Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dam it!

Big announcements went out this weekend that the Chinese have completed construction of the Three Gorges Dam wall structures (hydro-electric plant is still to be completed around 2009) We can't help but be reminded of our cruise with Dave's parents up the Yangtze river in 2001 - past the dam site, through the 3 gorges and beyond to Chongqing. The vastness of this project really is unimaginable. Given that they've started, I hope it's successful, but there sure are a lot of huge challenges yet to be overcome.

This is a model of the dam. On the far right are 2 sets of locks to bring bigger shipping traffic through. To the left of that is a ship elevator, to raise a small ship from one level all the way up to the top level in one jump. I saw references today that the Chinese have contracted with a German company to help with the elevator. This is the first international contract they've initiated I guess.

Construction. If I recall correctly we're on the reservoir side of the dam, looking at the 'back' of the elevator section.

Just one of the many, many cities that will be flooded out.

In the heart of one of the gorges. They are most certainly dramatic, and of course scale is difficult to portray. Even blown up and adjusted for contrast below you can barely see the 5 story cruise ship up ahead in this passage way.

Still can't see it? How about this one?

And last, but not least -- one of my favorite pictures from that trip.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Boothing it

So back to the Mead Chamber of Commerce. Back when they were in full-on courtin mode, they talked us into having a booth at their Car Show in May. Sounded like fun so we agreed.

We also committed to have a booth at Longmont Humane Society's Furry Friends Festival which includes a fundraising walk as well as Mutt Main Street for all sorts of dog related businesses.

We just didn't know that they were both on the same day. Huum. How to handle 2 booths, boarder dogs AND riding lessons between the three of us? Well, we lucked out because business turned out to be very slow. Heh -- not many new business owners would celebrate that, but there are times, you know? We have a very light lesson roster this time, so Ginger was able to shift a few students and have no lessons. Then we also had only 2 boarder dogs -- albeit they were not the two dogs scheduled to be there but two entirely other dogs we hadn't expected until Friday.

Dave and I have volunteered for the FFF before, back when he volunteered for the Longmont Humane Society. So I knew it'd be a busy crew of folks with their dogs. Exactly a market we need to hit. They, however, estimated only 350 attendants. That still seems low to me, but oh well.

The Car Show -- we were told would draw 1000 people. And it's Mead - a close in market we need to hit. So who would do which one? Classic and souped up cars all day long... yeah, David got that job. Even though they estimated 3 times the number of people, we couldn't envision having more staff at the car show than the FFF, so Ginger and I headed over for that one. Since we only have one banner for each business, Dave got the horse one by default.

The booth next to us had their own pair of dogs. They were a natural dog food maker, so it was clear they've done the booth thing a lot. Well, one of their dogs was convinced our tent was a much better tent, so Cash hung out with us most of the morning.

But we had a great time talking to everyone and meeting their dogs. At the last minute the night before I'd decided to print out a bunch of our photos showing dogs at play. We had the laptop with us, but I started panicing that no one would be able to see the slideshow in the daylight, and I was right. So we had a photo album with us, and Ginger started flipping through to find pictures of dogs of the same breed that this customer had. Showing them how much fun those Jack Russel Terriers have at Happy Tails Dog Ranch! It was inspired as it got people talking about their dogs.

What astonished us was that there was only one other Dog Daycare / Boarding operation at the event! And the one that came we know isn't in Longmont. So we talked to lots of people looking for boarding. Looking for boarding that is closer than where they currently go, etc. I also got to meet someone I've been corresponding with through the DDC forum. She ownes a daycare not far from where I work so I've been meaning to stop in on my way home some day. Hasn't happened yet, but now that we've connected personally I hope that will be a motivator for me.

The Car Show I guess was smaller than anticipated, and very few folks showed with dogs. Dave had some people stop by, but not that many. But hopefully it helped get our name out. And Dave didn't hate sitting around checking out the cars. (I know this because when I arrived I got a detailed description of the nearby cars - model and year, horse power and... a bunch of other stuff that pretty much got a blank response out of me.)

The FFF ended earlier than the car show, so the plan was for us to skedattle back to the ranch to let the dogs out and then I would go over and help Dave. As there clearly was no rush to get to the car show, I grabbed a bite to eat before leaving. There was a message on the phone from someone who saw our booth at the FFF. AND she ended up booking $500 worth of boarding!


