Friday, September 8, 2017

Using tools

Man is a tool-using Animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.
―Thomas Carlyle

If the above quote is true and using tools is an integral part of being human, I guess I am some type of alien life form because I am pretty much hopeless at using them.
The interesting part of this is that my husband has a Snap on truck (he sells tools for a living) and I pretty much have access to any type of tool you could imagine for any type of farm project. That being said I have always been the type of person that hangs pictures by hammering screws into the wall with the heel of my shoe.

A giant (fake) set of sidecutters
Yesterday's project was putting up a screw eye to hang hay nets in my horse paddock. In my typical fashion I tried just slamming it into the wall, and then hammering it in with a rock...unsurprisingly both of these things were unsuccessful. 

Tools on the Snap on truck
John said the problem was that I had to pre-drill a hole for the screw eye and handed me a fancy new type of drill off the Snap on truck. I set off with drill and screw eye in hand and tried to drill the hole. This was a really expensive drill with all the latest in drill technology (which is apparently a thing). The drill would not make a dent in the wood, so I tried pushing harder on it which did not help. I tried cursing at it as well which was equally unhelpful. Eventually I gave up and walked back down the hill, handed the drill back to John and exclaimed "this drill is terrible, it can't drill through anything!"

John's response: that's probably because you have it in reverse. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Frankie: rebel without a cause

Frankie is my beautiful, majestic, perfectly mannered bird dog.  Frankie is a two year old bird dog and living with him during the off season is like living with the Tasmanian devil.

Frankie loves birds and hunting more than anything else and the only thing that seems to use up his boundless energy is bird hunting. Unfortunately for Frankie (and me) pheasant season in Pennsylvania does not start for another month or so and Frankie has had plenty of down time to search for an outlet for his pent-up bird energy. 

One of his favorite things to do now is climb on things including but not limited to: the furniture, windowsills, and tables. He also loves to steal socks and napkins. We work on some training exercises but he mostly uses this as a chance to do the exact opposite of what I tell him.
Frankie's response to "no dogs on the couch"...this is the photo that inspired this post

He loves to test out clean sheets
I try to give him alternative activities while we wait for hunting season such as fetch and going for walks...but this only tires him out for a very short time.

He is excellent at fetch...until he sees a bird fly over head

Looking for birds instead of posing on a walk

Send help! Or birds!

Preferably birds

Friday, August 25, 2017

It's a jungle out there-a weekend in Aiken

Since it had been a few months since John went to Aiken to mow we figured it was probably definitely time to head down there again. We had a limited timeline in which to do this because of work so it was a very quick trip.
We left on Sunday morning with the weed whacker and sprayer stuffed in the back of my car. After a long and boring but thankfully uneventful drive we arrived at our property around 6 pm. I didn't get any pictures of the jungle situation but as it turns out grass grows way better and faster in SC than it does in you know there is a lot of grass when you have to mow your gravel driveway. 
As is typical with farm life we had "technical difficulties" with the equipment. The clutch somehow went out of the tractor while it was sitting unused in the covered barn so John had to rely on straight shifting to mow, but somehow he got it done. I am so thankful he has the skills he does! I really hope we can find someone in Aiken who can replace the clutch. Thanks to John's mowing earlier in the year the weeds were mostly around the fence lines and the pastures themselves looked pretty good with lots of grass, if only I could get the grass to grow like that at home! 
So much grass! This type of grass is called coastal bermuda-we don't have it at all in PA
After the mowing was done we headed to our friend's house that they so generously let us use for the weekend (thank you Mike and Tracy!!) and even got a last minute reservation for food and drinks at the Wilcox. After dinner we walked around town and I laid on the polo field and looked at the stars. 
The roads in Aiken's horse district are packed dirt-perfect for walking and riding
We left on Monday morning but I was set on seeing some horses on the training track so I ended up getting up way too early (it was still dark) and we headed to get coffee and made it back to the track as the sun was just coming up. We did get to see a few young horses working on the track but the highlight was watching the sun come up through the morning mist.
This live oak tree is a track legend and the track logo...they say that a ghost horse pops out and makes the young horses run faster

Sunrise over the Aiken training track
This was my first trip to Aiken in the summer, and it was just as beautiful as it was in Winter and Spring. I can't wait to experience more seasons in Aiken, there is so much to see and do!

