I write a newsletter twice a year, catching everyone up on what's going on at the farm; who has come and gone, what's up with the big and small critters, what fun projects are we doing to make the farm a better place for the horses. 2017 was an especially big year for improvements, and it hasn't ended yet...
Below is my summer newsletter - enjoy!
September 1, 2017
Happy summer and welcome to fall from Taylor Farm!! This should have been the spring/summer newsletter, but we got really busy around here and it was more fun to do things outside than to sit in front of a computer. Last we “talked” it was December, so there’s a lot of catching up to do!
The winter wasn’t too bad, and spring came upon us, much in that way that spring comes to New England; in fits and spurts. I could have complained about the rain which seemed to fall every other day and get in the way of finishing so many projects started last fall and then abandoned, as mud, snow and frozen ground set in.
Summer came, and the intermittent rain continued, but now it was welcome. The heat stayed away. After going through the drought last year, I have been happy for the horses (and also for the trees and plants), as the grass grew in lush and strong.
But back to those projects…last winter, we were still trying to finish up the replacement of footing and new mats in the sheds. We got one of three done by October, but weren’t able to resume anything on the others until late May when the ground was sufficiently dry to run the tractor over it.
And then the rain returned, and we were stalemated for another few weeks. But by mid-June, a good dry spell allowed us to finish all the major footing/mud management projects on the pathways and the driveway, in all the sheds and behind the barn, and the area behind the compost system. Five days of a skid steer, an excavator, and so many loads of varying sizes of gravel, stone and stone dust I can’t even count, and we have wonderful, dry, level footing with mats in place. I was able to salvage and reuse many of the mats, but we added about 25 new ones to the mix. This allowed us to extend the mats about six feet beyond where they had been, and provide a nice lounging area just beyond the roof line. Horses just doing their “horsey thing,” i.e., walking around, takes such a toll on high traffic areas, that I have found I need to totally redo everything at least every three years.
After that, we replaced the shed row roof which was outside the first stall in the barn, where Ben hangs out in the day, and where Spenny and Quaker hang out at night. It was small and covered only half the outside wall area. It didn’t provide enough shade in the summer, made the area right outside the stall muddy, and allowed snow to come into the stall in the winter. But now, it meets up with the existing shed row roof, it is twice as deep, it has a nifty metal roof, and it should stand up to any snow load (Joe was motivated to tear down the old one and build this new one because he had visions of a collapse…)
We didn’t stop there. Next, we added electricity to Quaker and Spenny’s shed so they could have an automatic fan and lights as in all the other sheds. Very cool! Their shed was built after all the others and getting electricity to it was not easy. But now that the dog kennel is built, we were able to bring the electric from the kennel rather than from the barn.
But wait, there’s more! Some of you may have seen the construction pictures on Facebook, but we are right in the middle of nearly doubling the shed space in the upper fields. The current sheds are a good size for up to four horses, IF everyone gets along perfectly all the time. But if any of the herd alphas (Parole, Milo, Hawk, you know who you are) decides to remind the lower members of their place on the totem pole, those gentle ones can end up with their butts hanging out of the shed.
So, using the existing eastern walls, we are adding new space to the right of the shed. Think of it like a mother-in-law addition to your house. Close, but not on top of one another. When finished, the horses can cycle in and out of the two spaces, but everyone will have a place of peace. Just like in the current sheds, there will be mats, lights, fans, and haynets. This will add a 16X18.5 space interior space, but the mats will extend out to make it 16X30 overall. Nice!
I am so psyched with all this activity that if you visit, I am likely to drag you on a tour…
And then there is the aerated composting system we started last September to replace the manure dumpster. It was finally finished nearly one year later in early August. We got the main structure done before winter last year, but the doors, piping, roof and concrete pad behind the system had to wait for this summer to be finished. The pad is so large and the area is so sloped, we had to do it in three separate pours. The wet spring and intermittent summer rains really got in the way of pouring concrete, but it is done and looks great!
Speaking of the compost itself, so far, so good! There are four bins, and we’ve made six loads so far. It takes about 4-6 weeks to fill a bin, then it needs to be aerated for 45-60 days, then it needs to be taken out of the bin and sit in a pile for another 30 days. When it is aerating, there is a blower which comes on several times an hour for several minutes, 24/7 for at least the first 45 days. And I have to take the pile’s temperature in nine spots every day and record it. It has to hit a high of 131 degrees for at least 5 days, then it has to cool down after that to about 110-120 for the remainder of time. The blower helps you control the temperature. It’s like a science experiment!
