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.

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:


First Real Snow

At least the bugs are GOne

We had our first real snow of the year this week and we were definitely not prepared. The morning of the snowy day itself we opted to do all the feeding, both their breakfasts and their hay for the day, inside the shelter bays because Leeloo still does not have her winter coat and I didn’t want her to get too wet. Unfortunately, Juniper decided that morning that she didn’t want to eat any of her breakfast until she had some new hay and Leeloo of course wants nothing to do with hay until she has had her breakfast. Feeding them in the shelters however means I can’t actually separate them so this added even more of a challenge on a morning when I was already rushed because I had to be in to work by 9:15 AM and had to stop and get treats first and do all that driving in the snow. In the end Juniper didn’t get much of her actual breakfast and I felt guilty and more determined than ever to get that “barn” shed set up as soon as possible.

When we did chores that night we also discovered that the shelters themselves aren’t quite the wind and snow break we had hoped they would be.

I cleaned out as much of the snow from the left most shelter bay as I could but had to leave the deepest stuff on the edge.

The next day however was way worse. Our location is very windy. VERY WINDY. I never understood how windy a place could be until we moved here. Here are some pictures that hopefully help illustrate what it is like:

This is less than twenty-four hours later and there was no melting happening, only the wind.

All that snow just got blown everywhere – including giant drifts across our driveway that we just paid to have plowed out the night before (yay!).

This kind of shows the drifts as well as the new drift patterns created by the hay boxes that we hadn’t dealt with before. Winter is so much fun.

In addition to the drifts across the driveway we also had drifts on both sides of the gate to the shelters which meant I couldn’t open it enough to get the poop cart or, more importantly, the hay cart through. The wind was too ridiculous to even consider feeding them their breakfasts up front by the roundpen where we normally do so I can separate Juniper and Leeloo. Juniper once again wasn’t interested in her food and wanted hay but this time I was a bit smarter and dumped Leeloo’s food out on one of the mats in the farthest right shelter bay so it would take her longer to eat and then snuck out some fresh hay for Juniper to eat and then brought Juniper her breakfast, after she had a chance to eat some hay for a bit. This worked pretty well until Leeloo finished her breakfast and came to see what Juniper and I were up to, fortunately Juniper had eaten most of her breakfast by then so I said good enough and moved on to trying to clean poop out of the shelter bays when there was no cart to put it in. It didn’t go well.

This of course is why I want to have that middle shelter set up as a makeshift barn with a stall on either end; so I can bring both Leeloo and Juniper in someplace out of the elements and into separate areas. Then Juniper can have as much time as she needs to eat her hay and all of her breakfast and they can both be dry and out of the elements for a while. It will also be invaluable when the farrier comes out next time because I really don’t want to be standing out in the snow and the wind while he’s trimming. I also really need to figure out how to block off the “stall” ends of the barn shelter since the snow and wind demonstrated how easily they can make their way around the edges.

Nate was kind enough to shovel out the gate later that day so we can at least open it wide enough to get a cart in and out. Of course getting the hay cart through the snow and the various drifts within the paddock itself was another matter. We absolutely must find another solution to that because I’m not hauling that cart through two foot (or higher) drifts all winter! I’m thinking a sled? Or can I convert a wheeled cart to a sled cart by locking the wheels onto skis of some sort?! Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Also discovered that I really, really, need some actual winter boots:

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!

Where Do the Weekends Go?!

Always more things to do than hours to do them in

We got a lot done this weekend, though not enough, as always.

Friday we took full advantage of my 20% employee discount at Fleet Farm and loaded up on some winter socks and gloves and I was able to get this coat I had been eying from the cash register all week and it was on sale! 30% off, plus my 20% discount, plus we were able to use the $5 off of $50 coupon from the popcorn you get for free when you get gas from the Fleet Farm gas station (which I sadly do not get a discount on). Clearly this is the start of an application problem for my next Math Literacy class.

