Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Monday, February 28, 2005

Just Do It

This weekend we put up new fence. Again. No - we didn't have any more escapes and the pond fence seems to be doing well. No, this was the first cross fence to subdivide the pasture into sections. Being a boarding stable, it's going to be necessary to separate horses into groups, so we needed more than one pasture. We've planned for up to 3 sections eventually, but for now will see how the two suit us.

Last weekend we were doing some pre-fencing planning (unlike when we erected the pond fence). In the process, we came to the conclusion that our existing setup was not going to work. The main gate into the pasture is in one corner, because the seller didn't go to the effort to put in a gate in the midst of the fence line since that takes more posts, more burying of electric line to carry the charge from one side to the other, etc. Well, that resulted in a gate that isn't very convenient from the barn. It is about a 75 yard walk from the barn to the gate - and I have been dreading the day when we have a dozen or more horses that have to be hand walked from the barn to pasture every day. Also, because of the acute orientation of the gate, it only opens one direction, and you have to be careful to avoid the hot wire that forms the wall to which the gate latches. It really wasn't pleasant.

Sectioning off that main gate we had a panel fence set up so that there was a smallish corral in that corner of the pasture. This works well for a welcome pen to allow new horses to get introduced to their herds before putting them in pature together. Also for separating horses for any other reason. It also lets us easily set up three gates into three pastures, without having to modify the main fence line. The difficulty with where the welcome pen was, however is that it was already in a small triangle at one corner. Thus, running cross fencing from that corner radiating out across the pasture to make three long sections meant that each pasture section comes down to a very narrow corridor by the time it reaches the welcome pen. Narrow channels, electric fences, and horses are just the recipe to make me nervous. The last straw was probably the fact that currently we feed hay by throwing it over the fence. But, with the welcome pen in the corner, that means that two of the sub-pastures would no longer boarder the main fence and would thus require carrying hay by hand to them. This also was a rather unpleasant image come the day we are full with boarders.

Though I was trying to ignore these issues, stringing out the cross fencing brought it to a head. Finally we had admit that we had no choice but to move the main gate. Just like that our weekend's task shifted entirely. One of our challenges was how to cut the fence and not let the horses out while we were working. We pretty much decided to avoid that question by simply pushing the fence cables aside for as long as we could function that way. It turns out we were able to function that way until after the posts were all set and the gate hung! Actually, it looked pretty ridiculous to have an entire new gate mounted - but un-openable. I guess you could say we plugged the hole before we created it.

I am so thrilled. I love the new gate. It is in a much more reasonable place, and we also took the opportunity to put in a squeeze-through so that a person can step trhough without having to open the gate. We have used that squeeze-through way more than the gate in the past week - we've even used it to carry stock panels in. I LOVE IT!

Last Friday we moved the welcome pen to surround the new gate. Now there is room for three sub-pastures to abut the welcome pen with lots of space for each, AND two of them will always boarder the main fence for feeding.

This weekend our friend Mike, who helped us with the pond fence, was again renting a large compressor to continue sand blasting his car. (He's repainting his '76 Bronco in our dog barn.) He was getting the compressor early; Dave rented the post driver again and picked it up early, and we were to be driving posts by 9 am. If only. Mike and his dad had a whole host of trouble getting a compressor that worked and had all of the correct fittings. I don't know the details - don't really want to - but they managed to pull in about 11:30. Raring to go, we quickly attached the driver and went to go about putting the first post in. But there was a hole in the hose.
Thankfully, Mike had a second hose, so we replaced it, all took our positions again, and... the post driver wouldn't drive. Nada. OK, so we put it down again, verify that the hose was getting pressure, pulled out the tool box and took the darn thing apart.

They discovered it had seized up - probably because the traces of rust they found. A few good whacks of the hammer and voila, it worked. 75 posts and 3 hours later we had the true makings of a fence. Unfortunately due to the late hour we weren't able to complete the fence until the next morning, but all was good by noon.

