I think I’ve finally recovered from last weekend. As predicted, they were the hottest days of the year so far, with humidity that felt too much like monsoon season in the desert southwest. For two days (Saturday and Monday) we sweated in a field, dodged barn swallows and wasps and worked on our tans and our muscles as we harvested the first cutting of hay this summer. We know it will all be worth it come winter. Heck, when we’re using this hay in the middle of a frigid cold night we’ll be thinking pleasantly back to the heat of these days. It’s all relative, isn’t it? Although we often speak of dreading the hay harvest, the truth is we have many good memories we wouldn’t trade. It’s a time when a group of people who like each other works together and accomplishes a goal. At the end, we cool off in air conditioning, cook some burgers and tell tall tales about harvest days of years past. We drive home in the cool of the evening with the windows down. We experience the pleasure of washing off all that dirt in a refreshing shower back at the house and slipping into a clean bed under cool sheets to ease our aching muscles when we finally go horizontal for the night. In the end, it’s all good.
Here’s a brand new short video of how we use machines to harvest these square hay bales. It’s about 2 minutes long, with text narration. This will either bring back memories or show you something maybe you’ve never seen before.
Oh and this year we found a live snake in a bale! I was about to grab a bale to send up the hay elevator in the barn when I noticed something wiggling. It was a small snake but the incident reminded me to always wear gloves.
Do you harvest hay this way, too?
How likely it is we’ll be harvesting hay this weekend
Tomorrow is supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far and you know what that means? Time to harvest hay. You’ve probably read about our hay harvesting escapades before. The overwhelming theme is how hot it is when we’re doing it. You can pretty much pick the hottest, most humid and miserable day of the year and that’s when the hay is coming in. Here’s a handy chart you can use to predict the likelihood of the hay being ready based on temperature:
I’m speaking specifically of square bales. We don’t use a lot of them this time of year but they’re a staple in winter when the horses spend more time inside the barn. Our own barn can only hold about 80 bales but there is a barn in the hay field that can probably hold 1,000 or more. That’s where we’ll be tomorrow, pulling square bales from the field into a hay wagon and then transferring them to a loft in the big barn. There we’ll battle stifling heat, wasps, dive-bombing barn swallows and the occasional snake to store up hay for the winter. It’s worth it. We have a deal with our provider that gives us discounted pricing in exchange for help harvesting. Some icy cold winter day we’ll look back in envy of this warm day I dread as I type this.
I think I’m recycling this video but just in case you don’t know what square bale harvesting looks like, here’s a short video from a few years ago.
Do you help harvest hay where you live? Does this chart relate to your experience as well?
We hear a lot of people talk about “bombproof” horses, especially when advertising one for sale. While on vacation recently in New Orleans I captured this short video of what I think of when I hear that term. I’m afraid my horses would react differently to all of these distractions! Kudos to the trainers of the New Orleans police horses!
One of these days I’m going to keep track of the hay twine we go through and weigh it. We put out around two large round bales of hay a week for our four horses and end up with a handful of twine like you see in this picture. The big round bales where we live are usually secured with a plastic poly twine like this and the smaller square bales use a biodegradable sisal fiber (from an agave plant). Every square bale of hay we open gives us two more pieces, about 16 feet total. I could throw it away but I can’t help but thinking there is a good use for all this leftover twine. In our old forum discussion about uses for hay bale string, we got some great suggestions, especially from user shellz9 who quoted an article by Amy K. Habak called “30 Hay Twine Uses”. Here are a few that caught my eye:
Replacing missing horse blanket straps
As hanger loops for horse tools like hoof scrapers and brushes
For temporary fence repair (we use it for this a lot)
As a quick temporary lead rope
Dora Renee Wilkerson, a visitor to our horse blog, has another great use for hay twine – rugs. Dora makes really nice looking, useful and durable rugs by knitting the discarded hay twine:
We ignored the advice from our farm friends about buying a two wheel drive tractor for our small horse farm. To this day, they still tell us it’s a waste of money but we think otherwise. Our east Tennessee land gets pretty muddy and it only takes a little bit of rain to make it slick. If we planned on using this tractor any time other than when it was completely dry, we would have been out of luck with 2wd. 4wd isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity where we live and our 4WD Kubota with locking rear differential is serving us well. Here’s a short video (1:24 minutes) showing some examples of why we needed a 4wd tractor:
When it rains, it pours here in East Tennessee. To make winters even less pleasant, the frequent rain (January is our second rainiest month) is causing us work and making the lives of our horses a little less fun. Even though it was warm Sunday when I shot this little video, I decided to let the horses in to dry off and they seemed to appreciate it. I can’t wait until we have a few dry days to move some dirt. We knew we had some new drainage issues but the big rain storm Sunday made it seem a lot worse. I made this quick 2 minute, 26 second video to show you how muddy our place is right now. Now with voice overs! LOL. Once you get past the first few dizzy seconds, the rest of the video is pretty smooth.