**There was also apparently an eclipse during all this which we mostly missed because we were driving home**

Friday, August 11, 2017


It took me long enough to figure out what the heck the #ROOTD hashtag meant (riding outfit of the day). I don't really ride often enough to do these but I certainly do have some pretty awesome FARM outfits of the day so without further ado, the #FOOTD post:

1. Morning chores
I do morning chores right before work so I have no pictorial evidence of this outfit, because lets be honest I was running late. Usually for morning chores I am wearing some version of my company polo shirt (color options: navy, navy, or faded navy) khakis that probably (definitely) have manure stains on them and my muck boots. After feeding horses this outfit also involves additional mud/hay.

2. Afternoon chores
Afternoon chores usually involve some type of weedwhacking/mowing/habitat destruction so I need to outfit myself accordingly. This often means jeans that have more holes than jeans (or cargo shorts to work on my awesome tan lines), a T-shirt in some shade of construction worker neon (why do I have so many of is unclear), and safety glasses. I also wear my muck boots. Always the muck boots...
If I am going swimming right after afternoon chores I may also wear my bathing suit under this mess. I probably left my sandals in the house and will be wearing my muck boots over by the pool. The tan lines from this are amazing.

3. Actually riding
I own some real riding pants and hate most of them. American Eagle jeggings seem to be an ok substitute. I also wear my Ariat half chaps and paddock boots that I got at a mega-clearance sale like 7 years ago...I think I probably still own tall boots but I forget where they are and I hated those too. The helmet is the super hot non-ventilated Charles Owen (ie the cheapest one) and this striped shirt/jacket is from Joules...I think my parents got it for my when I was in highschool.
I do have some sweet ear bonnets for the horses though, so there's that. 

4. That one time I went to a show 
I went to a local show one time.
This was the last time I wore those damn tall boots. Also some random pair of tan breeches in super-gross ribbed polyester that I dug out of the bottom of one of my drawers. This is a coat from my foxhunting days (very wool, very hot). I'm probably definitely not wearing a long sleeved shirt under it. I can't tie a stock ties so I'm wearing a pre-tied one which idk if that's even a thing for this type of show. The judges probably didn't notice because they were too distracted by my horses' shaved off mane (which I did because I didn't want to braid).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My favorite love story

I was 23 when I met John for the first time, it was spring. I saw him from a distance at a carriage drive. I admired his poise and how comfortable he seemed with horses and people. I think we talked a little and parted ways. That January I found out from the person I worked for that John wanted to ask me something, John had cows at the time and I was working on my degree in dairy science, I figured he had a question about cows.

I made a bet with my employer, if John asked me out I would ride his horses for free that week. I lost the bet and rode for free.
We went on our first date, I was so nervous I stared at the floor and played with the ice in my drink the whole time.
After spending almost a year together, I moved to Tennessee and we drove back and forth every month to see each other.
He took me to the Biltmore estate and got down on one knee to ask me "a question about cows" "would I marry him" and I said yes.
 John and I moved to the most beautiful farm where we worked off our rent, he bought me a horse and we rode in the mountains. He worked as a mechanic and I finished my master's degree and found a job in Pennsylvania.

John bought a farm in York county, PA with a stone house and we moved back north. He reclaimed a horse farm out of 11 acres of overgrowth that hadn't seen animals in over 20 years essentially by himself.

John started and continues to grow his own business near our home. We still go riding on the weekends.
We stand on the porch of our house and watch the fireflies on summer nights. And I think to myself how lucky I am that my favorite love story is my own.

Friday, July 14, 2017

2017: A Pool Odyssey

We have a pool again. I mean, we had one before but it hasn't been open in three years, here's the deal:
Pool with cover...old picture, most of these trees are gone
The pool came with our house and was open when we moved in three years ago, I had no clue how to deal with it and there was a leak in a pipe underground so it would not hold water when the pump was running. The filter also clogged constantly and never worked right (I thought this was my wasn't more on that later). After that first summer of struggling with it we decided not to open the pool again. Then John and I met Terry who knows how to fix pretty much anything...including pools. So begins the pool odyssey.
Almost ready to use
We assumed the only thing wrong with the pool was the pipe broken underground, so John and Terry dug up all the pipes, found the broken one and replaced it...this was not the only thing wrong with the pool.