Saturday however was not as productive. We were able to move some stuff off the driveway in preparation for the snow plowing that is sadly right around the corner. But our attempt to hang the gate on one of the shelter bays in the “barn” shelter ran in to some snags almost as soon as we moved all the tools and such from the garage down to the shelter. Namely the drill bit we had wasn’t the right one to make the holes needed for the gate’s J bolts and the latch for the other side of the gate did not actually come with hardware for the post, despite the fact that the package clearly said “hardware included.” When I double checked on the website there was some small print about hardware to attach it to the gate was included but hardware for the post was not. Thanks. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go get those missing things right then because the farrier was scheduled to come at 3:00 PM.

This was our second farrier appointment since bringing Leeloo and Juniper home and though the first one went okay overall, I was worried how this one would go. Leeloo hasn’t been her normal sweet and well-mannered self the last few weeks and it has gotten noticeably worse since the corn was harvested. I’m not sure if it is the change in weather and the fact that she still doesn’t have her normal winter coat yet, if having the corn gone has made her whole space feel too open and exposed, if with the corn gone she can hear/see/smell the neighboring horses better, or if the neighbors up the hill happened to get a new horse and the timing matched. She is almost always looking in the direction of the horse farm just north of us on high alert, pacing and calling and staring. While Nate and were moving the stuff off the driveway she was clearly agitated and did a little mini rear while staring off at that farm and I was concerned the quickly approaching farrier visit was not going to go well. I grabbed her halter and brought her into the round pen; my plan had been to make her walk and trot a little bit but mostly change directions a lot to get her mind on me and off of whatever was stressing her out since it was too cold and the ground too hard for anything else. The moment I took the lead rope off and stepped back to ask her to move she took off doing at this huge extended trot with random canter strides thrown in and a little bucking for good measure. When I asked her to switch directions she would do these ridiculous sliding stops and spins, including one pretty decent canter pirouette. I never did anything more than step ever so slightly in front of her and say “change directions.”  She clearly has a lot of pent-up anxiety and energy and I will need to do better about finding time to work with her. I just wish we had a better place to do it in. She of course managed to ding up her left heel bulb with one of her absurdly unnecessary moves, but she wasn’t noticeably sore on Sunday and she seemed a bit more relaxed – she even laid down for a little while (in her rolling/sleeping hay pile of course). Though that may be me seeing what I want to see. Regardless it was worth it because she was pretty good for the farrier when he got there. We had one moment when she was being rude, trying to put her foot down before the farrier was done with it, and when he let her know she couldn’t be rude she had a mini meltdown. We just circled a few times until she realized all we wanted was for her to stand still and then the rest of the trim went fine. The crappy weather (going from wet and muddy to immediately freezing) has made the footing everywhere awful and has made everything we have to do that much harder, the stress from not having everything done yet, plus Leeloo’s clear anxiety and general unhappiness with her current living situation has all combined to make me feel like maybe this “Bringing Leeloo Home” idea was not a good one. But the farrier said Leeloo’s feet are looking better than they ever have in the entire while he has worked with us – so I’m holding hard on to that.

We did manage to get the gate up on Sunday after a trip to LeVahn Brothers (the best hardware store ever). There were still a few challenges of course, mostly because Nate and I are fairly inept when it comes to anything regarding skilled physical labor, particularly when power tools are involved. Using a reciprocating saw without hurting yourself and actually cutting what you want and no more and no less requires way more skill than picking up poop does. The final cuts aren’t exactly straight and didn’t go exactly where they were meant to, but no injuries occurred and the gate is up, so we’ll count it as a win. We also had a visit from Juniper’s former owner when she dropped off Juniper’s cart. I haven’t driven a horse or pony in ages, and even then, I was never more than a novice; but I am super excited to refresh my memory (maybe take some lessons over the winter?) and hopefully try out driving next spring.

Just need to keep those positive thoughts front and center during these next few cold stupid months!

And we did get that gate up

Know When To Fold Them

Apparently, my body can read my posts, because after the last post where I mentioned that I had hurt myself but wasn’t going to be able to get to a doctor for at least a week I woke up in the middle of the night in a bad way. You know that feeling when you hit your funny bone on something? The radiating, buzzy, pain, like a terrible current. Now imagine that feeling radiating from your shoulder, down through your elbow, down through your wrist, and into your hand; and it won’t stop. That is what I woke up to at 1:30 AM and stayed awake to for over an hour. It was not fun. The next morning I canceled the Get Out The Vote Event I was supposed to run and made a doctors appointment instead.

