Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Sunday, October 30, 2005

And now for something completely different

Since the screening fence was completed, it was more than high time we shift into clearing out the barn to get ready for construction. We spent a day clearing out junk. I have to say it was somewhat amusing to come across evidence of many of our past projects: "White Lightning" wire from fencing off the pond, several sections of electric cable, water pipe, the backs to the benches that we purchased at auction and promptly ripped off... The whole stack of T-Posts wasn't nearly so amusing as a pain in the butt to relocate.

The next night we spent removing the wall-panels that the seller had left in the barn. These were two 'rooms' (sans-ceilings, each about 12x10 in size. Originally we thought this was really handy and we'd use them for the kennel. Once we looked at issues such as sound proofing, convenience, and just professional-ness, it was clear they should go. Only, that wasn't nearly as easy as it sounds. They came apart into 7 sections, but each section must be 1" solid wood sided by metal, encased in a galvanized frame.

Marshall, Gingers son-in-law came over to help us, but it was seriously just about all the 4 of us could do to slide those things around and drop them onto the flatbed trailer. Actually it was pretty interesting that after the first several, we learned a trick of bolting a chain into the bottom edges of them (into bolt holes used to attach them to eachother) and that increased our ability to handle them a thousand-fold. Otherwise there was just no way to grip them, and definitely no way to put more than one person per end. The last three, which were all large solid panels without doors actually went the easiest. Anyways, got those stacked down behind the horse barn. Before next summer we'll re-assemble them and construct a roof and then they will be storage and 'club house' for the campers.

Our other task is to demolish the concrete in the barn that is where the new plumbing needs to go. Oh my goodness! Some things are worth paying to have done for you - and I suspect concrete removal is one of them. We rented a concrete saw and a jackhammer and got to work. Mid-day Dave had finished all of the cuts, but I'd run into sections of concrete reinforced with wire, which just slows the process down a ton. So upon returning the saw Dave picked up a second jackhammer.

Some sections, about 50% of what we had to remove, are about 12 inches thick with actual rebar. It took some experimentation, but we figured out a method to attack those, and then cut out the rebar.

It took us through mid-day Sunday to finish all the jackhammering. Lastly it remained to remove the broken out concrete. Interestingly, the most painful part about that process was in deciding what we would do with it! We were advised not to load it into our pickups as we'd overload them too soon. We tried to get ahold of both neighbors who have dumptrucks to no avail. Finally we just picked a spot outside the barn to dump it until a real solution comes around. Patrick, the neighbor boy who we've hired on numerous occasions, and his friend Seth came over. Using both tractors and manually loading the front buckets, we had it all cleaned up in a few hours.


Saturday, October 29, 2005


Last Tuesday we felt we'd made enough progress on the fence to predict it's completion Wed or Thursday, so we notified the planner who said she would try and stop by on her way home one of those two days to see it.

Meanwhile we weren't contacting the contractor to get a status on the building permit, simply because we didn't want to hear that our lack of having the plat recorded was holding that up.

Wednesday the grading was finished, and late Thursday all but the pickets on the dupmster were up.

Complete - as of Friday

However - the planner didn't show up! I was very concerned because I my notes said she didn't work on Friday, so I thought her inspection would be delayed until next week. We sent her an email early Friday asking her to come by at her earilest convenience. Surprise, surprise, she said she'd be by Friday evening!

It wasn't too long after that that the contractor contacted us saying that the permit was ready to be issued, so it was just waiting for the plat to be recorded.

We have the mylar plat and we were going to ask details about how it gets recorded of the planner when she came by - only she hardly slowed down enough to turn around in our driveway and left immediately! That really annoyed me.

Here's crossing our fingers the recording of the plat can happen first thing Monday, along with the awarding of the permit along with the start of construction.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Chinese Fortunes

I took my friend Brian out to lunch the other day. We were due to get together, but he'd also done me the favor of picking up our final mylar print of our plat map from a store in Boulder so this was to be our exchange. We did Chinese.

As the check came and I offered to pay, his response was I must be trying to bribe him in coming out to help more on our fence. For Brian has spent not just one, but two whole days out fencing with us and we owe him quite a bit more than lunch for that!

