Life on the Farm

When I think about all the years I dreamt about having a farm, the thing that strikes me is that I underestimated how much I would just love the lifestyle.   But we really enjoy the atmosphere of having the horses at home … not to mention the other creatures!!

And we have some creatures, let me tell you.  Owls, hedgehogs, even coyotes.  We have one really beautiful heron that comes every day to have a snack in the creek:

Heron

We also have some good size turtles, and one rather large black snake.  I have to confess, even though I know Snakes.Are.Good, he kind of freaked me out.

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He’s harmless (unless you are a mouse or similar) but geez. That whole slithering thing.  Yikes.  In fairness, though, we don’t seem to have any mice or rats anywhere on the farm. Credit where due and all that.  🙂

We’ve also been working on landscaping the arena, and I have to admit I am enjoying that project quite a lot.   We hosted a clinic here a couple weekends ago and it was fun to show off the farm a bit.  We still have SO much to do, but it feels like it is coming together really nicely.

We also took a field trip of sorts over the long weekend and finally got back to the show ring.  We are already qualified for Regionals at Training level but thought we might take a swing at also qualifying for First.  Let’s just say it was a stretch goal since we’ve never actually put that whole test together at home, but JJ was awesome and rocked it.  We squeaked through the first test with a 62.5 but nailed it for a 66.7 the second time around so I am really pleased.

JoJo Conyers trot Labor Day 2018

Wow, we’re getting there!

So, lots has happened in the last few weeks.  We have made quite a lot of progress lately and it’s starting to look like “a real farm,” as my husband puts it.   The horses seem to really love it here and are doing well on their longer turnout schedules.  We do wait to put them out in the morning til the dew is off the grass to save their feet, but there is plenty of shade so even in the heat of the day they can get out of the sun if they care to.  (They mostly don’t seem to care!)

Horses front pasture day one

The barn is also allllllllmost finished.  I still have some trim to paint inside, and the HVAC pro will be coming on Wednesday to install the mini-split (heat & AC) in the tackroom so it will be completely climate controlled.  But all the other fixtures are up and it is starting to come together.

Tackroom window organization

Tackroom mirror organization

We’ve also gotten a nice routine down for the barn maintenance.  Mondays are our big clean up days – pretty much everything gets washed with Lysol!  But between this and our normal daily routine, we have pretty much eliminated bugs entirely. Makes for a much more pleasant barn experience, for both humans and horses.

Aisle showing hay barn organization

Barn Aisle organization

We also got the solarium installed, yay!!! It’s hot here at the moment but hey – WINTER IS COMING.  And you know what that means.  We don’t want to be cold!!!  No worries though; our fantastic solarium from Wilsun Customs will keep us toasty!  And we got our water heater serviced too, to make sure that we have that hot water available whenever needed.

Solarium yay

We’ve really been enjoying the arena since it was finished about a month ago.  It has been worth the wait – thank goodness.   We ended up installing boards around the perimeter, and backfilling those with stone to ensure that we had good drainage but protected the footing, which has worked well.  The horses love the FutureTrack surface.

Ring organization

Finally, the pastures have been holding up really well too; big thanks to my HorseHusband who spent the entire spring getting them into top condition so they would be well established and healthy before we hit the heat of summer.

Fields organization

We had a fantastic fencing vendor who built us several new smaller paddocks near the barn so we’d have some great options in addition to the big open pastures we already had when we moved in.

Pasture organization

 

So … about that patience issue…

Not going to lie, it has been kind of a challenging week.

When we first discussed the arena renovation, several months ago, the estimated time to completion was, and I kid you not, about six days of actual work.  Of course, that depended on the weather cooperating, materials being available and so on.  Turns out, the weather actually did *not* cooperate; we had an incredibly rainy spring.  It really wasn’t such a big deal, as we were doing lots of other projects on the farm and it wasn’t ready for horses anyway.

But once the barn was done and the tackroom came together, and we had amassed all the other stuff that was needed – things like the cool new manure spreader! – it really started to feel like that arena needed to get FINISHED.

And that was supposed to happen this week.  Sigh.

The plan was to have the sand delivered Wednesday and Thursday, and then to install the fiber Thursday afternoon.   On Wednesday morning, I woke up quite early. From excitement, you think?  Um, no… from the tractor headlight that got turned on shining right into my bedroom window at 5 am, actually.  One thing you can’t say about the amazing Jack Pollard (of Future Track fame) is that he’s not committed.  I don’t think the guy ever sleeps.  The first trucks rolled in that morning and started dumping sand.  What a process!  Those trucks are seriously heavy, and carried 15 TONS of sand per load, so one of the things we were worried about was ensuring that they backed straight onto the arena surface, and then drove straight off – turning those suckers around on the arena could have done damage to the base.

 

We were also anxious to get the work done while we had good, dry weather, because we didn’t want the trucks getting bogged down or stuck (or unnecessarily tearing up the yard between the road and the ring, in the back corner of the farm.)

