Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Who Said Horses Weren’t Expensive?

I have a confession.  It was not that many years ago that I was afraid of horses.  I’m talking you-would-not-find-me-on-the same-side-of-a-fence-with-a-horse frightened.  Now as an animal lover, I also thought they were beautiful, but just never could address my fear to get near them.  Because quite simply – they are BIG animals!

However, for years my dad has had a sweet quarter horse named Buddy that he  boarded.  And while he paid for boarding and vet bills, he used to say, “Oh, you’ll spend more on your dog to get shots than a horse.” And since I had no point of reference, I believed him.  I’ve also come to learn this was his way to gently poke at my mom for the vet bills for their dogs.  But let me just say, me oh my  have the last five years been an eye opener for me.

In 2008, enter Ranger.  A sweet little yearling that stole my heart.  The thought crept into my brain, “I can do this.”  So we adopted Ranger from the BLM, and our adventure began.  If you are a total newbie like me, you’re in for a royal shocker.  While I loved my little guy, the accessories that he needed were awe inspiring.  Here are a couple of things I learned about my horse and his accessories:

  • A Horse Trailer – You can’t put the horse in the backseat of your car.
  • Hay and Feed – If you are in Texas, don’t count on growing it.  If drought comes, you might as well feed dollar bills to your horses.
  • Halters – Headstalls, rope halters, bits.  Why have one of each when you can have three of each?
  • Pedicures – Not just for you anymore.  Those little horsey hooves need pampering too. Your farrier will be your new best friend, and prepare yourself and your checkbook to see him every six to eight weeks.
  • Brushes – There are SO many kinds.  We humans have nothing on horses in this department.
  • Muck Rakes – Let’s just say, what goes in must come out, and you’ve gotta have a way to clean it all up.
  • Buckets – For feed, for water, and just for carrying stuff.  Trust me, the more the merrier in this department
  • Vet – Oh how I adore my vet.  And I’m willing to pay the fee to have him come to me so that I can avoid the rounding up, loading up, hauling, unloading, reloading, hauling home routine.  Not to mention the times he has to make a trip out for an ailing equine (and just so you know, it will be night time, the weekend, or a holiday because that’s just how they roll).
  • Fences – Building or repairing, there is always one on the to-do list.
  • Stalls – Every horse needs a wind break from north winds, or a place to get out of the rain (even if they don’t choose to).
  • Random Meds – You must have a medicine cabinet for your horse just in case for cuts, scrapes, aches.  Horses are people too!
Photo - 4 Rope Halters for Horses
Just a sampling of our rope halter collection. Yes they are color coordinated, and we have a color for each horse. Is there any other way?

Oh, and around our place just multiply this by four.  Because, like halters why have just one?  All of this makes me scratch my head and say, “Really Dad, not expensive?”

Needless to say, this is one of those instances in life when I think I am perfectly within my rights to tell my dad he was very, very, very wrong.  However, I can also say father knows best.  Horses have changed my life. Taught me so much about myself, and I can’t imagine looking out into the farm’s pastures and not seeing my big, loveable guys and gal.

So if your heart is leading you to the horse, just make sure you know your way to the bank.

Farmtastic Tips

A Spoonful of Sugar

Farmgirl life is relatively new for me, which means I have lots to learn and that the learning is often amusing, at least after you’ve cleaned off the horse snot, the dirt, and the sweat. For other new farmgirls (and guys), I thought I’d share some tips that are working around Wild Horse Valley.

When it comes to getting medicine in a horse, a girl needs an ace in her pocket. Let me tell you that there is no amount of reasoning, cajoling, coaxing, or sweet talking that will convince a thousand-pound horse to take his meds.  And while some folks may like to cowboy it, horses are large animals with strong powerful heads and necks, so that is just not an option for this farmgirl. Not to mention, it’s just not my style.

Like medicine for children, horse meds come flavored, with the most popular being apple.  Also like medicine for children, the flavor does not help the medicine go down. (Mommy friends, you know what I mean – cherry does not equal ice cream.) Trust me, no one wants to be covered in horse meds sneezed and snorted all over your favorite barn t-shirt.

But as I recall from one of my childhood favorites, a spoonful of sugar does indeed make the medicine go down. Enter molasses!  I keep a a stash of molasses on hand in the barn for those times when it does a horse good. Also on hand in the barn is a jar of bute powder, think Children’s Tylenol for horses.

