Summer on the Farm

In case anyone wonders why I’ve posted so little, the answer is simple: It’s SUMMER.

The ducklings arrived on June 10. I’ve already had to enlarge the enclosure in the garage. Since their growth rate is prodigious, I had to refill the feeder every couple of hours because there just isn’t room for a larger feeder. Changing bedding takes time. So does changing out the waterer and cutting greens from the garden for them. (At least my bolting spinach isn’t going to waste this year.)

We are also working on the main duck pen. It’s now about 95% complete. A few more trim pieces and it’ll be ready. We have a week before the ducklings will be ready for outdoor living. The heat lamp will need to be moved and adjusted for the house inside the pen. But, with luck, that won’t take too long.

I’ve set all the flagstone around the perimeter of the duck house. That took two days right there. Now I have to find time to pick up and store the extra rock that’s strewn around the site.

In addition to this, of course, I water and weed my vegetables and try to at least pick at some of the weeds in the wildflowers and native grasses. At least I got most of the thistle out of the rock walkway. Most. The Virginia creeper is threatening to take over the junipers on the north walkway. I carried an armload of that out this morning. Perhaps two or three full cartloads remain to be removed. But, hey, it doesn’t look like a desert around here at all.

That, of course, is because we irrigate. We flooded the east field, the one around the house on the 7th. We still have free river water for irrigation, so we’re now irrigating the upper field on the west. That’ll take two days.

With the irrigation and the two inches of spring rain, the pastures are several feet high. The horses are growing fat and now require even more monitoring so they don’t founder. I let them out for two hours and bring them in, once in the morning and once in the evening. Of course, this doesn’t include bringing in the TB gelding after an hour because he’s become so cresty I consider him pre-founder.

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s pretty simple. Like most Americans, horses overeat. Spring grass is like ice cream to them. The sugar content of grass rises during the day. As with people, getting fat brings on insulin resistance. Worst case scenario, your horse develops inflammation in his feet so severe the bones rotate in the hooves and he has to be destroyed.

Think Barbaro. The fractures healed, but standing around induced inflammation–founder–and led to his death. Think Secretariat. Like most breeding stallions, he got fat. Then he foundered. Then he too died from an injection. There is no cure for severe founder, and the condition is extremely painful.

Why don’t wild horses founder? Easy. They don’t have irrigated pastures. They eat then walk miles to find the next patch of grass. But we have only 20 acres of so-so ground, which might without irrigation, feed one horse in our semi-arid climate. So I spend my summer shuffling horses in and out.

Once they come in to their nearly bare playpen, they spend the afternoon trying to reach the grass over the fence. Top rails fall. Aging posts snap. Late afternoon becomes a time for fence repair. Yesterday, we gave up and bought another solar fence charger. Later today we will begin electrifying the turnout.

We are working twelve hour days. I’m looking forward to going to the college this afternoon for a short session of teaching in the writing lab. This gives me a chance to sit down.

Cassandra

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