My first batches haven’t been perfect, but I was able to use it as a mulch and garden bed for some flowers. Next year, for those of you who garden, I can give you some to try and you can tell me how it works for you. The system itself is quite a large structure, so if you haven’t been here since we started, I think you’ll be surprised!
The first major 2018 project will be adding a dutch door to the last stall on the right in the barn, where Ben lives at night. There’s a window there now, but I want to replace it with a door so in bad winter weather when it is too snowy or icy to use the smaller paddock, or at night in the summer, Ben can have the area behind the barn as a walk out area. I plan to talk to Lucas Equine Equipment about this door when I visit the Equine Affaire (up at Eastern States, November 9-12 – if you’ve never been, you gotta go!). Lucas makes the finest stalls and doors in the industry and I am excited to enlist their help on this.
Switching to news of the small creatures here, we lost Joe’s old girl, Shelby, in mid-June. She was 13 and a half, so she had a good run. She was a champion field trial dog and mother to sisters Hannah and Lexi, the latter of whom who had the puppies in January 2016. The two puppies we kept, Cupid and Fairgo, are following in mom and grandmom’s pawsteps, and beginning their competitive careers. In true female fashion, Cupid is a little farther along than her brother, having already won a puppy derby, but Fairgo is no slouch either. He doesn’t have that coveted blue ribbon yet, but he’s placed in several trials. They are getting trained now for a national event in the fall in Kansas. They are fun, happy pups and full of energy.
Hannah is doing well after her cruciate ligament surgery last November. We think she will compete again, as she looks pretty sound. Shelby’s sister, Millie, now our oldest at nearly 14, lives in the house and pretty much sleeps 23 and a half hours a day. In the half hour she’s awake, she eats, chatters her teeth, and still hunts around outside!
Our dog-with-nine-lives, Sweetie, the coonhound/beagle, continues to defy all attempts by fate to kill her. After over two weeks in the hospital in December for kidney failure, then a tussle with Pippin in April which landed her once again in the emergency room, she emerged triumphant from a splenectomy in mid-June. We knew in December she had a tumor on her spleen, but had to ignore it because the kidney issue made it impossible to anesthetize her and operate. Serendipitously, the dog bite event in April revealed her kidneys were nearly normal again. So when she presented as lethargic and with white gums one morning, I knew the tumor was bleeding and rushed her in, with the hope surgery wouldn’t kill her and we could remove it. Also hoping the tumor was benign, we went ahead with emergency surgery on a Thursday morning, she was released on the Friday night, and less than two weeks later, she was her usual howling, insistent self.
But fate was not done with her yet. In early August, Sweetie returned from her standard midnight-to-five a.m. night patrol with hundreds of porcupine quills in her face, leg and armpit. Another rush to the ER, more surgery, two weeks of scabs and limping around (I found a last little quill at that point), and I think Sweetie is down to five lives, but now she is also a million dollar dog.
Fingers crossed that Sweetie has a few more years to patrol the property by night and sunbathe by day! The good news is I have nothing to say about Pippin or Hunter except they are good!
On to the news of the horses! We’ve had a few comings and goings since December, but all of them happy! First, the goings: Colby and Herman, the two QHs geldings who came together, were donated to a rescue. They were both in their early 20s, and still sound enough to be used a little, so they will do well. Eagles, who had been here a bit over a year, had a chance to be reunited with a former pasture mate in Virginia, so she left in early June.
And now the comings: Chubbs, an extremely accomplished equitation horse, arrived in early May to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. He is a big, beautiful chestnut and looks like he could walk in the ring tomorrow. Fittingly, he is living with Ladi down in the lower paddock. Given that Ladi is a similarly beautiful bay with an illustrious dressage career, I bet those two are trading a lot of war stories. Both are very friendly, social guys, and they have become thick as thieves in no time at all.
In the upper fields, we welcome Marie, truly a grand old dame of the TB world. She’s a petite and gentle chestnut, and vying with Masque to be the oldest resident (30++?). Marie has joined the mares (Parole, Jade) living together with Max (lucky boy!) in the north field, and she is spending most of her time eating grass!
And in the south field, we welcome Milo. He’s a 10 year old TB, a very handsome bay who is a slightly bigger version of Hawk. They truly are Me and Mini Me. Milo had an injury, so he’s here for a while to get some healing time. The other guys in that field are the well known Felix, the blind appy, and Mac, the chestnut TB.
The guys and pony, Masque, round out the gang at the barn. The geldings are Quaker, Spencer, Zack, Buddy, Keeper, Midnight, and Ben.
And those are your spring, summer and early fall updates from Taylor Farm!