Photo - Jar of Grandma's Molasses
Molasses – a farmgirl’s best friend when you need to get meds into your horse!

We’ve got an older mare, Sweet Suzy Q, who occasionally needs some bute for an aching joint or minor inflamation. And although it is apple flavored like all good horse meds, there is no convincing her to take it, that is until you mix it with a spoonful of molasses and a serving of her feed.  All of sudden the dreaded medicine becomes the best treat ever.

Learning how to work with my horses for their good, my safety, and our combined happiness is how I get that cowgirl up feeling.  For my next farmtastic tip … it is absolutely critical to label the horse thermometer.  Enough said!

Farmtastic Gardening

Everything’s Coming Up … Dishes?

For those that know me personally, I’m a grand fan of shabby chic, or as I sometimes call it farmgirl chic.  If it’s chipped, dented, has faded paint, a great floral pattern, or just some lovely old thing, I am simply smitten.  I fell in love with this style early on in life for the romance of it, and later in life for the shear practicality of it (read adorable on a budget).

As you can probably guess, I also love a good garage sale, tag sale, or antiques store to rummage through.  And it’s on these many journeys that I am always drawn to the dishes.  Cowboy will moan, “You really need another dish?  You realize there are just two of us.” Luckily for me, the moaning is followed by the handing out of cash.

So what’s one to do with a fabulous dish?  Well there is the obvious of adding it to the ever-growing stash in the cabinet, or if it’s extra special finding a spot for it on the wall.  (NOTE: Arrangements of plates make great wall art.)  But what about taking the dishes to the garden?  Yes, I said garden.  Here are some great tips for using old dishes outside:

  1. Use them as a border – I dig small trenches, bury the plates halfway deep, and voila instant unique garden border.
  2. Add them to pots – I am a fan of using old galvanized buckets for pots.  I often tuck a small plate in next to the plant to spruce it up.
  3. Wire them to a fence – I am desperately trying to grow a rose bush over one of my fences right now.  Plates add some immediate color while I’m patiently (read not so much) waiting for the plants to bloom.

The great thing is they are cheap (you can easily pick them up for under a dollar a piece), you can mix and match, they are unique to your collection, and they are plenty durable for the outside.

Happy planting and plating!

Critter Stories · Farmtastic Stories

Cat TV

We’ve got animals galore here at the farm.  There are those that are our pets, and those that are volunteer farm critters like deer, jack rabbits, and birds.  And whether you are a pet or a volunteer at the farm, we try to keep you happy.  (I’m convinced that the animals are spreading the word that our little farm is the best place to hang out – there’s good grub, fresh water, and the people love you!)

One of our favorite volunteers is the hummingbird.  And it’s suffice to say that over the last couple of years we have become a hummingbird destination, think Club Med for those little guys.  They start arriving in late March and hang with us all the way into October.

We go through bags and bags of sugar as we make hummingbird nectar, or as Cowboy calls it “hummer juice,” by the gallon.  Sometimes those little buggers will go through eight cups a day. And you know how small a hummingbird is, right?

We’ve learned that dawn and dusk are their favorite times to flock to the feeders, and since we love a good show, we’ve hung the feeders in front of our living room windows. It’s relaxing to just sit on the sofa with a glass of tea and watch the myriad of hummingbirds come and go.  We’ve got all kinds – some are green, some have purple necks, and some have red necks.  Some are rounder and a little frazzled, and since I identify with that description myself, those little guys are my favorites.

But if you’ve been following my posts, you know that we have cats galore as well, some might even say a cat-splosion has occurred at the farm.  And because I am a neurotic pet owner, I have a fair amount of them inside, for example Shadow and her three boys (Chip, Grizzly, and Bear).  When Cowboy and I put the hummingbird feeders up, it was primarily for our enjoyment, but what we failed to realize is that we essentially created the farm TV network for cats.

Cat Photo - Shadow, Chip, Grizzly and Bear
Cat TV – Shadow and crew are tuned into the hummingbird show.

So every evening you can see the cats gather in the window, chirp and coo, stalk and perch as they watch the hummingbirds. Sometimes it’s like they are watching a well coordinated tennis match as heads bob to and fro.  And the occasional sassy hummingbird will hover just outside the window at eye level with their cat audience as if to say, “Look at me. Aren’t I adorable?  Wouldn’t I make  the most delicious snack?”

So maybe that means we created the Food Network for cats?