You know how they always say that horiscopes and fortunes could say anything and you'd be able to interpret them to have very specific meaning in your life? Well, sometimes they are just too eerily on the mark. As I was signing the check Brian's fortune proved to say

"You are extrememly generous and always thinking of others."

Here, here. Too true! Then I opened mine:

"You will be successful in a business of your own."

Like I said, eery.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Brownies & Leasers

Ginger got her first Brownie Troop in to do some horse-lovers activities last Friday. 10 girls came, all about 7, and they were a handfull! Fortunately the several leaders were all very helpful in keeping the girls focused. But one thing became very clear that a group of 7 year olds that all know each other --- are WAY harder to work with than a group of kids who just met.

I thought it was a great idea when the leader talked to me (I was down just to observe and take pictures) about the troop all signing up for a week of camp next summer. By the end, however, I was wondering if that would be such a hot idea afterall... Two hours was work enough - I couldn't imagine 5 full days with that group! Ginger in general has a wonderful rapport with kids, but even she said this group was a particular challenge. Maybe Ginger could get a leader to attend each day. Maybe we should wait until they register before worrying too much more about it.

On some related horse-business news - this weekend our number of leasers increased from 1 to 3 overnight, and a 4th took the paperwork home and is very interested in signing up. I think I've mentioned this before, but we've come to realize that leasing is really the ideal way for us to put the horses to work. It takes almost zero effort from us, and our horses get the benefit of being handled more often through the winter when we aren't doing a lot of lessons. One leaser almost covers the average cost of ownership for a horse (I need to run those numbers again now that we have several more months worth of financial data - but that is what I calculated this summer.) So, it is totally a win-win-win situation. We're very excited to have Tiffany, George and hopeflly Lisa join our ranks.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Last spring when we were researching kennel manufacturers I came across one that really got our attention. They have some really great products. In particular they have a FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) panels which are 4 feet of solid, water proof panel that has 2 feet of plastic mesh (think milk crates) above. These make for totally isolated kennels that can be hosed down, yet the ventilation is still good through the tops and out the chain link gates.

The really innovative part of their system is that the bottom of each wall is an inverted U channel, that sits over an inverted T shaped piece that is affixed to the floor. This means that the T piece can be mounted to a sloping floor, but the kennel wall remain level - allowing us to install sloped concrete floors for drainage.

They also have a cool system by which you can install double-decker kennels. A layer of kennels that have integrated drainage can sit on top of another layer. Very cool! Unfortunately we only have 10 foot clearance in our barn so it wouldn't be an option for us, but it looks way cool.

I reinitiated contact with this manufacturer - Mason Kennels ( - this week and got a quote that was less than we'd anticipated. (A very nice change for once). So we put in our order yesterday. We've got a layout to fill 1/2 of our barn with 240 sqare feet of kennels, with between 20 and 24 kennels. I say between, because we've designed 4 of the kennels to function as either large single kennels or split in half to be 2 small or medium kennels. 3 of them will "split" simply by swinging a gate closed, so that should be extremely flexible for us.

We were fortunate not to have delayed any further, since Xmas is also their big time of the year, so they are now running at a 6 week delivery schedule. Fortunately we're still in good shape to have them delivered early December.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Section 1 - DONE!

It was with some shock that we completed the last of the section of fence we've been working on - the entire East end of the property and the section to the south of the dog barn are done!

Because we can just do anything easy, a thought occured to Dave and I as we got close to the end - in that the 6 foot picket fence really blocked out the sun from behind the barn. As winter is nearly here, and the back door of the dog barn will be where we need to come in and out frequently with dogs - allowing some extra sun back there seemed like a good idea. We decided to go with a section of 3 foot pickets topped by 3 feet of wire. Since that section of fence really doesn't face any other house, we are assuming there will be no complaint from the county. I'm really pleased with how it turned out:

This process, of course, took a huge amount of time to switch gears, but at least it did give us some experience in dealing with the wire on a small scale. Most of the rest of the fence will be 6 ft wire in 100 ft lengths, and we'd had many questions and theories about how we were going to tackle that. I think a number of those plans will now be changed after wrestling with these two relatively small sections.

Meanwhile we aren't quite ready to start the wire fence - we still have to complete the parking screening fence. We're having space graded out right in front of the house for some parking spaces, which must be screened from the neighbors. We decided to be clever and incorporate the dumpster enclosure at the end of that run. We got 8 of those 16 posts in, and are crossing our fingers our grader-guy can come back today and finish off the grading before we're ready to put in the rest of the dumpster enclosure.