The doctor is pretty sure I did something to my very upper back/neck when I slipped down those stairs so she prescribed a week of steroids, muscle relaxers as needed for a month, and some physical therapy. If that doesn’t take care of it we’ll do some imaging. Of course now I need to find a new physical therapist because my long term one retired. I went on Thursday to my first new PT appointment, and she was pretty good, I think I’ll stick with her, at least for now. She agrees it’s most likely something in my upper back/neck and assigned some very low key exercises to do for a few days and I will be going back next week. The PT also thought it would be worth going to acupuncture for the increased carpal tunnel issues in my right hand; which have been steadily getting worse all summer and that I have been meaning to do something about but never prioritized. We’ll see if I actually get that appointment made; I’m very good at addressing my horses’ medical needs, not so much my own.

Overall though, I am doing better. This is a combination of the drugs and the fact that Nate has stepped up in a HUGE way in helping with the horse chores. The horses and having a horse hobby farm has always been my dream; one that Nate has supported, but hasn’t shared. I also always said from the very beginning that I knew we both hated physical labor and being hot, cold, buggy, sweaty, and/or tired and that if we didn’t have the money to do this thing right, we wouldn’t do it. Something went sideways on that path and here we are, without the money to do anything even remotely right. Despite that, Nate has continued to be amazingly supportive and helpful getting this whole thing up and running and continues to be.

At some point Nate will have to take care of the horses while I am gone (either to conferences or to Wisconsin to visit family and friends) and he has agreed to do everything but dealing with the poop. He drew the line at horse poop. Which is totally fair because I long ago drew the line and cleaning the toilet. I will clean everything else in the house and do any of the yardwork, but I categorically refuse to clean a toilet. I never have and I never will. I will pay a cleaning service to come regularly to do that one single task for me. Therefore, I was totally understanding at Nate drawing the line at poop. Since the horses came home Nate has helped with all the chores (except for poop) once a week, because having help makes the job better, but also so he would feel more comfortable about taking care of them while I’m gone. As I said in the previous post my pain in my hands/arms was steadily getting worse all week, so Nate started helping more with the chores and did everything but Juniper’s eye meds and the poop on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. But then the morning after that horrible nighttime arm pain of awfulness Nate came out to help as he has been but when I went to start picking up poop, he took the pitchfork away from me and did it himself. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful of anything ever. Because I’m tall and have had so many back issues, the pitchfork handles are just too short for me, so I have developed a poop picking method that saves my back but is really hard on my hands and wrists, and of all things I have to do that is the task that hurts the most – or rather that hurts the most that I have to do the most. Other things hurt as much but I only have to do them for a minute or two, not the twenty to forty minutes every day it takes to pick up poop.

Between the medications and Nate giving my body a chance to rest I am feeling much better. We did however sit down and have a long conversation about the f***ing hay shed and the fact that my body is just not currently up to the labor and Nate has a fulltime job and we just don’t have the resources here to get the job done in the time it needs to get done. Plus get done the million other things we really need to get done before winter is truly here. So, we are admitting defeat and purchasing another pre-made shelter. Of course the company we got the first shelters from are booked out until the end of December so we’re going with a different company and its not going to match. But as Nate pointed out, the one we would have made wouldn’t have matched either. Plus – PLUS! – this company does the anchoring for you!!! Which is a huge relief, because that process sucked! Of course the money for this hay shed needs to come from somewhere, not sure the Fleet Farm job is going to bring in enough, so something else will probably have to give. 

Now we will turn our attention back to the hay boxes! And the mats, and the mud control grids, and getting the gates up on the soon to be “barn” shelter, and getting the solar light hooked up in said “barn” shelter, and fixing the gate latches on the actual gates (which were cheap work-arounds that aren’t working around that much), and building another compost bay or three, and why did I think this was a good idea?!

At least I have one amazing spouse!

So Much to Do!

And so little nice weather and daylight to do it in!

As discussed in this post, having to give Juniper eye medication 4 – 6 times a day has made the need for some sort of make-shift barn more urgent, as has Leeloo and Juniper’s sudden desire to actually eat hay.