So does your barn and pasture look like this right now, too?
Hey, it hasn’t been a month yet. I forgot I shot this 21 second video wishing you a Merry Christmas and I don’t want it to go to waste. Mikki found some horse reindeer ears on sale. Turns out the lights work on only one of them but they’re still cute. Our poor horses put up with the brief humiliation. The “ears” affix to their halters. No horses were harmed in the making of this video. We hope you had a great Christmas and that 2010 will be an awesome year for you and the horses you love.
Yesterday I went to the barn to let the horses out and to my surprise Romeo greeted me with his head through the gate we use for his stall. He’s always the one who has his head through a fence eating grass so it wasn’t unusual but after a few minutes it became apparent that he couldn’t figure out how to get his head out of the gate. It’s funny now but I started worrying about his panicking and me trying to manipulate his head to freedom. Of course I expected he wouldn’t know what I was doing and would fight me. I briefly thought I might even had to get out a saw of some kind.
Now let me say right now that of all the animals I’ve worked with over the years, horses are probably the smartest I’ve come across. You can tell how much more intelligent they are from the way they learn and make decisions. Still, in situations like this I wonder.
Since I always seem to have a camera nearby, I grabbed one and pushed record as I tried an idea. If I could just get Romeo to move to the side a little and then incent him to turn his head sideways to fetch a carrot, maybe I could encourage him to fix this problem himself. And it worked. Below is a short (25 second) video.
So this has taught me a few things:
1) It’s important to check on the horses, even if they’re “safe” in the barn. If there is something to get scratched on or tangled in, they’ll find it. Romeo even scalped an inch square piece of fur from his head the day before on a little rough piece of metal on the fence (you can see it wrapped in twine in the video).
2) Perhaps gates aren’t the best wall substitutes. We intended on building a real wall with a wooden gate like the other stalls but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. This reminds me of the importance to get that project done.
3) Try the simple first. Romeo clearly wasn’t panicked when I found him so it was a good idea to not freak out and look for some complicated solution. A few carrots did the trick in this case.
Have you had anything like this happen with your horse(s)? Please share your story.
The video I posted yesterday was just a little display of the snow with some scenes from our barn and pasture. Yesterday, Mikki and I brought cameras with us up to the barn to see how our horses reacted to the white stuff. After being cooped up all day the day before (we didn’t want them wet and cold), our horses were ready to leave the barn. I’m so glad we had cameras because Cash and Valentine in particular really seemed to enjoy the snow.
This video is also high definition and runs about 4 minutes. In it you’ll see just how dirty Cash looks against the pure white snow. Turns out his patches aren’t white, they’re tan! You’ll see Cash roll several times including once right in front of us. He romps and throws his head around. I loved seeing his beautiful long mane flowing and his “horn” snorts are pretty cute. Maybe we should have called him “Horatio”. That’s a common sound with him. At the end of the video I added a few slow motion sequences of him prancing around. Valentine got into the rolling and romping, too but he’s hard to see. The white of the snow blew out the exposure on the camera so much of Valentine’s fur detail is lost unless he’s right in front of the camera. Moonshine makes her authority known a few times and Romeo mostly stands around and eats.
Once again, you can view this video full size and I recommend it.
We don’t get a whole lot of snow in east Tennessee. Maybe once or twice a year we’ll get a dusting. Well starting yesterday it actually did snow – pretty much all day. And today the snow continued, albeit light flurries. In the three years or so we’ve been here, this is the most snow we’ve seen! I know you cold weather people will laugh but we warm weather southern people get excited when it sticks to the ground. Schools are closed, people stick up on milk and bread, etc. It’s kinda cozy, so long as the electric stays on.
I went outside and took a short video of some snowy scenery around the barn and pasture. This is part 1 of 2. After I shot and edited this video, Mikki and I let the horses out today and got some great video of them playing in it. I’ll post that probably tomorrow.
This is high definition video and it’s probably better seen in full screen mode. After you push play, there is a little icon in the bottom right corner of the video that will allow you to expand it to full screen. The video length is about 3 minutes and there is no music. Just snow falling, traffic in the background, the hum of the video recorder and occasional horsey sounds.
EDIT: I almost forgot – making an appearance in this short video are our new barn kittens, Daisy and Clover! They’ve never seen snow before and don’t seem to like it a whole lot.