into our previous home and stayed there for 13 years. When we moved again in 2019 it was a much bigger shock for me; it was far more disruptive and caused significantly more emotional distress for me than any of the previous moves had. I think Leeloo felt the same about this move.

In addition to going from moving constantly to staying in one place for seven years, Leeloo had also grown up, and in the process became the single most dominant horse of a herd of close to thirty. Going from the unquestioned boss of thirty horses to the boss of one indifferent pony was a huge shock.

Luckily by Sunday morning Leeloo had calmed down enough to actually lay down for a few minutes. She didn’t stay down long, she was clearly trying to get comfortable and just couldn’t, but the fact that she was willing to try at all made me feel better. Then she and Juniper spent the day standing near each other but not engaging with each other. They looked like a couple who had been arguing about something stupid and were giving each other the silent treatment. But at least Leeloo wasn’t shaking or pacing anymore so I’m calling it a win.

We have horses at our house!

The Fence – Part 8 of 8

The Final Fence Post

I headed to LeVahn Brothers with a sample of what I was dealing with (hookup wire and irrigation tubing) and explained what happened (broken string, broken rope, stuck wires) and came home with some wire pulling lube and a better rope.

We were also back to a weekend so Nate could help. It went much faster with two people, one person operating the shop-vac on one end and the other handling the string on the other. We got the string through quickly and tied it to our new rope and got that all the way through. Then we tied the rope to the hookup wire, once again using the staggered approach, rope to ground hookup wire, then further down added the hot hookup wire. Then we lubed up the wire and Nate started pulling on one end while I pushed on the other. Slowly, but steadily, we made progress; though there was definitely a point where it became far more difficult, and it was about the same point where the rope had broken. We actually dug up the trench there to see if something had kinked the tube but from the outside it seemed find so we kept at it. Nate keeps pulling and I keep pushing. Then the rope breaks free from the hook-up wire. **** **** **** **** (This whole putting up a fence saga sure was stretching my vocabulary.)

Try, try, try, try again. Pull the string through, pull the rope through, attach that rope to that hookup wire like someone’s life depends on it; tape is cheap, use the whole roll! Nate pulls, I push, and slowly, so slowly, through it goes. We have the wire through the tube!

Now we need to connect the ground hookup wire to the ground rods and the hot hookup wire to the fence itself. I was smart enough to spray paint one roll of hookup wire blue so that we would know which was the ground line and which was the hot line. The next tricky part was getting one continuous line of hookup wire to connect all three ground rods to the energizer. The directions were very clear; it could not be three separate pieces of hookup wire, it had to be one continuous run of hookup wire. That meant we had to strip the insulation off the middle of the wire. That is not easy to do, and of course the video did not show that part; the wire was already conveniently stripped. Wire strippers are designed to cut the insulation and then you just pull it off the end, but when you are in the middle of the wire you can’t pull it off, you need to basically filet it off; very carefully, without hurting the wire, or yourself. We failed on both counts. The first effort was Nate’s. He did manage to get the insulation off, but not without damaging the wire, and in the end it snapped. **** That meant pulling more hookup wire through, though that turned out to be fine since we needed enough hookup wire to do all three of the hot lines of the fence anyway. The second effort was mine. Almost immediately I managed to stab myself in the finger, right through my work glove (picture if you like pictures of injuries). Luckily it was bleeding a lot so I was pretty sure the risk of infection was low; and somehow, despite having a white shirt on, I only got blood on my pants, the cardboard I was working on, the driveway, and the garage floor – my white shirt is still white! Nate had been using the string trimmer at the time with ear protection on so I hadn’t even tried to get his attention knowing he would be done fairly soon. As he’s opening the door to the mudroom he is asking “How did you spill red paint by your shoes?” Then he sees me with my hand in the air (trying to keep it above my heart to stop the bleeding long enough to wash it) and is like “Oooooohhhhhh, that’s not paint.”