After the pipe was fixed we set out to clean up the pool (remember it was closed for 2 years), first the pool vacuum thingy kept getting clogged with chunks of dirt and concrete then the start capacitor on the pump died, then the entire pump motor Terry replaced the pump.
Ok so new pump, all good right? WRONG!
The pool turned REALLY green, but Terry fixed it
We couldn't vacuum it or even run the filter without it clogging every 2.5 seconds, Terry actually called me at one point and we talked on the phone for about 20 minutes about how much he hated our pool filter. It turns out it was the wrong type of filter and probably the wrong size for the pool, which sort of explains why I had so much trouble with the pool the first summer it was open. We ended up getting a new sand filter in the correct size and everything got  better from there, the water cleared up and we could vacuum the pool without issues. We were able to get the water balanced and now I am enjoying the pool!

Frankie by the pool

TL;DR version
Opened the pool
Fixed leaking pipe
New pump motor
Stuff got clogged
Pool turned green
New filter
I have a pool again
Thanks Terry!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Doing the things

“Grown-ups don't look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they're big and thoughtless and they always know what they're doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren't any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”-Neil Gaiman

I've been doing a few random scattered things the past few weeks that I thought would make a good random, scattered post. Mostly working a lot and riding...sometimes? I took Frosty to the Beaufort hunt trail ride at Spring Valley, I don't hunt anymore so this was a great opportunity to see some people I haven't seen in close to a year (the Beaufort hunt is by far the friendliest hunt ever!) It was a pretty hot day and I was on my third or fourth day of medication for hives (thanks seasonal allergies!) so I was definitely dragging a little by the end. Thankfully Frosty was perfectly behaved, I rode in my Voltaire saddle which I am still absolutely loving!

The following weekend we headed to Michaux state forest to ride some different trails than we usually do.. I think I actually liked these trails better than our usual ones as they were wider and less rocky with a more gradual slope. We saw a lot of 4 wheelers but this was ok, the people riding were very courteous and I feed my horses with the 4 wheeler anyway so they mostly don't mind.
John's horse on a fire road in Michaux state forest
Farm things:
In addition to riding I have been trying to get a few things done that I have been putting off. I finally collected all the winter blankets and John took them to be washed...usually we try to get this done in April...oops.
4 horses=many blankets to be washed
 I also swept out the cobwebs in the barn and re-organized the feed room. With the intermittent heat/rain cycles the weeds are doing exceptionally well (of course the grass looks like crap which seems to be typical of our place this time of year). I am feeding some hay outside since the pastures are pretty much done...but I still have to mow to keep the weeds from going crazy. Next order of business is spraying weeds around the buildings and fence lines (again).
Mowing weeds and a little grass

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ride Recap:The Pacemaker 2017

This past weekend John and I went to our first paper chase of the season along with my wonderful friend from work and her sweet mare. Usually we start going to paper chases in April but almost all of them were rained out this year (it has been raining every weekend for the past six weeks here in PA!) We were so lucky that the weather was perfect for this event.
The Pacemaker is one of my favorite paper chase/pace events to go to, it is hosted by the Susquehanna Equestrian Club and the volunteers are always super friendly and helpful and the course is very well marked. The scoring works by averaging all the rider's times at the end and then dividing the times into two groups fast and slow. The placings are determined by who is closest to the average times in each group.
Frosty's hair is always on point

The course was really varied and took us over a variety of terrain and obstacles including bridges, narrow/rocky trails, water, and open fields with optional jumps. This was probably Frosty's best paper chase ever! She was very calm and she jumped everything I asked her to. I was also SO impressed with my friend's mare on her first paper chase ever, she took all the new things in stride and was just a champ overall!

Course map
 Perhaps the most exciting part (besides all of us making it back to the trailer smiling and in one piece!) is that we got first place (closest to average time) in the slow time division and will be getting ribbons. This will be the first blue ribbon I have won as an adult and with Frosty.

