Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blast from the Past

Haven't posted in awhile - things are a whirlwind at the ranch. Ginger, David and I are all trying to keep a handle on what is going on on about 4 different fronts each, and I'm afraid we're starting to resemble more the Three Stooges, than say, three people in charge of their business.

Case in point - this was shot this morning:

Someone very thoughtfully locked the door on the way out of the kennel yesterday - only we don't have the key to that door! The Barn Doors have been securely fastened from the inside to keep them from blowing around in the wind, so we couldn't even get to the garage door recently installed just inside of those. The new back doors are locked and no one has given us the keys yet... Fortunately the window wasn't latched. And yahoo - an opportunity where Ginger's petite build is a real asset!

So with all that is going on, what do we do? Escape to an rock concert of course!

Thanks to my high school boyfriend's musical tastes I never got into INXS when they were really huge. But David had several of their CDs and I was the one who bought Elegantly Wasted when it came out in '97. But then their lead singer committed suicide, and the band all but dissolved.

Last summer there was a 'reality' show based on people trying out to be the new lead singer for INXS. It was a totally hokey idea so I shunned it like most reality shows. Then I tuned in while channel surfing one night, and was instantly hooked. I watched the last 6 weeks faithfully, and was rooting for the winner, JD Fortune, from 5 weeks out.

So they're on tour now -- I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see them all together up close! The concert was great -- alas, JD is horribly sick and his voice was totally gone. Talking was essentially out of the question even though he pushed through it. Singing ballads was out of the question, though he pushed through that too. That was a shame, because "Afterglow" was one of the songs I was looking forward to the most and, I hate to say, it was terrible. But, he seemed to have little noticeable trouble on the non-ballad songs, of which there are many, so it was still a very rockin' night. They did about 60/40 old hits to songs from the new album.

We had a terrific time. I was initially concerned when we found the people in front of us were a group of 8-12 year olds dragged along by their parents. (I said when I was a kid, my parents took me to see... Neal Diamond). I was getting annoyed at the little girl's amazing tendency to stick her hands up just in time to commandere my pictures. But not long after INXS came out they all got bored and sat down. HEY - not a bad deal for us afterall.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Another weekend

We had another weekend of long days - but we got a lot done! We finished rails on the NW run of fence. All of the fence-wire is up - except one 10 foot portion. The staple gun is a real lifesaver for this. 130 feet of rails to put up and then 3 gates to go. Oh, and another 80 feet of pickets. And 15 feet to close off the passage around the barn.

Saturday our neighbor with the grading company was back to do final grading and then discuss what we wanted as far as gravel around the kennel. We've decided on 3/8" inch chips over the entire flat area north of the barn, and pathways to/from the front and back doors. It will be nice to have a way to keep the dogs out of the mud when things get mucky.

Sunday we actually pulled a couple posts before getting started, just for grins. NOT. One we moved so that we could create space for a 12 foot gate instead of a 10 foot gate. We found that by wrapping a tie-down strap around the base of the post several times, and then hooking the ends to the lip of the tractor bucket, we could put upwards pressure on the post, then rock it by hand to get it to lift out of the ground a few inches at a time.

The second post was right in the middle of a run of 5 un-concreted posts, put in way back when before we understood the toll that the wind takes on the dirt posts. We were reluctant to make more work for ourselves, but I asked if we needed to pull it. Dave went over and shook it a bit, then bent over and started pulling - and it moved. George and I went over and in a very short time yanked the thing out with our hands. That was depressing. At least re-digging that post hole was easy.

George is one of our leasers - he leases Romeo and has totally fallen head over heels for the big appy. It's a bit of another story, but Romeo has gone and made himself lame, so he isn't in shape for riding right now. George owns a roofing company, so he always comes out to see our progress on the fence. Sunday he decided he didn't have anything better to do than come out and volunteer. Thanks George!

With George's help (I'm not sure Dave, Ginger and I could have moved the thing), we also got one of the two hitching posts that Roger had made for us set in place. Our one hitching post isn't adequate more than 2 or 3 horses at a time, so this is a very welcome addition indeed. We dug the holes for the other, so maybe since the snow didn't really come in as forecast we can get that one set tonight. That is if we can manoever the darn thing into place.