Up to this point there was enough grass in their track system (I know the official paddock paradise track system book says there should be no grass in your track, but clearly, we are far from the ideal scenario here) that up until recently when I put out hay, they weren’t very interested in it. Granted I wasn’t putting the good hay out and the roughage hay that I was putting out was the questionable stuff that I knew had gotten a little rained on, so their lack of interest was understandable. However, between eating the grass down over the past three weeks and me finally getting into the hay that had not gotten wet, both Leeloo and Juniper are now genuinely excited about eating hay. This has made the need to get more hay before winter a little more important; yes, I can always find some in winter, but I’d rather deal with it now.

This means we’re finally prioritizing building that third shelter, you know, the one my friend and I were going to build by the end of May (ha!).

I created plans that are loosely based off of the shelters we currently have but also slightly inspired by sturdier overall construction.

We were originally going to create the boards and beams we needed using the white oak cut-offs purchased for my hay boxes by gluing and screwing them together. Last weekend we officially got started and managed to make one of the ten 6”x6”x12’ “foundation beams” we needed to make. Once we added in the cost for glue and screws it turned out to be almost the same price as just purchasing some of the boards and beams. Not the big giant beams, which would cost a small fortune, but we can get buy 2” x 6” x 8’ boards for almost the same price as we could create them out of cut-offs so we decided to just buy the bigger boards to make this process go faster, and use less glue and screws.

The boards arrived late on Thursday so attempting to build this thing will be occupying our time for the next few weeks. The goal is to have it done before our next farrier appointment in two weeks. Please note, we know almost nothing about building and woodworking and if you do those plans above and this list will probably make you mad or sad or both. If you are willing to work for free you can always come over and set us straight, otherwise you’ll just have to watch this train wreck slowly unfold.

(Unrealistic) Goals for the next two weeks:

  • Create the “foundation beams” and a few longer boards out of the 2”x6”x8’ boards
  • Build the 4’x8’ “wall cells” we’ll use to build the walls
  • Set the “foundation beams” out in their proper spot and figure out how to level them (that part is still kind of fuzzy in my mind)
  • Erect the “wall cells” on the “foundation beams”
  • Create rafter beams out of lumber (that still needs to be purchased)
  • Install the rafter beams
  • Install the purlins (that term I do know is correct!)
  • Install the roof (materials source is still TBD, I should probably get on that)
  • Install our temporary siding since long term this will be a bug/summer shelter with only a roof and supports, no actual sides

What are the chances we can pull this off in two weeks and it won’t collapse in on itself the first time we have a stiff breeze?

Second Interlude

Now for a brief interlude whereupon I learn more about earth anchors than I ever wanted to and hurt myself the second time.

Upon ordering the shelters I asked about anchoring them since the other company mentioned it and I was sent the following image, and that was it.

I started searching for earth anchors or earth augers as they are also called and discovered an overwhelming amount of options. Luckily I found a very helpful company, Milspec Anchors, with several very helpful employees. I described the application – anchoring large 3-sided shelters; the environmental conditions – heavy clay soil and very windy; and our available equipment – none. It turns out the round helix at the end of an earth anchor isn’t just to hold them in place once they are in the ground, they also help actively pull the anchor into the ground once you get that part below the surface. They make some anchors with a double helix so the smaller one can help pull the larger one into the ground. Considering our heavy clay soil and no machinery to help us they recommended a double helix anchor and we went with this one. They also had a super helpful tip to dig out a hole about a foot deep first and water the hole before we tried to get the anchors into the ground. Moist clay is much easier to work with than dry clay (think of the soft clay you worked with in art class versus a brick). Getting the hole in the right place and the right amount of water took some fine tuning – but overall a VERY helpful tip!