Most importantly - Dave announced this morning that we are officially beyond the half-way mark: 76 posts done, 62 to go.

Meanwhile, our thoughts are starting to turn to a Grand Opening celebration. We figure even if we do manage to open for Xmas, we wouldn't hold our celebration probably until January. One fun idea was to have a bobbing for tennis balls - dogs who want to go for it will be able to take the balls home. Of course we'd want to get tennis balls with our logo on them. We also need to order bandanas that say "I'm a Happy Camper at Happy Tails Dog Ranch" to send home with our customers.

Anyone have any more fun marketing ideas? We're listening!


Friday, October 21, 2005

Yep, it's a fence

Despite two wet days this week David and Ginger have made great progress on the fence.

The east side is nearly done, with exception of 100 feet that goes behind the barn. The gap there is for a gate. Amazingly, that bottom section is 290 feet, and we ended up with exactly 1 picket-width to end off that run - didn't even have to split a picket lengthwise! (This is hot of the press, David put that last picket in not 30 minutes ago.)

Southern fence - 1/2 done. The other half, extending beyond where you can see is waiting for the 'parking lot' grading work to be completed.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Boy, haven't I written this entry before? Little did we know that getting approval from the county commissioners for our kennel plans was but the first step of MANY. We just got word from the county planner Tuesday that all of our ducks are officially in a row - and all that remains before we can record our plat is for her to come and inspect our privacy fence that protects our neighbors from being subjected by our activities. (Never mind them being subjected to our fence - but that apparently is considered acceptable, while watching dogs run around 1000 feet away is not.)

We must have our plat recorded before we can be issued a building permit. This Friday marks 4 weeks after submitting our permit application, which was minimum amount of time they'd need to review our plans. So we're hoping that the fence inspection and plat recording will happen just as the building department is ready to issue a permit and we'll be raring to go. The contractor is estimating 2 months of construction - which dearly pushes us to the week of Christmas. He understands our rush to open before the holidays, so we'll see how successful he is at getting the construction done quicker.

We asked the contractor what could we do to help get things done quicker. Besides the concrete demolition inside the barn there wasn't a lot of options. Until he remembered the frost-protection trench (like a frost wall, but not a true frost wall) that needs to be installed around each side of the barn. The three of us just stared at him when he mentioned that was something we could take on - more trenching is really not what we want to volunteer for!

Meanwhile, we ARE making progress on the fence - I knew there was a reason we wanted to do all the posts before starting the pickets. Pickets are SOOOO much easier!

By Golly, it's starting to look like a fence!

We're now well and thoroughly spoiled and will dearly hate having to return to doing posts. We have about 12 more posts required for the privacy fence part, but can't do those now due to the parking lot grading that has been stalled since the rain storm last week. So, we turned to pickets and we've finished about 270 feet out of approximately 650. Once the privacy fence is finished and inspected, then we'll continue with installing the posts and wire fencing for the North and West boundaries of the dog yard.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The I-DOs

Matt (Ginger's son) and Lisa's wedding was beautiful and a whole lot of fun.

We were honored to be able to join them in the festivities. We met a bunch of Ginger's family - her mother Enid stayed with us for about a week, her nephew Chauncey stayed the night of the wedding, and her sister Griffin and partner Wendy stayed nearby. The ceremony was Friday night, so many of the crew came over on Saturday to partake in the keg of beer that needed to be finished off, and to see the ranch. Ginger had everyone she could convince up on horses and a good time was had by all.

Matt and Lisa left Sunday for a honeymoon in Hawaii - we're all jealous.

As for the busted water pipe - David actually got it repaired Friday afternoon, but not before Ginger and her guests all went to Jessica and Marshal's place to shower and get ready. Since it is a two person job to turn the water back on and bleed it of air, he left the water off.

Returning home after 11, we decided it would be nice to have water, so we went out in the moonlight to turn it on. The nice surprise was that the backflow prevention device - that the county insisted we install in the house before we put a kennel into operation (yeah, THAT was one of the improvements we were counting on having to do!) - aparently works and prevented the water from draining out of the house. So once the air in the quarter mile of pipe from the hydrant down to the street was bled, there was essentially no air in the house pipes. Small blessings.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Now, THAT'S a way to start the day

Up at 5:30, reach into the shower to turn it on while I turn to put my contacts in... only to have the water dwindle to not much more than a dribble before I could cross the room.