We took a brief break but opted not to seek medical attention and went back out to finish this ****ing fence. I was far more careful this time and managed to get the insulation off without injuring myself or the interior wire! With that we attached the ground hookup wire to the ground rods and attached the hot hookup wire directly to the top line of ElectroBraid. Then we used a short piece of hookup wire to connect the top line of fence to the second from the bottom line of fence, and then another short piece to connect the second from the bottom line to the bottom line. Then another piece of hookup wire to attach the second from the top line of ElectroBraid to the closest ground rod (we opted for a hot/ground system because that was recommended in places where the ground freezes or when there are drought concerns.) Then we had to dig a trench under the fence to lay hookup wire below it to get electricity from one side of the gate to the other (I let Nate dig that trench, 115 feet of trench digging was enough for me – plus you know, the stab wound). One option for that is to just do a single piece of hookup wire that connects all three hot lines on one side to all three hot lines on the other, and then do a second hookup wire to connect the ground line on one side to the ground line on the other; however according to the internet (which is never wrong) the possible issue with that is if something goes wrong with one line of the fence it can affect all of them, whereas if you connect top to top, middle to middle, etc. and something goes wrong with one line, or you need to disconnect one of the lines for some reason, it won’t impact the other lines of fence. We decided to go with the top to top, middle to middle, etc. option. By this point I was an expert at getting wires through tubes and it was only a 12-foot tube to get under the gate and up on each side, so I managed that on my own all in one day!

Once everything was wired on the fence side, we had to get the hookup wires attached to the energizer which was in the garage. This involved drilling two small holes in the side of our garage which neither of us felt super comfortable doing, but we did it. Hopefully we didn’t mess anything up too badly; we used a LOT of silicone sealer.

We used a lot of silicone sealer, we are both paranoid about putting a hole in our wall. The bricks are holding up the end of the irrigation tubing which is folded over to prevent water from running down it. That also didn’t go as well as the directions implied. 

We still need to patch up the drywall on the inside but that is low on my priority list. Wondering why there is so much masking tape? That’s because we don’t know what we’re doing and it took a few tries to get the hookup wire through the wall.

We attached the hot hookup wire to the hot terminal and the ground hookup wire (thank goodness for the blue paint) to the ground terminal and plugged the energizer in. We officially have an electric fence!

I went around with the voltage tester and it seems like we have a decent charge all along the fence. There was some concern because of how far the various parts of the fence are from one another and the house is in between them, but according to the voltage tester everything seems to be working. Also, according to my hand, which got shocked when I went to fasten the gate. We really need better gate closures.

Give me Shelter – Part 2

As alluded to in Part 1 we did wind up purchasing fully assembled and delivered shelters from a company. The starting of this crazy plan coincided with the Minnesota Horse Expo and there were three shelter companies that were there: West Wind Shelters, Buildings by Alpha, and RFC Portables. All three companies make what appear to be great products. Buildings by Alpha is the farthest away and their delivery cost was significantly higher (understandably) so I didn’t pursue them. That left West Wind Shelters and RFC Portables. The overall cost was on the surface cheaper for a West Wind shelter, but their largest shelter is 10 feet by 30 feet whereas RFC Portables largest shelter is 12 feet by 36 feet and when I calculated out the per-square-foot cost the RFC Portables shelter was cheaper per square foot. There are some other differences to consider, however. West Wind shelters are made on a steel frame that goes all around every edge of the cubes that are the basis of the shelter itself. Versus a timber frame for RFC – RFC also has two versions, one they call the “EZ Move” that has a timber frame all around every edge but it’s a pretty chunky frame and adds to the cost, and the standard one that is truly open front and has nothing running along the bottom edge of the open side of the shelter. Other differences include an all metal outside sheeting for RFC and half-metal half-wood for West Wind Shelters, and lastly the other big difference between the two is that West Wind Shelters anchors their shelters for you when they deliver them and RFC does not provide anchors or anchor them for you. At the time I felt that maximizing square footage and minimizing my cost per square foot were the two most important things – also if my friend and I are going to build one of these shelters on our own, then a timber framed shelter would offer a template for us to work from. With those things in mind we went with RFC Portables and ordered two 12 foot by 36 foot shelters, light gray with white trim and roof.

Quick tip for anyone purchasing a premade structure. See your color options in real life, not just a computer screen! The little chip from the photo said “light gray” and on my computer it looked like “light gray.” But once they were here and in the same visual field as my light gray house, those shelters are taupe! Nate insists no one else will notice or care, but I have to regularly talk myself out of going to the store to buy paint and am successful only because there are so many other things we still need to do!