Now we had to install the anchors, which was easier said than done. We quickly realized that we had no actual tool for turning the anchors and our own strength wasn’t sufficient once we got past that very top layer of wet clay. After messing around a bit with whatever I could find in the garage (not much) I went to my new favorite hardware store on the planet LeVahn Brothers. I cannot overstate how amazingly helpful they have been, not just with this project but several others. You walk in and are immediately greeted by someone who is genuinely knowledgeable and helpful and if there happens to be something they don’t know they find the person who does know to help you. I explained what we were trying to do – getting giant augers buried three feet in the ground with no machinery, oh and there is a structure right up next to where we are working – and we decided our best option was a crowbar. The crowbar helped, but being right next to the shelter made it so much harder because we couldn’t make a full circle, at best we could get a half-turn before we’d have to shift the crowbar and do another half turn. It was a maddeningly slow process, though we did improve on our methods a bit; at first we were completely pulling the crowbar out and repositioning it but we figured out a method for just sliding the crowbar back and forth. Still painfully slow and sometimes the ground just got too hard and we had to stop and water it a bit or have the other person come and push down on the anchor using a block of wood while the other one turned it because the helix just wasn’t up to the task of pulling itself down through our ridiculous soil. If you have ideas for how to do this better we’d love to hear them because at some point we’re going to have to un-anchor the shelters, move them, and re-anchor them and I would really like to have a better process for doing this. Though we do have one helpful tip of our own – put something, in our case we used cardboard, between your shelter and your crowbar so you don’t scratch it all up. You can see how beat up the cardboard got, it was also nice to mark the cardboard to see progress because there were many times when it felt like we were just spinning our wheels, or in this case anchors, and nothing was happening.

There are six anchor points for each shelter so we had twelve anchors to hand screwed into the ground, a process that involved repetitive combinations of twisting while pushing or pulling with my dominant wrist. The wrist that was diagnosed with mild carpal tunnel back in 2019. Let me tell you it doesn’t feel mild anymore. Despite night braces and exercises my wrist was pretty useless after the first two or three anchors so Nate had to do much of the work of actually screwing the anchors into the ground and I was relegated to digging and watering the holes and pushing down on the wood block when they just wouldn’t go farther. Unfortunately, my wrist still hasn’t recovered. It doesn’t help that everything I have to do – typing, writing, cooking, cleaning (something had to go) aggravates that wrist and anchoring the shelters coincided with me prepping for both of my summer classes so there was a lot of typing and writing happening at the same time. I’m still doing my hand and wrist exercises and wearing a brace at night and now also during the day but my wrist still isn’t over its proverbial meltdown which has complicated many aspects of my normal day job of teaching plus all the work we’ve been doing to get Leeloo home.

One other thing that is still complicating the anchoring of the shelters are the giant pieces of wood bracing along the bottom front of the second shelter – we still haven’t been able to get them all off. They used these huge screws and a star shaped bit that we didn’t have. Back to LeVahn Brothers! We took pictures of what we were dealing with and they got us the proper bit but our very old hand-me-down drill from my father was just not up to the task. We wound up getting a new drill and an impact driver. Which worked – for most of them. We got one of the boards off completely and were able to put in the second to last anchor, but there are still three bolts that are stripped and the bit just spins in them. Another trip to LeVahn brothers got us a long metal blade for our reciprocating saw, but unfortunately we still haven’t been able to get through that last bolt. And of course the blade is designed for metal so it didn’t work great on the wood itself when in a fit of frustration we decided to just cut the wood off – we had to abort that effort midway because we had to meet someone to go get some hay. So technically there is still one more anchor that needs to get screwed in, but eleven are in and need to get attached to the shelters themselves. Back to LeVahn Brothers (we should consider buying stock at this point). After contemplating a lot of options, we decided to go with chain links that loop through both the anchor and the bolt in the shelter and then are bolted together with a bolt, washer, and nut. This would allow us to adjust for the different distances (getting the anchors to line up just right with the bolts in the shelter was tricky), remove them, and then reuse them once the shelters get moved.

The anchoring itself wound up being a much bigger expense than I ever expected and took far more time and energy than I had expected. Now that I know the anchoring costs and can factor them in it turns out that the West Wind shelters per square foot prices were comprable to the RFC Portable prices. Add in the time involved, and had we not needed to maximize square footage the West Wind Shelters may have been the better choice.  

There is one anchor issue though yet to be resolved – how do I keep my accident prone horse from injuring herself on these:

I have not been able to think of an idea that won’t in and of itself be an accident waiting to happen or be too easy for the horses to remove. Suggestions?

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?