A few weeks ago Dave and I were madly cleaning up to get out of the house for an Oktoberfest party. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon after a full day of fencing - so like the shower was not an optional step. All of a sudden, the water stopped. I knew that Ginger was feeding the horses, so I called her and sure enough, she'd turned on the water to fill the stock tank. Usually one open spiggot won't completely rob the house of water, but she gracefully turned it half way off and that was sufficient to get our shower going again. It wasn't until later that I remembered I also had a hose going to water a tree - so mystery solved.

But at 5:30 this morning, I knew we didn't have any spiggots intentionally running. Dave jumped up with me and we went out to inspect the hydrants (after first opening the basement door to verify we heard no rushing water sounds down there.) I drove by the 3 nearest hydrants and ran into the barn to check on the horse waterers and the hydrant there. (making for 3 ponies who were mighty surprised to see me that early) Nothing running - and I could get water out of them. I went back up to tell Dave that I'd drive down to the one on the road, when he said there was no need - the hydrant closest to the house was completely broken off and spinning freely in the ground - surrounded by a huge, gurgling puddle. It had struck me as strange that the hydrant handle had been pointing in a different direction when I'd checked it first, but it never occured to me that it might be totally broken off underground.

How in the world could that happen? Just as it was getting light enough to see, the neighborhood donkey and mustang came ambling along. They get out 2 or 3 times a month but have only recently discovered our property. Our only explanation is that they decided the hydrant looked to be exactly the right height for a good scratching post, and they leaned on it too hard. What with the cows and mustangs, we really are going to have to fence off what remains of that one small unfenced part of our property line. You see, Colorado is an open range state, meaning that it is our job to keep unwanted livestock off of our land. Oh joy, more fencing.

So, at 5:50 we turned off the main water to the property. Inconvenient at the best of times. But tonight happens to be Ginger's son's wedding! Ginger's mother arrived to stay with us on Wednesday, and Roger came over last night. Dave and I rearranged our plans to shower and dress this evening at my work, maybe Ginger and her crew will be able to use her daughter's house. Who knows, but this surely isn't one of the challenges anyone was anticpating for the big day.

As I was leaving there still were no lights on at our neighbor's house - the neighbor with the backhoe. Alas, I fear it will be another day (or 2?) when no fencing gets done.


Monday, October 03, 2005

Avoiding Disaster

Most days on the ranch are pretty hard work. I've said that I never knew it took so much physical strength to run a ranch! Well, Sunday was one of those days that stood out amonst so many other physical days.

We're still working on the kennel fence. Last weekend we had 4-5 people come out each day to help. Due in large part to having to figure out how to use the auger attachment accurately, neither day did we really get as far as we wanted to. But we got in a total of 28 posts, including all of the corners. This sounds fantastic, until we mention that we have over 1000 feet of fence and anticipate needing 150 posts.

Last week I worked from home one day and over a 2 hour lunch the three of us got 6 more holes drilled and then managed to set and fill those posts by the end of the day. So this weekend I was really hoping we'd have a plan, have experience doing it, and so could just crank through them. Not really.

Friday night Dave went to pick up the majority of the rest of the lumber for the fence. HA - he managed to get 1/3 of that order on the flatbed trailer. So he and I unloaded that. Saturday morning he went to get another 3rd of our order. And we had a party to go to in the evening, so on Saturday he and I only got another 6 posts in. (Ginger has a full set of lessons on Saturday, which keeps her busy from 8:30 am through to 5 nearly non stop.)

So Sunday - again we had such grand plans. Dave and I got 5 more in before stopping for lunch. This completed our longest single stretch - 365 feet.

After lunch with Ginger's help we were optimistic to complete that entire stretch along the east boundary of the property. We had about 8 posts to go. As Dave was refilling the hydraulic fluid in the tractor, Ginger and I were scoping out the new post line and what not. And Ginger asked if we knew exactly where the irrigation line was in that area.

