Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Repair "Hospital"

And They Were Both Broken

So, my tractor is at the tractor hospital and my generator is at the generator hospital.

Hopefully I won't need either one in the immediate future. We are supposed to get another snow "event" but so far predictions are only 1"-3", so that's not too bad around here.

My heart is aching for the people in our Southern States who are getting hit with snow and ice. They are totally unprepared for it with limited snow removal equipment, sand, salt, and lack of driving skills on the slippery stuff. I am sending prayers their way this morning.

Meantime, my tractor's prognosis is good. Not only was my battery really bad....totally dead...but there was a bad connection to the starter and a blown fuse. All is repaired in that department, and the shop is waiting to get a battery maintainer I can plug in to keep the new battery hot and ready to go the next time I need to use the tractor.

As for the generator? I had tried to start it several weeks ago to no avail. I thought maybe it was just that it needed fuel or the starter battery was dead. I sent it off to the shop around the corner on the weekend. They called me yesterday to ask if the generator had been putting out power.

I told them I'd had a problem with it when I first got it but it had been repaired and I'd used it during hurricane Sandy--well, after the storm.

They told me the governor was bent--a problem caused during shipping--and that it had never been repaired.

What the heck??? Now I'm wondering if the generator was ever putting out full power during the time I did use it. If so, why? And how in the world could the governor be bent now?

I am totally confused. But, I am also pretty confident in the current repair shop. These guys are kind of those "old time" mechanics who really know how to fix things right. I asked them to make sure the generator was putting out full power for me before they brought it back.

I know have the house wired with all the proper connections to run everything, including my pump, and I do need that 8000w to do the job properly.

When my Dad was alive, he used to repair nearly everything around here. Some of this stuff may have been over his head, but I doubt it. He was an electrical engineer and worked on the electrification of the Pennsylvania Railroad. I don't think I quite appreciated all of his amazing skills, but I certainly knew I could always depend on him to find a solution to most problems.

Wish I had some more of that knowledge. I can actually fix some things, but my skill level is far, far too low to deal with this kind of stuff.

Glad I have good service centers nearby. Even if I do have to pay them.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Enough Already!

Not Exactly How I Planned to Exercise

It snowed.

I may post some pictures eventually, but it always looks the same. We probably have about a foot of snow, perhaps more. It was a dry kind of snow--light airy, so it was not heavy to push around.

I'd started the tractor on Monday and I ran it for a while so it was all ready to go.

Or so I thought.

When I tried to start it this morning to plow the driveway, it grunted and groaned in protest. So, I put the battery charger on and waited. On about the fourth try to start it, something went really wrong. The engine almost "caught" and then everything just died. I'm hoping the starter did not fritz out and it's only a totally dead battery, but I just don't know. I've called the tractor repair guys and they are going to pick it up tomorrow.

But that meant the driveway had to be cleared somehow. My attempts to find someone with a working snow removal machine failed. The friend I sold my plow and old truck to had hydraulic problems. Another contact had engine problems. That guy came over to look at my tractor no no avail. I have a snow blower, but we could not get it started at the last storm and my neighbor, who was going to fix it, never did.


I have a lovely ergonomic snow shovel--two actually. And so I started. Now, mind you, I have a really long driveway. My house is about 90' from the road and my driveway wraps around the house with two entrances/exits. It's at least 300' long, if not longer. I figured if I kept at it--with rest breaks in between, I might clear it by early afternoon.

My cousins--still living in my Aunt's house as they wait for their Hurricane Sandy house to be repaired--were already out shoveling. Their son has the snowblower, but it's miles away with no way to transport it here. As a result, it was a two house shoveling festival.

But then, their son showed up to help them and since they were nearly done, he came over here and started working on the other end of the first driveway that heads directly to my garage. After about 30-40 minutes, we met and one driveway was open.

Bryan, my cousin's son, is a bit of an engine magician, so when I told him about my snow blower, he decided to give it a go. Well, it took some serious determination and perhaps some blind obedience to his commands on the part of the blower, but suddenly, it came to life!!

