We celebrated Labor Day in the true essence of the word: LABOR. Not only did we have more stalls to overhaul (still only having completed 2 of them) but we'd also decided that the stall walls really could use a power wash to take off the two years of grime, feed, slobber, and, wait for it..., yes poop, that covered about 50% of the inside surface area of each stall. Upon close inspection I gained a new respect for horses' defecating abilities. I mean, we're talking shoulder height here, folks.
Based on that convenient loop hole that allows you to rent equipment over a holiday weekend and get a day free on account that the store wouldn't be open to return it Monday, we rented a power washer and set aside labor day weekend for barn cleaning. We kind of failed to recognized that a free day translates into an additional day of work.
In exchange for their riding lesson (see We're Riding), Ginger had convinced Matt and Lisa to stick around and help us pull mats out of some of the stalls. This job just sucks. Each mat must weigh 60 pounds, and is a 3' x 4' sheet of floppy rubber. We were very lucky to stop by our local ranching supply store one day when two of the shop guys were loading mats into a customer's trailer - they become a whole lot easier to move if you roll them up first! Rolled up they are stiff enough you can actually grab them from each end and move. Otherwise it ends up resembling a wrestling match against a giant black slithery sea moster.
So we were feeling rather confident with this new plan of attack, not to mention the two additional people to help us. Only - those shop guys really made it look much easier than it is. Rolling up a stall mat that is. Suckers are pretty stiff and getting the end to actually curl under is no mean feat. And they do still weigh about 60 pounds. Or more. One thing for sure, they certainly get heavier the more you move!
It must have been an hour or more and we finally had moved all the mats outside from the remaining 4 stalls on the east end of the barn. Matt and Lisa quickly made their leave - couldn't blame them; that was a heafty price for an hour of horse back riding.
It was getting time to pick up the power washer, so we sent Dave on his way while Ginger and I proceeded to dig out the junk that had accumulated underneath the mats over the years, causing them to no longer sit flat. Yuuum! We hit sections of a number of vibrant colors and oders that we figured were better left NOT contemplated too deeply.
It wasn't long before we discovered our major tactical error - sending DAVID to go pick up the machine while Ginger and I stayed behind for the shoveling. Huuum. It was long, moreover, before he returned. Something about the rental place being way on the other side of Loveland. Geesh.
The Power Washer: pretty cool toy if you ask me. Noisy, though. At one point, while I was washing a stall, David drove the tractor up behind me and stuck the front loader bucket in the stall door - so that he was about 4 feet behind me - and I never noticed him coming! Talk about doing a MAJOR double take when he finally got my attention.
So that brings me to another cool toy - a tractor with a front loader. We had 15 tons of gravel delivered prior to this little project - with which to level the stalls. For the first two stalls we'd moved gravel with wheel barrows, and that is just too hard. Oh, how thrilled we were when we figured out that the little tractor (still on loan from Roger) has a small enough scoop to fit through the stall doors! Not that I really enjoyed watching Dave manoever through the barn to do this - he only has about 4 inches total clearance to get into the stall, and with a bucket full of gravel the tractor doesn't exactly spin on a dime. But kudos to Dave, I think we are still dent free.
We dinked around with trying to pre-wash the stalls, and then clean-up wash after the power washer, and finally gave up and attacked everything with the power washer. 3000 psi, that was, and we still had to get down to 4-5 inches away sometimes to get some of that grime off. In those cases it felt a lot like using a windshield scraper to scrape ice off the car. Fun and satisfying on one hand, on the other hand we had 13 12x12 stalls to clean and to do so 3 inches at a time... you do the math. At least we abandoned the pre and post washing. Saturday night we'd completed the 4 stalls on the east end of the barn.
Sunday Ginger took over the power washer while Dave and I tackled finishing leveling the stalls and replacing the mats. With just the two of us we abandoned any idea of carrying the mats and tried a number of strategies of transporting them with the tractor. In the end what worked best was rolling them up and putting them in the front loader. We managed to get two stalls-worth back in before quittin' time.
As it was our anniversary, we'd declared we were going to work until 4:00, and then go out. It ended up being 5:00, but we made it to dinner at the Savoy - a 4 star french restaurant right here in our little old country town. We had a terrific evening, and then Dave surprised me with a night at the local B&B. It felt a little weird at breakfast explaining to the other guests that we lived 5 minutes down the road - but they thought Dave's gift was charming. As did I.
Roger showed up about the time we were leaving Sunday evening and stuck around Monday to help out. At Ginger's generous encouragement we took much of Monday off, but finished the day by replacing the last two stalls' mats. The power washing was completed just as it was getting full dark.
And if any potential boarder dares comment that the barn isn't sparkling clean? Well then ppphhhhth.