Because of the maximized length they couldn’t actually span that whole distance with an open space so these shelters are really more like three 12’ x 12’ bays connected together with dividing walls between them. In the shelter that will be a shelter the dividing walls go most of the way up, but in the shelter that will be my make-shift temporary barn I asked to make the dividing walls only half walls and to put a gate in the middle of the wall so I can get in and out of the side bays from the middle bay. This way in winter I can block off the two ends from the worst of the weather and have a somewhat protected space – that is the hope at least.

It took RFC about five weeks to build them and then they were delivered. I should have filmed the process because it is a little mind blowing. They come fully assembled on these flatbed trucks and then they tip the bed of the truck up and let gravity just slide them off. Though they did send me these reference photos as we were figuring out the logistics of whether the open side should be facing the driver side or passenger side for the purpose of unloading them.

To help stabilize them during transport and unloading they have a variety of braces including a very long piece of lumber across the bottom of the open side (where the West Wind Shelters have a steel frame and where the EZ Move shelters have a permanent skid). The first shelter slides off the truck and mostly where we wanted it, it was off by about foot on one end, but considering gravity just slid a 36’ x 12’ three-sided shelter off a flatbed truck, being off by only a foot on one end seemed pretty impressive. The second shelter did not slide off as cleanly, it started sliding off the back of the truck as well as the end of the truck so by the time it was on the ground it was about three feet off from where we wanted it. They looked at it and declared that we could just move it with a skid steer  You know – that skid steer we do not have. If you are not familiar a skid steer is the generic name for the machine, though you may have heard of them as a Bobcat, that is a specific company that happens to make skid steers (kind of like facial tissue and Kleenex). Or we could move it with a truck and chains – you know – that truck we also don’t have. They did leave us with the giant pieces of bracing lumber that ran along the bottom edge of the open side since we would have to move it so much. Then they left and we had to figure out how we were going to shift this giant thing.

We did look into renting a skid steer but the rental starts at $150 and goes up from there once you add delivery, time, etc. There is also the tiny issue that neither of us has a clue how to operate one. We asked around a few places and were in the midst of arguing over the merits of trying to do this with a truck and if so do we rent a truck or see if we could borrow someone’s when I decided on a whim to call the neighbors and see if they by chance had a skid steer and could they possibly help us out and they did! But they were unavailable for a few days, but the neighbor another two houses down also had one and she was sure he would be happy to help. She kindly gave me their name and number and having never met this person in my life I called to see if they could do me a favor – I felt very awkward – “Hello stranger I have literally never met, can you help me?” Asking for help is weirdly hard for me. But he was super nice and came over the next day to help us out. The shelter that was off by about three feet, but still had the braces on, shifted pretty easily once we got everything positioned correctly so I thought – hey, that went so well, lets shift that other shelter, the one that no longer has a brace, over just that one tiny foot. We positioned everything and started moving it when I noticed that the dividing walls between the bays were NOT moving with the far wall. I said “good enough” lets stop there, thanked him for his time and willingness to help out a total stranger, and we both went about our days. Later that day I was laying out where the fence needed to go and happened to look at that second shelter from a different angle and saw that one of the dividing wall between the bays was no longer square – it was pretty seriously bent out of true – crap! It took almost an entire day for me to work up the courage to text him and ask if he could come back out to help fix it – why is asking for help so hard? I finally managed it because I mentally reversed our situations, and I would in a heartbeat help a neighbor if I had the equipment and would have no issue coming back out if it didn’t go exactly right the first time. Seriously – need to work on the asking for help thing. He came over the next day and all we had to do was lift that wall up a few inches and the act of sliding the skids back out shifted it back into place (mostly) its not 100% square, but like 98% square – which is still a high A.

Now we just needed to anchor them. How hard could that be?