Monday, May 15, 2006

Another First

OK, this one I didn't foresee. This email just came in:


Our parents are planning an International business trip for a month and would like to find out pricing and availability for us. We are {names removed to protect innocent canines}. We live in Longmont and like the way your location and facility look cuz we live in a walk out basement and like lots of room to run, play and NOT bark, cuz we can't...we are Basenjis. {Dog1} weighs 27 and {Cutsie Dog2 nickname} weighs 23. Our parents will miss us and will be gone from June 24 - July24."

Ginger is composing a suitable reply. I'm not sure whether to look forward to or be afraid of these potential customers...


Friday, May 12, 2006


It's spring. And spring means mowing.

Particularly when the dog yard which until a few months ago was an alfalfa field, starts grows plants taller than the dogs we're supposed to be watching in it (Fudgie). Then ya gotta do something about it.

But we haven't pulled out the bush hog yet this year, seems too early to get into that routine. Believe me, we're trying to put that off as long as possible. So we found a crew to come take care of it. They're great! Several hard workers, and the best part about it they are willing to come over with just a moment's notice, and boy are they ever diligent.


Monday, May 08, 2006

The SS-Aardwolf

My sister has this really funky but really cute trailer. Never have seen a horse trailer with portholes before. Not to speak of a pink horse trailer. The name of her alpaca business is Aardwolf Alpacas, so Dave dubbed the trailer the SS-Ardwolf.

We had fun joining Phyllis and Mike at the Great Western Alpaca Show on Saturday afternoon. Lots of the cute critters. Got to know a little about the differences between the two types of alpaca - Suri and... Huacaya. Ok, at least I learned enough to go lookup that word, though looking at it now I'll be darned if I can pronounce it. Phyllis has Huacaya types, as she well should. They are cute - all fluffy. Suris look like drowned rats.

We watched a few classes of judging. Which is really a mysterious process where by the judge picks a favorite out of seemingly identical animals. Ah well - people say my dogs look like twins but to us they hardly look a thing a like. Guess it depends upon your familiarity.

Sunday we had a nice brunch since they decided to ditch the show that day, then I went over to help pick up their alpaca to take home. She's owned these two for... what, 6 months or so now (recall her last visit: here ) Since that time Sophia's been here in Colorado, Serena in Albuquerque, and Creshendo Georgia I think? Since the show in Denver is such a big show that many breeders come to, Serena and Creshendo both got rides here and Phyl planned on taking the three home with her. Alas, Creshendo broke a toe during transport, so she's going to remain here for several weeks to recuperate.

But ack, I don't want to steal Phyllis' thunder from her blog - so I'll quit here.

A few pics from this weekend:



Serena and Sophia



Friday, May 05, 2006

Pastures, irrigation, and friends

This year we HAVE to do something to restore our horse pastures. The first year we'd had a lot of rain (everytime we had to move something somewhere it was raining!). And of course we didn't have that many horses. Last year we got more horses, and less rain, and it was looking pretty bad. And this year we've gotten almost no precipitation. The only snow we got was the week leading up to the kennel grand opening, of course.

Last year we didn't have a way to irrigate the pastures since the previous owner had torn up those pipes and didn't replace them. So we had to put in a new headgate to the irrigation ditch and put a pipe under the driveway. We managed to get that finished just in time to use our 3 days of water that was our share for the year. Actually, our ditch hadn't had any water to share in the previous few years, so even 3 days was a lot better than nothing.

But not enough. That and the fact that the pasture isn't contoured well for flood irrigation we had a lot of water where we didn't want it and none in many spots too.

And so I have to introduce Len, or Leonard depending on with whom you are speaking. Len's quite the guy, we've learned so much from him already. He first showed up one weekend when Ginger was again teaching a horse lesson and Dave and I were working on... who knows what. He drove up and introduced himself as a friend of our neighbor Tom's. He had some horse hay and wondered if we were in the market. As it was we weren't right at that time, but we said we'd come look at it. We ended up purchasing 1200 bales from him and stored it tarped on his property a few miles away from our place. We only went and picked up the last of our lot the weekend before last - when we moved a whopping 434 bales in 1.25 days.

Len's been farming in the area forever aparently. Dave says he drives around with him and Len will say - oh yeah, I used to own that land and farmed.... hay, garlic and a whole bunch of of other crops. He's at the point now of slowly shutting down. He'd actually sold the property where our hay was a few years ago, but then ended up leasing it back when the new owners decided they weren't interested in haying it.