Another project on-going is the installation of the plexiglass along the top edge of both long walls in the kennel. There are two layers of plexiglass inside the barn-shell, with an air gap so as to retain heat. The outer most layer went in over a week ago, and we immediately saw the flaw in that design - it shows dust horribly. Dave claims that the plexiglass is so statically charged that it isn't possible to get it up without it collecting dust. That may well be true, but I'm also pretty sure the guys didn't put much effort into cleaning them off. So we already have very visible dust marks on the outside of the installed plexiglass where we can't get to. Second issue is that since the plexiglass is perfectly transparent, it gives us a lovely (albeit dusty) view of the inside surface of the building shell. Not really desirable. So we've been toying with the idea of sand blasting, or sanding, the inside layer so as to obsure that vision. This has been a time of interminable discussions and no decisions. So I went out and grabbed one, sanded both sides, and tacked it in place. I like it - the others haven't commented yet.

And Go Broncos! AFC Championship with home field advantage Sunday 1/22 1:00 MST.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

Why not jumpt at long term board?

Several people have responded that the potential of having 2 dogs board with us for 4 months the first day that we would open would be a fantastic thing. Yes, it could be. A very good, predictable start to every day - the appearance that we have lots of customers right off the bat, etc. A sizeable boost to the cash flow on day one.

But there are some real risks of doing this as well, and I wasn't sure really how to balance them out. In fact, I wasn't really aware of what all of the risks were. So I posted our first message to the doggie day care message board we've recently found and were following along with. This is a group of 1200 dog daycare (DDC) owners all sharing their questions and experiences with each other.

Their responses were of course varied as well, but almost unanimously they agreed no one should take in a boarder, much less a long term boarder, without having had an evaluation time with the dogs. Frankly, if they can't be integrated into the daytime play groups, then they would be miserable, making us miserable. We'd anticipated that and had mentioned to the owner that they'd need to spend a day with us here even if we weren't open yet. Though someone else suggested we take them to the dog park to see their interaction with other dogs - that was one that hadn't occured to me.

Beyond that, I heard a number of anecdotal stories about german shepards in general, saying that as a breed they tend to get easily over stimulated. Several people say they can only let the shepards out for a hour or so at a time and then need to put them away so that they can calm down. Keeping a schedule such as this seems to prevent them from becoming basket cases in the afternoons.

Of course my initial concern was what if the dogs didn't work out with us in the first month, how would the owner be able to relocate them from out of state. So we were going to insist she had a backup kennel. But what I hadn't thought of that was mentioned on list was what if the dogs got sick? The stress of boarding can take undue toll on dogs, and we do not have any ability to quarantine dogs yet. And it is doubtfull that a backup kennel would be able to help in that situation.

In anycase, we haven't heard back from the woman, even though we responded to her email that same day. So - may just chalk this one up to experience gathering.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

That was fast!

Well, though I worked from home yesterday, I was still oblivious as to what was happening in the kennel. Seems the drywallers snuck in and put up what appears to be ALL of the wallboard!

It was still quite dark when I went out there this morning to take pictures. I could see we had some wallboard up - but I had to walk around the space taking flash pictures to see the extent of it. I just kept walking, and snapping, and finding more wallboard!


Guess now we can have "the talk" with the contractor about what remains to be done, when it will be done, and when in that schedule we can get in there and start doing some of the stuff that we need to be done. Like assemble kennels. What I know is still pending is attaching the FRP to the wallboard, mudding, taping and painting, installing the dropped ceiling, then installation of cabinetry and sinks and light fixtures, etc. The concrete floor needs to be sealed and possibly coated with a non-skid surface. We haven't quite figured that out yet, but David is about to get a call from me reminding him to address that today if possible.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Insulation - Check

The insulation installation was completed last Friday. Dave dragged Ginger and I in there on Saturday afternoon. We'd seen it briefly Thursday night, but it wasn't complete at that time, and since it was pitch dark in there and we only had flashlights to see by the effect wasn't nearly what it was on Saturday.

Wow! It's starting to seem like a real space now. It finally became clear just how much light the translucent panels along the top of each wall would light up the space (this feature has been one of my biggest push points, and our design is going through some hoops to keep the light, but preserve the sound insulation).

Of course the hellacious wind storm was again blowing outside -- and it was dramatic to enter the building and hear how quiet it was! Normally all outside sounds come right into the barn even with all doors closed. This time it was quiet enough for us to HEAR the vent louvers flap open and closed. That was exciting!

At the last minute we decided to insulate the interior walls between the office and the kennel - mostly for sound purposes again. We were thinking that customers would probably appreciate not hearing the kennel noise, as well as us if we were on the phone, etc.