At first, everything seemed to be going well.  By afternoon, though, I could see Jack pacing and spending a bunch of time on his cell phone.  Turns out, we were supposed to get three trucks each delivery, making 2 deliveries per day.  We only got 2 trucks (so four loads delivered) on Wednesday, leaving us short of the material we expected.  Jack was assured that the balance would all be delivered the following day, so it wasn’t the end of the world, and I was really excited to see the arena coming together.

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After each load of sand was dumped, the guys went out with the skidsteer to spread it.  It’s installed just a couple of inches deep in preparation for being mixed with the fiber.

On Thursday, we were making pretty good progress but it still seemed like we were getting fewer trucks than expected.  This sand is pretty special; it requires extra processing/screening to create a material that feels a lot more like flour than sand.  It sets up differently than regular sand and binds to the fiber, apparently.  But by the end of the day, we were still short of the material we needed, and it was about to rain.

And oh, did it rain.   Not for long, but it came down really hard.

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Hey, it’s Mother Nature, what can you do?

The good news, though, is that we didn’t lose any material out of the arena.  It was a huge relief to me, for sure. Once all the footing is in, we will edge the ring with landscape timbers, but we aren’t at that point yet and I am always terrified that all my nice fancy footing is going to wash away into the creek.

Anyway, it meant that we were STILL waiting for more sand on Friday.  Poor Jack; he was literally spending every day just sitting at my house waiting for those trucks.  But finally, the truck arrived!  Jack and his team had moved a bunch of gravel and base material to the end of my driveway as well as to the area at the entrance to the ring in an attempt to keep the trucks from destroying those areas, since it was still wet from the rain.  We held our breath to see if it would work.  And it did!

Sadly, when it dumped the sand, though… it was the WRONG sand.

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You can see the difference, right?  The stuff in the pile on the left looks and feels like beach sand.  The proper sand on the right side of the picture is an entirely different color and texture.  It feels like powder, or flour.

And because of the issue getting the truck in and out on the wet ground, the wrong sand got dumped on top of the good sand.  So it couldn’t just be scooped up easily to be removed.  The guys did a great job getting it out of the arena without losing too much of the good sand, but boy, were we all disappointed.

And we were still short of the sand we needed.  You can see below that it was just the last corner left uncovered… so frustrating.

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Did I mention the quarry is 2 1/2-3 hours away?  Depending on traffic, the round trip for those trucks takes 5-6 hours.   So we were stuck waiting again, hoping we could get that final load in before the skies opened up again on Friday afternoon.  It didn’t happen.  The rain came down in buckets for quite a while before the truck finally arrived again around 6:30 pm.   We did not dare try to send it down to the ring for fear of getting the truck stuck down there.   So, the last load got dumped at the top of the driveway, and will have to be moved manually.

Best laid plans and so on… here’s to practicing more patience!!

Patience is a virtue… right?

They say the Universe keeps sending you lessons until you learn them.  I guess I haven’t *quite* mastered the patience thing yet.

But we ARE making progress! (Finally!)

The electricians came yesterday to run power and install the outlets at the top of each stall for the fans, which is awesome because it has gotten really hot here really fast this year.  Unfortunately the fans they brought were not the correct ones, and it turns out that adding the extra outlet above the wash stall for the solarium requires more power than they initially anticipated… and that means we have to trench over to the shop to run power from there, install a new panel, and THEN they can install everything.  Sigh.

The arena construction is going well, though. We woke up pretty early this morning when there were suddenly a bunch of headlights running around in the pasture behind the house.  I don’t normally expect contractors at 5am 😉  But they were worried about ensuring the sand delivery drivers didn’t ruin the base while they were delivering their loads this morning. Sure enough, the big trucks started showing up about a half hour later.  We’ll get about 12 loads of sand today, and that will be mixed with the fiber footing to create the riding surface.

Sand in the arena

We’ve also decided to create a “bridge” into the arena; the water management system deflects water around the edges of the ring, but that means the entrance to the arena could get soggy in wet weather.  So the guys are putting in a pipe to carry the water under that entry area, and creating a path above it so we won’t have to deal with a muddy area after it rains.

That’s about all I have for updates on the farm at the moment. We did take a few days off last weekend to go show at the beautiful international  horse park in Tryon.  What a gorgeous show grounds – it’s absolutely my favorite place to compete.  The barns are beautiful and the entire facility is first class.  Great footing, plenty of room to hack, school and show, and the amenities are incredible.  It did not hurt that we were stabled in pretty much the best barn – right across from the big jumper ring, and across the horse path from the Silo Bar! The non-competing members of the team (also known as our families, grin) particularly enjoyed that aspect of the trip.  I was super pleased with JJ, who has just moved up to First level.  He got scores of 68.8., 67.4 and 67.2 with some great comments from the three different judges.  Time to start thinking about learning test 3 so we can take a shot at qualifying for Regionals this summer. (He is already qualified at Training, so we are going for sure!)

