Sunday, September 24, 2017

Donkey Roasting

I had to go back to work last Monday and this corresponded with the onset of an unusual heatwave.  As a result, all progress on all projects came to a screeching halt.  I know it is nothing like the heat that the western states had this year, but just a few weeks ago, we had spotty patches of frost and I even broke down and started the wood stove a couple of times.  Now it is in the 90's and the normally welcome intensity of the Fall sun feels like an incinerator.

The next step in my building project is to put the roof on and that is no place for middle-aged, overweight, redhead during a heat wave.  I decided that now would be the proper time to tackle the weeds in the pond instead - if I manage to find the time.  The fish were supposed to control the water weeds, but the darned ingrates up and died (again) this Spring so, as usual, the job falls to me.

(It was a different set of fish - they didn't resurrect themselves only to die a second time.  That, at least would have been interesting rather than just depressing.)

It is OK though, (the job part, not the dead fish part) because I find pulling water weeds to be an oddly satisfying and pleasant job.  And hey, I don't have to worry about upsetting the fish so there's that.

The only difficulty with water-weeding is in the fact that the water in my pond is SOOoooo shockingly cold that it can only be done during the absolute hottest of weather.  The next three days should be just about right.

The equines, who are already getting fuzzy for winter, have been hiding in the barn in front of the fan all day and only venturing out for the occasional donkey roast.  This involves a slow, methodical wallow in the dust baths before returning to the barn to find a wall to lean on in the full blaze of the sun.

Once heated to proper roasting temperatures, which is almost too hot to touch in Ramsey's case, they all head back into the barn and refuse to budge until the sun goes down.  Tessa watches all this, with bewildered confusion, from the window in front of the fan.  There is no accounting for the roasting practices of donkeys.



Sunday, September 17, 2017

Taking Shape




Flowers for Lucy

For Lucy and Carson at The7MSN Ranch because what else is there to say?










I know Lucy will be greatly missed by all of us who got to share her story and far, far more by Carson, George and Alan.  All of us at The Dancing Donkey are sorry to see Lucy go and we send our deepest condolences.

It's been a tough week.  Goodbye Lucy, Maggie and Jeff.  You all left too soon.






Friday, September 15, 2017

Exceeding my Quota

The latest building project is intended to be a storage shed for machinery.  The shed I just built the giant door for was also intended to be a storage shed, but as soon as the walls were up, I changed my mind and decided to put hay in it instead.  This shed is going to hold all of the stuff that the other was supposed to plus have room for my tractor.  That will (hopefully) free up space in the overhang attached to the barn for Ben's cart and let me use that area as a sort of work shop for various other projects.  It is also a nice space to be able to trim feet or work with one of the donkeys one-on-one.

I've learned my lessons the hard way about digging holes up here so I decided to rent a mini-excavator for a day.  I've never operated one of these before, but I knew it couldn't be all that hard and it just happened to be available last weekend so I went for it.

The first hole was the hardest because I was not familiar with the machine and because I hit some big rocks.  Digging up here is really tough.  The first 8-10 inches is not so bad, but then you hit hardpan mixed with shale and boulders.  Even with this machine, it was hard going.  You can't really dig holes so much as carve them out.

I know a lot of people, especially women, are intimidated by heavy machinery, but you shouldn't be.  Modern equipment is easy to use, requires no strength and is a tremendous leveler.  Every woman I know could operate this machine.  Everything on it is controlled by the hands.  The left joystick makes the arm reach forward and back and left to right.  The right joystick makes the arm lift up/down and tips the bucket forward and back.  The two levers in the front make the machine move forward/back and steer.  There is one lever on the right that raises and lowers the blade.   That's it.

It does take a little practice to get everything coordinated, but it is not difficult.  The thing I found the hardest was filling in the holes after the posts were set.  That takes a degree of fineness and a lot of caution, because you really don't want to accidentally knock over one of those carefully placed posts while you are trying to fill in its hole.  I speak from experience when I say that doing so can lead to an extreme swearing fit.

