Pasture Management

Having large animals who eat mostly grass, and not having infinite amounts of the stuff, pasture management becomes a very important issue.
Last summer, we made the decision to cross fence our pasture into 2 smaller ones. Not so small that they can’t run, play and still have good grazing. No, just needed to be able to let parts rest. Herbivores can be hard on the grass, and in no time, graze it down so much that it can’t recover.
I know, it seems silly to worry about grass. When I was in the city, my only worry about grass was if I got it cut on a weekly basis.
Now? I don’t cut my yard site.
In fact, my next big purchase (in the next couple of weeks) is going to be a scythe. I have 2 acres of “yard” which we use for garden, playing, bonfires, etc. In that are some spaces where, if I cut it, dry it and bale it, I could be putting up small amounts of hay. I’m not talking enough for winter. Oh, nope, not that much! Hay for winter for my 4 horses averages around 30-35,000 lbs…depending how cold the winter gets.

What I cold be putting up though, are small bales for the beginning of hay season…when the Hay Guy is still in the field, and it’s hard to pin him down to get him to deliver a load. If I have some small stuff on hand to hold out for a week or two, that gives us some wiggle room.
Or, a few small bales for the end of hay season, when I’m not 100% sure we’re ready to stop throwing hay down, but don’t want to open a 800lb bale.
Or, bales for chickens to enjoy and play in, come the inevitable winter doldrums…or, even hay for next years piggies…though, I’ll likely save any moldy stuff we have for them. I did that this past winter, knowing we were going to get piggies, saved (instead of burning) the 2 moldy bales we had for them to enjoy. And they are!
I also have to add…our Hay Guy rules! lol
When we get a bad bale, he replaces it, free.
Now, I know that’s how a good hay supplier should work, but trust me, they don’t all work that way.
Even better though, is that we rarely get a bad bale. I mean, bad bits in a bale can, and do happen. I just pull this out and go on feeding. But, a whole bale? Very, very rare to lose a whole bale, with this fellow.
Unlike our first hay guy.
While the bales that were good were gorgeous, and the Girls did fantastic on them, the ones that were bad were full of foxtail. Like, “burn the whole freaking bale” bad. Not such a big deal if you have cows, really, really big deal when you have horses. So, yeah, we didn’t go back to him.
When we had the chance to switch to our current Hay Guy, we jumped at it, and we were very happy that he was able to add us to his client list.

Anyways…
Here’s a few pictures to show why rotational grazing and poop picking are important parts of pasture management…yes, even in the pasture, I go out every couple of days and pick poop up and move it to the compost pile. When it gets to be too much poop to pick, we hook the chain drag to the tractor and drag the pasture.
These shots are all from the front pasture last night.

Ruby in the front pasture...

Ruby, grass hiding her hooves…

Not that long ago, they got a good solid day grazing in the front, and then we got rain and heat. Now, you can’t tell they grazed there at all. Not by looking at it.

Sable under the trees...

Sable under the trees…

Astrid found a tall grass spot...

Astrid found a tall grass spot…

Cookie, in one their favorite grazing spots...

Cookie, in one their favorite grazing spots…

And they all look fabulous.
Good pasture management means that they can graze all summer long, without me having to give them hay. That’s always going to be the goal here. Hay in the winter, pasture in the summer.
The best way to do that is to give the grass time to rest when we can, fertilize it, and let the Girls trim it. πŸ™‚
And let Mother Nature do the rest.

Lovely bum!

Lovely bum!

Opening the Front Pasture

We’ve leased our big field out for another year. As much as I wanted to finish fencing, and seed for pasture, there were a few other things that needed attention first. Instead of letting the weeds take over, we let the farmer who planted last year plant this year as well.
Yesterday, he and his family were working on getting the field seeded.
That meant they needed to take the seed truck through our pasture to get out to the big field. The tractors and pick up trucks can go through the ditch off the side road, but it was too steep for the seed truck.

In order for The Girls to be safe, we put them in the front pasture.
Oh the excitement!!
They haven’t been allowed there yet this year, so the grass is long, the dandys are blooming, and there’s new alfalfa shoots all over the place.
Horsie Heaven, I tell ya!