As wallboard will be going up soon, David spent some time late last week fishing phone lines between the house and the kennel. (One of the few smart things the seller did was to bury a pair of empty conduit between the barn and house - so that was one less trench to dig!) Of course, we currently only have one phone number, and what with the fax and credit card machine we really need two. But I haven't gotten around to placing that order yet.

Alas, today is January 10th - 2 months from when the contractor started. He said it would take 2 months... We still need to sit down with him to find out what the schedule for the last 5 steps or so are - but as he said that couldn't happen until wall board went up, that meeting is still pending. Meanwhile our dog website is still saying we're hoping to open by Xmas. Guess that item on my list of to-dos needs to move up in priority.


Monday, January 09, 2006

A good trench...

Is a filled one.

Hey, lookee here - Not One,

Frost Trench

Not Two,

Propane Trench

Water Trench - inside horse barn

But THREE recently filled trenches!

OK, no that is not a mistaken link to the filled water trench... I just can't seem to get the camera down to the barn to take that shot. But you get the picture.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

In over our heads?

3 weeks ago we received an inquiry for a person interested in putting her 2 dogs into daycare - 5 days a week! We'd never anticipated anyone needing this type of service, and it was a bit overwhelming to think of taking this on day 1 of going into business. I mean, could be great if the dogs are great. On the other hand if the dogs are a handfull, it's kind of convenient to only see them one day a week.

She's since said she gets her current day care for quite a bit cheaper than we can offer it - though I don't know where as the comparisons I've made has us at the very bottom of our competitors prices. So - whew, don't need to worry about that one I guess...

Well, today we got an email from someone who is has to leave town and is looking to board her 2 dogs for... FOUR MONTHS. Starting in February! At this rate we'll be lucky to be open for dogs on Feb 1, so its conceiveable that if we decided to help her we might even take her dogs before we opened (day T minus 4?). That's a heck of a committment - the owner will be out of state for a looooonnng time. We won't have much experience in evaluating the dog's ability to be happy at the kennel or to behave appropriately in a co-mingled play situation. Not to mention we wont have other customers yet with which to test these dogs in a co-mingled play situation...

Uffff DAH.

And the panic begins to set in.


This appeared on my IM today



How could I not respond to that?

Plus or minus a gate.... or 27

Friday our shipment of kennel panels and parts arrived - that with which we will assemble 24 individual kennels inside the kennel building. We were warned by the manufacturer that it was our responsiblity to count and inspect all pieces for damage before the shipper guy left. Since we weren't contracting for off loading of the shipment, we expected that we'd have to break it down on the truck and off load it one piece at a time ourselves -- so we requested as early of a delivery as possible in our 12-3 window. The guy made it there at 4:40.

Fortunately, though, the driver was a nice guy and he and Dave managed a way to get the pallet off the truck without breaking it down, which was way more convenient.

We asked him for the freight bill, but it only said "37 pieces". What the heck? We had 28 wall panels, 27 gates, a big burlap bag of hardware, several bundles of pipe and of t-channels, and probably some other items. How in the heck could anyone count 37 out of that?

So we got our itemized order form, and started checking things off. Right away, a glaring omission was aparent - no gates. We had expected 2 pallets, but the driver said that was all he was given. Finally we convinced him to call dipatch. It took them awhile to figure out what was up, because of the really moronic description someone had taken as "37 pieces" for this shipment.

In the end, it appears that the 37 was made up of: 5 T-channel bundles, 3 pipe bundles, 1 burlap bag of hardware, 1 pallet of wall sections (never mind the fact there were 28 panels on that pallet), and then - the missing 27 gates that weren't delivered.


Tuesday morning the gates arrived - unannounced of course. Dave and Ginger sorted through the stack and rejected 3 as damaged. Those were returned with the shipper and 3 more will be issued to us from the manufacturer. We have it from the contractor that as soon as the dropped ceilings are in we'll be able to start assembling the kennels.

I guess some insulation got up yesterday... but not finished. Gosh I wish we could get these guys working quicker!


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Fencing - So Close!

We did spend a lot of days over the holiday working on the dog fence. Before Thanksgiving we'd gotten posts up half way down the West fence, and still had the entire North side to do. In about 5 days we got in 30 posts, completing both those sides!