Happy team photo :)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Spring-ish updates

Aiken in April- John drove the camper down to Aiken and we went down a few weeks later with the horses and dogs. We picked this weekend because it was the Horse Show in the Woods, a benefit show for Hitchcock Woods. The initial plan was to ride in and watch some of the horse show with our horses. Chester did not agree that this was a good idea, as soon as he heard the loudspeaker for the show he started losing his marbles so we opted to ride some other trails then get the truck and dogs and come back later to watch the show. Thankfully John was driving as you actually had to drive through the woods to get in and our dually barely fit. We really enjoyed the show and I think the dogs did as well!

Frankie in the camper
Driving through the woods
Maryland Hunt Cup-This was a great day! The weather was beautiful and it was a very exciting race. I got to dress up...and also day drink (2 things that happen approximately once a year...during the MD hunt cup). Hooray!
Proof that I can dress/look like a normal human...sometimes
New Saddle-I got a beautiful birthday gift from John this year! A Voltaire Palm Beach! I had been lusting over this saddle for months and it is everything I dreamed of and more. The leather is super soft and grippy and it fits Frosty beautifully.
Much wow.

Meeting Frosty's previous owners-I got a Facebook message from a friend of Frosty's previous owner that had found me through this blog that they were going to be in my area and would like to stop in and see her. They had owned Frosty from when she was around 3 until she was 7. It was so amazing to meet them and get learn more about Frosty and what she was like as a young horse. I hope they stop back again sometime soon!
The cutest poneh
Gunpowder Falls-We found a new place to trail ride over Memorial Day weekend, Gunpowder Falls in Maryland. We went on the Barley Pond trail (I took Chester) which is a 4ish mile loop and was perfect for horses, we only saw a few hikers and it was not very hilly or rocky. There was also a nice mix of open fields and shaded/wooded areas. I hope to explore Gunpowder Falls more in the future!
Chester at Gunpowder Falls

Friday, March 24, 2017

The year I gave up on winter riding

I spent a few minutes the other day scrolling through my facebook timeline and noticing the lack of recent horse pictures. Frosty was ridden once in November and again in February (in Aiken). Chester had a few weekend rides in December, maybe 1 or 2 in January and none since then. This winter really just took the wind out of my sails on the riding front. If this means I am not a dedicated horse owner then I guess I'm not dedicated. The horses have had unlimited hay, grain 2x a day, regular farrier care and blanket changes etc. through the last 4 months just hardly any riding. They are sick of being stuck in the dry lot (pastures are still too soft/muddy from this previous snow melt to turn out there yet). Daylight savings has come and gone and it is light enough to ride after work now, but the motivation is not there. The cold damp weather just has me burned out...add that to the fact that it is unclear if either horse even remembers what a saddle is.
Sorry about the buzzkill post...sometimes I just wonder why I am doing this?

The one time I rode in November

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Are you ready to have horses at home?

There comes a time in the life of many horse people when we may feel that is no longer cost effective to board or that we would get more enjoyment (this is a lie) out of our horses if they were moved home to our own properties. Here is a simple guide to determining if you are ready to move your horses home, if you can pass all these tests/perform these tasks, congrats! You are ready to embark on the joyous adventure of having your own farm.

1. Find the muddiest place on your newly acquired property and roll around in it, make sure you do this 15-20 minutes before you have to go to work

2. On a day with 40+ mph wind gusts practice haltering and leading 2 horses at once to the barn...make sure this is at 5:30 am or some other time when it is pitch dark out for maximum effect

3. Grab the hose and spray ice cold water down your boots and gloves, this will simulate the conditions after cleaning water buckets and troughs in the winter

4. Take a round bale, tear it apart and spread all over your car and inside the house, now that you have horses at home your car and house will look like this all the time

5. Got a tractor without 4wd (I do not recommend this)? Cool! have fun figuring out tire chains (remember it will be dark and probably sleeting/raining while you are doing this)

6. Become really good at starting your ancient tractor using ether and/or an adjustable wrench across the solenoid

7. Make friends with your local chain saw and lawn equipment dealer, since you will spend more time with your chain saw and weed whacker than you ever will with the horses

8. Are you allergic to bees? Do you have crazy reactions to poison ivy? Time to find out!

9. Practice carefully calculating/titrating the correct amounts of expensive pasture fertilizers and herbicides only to have your pastures still look like mostly shit at the end of the season

10. Remember that Costco and Sam's club sell vodka and boxed wine in bulk

Monday, February 27, 2017

Aiken day 3: Frosty lets her freak flag fly

The third day in Aiken started out innocently enough, we got to the farm, cleaned stalls, and turned the horses out for a bit, then I went for my first ride ever in my very own "ring." There is a leveled out flat spot on our property which is mostly square and most importantly FLAT. I was able to WTC in there and could probably even add jumps or dressage letters if I ever want to. Frosty was a little excited but I did not think much of it (I should have).