Anyways, we asked Len if he had any advice for us regarding the pastures. Whoo boy, does he ever. We're doing everything wrong. Well, not really, but we've got a lot to do. We knew we'd have to get more pipe to distribute water better, get more water - meaning lease some through Tom who has connections that we do, fertilize, reseed and separate the horses off of the seeded portion. And that doesn't count putting in a valve into Tom's irrigation line that goes under our driveway at another spot so that we can get water to the hillside around the arena.

But Len said he'd help us which I'm sure will be invaluable. Not to mention he's got equipment up the ying yang. The auger we've been using to put in these darn fence posts - belongs to Len. The tractor and t-post pusher we used this past weekend - belong to Len. The spreader Dave used to spread our compost - belongs to Len. The tractor he used to pull the spreader - belongs to Tom. The flatbed pickup truck we used to move hay - belongs to Tom. The sprayer we used last fall to spray the horse pasture for weeds belongs to Len, or Tom -- I'm not quite clear on that one.

Actually, that's a bit of a funny story that I still haven't figured out. Len knew that we needed to borrow a spreader at some point. In him talking to Dave and Ginger about how to save our pasture, he suggested we should be spreading our compost right away, before we irrigated and before seeding. So he just up and says - "Tell you what. I need to do a job over at my son's place with a tractor. I'll take your small tractor over there, and will bring you my tractor and spreader. That way you can pull the spreader with Tom's tractor, load it with mine (which has a way bigger bucket than our tractor does), and I'll be done with your tractor in a few days." I'm not sure why he opted to trade tractors with us, but it sure helped us out.

Such is the way with these guys - no one can own all the equipment needed to do everything. You NEED friends so you can borrow stuff. We're hoping Tom will be over with his tree-spade tractor in the next week so we can plant our live Xmas tree in the dog yard. Oh, and I guess latest news is that Len may have a couple of spruce trees to give us so we may have 3 to plant instead of 1? Dunno, I often can't keep up.

Meanwhile, we're very much feeling the moochers. We don't have much of anything these guys need to borrow. Tom and Theresa say we make up for it just being great neighbors (as opposed to guy we purchased the property from). As for Len - well, he's got a 9 year old granddaughter whose just as horse crazy as they come. So she's going to come out for a week or two of summer camp. We gotta make the best of what we have to offer.


Hey hey - quick update before I post. My sister Phyllis and Mike came to town this week to attend the big Alpaca show in Denver, which I'm sure will generate some posts in and of itself. But more importantly -- they brought rain with them! We've been having on and off drizzle for 2 days now. A Very Welcome Change, indeed.

In addition to the Alpaca show, this week is our regional meeting for the American Boarding Kennel Association. So Dave and Ginger are splitting days to attend. Sounds like Ginger had an interesting day yesterday. As did David who got to run the whole ranch for a whole day on his own. Hee.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

There are SOME perks

Last Sunday night, after our normal very long weekend days, we went out to dinner. On the way Ginger asked if our "normal feet" hurt after our day on our feet. She's been having foot troubles, so pretty much expects hers to hurt after a long day, but yes - all three of us were pretty much hobbling into the restaurant. (An aside to those who've inquired, yes, Ginger has been pleased with her orthodics as they've seemed to have made a big impact on her foot pain)

Coming home, we had a kennel full of dogs who needed to be let out one last time before lights out. Somehow without realizing it we ended up with 9 boarders this weekend! They totally snuck up on us and I had no idea Friday when I came home we'd have so many. 2 went home on Sunday, so we still had 7 for the night.

We all went out to get them tucked in. Of course none of the dogs wanted to go to bed right away, and we were feeling indulgent so it ended up being this big play session. We'd had them out during the day but on the weekends since we're working they don't get nearly the play time that they do during the week when we're having daycare. So we felt a little guilty about that too. So after doing duties out side, they all came back in for a big group romp.

They are histerical. Kenai the Chesapeake Retreiver latched onto the deflated soccer ball and ran all over shaking it, then stood in the midst of everything else trying to destroy it. Ally, who I've previously listed as a Vizla because her owners say she is - but which we are very much doubting now - is a squiggly butt. She just can't keep her rear end still. She's got this big (14") pink stuffed bunny that is supposed to stay in her kennel, but everytime we go to get her out she's got that thing and is ready to bring it out with her.