Hubby opened the gate, and while everyone waited until he gave them to okay, you could tell, the urge to dash through was strong. They’ve been staring, longingly, at that grass for weeks. πŸ™‚

Finally, he let them through. They got just far enough in that he could close the gate past their bums, dropped their heads and started gobbling…which is when I started taking pictures…

"I gotta eat as much as I can before Dad tries to make me leave here..." ~Ruby

“I gotta eat as much as I can before Dad tries to make me leave here…”
~Ruby

"Nom...Nom...Nom... More food, more grass, more dandelions..." ~Ruby

“Nom…Nom…Nom…
More food, more grass, more dandelions…”
~Ruby

"Ooohhhh...this is sooooo good!" ~Cookie

“Ooohhhh…this is sooooo good!”
~Cookie

"I can't get enough in my mouth!" ~Astrid

“I can’t get enough in my mouth!”
~Astrid

No words from Sable...just bliss. :)

No words from Sable…just bliss. πŸ™‚

Astrid is looking fabulous!  No surprise, she came though winter beautifully.

Astrid is looking fabulous!
No surprise, she came though winter beautifully.

While not the greatest shot of the 4 of them, this one shows how fantastic Sable is looking!

While not the greatest shot of the 4 of them, this one shows how fantastic Sable is looking!

I’m so happy to see Sable back up to weight!
It was a worrisome time, trying to figure out why she dropped weight (it was pretty darn sudden!) and how to get it back on her.
After going over, and ruling out, the usual possible suspects for weight loss, I started her on Tribute Essential K.
In just over a month, she’s picked up the weight she lost, and she’s doing much better. Near as we can figure, it was our crazy winter weather, bouncing all over the place, that contributed heavily to her weight loss. She always been a bit harder of a keeper than the other 3, but this year, winter just took it out of her. 😦
Got it under control now, and hopefully, we can keep it that way into next winter. πŸ™‚

SHS~August 16th

Today we celebrate 2 years on our Farm. At 9am, August 16th, 2013, we took possession of this place, and the first part of my lifelong Dream came true. πŸ™‚
In this past week, we have come close to putting together something Hubby has wanted for a very, very long time…at least as long as we have been together. The story is in a few of the pictures, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

Prompts this week are Starts with S, Leading Lines, Powerful, Frozen, and Daily Task.

Starts with S

If you’ve followed us here for any length of time, you can guess what around here starts with S...

Sable!

Sable!

Sable starts with S…but then, so does…

Sky!

Sky!

Sky starts with S! That was our sky this morning…looking a little like rain. We only got a small spittering of rain, nothing much.

Leading Lines

Leading LinesWhole bunch of ’em hanging by my back door…leading linesΒ (lead ropes), lunge lines, even Sable’s bridle and The Kid’s barrel reins…if it’s a rope that has to do with horses, it’s hanging there.

Powerful

Ahhh, see, now here’s where we get into the part about Hubby…

See that?

See that?

That’s an anvil.
Just like Wile E. Coyote used to have. πŸ˜‰
The two of us weren’t strong enough to get it off the truck…he needed something more powerful. That’s where Daisy came in.

And this?

And this?

That’s a brake drum from a Frieghtliner…given to Hubby by the StableMaster.

Powerful2These two things will form the foundation of Hubby’s home-built forge. He’s got some work to do, to get it set up, but I told him I want to be taking picture of him working steel in the forge before the snow falls. That’s going to be an awesome photo shoot!

Frozen

FrozenHome made naan bread. Left over from last night’s celebration/get together. It’s going to be frozen and used a personal pizza crusts.

Daily Task

Just one of my daily tasks where The Girls are concerned…

Beet pulp buckets.

Beet pulp buckets.

Soaking their beet pulp before feeding. It’s a daily thing, so they can get the ground flax in them. Makes for shiny coats, healthy skin and hooves, and happy horses.
Plus, there’s the bonus of me rubbing my Cookie’s ears while she eats. We both like that. πŸ™‚
A few times I’ve been sick enough that Hubby has taken over the beet pulp feeding and I always tell him “Don’t forget to rub the black one’s ears while she eats!”
She says he doesn’t do it right. Haha!

Sharing with Scavenger Hunt Sunday hosted by Ashley Sisk.

M is for Mowing

We have our 2 year Farm anniversary coming up this weekend.
August 16th makes 2 years for us here at Midnight Calico Farm.
It’s been a bumpy, lumpy, amazingly awesome, quietly heartbreaking, wouldn’t-change-it-for-the-world ride.
And we’re going to celebrate!
We have friends and family coming out for a bonfire/potluck/grand old time. That means we actually had to cut the grass. Now, when we cut the grass, we do it with the tractor and 6 ft mower…

Mower...it's there, in the grass. Really, it is!

Mower…it’s there, in the grass. Really, it is!

Hubby, Daisy(the tractor) and the mower, working on taking that grass down.