I did find myself trying to give the machine leg commands like I do on my horse.  That was, of course, highly ineffective and caused me to get very tense and possibly swear some more (it's a good thing no one could hear me over the noise of the machine).  Once I realized what I was doing, I made myself relax and focus on my hands.

I can actually see where operating one of these could be a good exercise for riders as it forces you to focus on both deliberate and subconscious cues.  The machine does exactly what it is told and only that.  If you don't give the proper cue, you don't get the proper response.

The other issue with digging holes up here, that has caused me no end of trouble, is this....

As soon as you dig a hole, it fills with water.  If the ice gets into the ground far enough in the winter to freeze that water, then the posts heave, hydrants fail, pipes freeze, etc.  I dug all of these holes five feet deep.  If the frost gets that deep, we're all going to be frozen to death anyway.

I used 4x6 posts instead of 6x6 because they are adequate for this job and I can just barely manage to move them around on my own.  Two inches does not seem like much, but the weight difference is all out of proportion to the size.

This shed may seem like it is out in the middle of nowhere, but in reality, it is just behind the barn, almost exactly opposite the hay/wood shed on the other side of the barn.

Once I had the posts in the ground, the next really hard step was to get the headers put up, which are these 2"x12"x12' boards that weigh approximately 12,000 pounds.  At least they do when standing on a ladder trying to lift them up by myself.

I had to get a little creative to put these up.  I put some temporary "arms" up to hold the board in place and had to put the ladder on the trailer in order to reach high enough.


I had a couple of iffy moments thinking about getting squished and wondering if I belong in a padded room, but it worked in the end.  Once I got the system figured out, the rest went up relatively easily.

This will be the back of the building...

The front will remain open.  The overall size will be 12'x24' and the opening is about 9 feet high.  The next step will be to put up the rafters, which should be easier than the headers since the headers are already there to hold the rafters up for me.  The rafters are also lighter.  After that, purlins across the rafters, metal roof and siding will go on last.

I thought long and hard about putting this shed up, mostly because it seemed like too much work that I didn't want to do.  I kept trying to come up with some easier, cheaper option, including a greenhouse type structure.  However, every winter I commute to work and see so many carports, portable buildings, tent-like structures, etc. that are crushed by snow, blown over, or collapsed because of improper construction and it always makes my teeth hurt.

I figure that this building will cost about $1500 when it is all done and it doesn't take that much more effort.  Building a temporary structure probably requires just as much skill and swearing.  Most of those carport things cost more than $1500 and don't last.

I probably need therapy, but I find that I just can't make myself do that.  So, tomorrow, I will probably be out behind the barn trying to remember how to cut the notches in the rafters and further exceeding my quota of swear words.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Fun Things to do on Vacation

Some people take time off from work to travel and recreate.  I take time off from work and end up working even harder.  Given that the rest of the world is either on fire, flooded or getting blown off the map right now, Hellwind Hill is, for once, the place to be and traveling seems like a very bad idea.

So what are some of the fun things on the vacation agenda?  So far, the things that have made the list have been:

  • stacking firewood (working on it)
  • mowing fields (done)
  • cleaning and organizing the tack/feed room (working on that too)
  • sheath cleaning for Ben and Ramsey and udder scrubbing for Tessa (DONE!). Emma never needs such attention because that is just far too crude for delicate, finicky little unicorns.  
Do I know how to have fun or what?

Just to liven things up a bit, I finally decided to tackle another big building project that I have been agonizing over for a while.  Care to guess?





 


Sunday, September 10, 2017

No Words

I've just learned that another good friend just lost her husband - a good father, a good husband, a good man.  Gone too soon.

It has robbed me of words.  All the grief, the fires, floods, earthquakes, the massive hurricanes.  All of it.  What is there to say?

Hold tight to those you love.