Ally's house mates, Mac and Maggie are both little wirey Jack Russel terriers. Mac (a.k.a. Macaroon cause he's small and white and his hair sticks out every which way) is just can't sit still. He jumps straight up in the air when ever he's excited - particularly when you're outside his kennel and he's inside. And he can get about 3 feet up. He is ALL OVER the place. Running for the ball, then chasing another dog, then showing off another toy he'd managed to get, etc. One ball of energy he is. Or maybe three. Maggie is the rescue from Katrina. She's very cute, but very shy. So far only Ginger can approach her in an open space. We figure she is scared of men because though Dave's spent a number of days with her so far she still won't come close. Last weekend when we had to bring the dogs in without Ginger's help, it took us nearly 30 minutes to get her to follow us inside. Anyways, she took a liking to the bones we have in the play room and I noticed several times she acquiesced to accepting them from Dave when he offered them to her.

You guessed it - Mac

Sam is a benji dog. Sorry, didn't look up his breed. But long blond hair, knee height. He's very playful and loves to wrestle with Sammy, the boarder collie. The amazing thing about Sam is his teeth are so very visible. When he plays he really retracts his lips and showes all his teeth. What with all that long hair, though, you end up seeing just hair and teeth. Very strange. But he's loveable.


Sammy. Sigh. Boarder Collie energy. Boarder Collie lack of patience. Nice dog. Noisy in his kennel and destroyed a dog bed. He'll be happy to see full daycare back in swing.

Kenai and Sammy

Which brings me to McFudge. So cute! He doesn't interact with the other dogs much. He's fine with sniffing noses, etc, but just isn't that interested in playing with them. So he kinda just wanders through the group saying - here I am. Out in the big yard he doesn't usually go down into the grass when the rest of the troupe does. Not sure if he can't keep up, or if he just isn't interested. So while Dave and I were working on the dog fence he stayed up with us while Ginger took the rest down to keep them out of our way. But McFudge doesn't just stay with us - he stays UNDER us. Usually right at our feet, just content to sit and watch ... whatever. A few times we had to move him else he might be in danger of falling tools etc. The one time he did go down into the big yard he nearly totally disappeared in the alfalfa so we couldn't see him! So, just as well he prefers to stay up at the top. Inside he also discovered the bones and decided they were pretty dandy. So he, Maggie and a few others kept trading off on the two bones we have. Each one getting so excited when they got the bone! McFudge would pick it up and strut around a bit then retire on the floor behind Dave, who was lying down at one edge of the group, to naw on it in bliss.

McFudge and Maggie

So, that was a pretty cool way to end the weekend. Though it often seems like it, I guess we can't say the kennel is ALL rigorous work.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Uninvited guests

I know I've mentioned before about our neighbors cows who regularly get out and come visiting. It wouldn't be such an issue, if they didn't leave cow pies all over the place and get into our hay and destroy our hay piles. Oh, and occasionally come into the barn and hang out. Really, beyond that we don't mind at all.

So once or more a week someone has to grab the pitchfork and drive them home. Of course just pushing them back over the property line isn't good enough, so we usually take them down and put them back in their pasture. Once Ginger and I were chasing the bull calf, as he was the only one who wouldn't go back in through the gate. He just kept running further down the outside of the pasture -- until he came to the loose spot in the fence and he pushed his way back inside! Well, good enough we said.

I think Wednesday last week I looked out and saw the cows up around our septic field. The grass is especially long there of course. But instead of sticking around there they kept marching past it, directly to the open gate between us and the other neighbor to the south, and they headed right on out into their hay field. They were certainly on a mission because before long they were at the south edge of the hay field up against the next neighbors property.

Dave called over to the owners house and reported the wayward cows, and shortly the daughter came over with the truck to herd them home.

Well, I guess that wasn't the end of it. Dave had to chase them home more than once on Friday alone. Thus it was when I got home that night that the task for the weekend had shifted from Dog fencing to Cow fencing. Amazingly we still had about 200 feet of property line where we haven't errected fence, and that's where the cows come through.

Through an interesting arrangement from a friend, which will have to be another entry, we had a borrowed tractor and t-post pusher for the weekend. So Dave and I went down and put in about 18 T-posts in under 2 hours. Amazing little tricks these farmers have come up with: 5 foot long tpost driver that you simply bring the bucket of the tractor down on to push into the ground.

Course, you have to have a big enough tractor to have enough force. We don't think ours would do the job. Even as it was, the last two T-posts, right next to the corner of the dog fence wouldn't even go in all the way. It was actually lifing the tractor off of it's front wheels, and that ain't no small tractor. No wonder we had a heck of a time digging the holes for those dog-fence posts!

No, not a small tractor

So anyways, got the posts up and the wire strung. But still need to put in some wood posts for a car gate and then stretch and power the hot wire. But we are looking forward to not having our bovine guests over much anymore.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Can't we keep him?

Here he is: McFudge. We're thinking we're not going to give him back.