Hubby, Daisy(the tractor) and the mower, working on taking that grass down.

It wasn’t as long this time, or I’d be turning and stacking it for hay. I did that last summer, when we had grass to my hip. Dried it and stacked it in a loose hay stack. Let me tell you, it was a life saver for the first 2 weeks we needed hay. We hadn’t bought our trailer yet, our Hay Guy was still busy in the fields, and my Girls were hungry…hell they were bordering on hangry!
So, between the 800lbs or so we put up and the beet pulp I started them on, we made it through until our Hay Guy could get us a load on our (new to us) trailer.

Of course, with Hubby pulling out Daisy and the mower, we have to make sure the Marauding Horde is safe, so Kid and I went on a kitten wrangling spree.

9 kittens shoved into Daphne's kennel.

9 kittens shoved into Daphne’s kennel.

Unfortunately, they’re at the age where when they get scared they don’t always run. Having a little body hunker down when the mower is out is a very bad thing. So 9 little bodies had to go into the kennel, while Mama Cat was calling at the door, worried we were doing something bad to her babies. She was very happy to get them back once the tractor was put away. πŸ™‚

And then, there’s myΒ  riding lawnmowers…

Ooooh, the excitement!! Daddy opened the gate to the front pasture!

Ooooh, the excitement!! Daddy opened the gate to the front pasture!

"Oh boy, Mom! This is awesome!"

“Oh boy, Mom! This is awesome!”

"Nom, nom, nom...can't talk...eating..."

“Nom, nom, nom…can’t talk…eating…”

Now that we have the gate in, and I’ve been working on gate skills with them, by next spring, I do believe our riding lawn mowers will be able to cut the grass for us. After I put up some hay, of course! πŸ˜‰

M is for Mower, both tractor powered and equine.

Sharing with Jenny Matlock’s Alphabe-Thursday.

X is for e-X-citement

Yes, I know, I’m stretching it. πŸ˜›
Honestly,Β  I had wanted to go find a xylophone for Sable to play, but…um, that just didn’t happen. I had to get creative with an “x” word then.

The big e-X-citement around here is the installation of the new garden boxes/bed.
Last year, on July 1st, my garden flooded out. We had this insane dump of rain, the pasture was barely visible, the Girls were almost knee deep in water, and my garden (which was already 75% planted) was gone under water.
This year, we resolved to move the garden and build raised beds. Thankfully, Hubby’s work offers up scrap wood for the workers to take home on a rotating basis. He’s brought home much scrap wood! Enough to, with the help of a few pieces in the wood pile that was already here, build 9 3×3 foot beds, plus our main 40×24 foot area.

Whew, it’s been a lot of work getting them done, and our e-X-citement has been installing them.

Several of the raised 3x3 footers...

Several of the raised 3×3 footers…

A few more of them...

A few more of them…

These are placed in between the apple and pear trees. I figure there’s easily enough space in between for beds. I mean, it’s going to be a while before we see fruit of them anyways, why have dead space? Can’t let the horses graze there, they’d just destroy the trees, but, I can grow food there. And the more food I can grow (and put up for the winter), the better.

Augering holes...

Augering holes…

In the “W” post, I showed you one side of the main bed…here’s Hubby using the tractor to dig the holes for the posts. No way are we going to dig them by hand! And really, we have this tool at our disposal, so why not use it?
Once we have the bed in place, I’ll share some pictures of that. πŸ™‚

Of course, with all this going on, it’s bound to attract the attention of the animals. The e-X-citement is just too much for them to resist…

Sable ExcitementSable had to come see what all the noise was about…and then she was disappointed she couldn’t reach the tractor. lol! She has this love affair going on with it…well, she really just wants to chew the paint off. Goober!

Ruby ExcitementThis was all so exciting to Ruby that she had to stop and poop. Hahahaha!!

Sunset CookieCookie was coming over to get a little shedding done…I had the shedding blade in hand to scrape away at who ever wanted it done. Surprisingly (and to my e-X-citement!) Cookie was more than happy to let me get rid of some more of her winter coat.

Astrid No ExcitementAstrid just wanted to eat the green bits coming up.

Ninja DogDaphne had the fun and e-X-citement of being sprayed with the hose, and playing Ninja Dog. That’s where she barks and flips and scrambles out of the way of the water jet…it’s a game she loves to play.

And finally, with the noise and e-X-citement of the tractor making holes, my MaxCat decided that he needed to protect me from the scary, noisy thing.

Lying on my foot.

Lying on my foot.