The horses continue to crack me up. You should have seen their reaction to the moved welcome pen (which they observed and to some extent participated in moving!) and the new fence. You really would think they had just arrived on the property for the first time. Eyes wide and lots of snorting. Running back and forth. For about 15 minutes and then... nothing. Life went back to normal.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Progress Update

Often it seemed that things have hardly progressed at all since our meeting with the Planning Commission. We have a list of some 30 things we need to do - but two of them have to be completed before we can even get on the schedule for our second public hearing with the County Commissioners. One was trivial (signage plan) and is done, but the other is prooving to be a real headache. For submitting the application for special use, we were required to send certified notification to the mineral owners of our property about our plans. Easy enough - at least after we paid $900 to find out who our mineral owners were. We had a list of 4 individuals and one land corporation. Two of our certified letters were returned undeliverable, so that took us down to 3.

Well, now we have to actually get these people to respond and sign something saying that they have no issues with our plans. This has been a nightmare. Ginger was calling and faxing every few days for 2 weeks with little response. The individuals, it turns out, are brother and sister, and the sister was out of town. We're trying to be patient, but every day delay grates on us.
We've started detail planning of the build out for the kennel - so far it's just becoming clear what an enormous job this will be.

We spent Saturday burning the weeds from our fence line that separates us from our neighbors to the south. We did this partially because it needed to be done, but more so because when we had those neighbors over for dinner they had lamented that the previous owner had never done his share of this chore. Give that these are the neighbors who were upset over the result of our Planning Commission hearing, we've decided to step up our efforts to be good neighbors. When David notified them that we'd be burning this weekend, we were very pleasantly surprised that he called back and offered to come help! It was a terrific bonus to have someone experienced show us the ropes. This is really something else - walking around with a BBQ propane tank in one hand and with the other waving a nozzle around and weeds pretty much explode into flames.

It was a bit frightening at first - but then we started in the most sensitive area in that there are 6 small pine trees we wanted to prevent from getting singed. But, we picked up the techniques rapidly and ended up clearing a lot more area than we'd intended. By the end it kinda felt like playing vengeful Greek God.

To avoid melting our plastic-coated fence, we started weed whacking a boundary.

Wow! We've never seen this area for the weeds before.

On top of that, we really enjoyed working together with our neighbor, getting more of the history of the properties. Things look a bit charred, but with the wind and snow storms that are still to come I'm sure that will fade quickly.

And, right on cue we had that huge wind storm on Sunday (that let our horses loose). It also took its toll upon us when Dave and I took the week's load of hay down to the pasture. We store it there on a pallet covered by a tarp so that we don't have to lug bales around during the week. Well - trying to wrestle that 20 x 15 tarp in those 60 mph gusts was an experience to remember. Fortunately neither of us got whipped, though we both did our share of blindly grappling with flapping tarp edges while trying to protect our faces with our arms.


WooHoo! Not only have we gotten one of our mineral owners responses, but it also sounds like our County Commissioner Hearing is tentatively scheduled for March 9th!


Monday, February 14, 2005

Horse Antics - the Explorers

I went down to feed the ponies this morning, only to discover there were only two horses there to greet me! Jordan and Romeo were no where to be seen. There's just nothing like missing horses to give your morning that extra little jump start. Of course my initial thoughts were that our new fence had been faulty and both horses were drowned or at least hypothermic in the mostly thawed pond.

Since I had no phone with me, I dropped my stack of buckets and ran back to the house to get Dave. I jumped into the car and headed off for the road and that darn pond, when half way down I saw the little gate was standing open. I tied it shut, and again realized I didn't have my phone with me, so I went back up to the house. When I pulled in, I saw Romeo down in the Alfalfa field, and realized I hadn't ever looked behind the barn when I discovered them missing. Sure enough, I went back down and Jordan was cleaning out the top of the stack of buckets, while Romeo was digging into a fresh bale of hay. I took the rest of the buckets into the pasture and, finally catching on, the two way-ward boys came galloping back in. They both were incredibly thirsty, so I think they'd been out for quite awhile. (Course, they COULD have just walked back into pasture through the open gate to get a drink, had they been smart enough!) Somehow I wasn't too surprised which two got out and which two decided to stay put in pasture.

Oh, and the gate? Turns out that Dave fixed it - last Friday. Among other things he re-hung it higher and straighter, which made the hook closure too loose, so he shortened the chain a few links. During this he noticed that the bolt and nut that connected the chain was pretty loose so he tightened that up. Well, this morning the nut was gone altogether, and the chain lying on the ground. We had a heck of a wind storm yesterday, so we think it just shook itself loose. He's going to replace that nut with a locking nut today!