Give me Shelter – Part 1

Waiting for the fence materials to arrive we turned our attention to shelters, plural. My long-term plan is to have three shelters. It is very windy where we live and we don’t have just one prevailing direction. Winter tends to be more west, north-west and summer south, south-east – but some of the worst storms in both seasons switch – it is very annoying and makes it hard to place one shelter that would be able to safely harbor my horses all year round. Leeloo also hates bugs almost as much as I do but will not keep fly related “clothing” on. Flymasks are rubbed off within hours. Fly boots are actively ripped off with her teeth the moment I take her halter off. I have this long-term idea of creating a summer “bug” shelter that would have solar powered fans running and shade – it’s not a fully formed idea yet – but what this means is ultimately I want three shelters. I also want to plan for some additional animals as this hobby farm grows so I wanted the biggest shelters I could get so they can handle additional animals when they come – no reason to buy something twice!

Bringing Leeloo home before a barn is built also leads to some other major logistical issues that need to be addressed. Where are we storing hay for the winter? Where are we going to have vet appointments and farrier appointments in the winter? Where am I going to actually be able to bring my horse in to work with? One of the paddock paradise principals is that the paddock is the horse’s home and personal space so you shouldn’t do stuff with them in it. Also, I hate weather of all kinds and want a place to get out of it to do stuff with my horse whenever possible. I put all of this together with my long-term goal of having three shelters to come up with the following plan. One shelter would be used as its name implies and would be the shelter for the animals. We’d place it in consideration of the strongest winter winds since those are the biggest deal. The other two shelters would be outside of the paddock and would face each other with a space in-between. One of them would be used to store hay – because hay cannot sit outside in the elements – and the other would be my makeshift “barn” with a stall of sorts on either side where I could bring a horse in to feed or doctor or trim or groom and the middle would be an “aisle-way” of sorts and storage. This meant I was looking at getting the three largest shelters I could. BUT – because this is all temporary until we get an actual barn built and a permanent paddock track created and because I didn’t want to deal with the city and building permits – these shelters need to be temporary and moveable, no permanent structures allowed.

Some credit for all this craziness of getting Leeloo home before there is a barn belongs to a non-horse-having friend who asked me last summer why I didn’t just bring Leeloo home. I listed the many barriers to that happening – fence, shelter, water, hay storage, poop management, place to do stuff with her in winter, etc. Having a horse at home is far more work and far more complicated than having a cat or a dog. But that conversation planted a seed that unbeknownst to me was germinating all that time so when my farrier said this spring “She’s never going to be sound in this environment.” that seed sprouted into this current madness. That same friend is also one of the most confident, go-for it, we-can-do-it, optimistic people I know. Which is good for me because I am only confident with things I have a lot of experience with and I tend to view the world from a pessimistic (realistic?) lens. When I told this friend that her crazy and totally impractical suggestion from last summer apparently germinated into this thing actually happening, but that I was still concerned about the cost of everything including how expensive a three-sided shelter was, she very confidently declared that together she and I could build the shelters I needed by ourselves for less money and in a reasonable time frame.

Some key background information: Neither of us are accomplished woodworkers, we are novices at best. Nate and I did take a community woodworking class several years ago and built two Adirondack chairs and a bench. The bench has a persistent wobble that we haven’t been able to fix and one of the Adirondack chairs had a loose seat slat issue from the very beginning, but we didn’t realize it until we were moving it out of the classroom to get it home and at that point were both too embarrassed to bring it back inside to fix it (this is why it’s good for me to have a confident friend). My friend has slightly more experience than that, but still definitely in novice territory. We also both have full time jobs and she has kids – and she tried really hard to talk me into building these shelters ourselves and was confident we could get them done in the same time-frame the professional companies I was looking at could get them done. She almost managed to convince me. Almost.

I talked her down to building one shelter, the one that would be used for hay for now and would long term be my crazy “summer bug” shelter, since potentially wrecking a perfectly fine and expensive shelter on a half-baked idea doesn’t make much sense, but wrecking a shelter made by two novices that probably isn’t going to be so great to begin with seems far more reasonable. I also have several other building projects in mind including hay boxes and some compost bays and said I would love her help with those projects. These conversations happened in April. In this case pessimistic caution turned out to be the right call because the shelters ordered from the company arrived weeks ago and to-date my friend and I have managed to build one, singular, hay box.


That still needs a lid.