That’s my Max, he guards me from danger and scary things every chance he gets. πŸ˜‰

X is for e-X-citement.

Sharing with Jenny Matlock’s Alphabe-Thursday.

Scavenger Hunt Sunday~The Almost All Sable Edition

We have had some lovely weather…if you ignore the bits of freezing rain. And we have. We’re just glad to not be under tons of snow, not dealing with freezing winds, not having to dig everything out all the time. Yeah, we’re enjoying the above seasonal temps!

This week’s pictures for the prompts were taken during the weekly ritual of “Clean the shelter and all the poop around the feeder”. Thankfully, Hubby can still get into the pasture with tractor, so he cleans up the poo with the tractor bucket. Once he can’t get there, I’ll be doing it by hand, like last year. Booo!

On to this week’s pictures for Shiny, Underneath, Decorations, Fresh, and Colorful…

Shiny

Sable and The Kid

Sable and The Kid

Ms Sable got shiny new bell boots. Here, The Kid is fitting them on her, to be sure they’re the right size. The Kid bought them for Sable, because when being lunged, Sable often kicks the backs of her front hooves. That has led to cuts, and while Sable is a fabulous patient when injured (she even let me pull a bloated tick off her teat without flinching!!), we all would much rather avoid injuries. πŸ˜‰ So, bell boots. Shiny, pretty, pink ones. Of course!

Underneath

Ever wonder what’s underneath a horse? Wonder no more!!

Sable Fell DownSable is more than happy to show you what her “underneath” looks like! πŸ˜€

Decorations

DecorationsMs Sable checks out her new hoof decorations. After a good long sniff, and a couple of licks, she decided they were fine.

Fresh

Fresh WaterMs Sable enjoying a drink of fresh, clean water from the yard hydrant. She had to show me how much she enjoyed that fresh water too…Silly girl!

Colorful

I thought using a shot of Sable and her bell boots again for this prompt might be pushing it, so instead I give you…

ColorfulOur colorful little girl, Mip, snuggling in The Kid’s colorful winter parka.

Sharing with Scavenger Hunt Sunday hosted by Ashley Sisk.

Farm Gate

We have too much grass. Not grass for The Girls, but lawn. Just too much. I know people like to have the great, pretty lawns, but not us. We didn’t move out here to cut several acres worth of grass weekly. Nope. We got better things to do with our time. πŸ˜‰

Hubby and I discussed it, and the plan is to expand the garden to huge proportions next year-and move it away from where it was. That corner will be the chicken yard. I’m sure I mentioned that before…

The other thing we want to be able to do, is bring The Girls into the actual yard site to munch the grass. After all, they are walking lawn mowers. Why are we paying for gas to cut grass, when they can do it for us?

Since our Girls are young/learning, we aren’t comfortable bringing them out of the pasture without having a gate at the end of the driveway. Plus, there is the fact that my big, special Dork is afraid of gates, so even if I can get her to walk out of one to come into the yard site, I don’t know how she’ll handle not having the security of one at the end of the driveway. If we have a solid gate at the end, she can’t make a break for it off the property. Not that I think she’d purposely try to leave, but 1200lbs of scared stupid will do stupid things.

Yesterday, we tested out the 3pth auger and set a few posts, in order to build a gate.

IT WAS AWESOME!!!

Yeah. No joke. We set 5 posts in under 2 hours. Awe. Some.

Lining up the auger for the first hole...

Lining up the auger for the first hole…

Look at that! That's a 3 ft deep hole!

Look at that! That’s a 3 ft deep hole!

First post placed in the hole.

First post placed in the hole.

We still had to use the manual post pounder to drive the post down another 8 inches or so. Then we back filled around the post…and Bob’s yer Unkle…we had a post set. πŸ™‚

Oh, look! There's 2 done.

Oh, look! There’s 2 done.

This side of the driveway needs 1 more post, but we want to buy a round pen gate to put between the posts. Yes, we’ll have a 16ft gate across the driveway, but I don’t want to have to open the big gate to let The Kid out for the school bus. So we’ll install a 4ft man gate as well.

Pfft. Let us know when you're done, so we can eat that grass too!

Pfft. Let us know when you’re done, so we can eat that grass too!

These guys didn’t care about the noise of the tractor and auger. They just munched away. The only time we heard them was when Sable was at the back fence, whinnying for the hay Hubby cut from our waist-high grass. Moocher!

Definitely worth the price we paid for it!

Definitely worth the price we paid for it!

Only 695 more posts to install.
I’m tired already. LOL!