It's a smallish machine, with only one speed, but I never anticipated needing it for more than trimming up my tractor job, but today, it did yeoman's work and did the second part of the driveway and the driveway area in back of the house. Then it carved a wide path to the barn so the tractor guy's truck could get in to pull my tractor out tomorrow!

We are free!

I used the blower later--we kept it running to use up the old gas so I can put in fresh stuff for the next storm. (Next week????) --and blew out a path from the barn to the manure pile for the wheelbarrow. I also cleaned the front walk so the UPS or FedEx guys could get in if they deliver anything.

I still need a path for the meter reader and to put out squirrel food, but that's actually easier done by hand.

Besides, I need to do something for exercise tomorrow.

Calorie burn? High, I hope.

Satisfaction. Mighty.

There is something utterly rewarding about physical labor when it actually accomplishes something you can see and, in this case, appreciate. I am tired, but happy.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Ride Before the Storm

The Last Nice Day for a While

We have a major snowstorm on the way for tomorrow and perhaps another one for the end of the week. Some people cheer the snow, I jeer it. I'm the one who has to plow and shovel. Bless the tractor, but either way, it's still a lot of work and always a bit of a mess.

Once things start to melt--which isn't going to happen for perhaps four or more days this time--snow creates the worst mud of all. It just turns into a sloppy mess, no matter what. Thing were just starting to dry out around here too. *sigh*

I am once again about as prepared as I can be. I picked up 16 bales of hay today. I poo picked the riding arena and the Boys's blankets are all ready to put on later tonight. Tomorrow morning I'll lug a couple bales of hay into the barn itself so I won't have to cart it across the snow covered lawn.

I drove the tractor for a bit, filled the tank with diesel and made sure everything was working. The snow shovels are on the back porch in in the barn respectively.

So, I took advantage of the last nice day for a while and took Toby and Chance out on trail rides. Since Tucker's shoe is still off, he had the day to just hang out, wondering why he was left out of the equation.

Toby was bouncy and eager to go again. Since he was so enthusiastic, I took him all the way to the back of the woods to the last trail in. He kept up the happy energy the whole way. At one little hill in the woods, he decided a canter was called for to make the climb. I haven't cantered him in ages. It was only perhaps ten strides, but it felt wonderful. I had forgotten what super gaits he has. He came right back down to walk when I asked since the trail has downed trees and some narrow paths to navigate in that area. What a good boy he is. Proof of how all that dressage training pays off "in the field" as they say.

I took Chance on a longer ride around the field and up to the tree farm. He was not very forward. I am wondering if his feet may be sore. His trot is OK, but still not as even as I'd like it. The footing had some slippery spots, I know, but I don't think that's the problem. When my vet comes for Spring vaccinations and such, I am going to ask for a Lymes test for him. Otherwise, until we have some regular, good footing to work in, it's not worth fussing too much. He certainly doesn't look miserable around the paddocks, so I'll just keep an eye on him. I certainly can't ride with any consistency, so getting him fit--an option my vet suggested when the hind end issue first showed up years ago. For now, I'll just monitor him to make sure he's comfortable, ride lightly when I can, and try not to worry.

Winter is not exactly the best time to do anything with horses, at least not a winter like this one.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Shoe Gone

And Found Again

I decided to ride a little this afternoon. It was chilly, but not miserable and the sun was out.  I dressed for the cold with long underwear and my vest under my bright orange jacket and headed out to the barn.

Tucker was first to be captured and seems quite interested in doing something. I was going to take a risk and ride him out on the trail after lunging him to get rid of a little energy. Then I looked down and, sure enough, he was missing a shoe. This was doubly bad because it was a snow pad and a shoe with borium on it....expensive.

Off I went on a lost shoe hunt, doing a search grid through the front paddocks. No luck. I headed out to the pasture and walked a search grid out there, up and down the hills. Still no luck. Then, I headed into the riding arena. There, by the gate, not far from where I had started the search of the paddocks, I found the lost shoe! Amazing.