We'd thought the over a week of 50 degree weather would have been a boon to us in thawing the ground, but we had a heck of a time with the North side fence. That section is the lowest part of the field, and our neighbor pointed out that it is an agricultural field so the lower you go the more moisture there is in the ground. Yep, he knew what he was saying. They were buggers, to be sure. We used water to help thaw and loosen up ground, we alternated between the auger and hand digging. We definitely took Marshall up on his offer to help as it took both he and Dave hanging on the auger to give it enough force to work down through some of that ground. Even with all that, we still ended up digging a couple holes by hand. Post hole digging vs concrete removal? Sure seems like a toss up by now.

Truely, a vision of beauty

For Christmas Dave got a pneumatic stapler to help with the wire fencing. But we didn't want to wait until it arrived so we started putting up the wire on the 30th. The biggest question we had was about fitting it to the ground contours. Upon inspection, and finding over a foot difference in the height of the middle of that north fence vs either side (the field has quite a crown on it, aparently) we decided to tackle that side with three sections of wire, each with a different angle. In all, it went very smoothly and we finished that edge over the weekend. Well, it will be finished as soon as the stapler arrives and we can complete attaching the wire to the wood rails.

The fence seems structurally sound as well as being attractive. You can't even see the wire from most vantages, and it is so nice to be able to see through it, vs the picket screening fence to the East. In fact we've wondered if we'll have any dogs assume that there isn't a fence and run into it... Lets hope not - I'd hate to have that conversation with the owners!

We're not quite done with posts - we have about 6-10 more to connect the fence to the dog barn on 2 sides. But heck, that's practically nothing! That then, will give us a perimeter fence. At some point we'll have to cross fence to make separate yards, but we'll have to see what our demand is for that before diving in.

Oh, and we lost our first section of picket fence to the wind this weekend. That section is at the end of what has become a wind tunnel next to the dog barn, so it isn't surprising it went first. I think when we rebuild that we'll take Mike Moser's suggestion and put gaps between the pickets to relieve some of that wind pressure.

We've been greatful to hear from neighbors that the wind has been absolutely horrendous this year - hopefully this is out of the ordinary.
HA! This morning on the radio I heard that 2 semis blew over driving down the highway - somewhere near Ft. Collins yesterday. Yep, I think these winds are extreme.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Back to the Real World?

Hey there! I bet you're starting to think that we'd dropped into a black hole... Well, we did - a black hole by the name of Sun Pony Ranch. I took 2 weeks off from work to help out at the ranch, and I have to say - it is a whole different world when you are there full time. I admitted after several days that it is very easy to feel like you're on vacation and start sleeping in later and later - even though we know the best time to work is in the morning since the horrendous winds usually blow up early afternoon.

For nearly 2 weeks I didn't even touch my computer, which is a big reason there haven't been any blog entries. Though last night I did get Ginger and David sat down for a database training session. I figure it'd be best if we all knew how to use our kennel database before dogs start walking in the door.

I helped Ginger with the horse chores daily. Mucking stalls is a great time to just let your body work and mind wander. But she still handles most of the horse stuff herself. I don't know how Ginger finds the energy to keep going down to the barn to do whatever else is required.

Since Thanksgiving the weather has been bitterly cold. And the ground frozen, so we were not doing much outside. But over Christmas we got 2 weeks of temperatures in the 50s so we got a lot of work done. We are still getting blasted by the wind on occasion, but all things considered we had little to complain about.

We had nice, albeit quiet holidays. We had dinner Christmas Eve (Cornish Game Hens, which I thought were just as cute as could be!) Christmas morning the 4 of us all fed and mucked, then went back to the house for breakfast and presents. Ginger and Roger took off to visit with Jessica and Marshall, while we finished off our present piles, and then we were off to DIA to visit with Dave's folks who had a long layover on their way home from a Carribbean cruise.

The week before Christmas we got two new boarders - 17 year old twins who each have a show horse. These guys are hardly the low maintenance variety that all of our other horses are, I'll have to write them up in another entry.

We also lost two of our boarders this last weekend. We knew one was leaving to go to California, but his 'brother' also left because the owner wanted to put him in training as she hasn't had time to work him much (let alone TWO horses.) So, we're even keeled again at 11 horses - though the swap of the two new horses for the two old horses was far from equitable as far as our labor and resources goes. Ah well.

Not much happened on the kennel, but we have achieved signoff on the rough electrical and plubming, as well as got the propane piped to the boiler and inspected. So hopefully the momentum will pick up rapidly this week.