We cleaned tack and John's horse got a bath (thanks to the almost 80 degree temps!) before heading out to meet some of John's friends to ride in Hitchcock woods. I did not take any pictures of their boarding barn but it was gorgeous and located right outside the woods. I should have known this would happen considering the fact that Frosty has not been out with a group for over a year but she was LIT, rearing/cantering in place and generally being a pain in the ass until she was allowed to go first (then she was perfect). We even jumped around a bit in the same place in the woods as the previous day. 
Needless to say Frosty had plenty of energy to spare after that ride so we headed in to town and parked the trailer along the street. The Aiken horse district is really unique, the roads are dirt, horses have right of way and even their own traffic signals. There is also a polo field (FLAT!) in the center of town which is open to the public so I got to ride on there and go fast (really fast!). Then we went for a walk around and looked at all the cute horses and nice properties.
Polo field=flat awesomeness

Walking around town
Overall this was a really solid day with lots of riding! The next day we loaded up and headed home :(. Until next time, Aiken!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Aiken day 2: touring the training track and riding Cathedral Aisle

Our second day in Aiken was another early morning, we went to the farm to turn the horses out and they loved the soft sand (big difference from the rocks and mud at home!) It was so nice to see them able to stretch out and roll. Later that morning we went to tour the Aiken training track, I was really excited to see the track as I have never seen race horses work or been to a track before. The tour was conducted by one of the head trainers and we got to watch the horses work, see the starting gates, and see where the horses lived. I hope to stop by the track to watch the horses on return trips!

Young racehorse in training

After the tour it was time to ride! We went to Hitchcock woods which has a large trail system in the center of Aiken. I picked the Cathedral Aisle trail. Hitchcock is pretty awesome in that it only allows hiking and horses, no bikes or motorized vehicles allowed. The woods were so gorgeous with soft, sandy footing and lots of my favorite trees (Longleaf pines.) There was a small jump course and even a grass ring (with GREEN grass) further down the trails. I got to jump Frosty around a little for the first time in many months and she was loving it! The temps were in the high 60s and it started to drizzle just as we were getting back to the trailers (talk about perfect timing!)
Cathedral Aisle fences-I did not jump these because I am a chicken and they were big!

Frosty is confused by the green grass-she has not seen it in SO long (small jump/XC course was behind us)

Longleaf pines in Hitchcock woods and blue skies (this is an older picture from when we visited to look at our property)

Happy poneh and rider loving the great footing

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Aiken day 1: adventures with city water

As I have hinted at a few times before we recently purchased a second farm in Aiken, SC with 7 acres and a 4 stall barn. If you are not familiar with Aiken it is a popular winter destination for north east horse people known for mild weather, excellent footing, and lots of horse events. This past weekend we made our first trip to Aiken with the horses (we went down several times before to get the purchase of the property in order as well). 

The initial plan was to leave as early as possible and arrive on the farm to set things up before it got dark. I had most everything packed and ready to go, however, due to the fact that I hate mornings and did not get up on time unforeseen circumstances we did not get on the road until after 8am.  
Leaving late combined with hitting traffic in NC meant that it was pitch dark out when we got to Aiken. This normally would not be a problem but on a brand new property with horses along for the ride it was definitely interesting. We got the power turned on and stalls set up with shavings and hay but we still had to turn on the city water. Neither John or I has any experience with city water and all we knew was that the valve to turn it on was "somewhere near the road."
We found the box thingy that the water meter was in and popped the top off to find the mysterious apparatus pictured below (not our actual setup but close enough). What followed was turning a bunch of random screws and valves and me standing at the barn yelling if the water was on or off. I even looked up a video on youtube but we could not get the water to turn on. Just when we were about to give up and go buy a few jugs of water to get the horses through the night John found the correct valve...which was buried in the sand. I was so relieved to see the water turn on!