I can't complain too much. Hiking up and down the pasture filled in part of my exercise program for the day. I figure I'd walked for nearly 40 minutes on the shoe quest all told, so that took the place of a walk around the tree farm.

When Toby walked away from the halter, instead of playing his game, I simply caught Chance and brought him in instead. By then it was already 3 PM and I didn't have lots of time to spare before it started to get dark. I saddled him up and out we went.

To keep Toby and Tucker from bothering us as we navigated the gate, I used two piles of lovely hay by the barn. They were quite enamored of the extra food and completely ignored Chance and me as we headed out into the woods. Since the fencing around the riding arena is once again in disrepair, distracting the two older Boys was a lot safer than trying to mount up and ride out with them pestering us since there was no way to keep them out of the arena and away from the gate to the trails.

Chance and I had a nice ride. We trotted a bit on the drier section of the road along the field, but had to walk most of the rest of the way. The sun had thawed the top of the dirt in several places, and thawed even deeper in other places making the footing slippery. Sticking to the cut cornfield helped a lot, but I still didn't think it was safe enough to do much more than walk out there.

We rode along the power lines, looped back along the edge of the field behind the farm we preserved and then headed into the woods to take that trail home. The footing was pretty good in the woods, but the darn fallen trees make it hard to get going there too. While Chance trotted up a couple short hills, we kept the walk again.

We were out for around 40 minutes and had a good time.  He did spook once when a wind devil blew up a hefty spiral of dried leaves in the cornfield. That was a bit scary as he tried to bolt, but he's pretty easy to control and settled down once he realized it was just the wind and nothing more.

By the time we got back, it was the equine dinner hour, so I fed.

Leaving all three Boys happily munching their food, I dragged one of the orange sheets into the house to repair it. Somehow, Tucker had broken  one of the front straps on his sheet and he needed a change. I have several other sheets in various stages of disrepair--like the fence--so I figured I could fix one up and put it on him later.

Of course, the one I started working on needed a long tear stitched up and then, only after doing all that work did I discover it was the one with the missing surcingle. I finally managed to cut a surcingle off one of the hopelessly ripped sheets and sewed it on the repaired one. It wasn't the best job I've ever done but we'll see if it holds up. Meantime, I may simply stitch up the front of the sheet Tucker's wearing instead of trying to fix the strap. Or, I may figure out some other way of fastening the sheet in front. Tuck puts a lot of pressure on those front straps as it is. Maybe some sort of elastic closure might make a difference.

Somehow the day slipped by, but at least I got something done. Maybe that's all I really needed on a Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Toby, Chance, and Tucker on a Really Nice Day

And Again We Ride

We were blessed with another gorgeous winter day with temperatures up around 50F and even some sunshine.

I went out in the early afternoon to do some work, or fun with the Boys. This time, although on first approach Toby turned away from me, he soon still as I put his halter on and led him into the barn. I'm beginning to think his initial running away is part of a master plan on his part to get some extra attention before getting down to riding. Either that, or he simply as a perverse sense of humor and enjoys watching me try not to lose my temper as I chase him down.

Once caught, the old boy was quite content as I brushed the mud off him. Fortunately he'd been wearing a sheet, so the bulk of his body did not match his head, neck, legs, and belly. I wouldn't exactly say he was clean when I finished grooming him, but at least he looked like a horse that had been tended to. We headed out into the woods on our ride, and once again Toby was enthusiastic and ready to go. He seemed to have such a good time in the woods I decided to extend the ride by going down the dirt road that crosses the cornfield and ended up at the farm up the road. Partway along, his energy seemed to back off a little so I shortcut my way across the field to take the short way home.  Back at the barn, I gave him the obligatory carrot reward and and quick grooming before turning him back out to enjoy the sunshine without his sheet. I was more than warm enough.