I have to back up here briefly to explain that our neighbor Tom, before selling our section of his land to the previous owner, put in an irrigation and power line down the fence line for his new house he built subsequently and still lives in. So there is a 15 foot easement down that property line. We accounted for that on the first part of the fence, but because the upper section goes right behind the kennel barn and we wanted as much useable space as possible, we jogged the fence over to only 10 from the fence. As we knew the irrigation line futher down is only about 5 feet off the fence we thought that would be fine. Our first day of fencing, in fact, had put in the end posts for the 15 foot section and then also the one post that jogged over to just 10 foot clearance.

I looked around to prove to Ginger that Dave and my assumption that the line was closer to the fence was valid, but instead ended up finding the pipe's inlet from the irrigation ditch right smack dab where our fence posts were to go. We stopped Dave and called him over.

Well, that turned out to be a 2 hour boondoggle. There was a collapsed area we assumed had to be the irrigation ditch halfway down this particular run of posts, so I started digging there to locate the pipe, while Dave and Ginger started hand digging the first post hole in case the pipe really did run there. Well, they found pipe where we didn't want it, and I did not find pipe where we did want it. We did eventually relocate the pipe at the location where I was digging - but it was 2 feet over from where it appeared to be and was still right on our post line.

What was really scary is that all sections where we could see the pipe seemed to point directly at the one post we'd jogged in last weekend! We just couldn't believe that we'd drilled through the thing without knowing it, but also it was looking way too close for us to ignore. So we had to go open up the ground next to that one post. We eventually found the line there too:

Just a lot too close for comfort!

We really shudder to think what a mess it would be to have to repair that 10" irrigation line. As it really isn't flexible, to replace a section would mean to put in a u-shaped jog. Since a 90 bend in that line is over a foot long, the section would have to be about 4 foot or so on each side, requiring an 8 foot square hole... Not to mention the cost of those materials... So we decided our 2 hour bondoggle was ultimately very productive in avoiding that particular disaster.

Starting again to complete the fence at 15' spacing all the way, the tractor started making very ugly noises every time Dave put it into gear, so we decided we wouldn't risk running it any more. Several of those holes had to be hand dug anyways, so we did those, but in the end we only had 4 more posts in. We quit around 7:30 so as to be able to go in and partake of our weekly TV show: Desperate Housewives. Its the only show all three of us watch, and it makes for a good weekend-closeout, so it became a weekly ritual last year and is back this season. So we picked up the tools and stowed them in the truck, then walked through the barn to go back into the house.

Where upon we ran into the trailer with it's monster load of lumber still sitting on it. We'd forgotten we had to unload that so that Dave could use the truck on Monday to go pick up our new boarder's horse! Some 80 4x4 posts and nearly 800 pickets later, it was after 9 pm.

We agreed watching the recorded Desperate Housewives would wait for another night.


Saturday, October 01, 2005


Lying in bed this morning, starting to strategize our day, David asked "Did you hear we had an invasion yeasterday?"

It's not like I can resist that bait, so I said no. He said he had been working on a lumber estimate for the kennel fence that we are currently building, and looked up from the house to see some of our neighbor's cows had escaped again. But this time, it was ALL of our neighbor's cows except for one. He said they looked like a convoy coming around the far corner of the pasture. As their first stop is always in the alfalfa field he didn't give them much thought.

That is, until a few minutes later when he looked up and there were no escapees in sight. As a group they don't generally go anywhere quickly, so he immediately became suspicious. As he scanned around, suddenly he saw a cow head pop out of the mid-way door of our horse barn! Sure enough several cows came lumbering out of the barn and headed for one of our hay piles. The good news is that they went to the waste-hay pile, but the bad news is that until then they'd never approached our barn at all and now we fear they'll be back.

Ginger was in the midst of giving a lesson, so David yelled at her and pointed to the barn. "Oh my god!"

They joined forces to scoot all the cows out of the barn - one of which had set up residence in a stall and was having a lovely fresh drink of water from the waterer.

Once out the barn, Ginger returned to her student and Dave enlisted the help of the trainer who was riding one of our boarder's horses (Ramsey - the norweigian fjord). He asked if she wanted to do some herding, and she was all for it. So the two of them moved the cows back down to the gate, and upon opening it and avoiding the one cow who had been stranded inside, only one put up much of a fight. But even that one was coaxed inside before too long.