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JJ Test 1 1 at Tryon

More Progress

These have been busy weeks on the farm. It has finally been dry enough that the guys could get in and start working on the ring again.  It went from being a very sad, soggy mess:

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To being laser leveled, and having the next layer (M10) installed:

Ring with M10.JPG

I am pretty excited about the progress (and the extra 20′ we added to the long side…) and am definitely getting excited to see the footing delivered in the next few days.  THEN we’ll have another project to do; we are going to edge the arena in landscape timbers, I think. I don’t want all that fancy footing washing away down the creek in the next downpour.  That is certainly going to be a big project but after literally months of waiting – on weather, crews, dirt and so on – I’ll be super glad to get it done.

We’ve also made a bunch of progress on the barn.

You might remember that we had decided to finish the tackroom… it was functional before, but not totally weather tight and definitely not as pretty as I wanted it to be.  This is what it looked like when we bought the place:

Tack room

You can see from the picture that there was an opening under the roof and the “window” was just like the ones in the stalls.  There were gaps in the outside wall where the boards had weathered over time and although you can’t see it in this pic, there was also a gap at the bottom of the outside wall where it didn’t quite meet the floor.  We had it insulated and finished with beadboard walls and then I painted it and put in a nice light fixture.

Next job is to put up all the pretty brass fixtures – that is scheduled for tomorrow but for now, it looks like this:

Tackroom painted with rug

The outside of the barn got a makeover as well!

We really wanted dutch doors for the stalls, and decided that while we were doing that, we might as well put new siding up, too.  Here is the before shot:

Barn original look

And here is the after version!

New barn top doors open

The barn also got all new skylights and had the roof cleaned off.  Looks so much better!!

There is still a lot more to do.  I am also re-finishing the grills and frames on the stalls themselves.  They are functional as is but I like them better painted black.

 

Progress!

Well, if nothing else… I am finding that farm projects are teaching me patience, LOL. We arranged for the ring work to be done months ago, but we’ve had a very wet spring so far, and they haven’t been able to get the heavy equipment in to do the site work that is required until just this past week.  Luckily the weather has been great since then and we’re hoping to get the arena finished shortly.  Right now though, it’s just a big pile of dirt!

Ring prep

They did get the fencing down, and one nice thing we discovered when they finally got the trucks in, was that the grass “drive” down to the ring is actually quite sturdy, and likely has a proper base installed underneath it.  There was barely a mark on it even with the heavy equipment.

Ring extension

Likewise the original arena surface was pretty decent, and properly installed. There is quite a bit of M10 under the surface of the current ring, and decent drainage.  So we got a bit lucky with that.  Now our big challenge is to make sure we manage the drainage around the ring.  The far long side of the arena borders the creek, so the good news is that the water has somewhere to go.

Another project that is moving slowly is the tack room renovation.  We decided to go with Georgia Barn LLC.  They do a lot of barn construction in the area, and I’ve always liked the quality of their work.  Like most firms with that kind of reputation, though, they are in high demand.  The tack room project is “rainy day work,” for them, and – of course! – after weeks of rain, lately we’ve had nothing but sun… Great for the arena project, but for the tack room, not so much. Sigh.  They are coming back later this coming week to hopefully finish it up, and then we’ll start the outside.

Barn aisle prep

Tack room reno

I can’t wait to get the tack room finished so I can put up all the pretty fixtures I’ve been collecting!

Fun in Progress

I know, I know… it’s been a while since I’ve done an update.  It’s been busy here at Hedgerow as we’ve been getting the farm organized!

Probably the most exciting project at the moment is the new arena.  The farm has a pretty nice existing arena, with good drainage and a nice base, so we have a good starting point.   We do want to expand it quite a bit, and put in a performance surface that will enable us to ride even when it’s wet out, which is an issue here in the spring and fall.  After extensively researching the options, we’ve chosen FutureTrack, and can’t wait to get started (if only it would stop raining long enough to get the equipment in here.)

Arena stakes

The new ring is staked out … it will be a much larger area than we have currently.

The new ring will be 100′ x 130′ which is significantly larger than what we have currently.  At the same time, we will adjust some of the surrounding area to better manage the drainage needed and we’ll create a couple of new paddocks.   In the meantime, we’re doing a lot of pasture maintenance, aerating and seeding and so on.  We’ve been giving our new garden tractor a workout!!

We’ve also been working on upgrades for the barn.  The stalls have now been re-leveled and the mats replaced, to make sure the horses will be comfortable.  Our electrician is coming next week to upgrade the wiring in the barn to 220, add some GFCI outlets, prepare the installation for the stall fans… and maybe most exciting, set up the necessary connections for the Solarium we are putting in the wash rack.  I have wanted one of these set ups for the longest time and am really excited to finally have it on order.  Big thanks to our friends at Wilsun’s Customs who are the official US distributor for this amazing product that will keep our horses comfortable in any weather!

Washrack in progressThe washrack is another work-in progress.  We actually bought all the mats that were available at our local Tractor Supply and are still 2 short to finish the flooring, but we were able to get the mesh that will cover the drain to prevent clogs, and get the other mats cut for the aisle way.  It’s amazing what a difference that has made in the barn’s appearance.