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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

Happily Ever After

Yesterday’s Daily Prompt over at the Daily Post at WordPress was:

“And they lived happily ever after.” Think about this line for a few minutes. Are you living happily ever after? If not, what will it take for you to get there?

Once again it is more appropriate to respond on my Blogger site.

Shockingly the answer is no, I am not living happily ever after. I don’t think the answer would be any different if Dad was still here, or even if Dad never got cancer. I’d still be a Masters graduate working well below my qualification level, with very little optimism about that changing. I’d still have lost one of my best friends for an unknown reason. I’d still be angry about the state of the world.

I also think that I’m the kind of person who changes their mind and switches their goals fairly often, either because I achieve something or because I just decide I want to do something else. I think I’m an ‘it’s the journey not the destination’ kind of person: I don’t have a finalised bucket list but a constantly changing list instead. So I don’t think ‘happily ever after’ is a concept that applies to me.

But Dad isn’t here any more, and it’s changed everything. I used to like quotes such as

you make your own luck

But not so much any more. There are so many other forces acting on you. Dad got cancer and I got more stuff to do. I had to think about changing my plans to make sure he was still looked after. Then Dad died, and I got a lot more stuff to do. It’s changed everything. I’ve gone from a very independent person with few ties, to someone who jointly owns a house and land which are rented out, and the sole carer of 12 horses.

I love my horses and I don’t want to change that. But I now need to switch my goals, to consider what I can and want to achieve in my new situation.

Horses

Murphy’s Law

I have both Blogger and WordPress sites, and one of the nice things about WordPress is the Daily Prompt on the Daily Post at WordPress. Today’s is:

Murphy’s Law says, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Write about a time everything did — fiction encouraged here, too!

The idea is that this blog gives other bloggers ideas, and people tag this blog post in their replies. However I use my WordPress site for photography only, so responding to this prompt doesn’t really belong there.

So here I am, responding on my Blogger site.

I have my car, my Dad’s car, and a tractor. My car desperately needs brake pads, so isn’t really roadworthy. I can’t get the key to turn in Dad’s car, which possibly means I need electrical contact spray, as the ‘steering wheel jiggle’ and trying to straighten the key didn’t work. It’s also stuck a mile away from my fields. The tractor needs a jump start from Dad’s car in order to move. I need the tractor to move the bales to feed the horses. My car is getting new brake pads tomorrow.

Murphy’s Law: there’ll be more damage and I won’t be able to drive it away again.

Murphy’s Law: the electrical contact spray won’t work, the car will still be stuck, I won’t be able to feed the horses, and I’ll have to pay for a mechanic to go see Dad’s car.

I feel like there must be more going wrong, or certainly more that could go wrong. Occasional jailbreaks by the ponies, which might prolong laminitis. The thought of having to learn how to chain harrow and roll, and worrying about getting it wrong. Thinking about the need to put up fencing and make paddocks.

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.