I rode Chance next. I was happy when we trotted a little along the dirt road by the woods because he felt 100% sound. That encouraged me to take a bit longer ride up to the tree farm, along the pumpkin patch, back across the cornfield and finally through the woods. The footing on some of the dirt trails was slippery since the ground is still thawing from being frozen so deeply. We trotted along the gravel road at the tree farm, but had to walk most of the rest of the way. The footing in the cornfield wasn't too bad, but it's to risky to move out there unless you know for 100% that there are no groundhog holes in the row you've chosen. The woods trails had decent footing, but there are even more trees down and fallen branches across the trails making it more like a maze to navigate than straightforward passage. It's great for working on steering, however, and convincing Chance not to walk into a tree while he's playing tourist with his eyes and head really does require some riding skills. Carrot to the mouth back and the barn and turnout without his sheet.

I thought long and hard about riding Tucker and finally decided on the safer option of taking him for a handwalk through the woods trail he's not been on for a long time. He was actually quite polite about it all, not barging ahead or trying to through the narrow sections and keeping a reasonable speed when he could walk alongside me. The fact that I allowed him to stuff his face with grass whenever some nice tufts appeared underfoot may have distracted  him enough to keep him calm and cool, but I'll never know. I was just pleased he was a good boy.

Another carrot reward finished the day and Tucker was out in the sun without his sheet. Bless both him and Chance for not rolling in the mud because at late feed I had to put their sheets back on because rain was on the way. (It's raining now and while not too cold, it's certainly miserable out there.) Toby, of course, rolled and needed another good brushing before I was able to dress him.

He surely does know how to get a little extra attention when he wants it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

We Ride the Barrens

The Arab Tag Team Out Again

If you've ever seen a professional wrestling match where two or more guys form a team to compete against another team, then you'll get the picture of our ride yesterday. In a tag team match, the various team members take turns in the ring wrestling an opponent. Sometimes, they cheat and it becomes a free for all. The three Arabians on a trail ride are a bit like that, without the total mayhem of a free for all, however.

You never quite know who's going to be "in the ring"--which on trail ride terms means up front, leading the herd. This time, for whatever reason, JJ, my boy, decided he'd like a few turns in the lead--when he wasn't trying to snatch every errant tree branch, weed, or blade of grass along the trail side.

Now, the cool thing about this was that he is wonderfully controllable about it all. While he was certainly trotting out, I could rate him to nearly any speed. In short, I had a blast., since, as a "control freak" when I ride--according to one of my instructors--such behavior on the part of my mount is perfect. At any rate, each horse, Juan with Larry aboard, Nordisk with Chris in the saddle, and JJ with me, had a time leading, and once in a while we were actually side by side.

All this was afforded by the lovely, sandy trails of the Wharton State Park, in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

For those of you unfamiliar with our State's unique geography, we have some of the most diverse lands in the US. We have wide sandy ocean beaches, rocky, rugged mountains, and in between, acres of farmlands, and the Pine Barrens. The State Park consists of some 115,000 preserved acres of sandy, mostly flatlands, crisscrossed by various streams and filled with pine trees. I've never actually ridden down there before, but I've walked through and visited some of the historic villages in the immediate area including Batso--an old iron forge.

The footing is really wonderful for riding the the sand roads are wide and inviting. The terrain is flat, so it's not too challenging, and in our case, it offered plenty of opportunity for some nice long trotting stretches. The horses' enthusiasm was probably fueled by the fact that around home here, we've had so much freezing, thawing, snowing, and raining, that we've developed mud almost everywhere. While our trails will dry out quickly if we don't have rain for a few days, it's just not the same as the solid sand at Wharton.

We rode for just under two hours. I had to go to church in the morning so we got a later start and, of course, since it's still winter, it does get dark fairly early. The weather was chilly, in the 40'sF, I guess, but the pine trees effectively block the winds and with all the trotting, I was nice and comfortable.

Nordisk, on his first outing to the Park, was a golden boy again. He was a bit "looky," but didn't seem at all spooky and he was the instigator of a number of trotting sessions. Juan was his usual "let's go" fellow and JJ was positively enthusiastic, in a nice way.

