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Horses

Burdens

It’s been a hard morning. I had a message which set me off in a bad mood and on a bit of a rant about Dad and the mess he left me with. Because why be angry with situations that can actually be changed, when you can be angry with someone who’s dead?!

Oh, and it’s his 60th birthday, or would have been. So, angry with him for leaving this shit behind. Upset because it’s his birthday and a reminder he’s not here. And guilty because I’m angry with him on his birthday, and he’s not here.

The days when things go right are great, or fine at least. But today I was thinking about all the things that go wrong, and I was so angry with him for leaving jobs undone or half done. So I come along with less experience and less knowledge, and have to learn how to deal with this stuff, as well as trying to deal with the estate, earn a living, and have a life.

I just wish he’d left it all a bit tidier. But he never was a tidy person. And neither am I, so maybe I’ll do the same?!

There are things that need to be done, and I am making some headway slowly. I’ve had help from people with various things, but I refrain from asking for too much help because I don’t want to be a burden. I’m quite happy to pay for help, so I’m finally getting round to having some fences built. I’m just so fed up of a tractor that doesn’t work properly (that he deliberately wanted that way!), a half-done water supply, and a ‘tenant’ I don’t like. And why couldn’t he just get his arse into gear and get a proper shed built? Instead I have the remains of a mobile field shelter that blew over the hedge in high winds, so it’s just added to the general mess.

I feel so alone in this. No matter how many people are willing to help or do help, I am alone. I will always try to be strong and to not be a burden, so I will only let people help with a certain amount. And as much as I might be angry with him at times, no one else is allowed to be. That hurts in a different way, and is likely to make me bottle up even more.

I’ve been very aware of my blogger’s block lately and thinking about why I wasn’t writing anything. This isn’t really the tone/subject I was hoping to start up with, but hopefully the block is gone.

Horses

Bales

So I’m feeling a bit better than I was when I write this post: my car did have more damage but it didn’t cost as much as I thought it might do. I got electrical contact spray which managed to get my Dad’s car started, and so I could start the tractor and use it to feed the horses.

Which is good news because when I don’t have the tractor, this is how I have to feed:

And considering the horses need at least 1 bin each, twice a day, and I have 13 to feed, it’s a lot of physically hard work – I’m not wearing short sleeves because of the weather!

My friend came to help me one day in December when I was moving the bales and was really impressed with my tractor driving skills, so she took some photos. All I’m doing here is re-stacking them to try to get the bales with ripped wrapping to the front so I can use them first.

It’s not perfect but I get the job done. When I’m feeding, I drive two bales to two round feeders, and one each to two other paddocks. Over the winter when I was feeding concentrates to some of the ponies, I fed hay at the same time rather than give them a bale. I did that twice a day using the bins, but I think the most impressive part of that job was that I used the tractor to get a bale into the horse trailer, which is only just wide enough.

I was also happy that I managed to find the key to open the diesel tank so I could finally put some fuel in the tractor. And my field shelter has now been put upright again. Still some work to do inside, but at least it’s at the right angle now.

Unfortunately there is always rough with smooth: my water troughs are self-filling, and connect via a series of above ground water pipes. There is also a hose-end to one of the pipes. A couple of weeks ago I found a leak in the connector of the hose so had to shut off the stop-tap to that and also one of my water troughs. Today I found a split in a pipe to another trough and so had to shut off the stop tap to the rest of my troughs. And the really annoying part? I have loads of spare pipe, but it appears the split pipe is a different thickness to the rest of the pipes!

Horses

First Time Farmer

Shame I didn’t know about the Channel 4 series sooner – I could have been a part of it!

Me in my farmer outfit with my farmer vehicle!

Dad was a farmer and I grew up on the farm, but took very little interest in farming. If it wasn’t baby lambs or calves, or having fun driving the tractor, I didn’t care. I just liked my horses.

But this summer I had to learn a bit more because Dad was in so much pain that he couldn’t do as much of the work. I had to learn how to operate the front loader on the tractor so I could move the water container around to fill the troughs, and also had to move and stack the round bales. And I drove the tractor on the roads for the first time ever, which was an experience. Middle of town and I just could not get it into 4th gear! And the indicators don’t switch off automatically!

But now I have to learn lots of other stuff, because I have land to maintain. ‘Farmer’ might be a bit of a stretch for what I do, but there’s livestock (horses), 20 acres of grazing to get haylage from; so there is real work to be done. And there’s 40 acres of rented land, so I’m a landlady too!

I’m going to have to learn about chain harrowing and rolling, and the right conditions for cutting, turning and baling haylage. Thankfully we get someone else to come and do the baling and wrapping. There’s also fences that need putting up and maintaining and probably other stuff that hasn’t occurred to me yet. We’re in a nitrogen restriction zone so I don’t have to worry about fertiliser, and the land is really good anyway.

I also have to look after the horses, who are quite low maintenance for horses, but the conditions in the fields are making it a hard slog at the moment. And some of the horses don’t really understand that when you walk into an electric fence, you should stop and go back, rather than carry on walking through it.

My Boys excited by the first grass they’ve had in weeks!

The Boys in the photo are a bit susceptible to laminitis, so they have to be on restricted grazing and get hay and concentrated feed. This photo was taken on Saturday when I extended their paddock (which had turned into a mud bath). They showed their appreciation for grass by cantering up and down and rolling in it.

The rest of the horses are totally low maintenance with regard to food: just hay and water in winter, and grass and water in summer. But they’re the ones who don’t understand fences so just bring other issues!

Aside from the mud baths the British weather has been presenting plenty of challenges so far. There’s the frozen ground that the horses struggle to walk on, frozen water in troughs and frozen water pipes, and snow. The horses aren’t hugely bothered by the cold, but it means I have to go round smashing ice and carrying water to make sure they’ve got all they need.

But the best challenge has to be the wind. For the past couple of days I’ve wondered if I was going to blow away while trying to sort their food. One of the dividing fences gets pushed down to about a foot from the ground, essentially making it useless. I have to play ‘find the food bucket’ every time I arrive because they’ve all blown into the hedge somewhere.

But my ‘favourite’ event occurred weeks ago. The wind was so strong it did this:

The field shelter. Sheltering the hedge.

It is basically still in one piece so I’m hoping it can be lowered down gently and still work. Not that it really matters because the horses didn’t like it anyway!

I’m hoping to blog a bit of a mini-series of my adventures as a farmer, much like my travel blogs but with less travel and more stress no doubt.