It was super Sunday out on three good horses.

What more could anyone want?

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Cold Comes, Goes, And.....

Comes Again

We are about as prepared as possible here for the Arctic blast.

Today the temperature brushed 50 F.(10C)  Tonight it's supposed to drop to 8 F(-13C)  or less.

The Boys are all wearing their winter blankets. I'm not too pleased with the brand new ones I put on Toby and Tucker because they are a little short on the sides. They reach belly level but no farther. I think they will be OK, but I need to invest in some more generous ones. Trouble is, I hate to spend a fortune on blankets as my Boys have proven rather destructive--even with supposedly rip stop fabrics. I may add a sheet over the blankets later tonight when I go out for late feed. Chance is fine as his blanket fits really well. It's just a matter of finding the right brand for each horse.

I am not locking the Boys in the barn. The research I've done on weather related colic suggests that often a change in routine, especially closing the horses up in the barn when they are used to turnout can be a problem. As well, the more they can move around the better.

I'm making sure they have plenty of hay. The water trough is heated and full, and I am feeding wet feeds. It's the same food they always get, just soaked in warm water.

The forecast calls for one very frigid day tomorrow, some moderation on Wednesday, and then rising temperatures for the rest of the week. By then it will be back up into the 40's F.

I know most of the US is suffering from the same cold that's going to hit here. I hope each and every one of you has a warm place to stay. I've made a pot of chicken soup to warm my insides and I have a full complement of warm coats, hats, boots, gloves, etc. to snuggle up in when I need to go outside.

Oh yes, by the way, the snow I had to plow the other day is virtually all melted. That's just how warm it got last night. When I woke up this morning, aside from the piles I'd pushed aside with the tractor, the ground was bare. Amazing.

The best part is that my solar panels are clear again too. Now all we need is some sunshine and I'll be producing power once more.

Stay warm!

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Hose is in the Bathtub

The Cold Comes In

I did not take any pictures of the snow today. I was outside long enough without adding to my body chill.

We had somewhere between 8-10 inches, depending on where I measured it. It's hard to tell with the drifting, but on top of the garbage can shed it was about 9 inches deep.

When I went out last night near midnight, I shoveled my way to the barn and by 8 AM, the path was filled with another 4-5 inches of snow. But, the path was still visible, so the snow was not overwhelmingly heavy.

The Boys seemed to think standing outside in the storm was preferable to sheltering in the barn. They had several inches of snow on their blankets and heads when I went out for late feed. I can't quite figure out the rationale for staying outside in the miserable weather, but I guess they have some sort of horse logic at work. They were quite happy to come in for grain and hay, though. Tonight, I am going to soak their feed in warm water just to give them some extra fluids and warm tummies.

Which brings me to the hose. I have one of those coil hoses that I use when the regular hose to the water trough freezes. With below freezing temperatures all day and even colder temps at night, I really need it. Usually, I store it on the back porch where it's generally warm enough to keep the hose from freezing up. I drain it after use, but it's hard to get all the water out. Tonight, though, with REALLY cold weather, I decided to bring the hose into the house. Where better to keep it than in the bathtub? It fits nicely and adds a touch of colorful--green--decor to the room. As long as the frost free water spigot in the barn doesn't freeze up where it leaks a little, we'll be fine. I do have a hair dryer to use in case of spigot emergency, however.

Water, is, of course, super important to the horses this time of year. I have a water heater in the trough, so the Boys have de-iced water to drink. So far, they seem to be drinking a good amount during the day, so that's a big plus. My vet posted a note on Facebook today suggesting both a wet feed and the addition of some electrolytes. I think I have some in the barn, but if not, just the wet feed will do.

This winter's weather is certainly erratic, and it's a bit worrisome. Times like this I really appreciate having the horses in the backyard where I can monitor them and switch blankets/sheets as need be. It's supposed to be cold again tomorrow, then warm up for Sunday, stay that way for a few days and then hit us again with another cold spell around Wednesday.

Guess I'll be busy.