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Keeping Barn Plants Alive

Keeping Barn Plants Alive

Barn FernsIn our travels we’ve seen some pretty fancy barns. We’re not rich so we can’t afford a landscaping staff to decorate and care for our barn plants like the beautiful Biltmore Mansion stables, for example. But as soon as the weather warms enough to stop threatening frost, I look for ways to liven up the place. Last year I added simple black metal hangers from our barn posts and bought some ferns. This may sound weird but I saw something similar on the porch of a funeral home and I liked how it looked. But I have a poor history with plants. Some colorblindness prevents me from easily telling the difference between green and brown. Unless something is shriveled up, I’m likely to keep watering it, wondering why it doesn’t grow or flower again. I also tend to have trouble with how often to water plants so I either over or under water. Ferns looked hardy. After all, they grow wild in the woods with no one to water them. How hard could it be? But a month into my barn beautification experiment I was reminded why I wasn’t a horticulturist. I might not have been able to tell if they were brown or green but those suckers looked dead to me. Unfazed by my plant failures from last year, I invested in some new ferns this year and I think I may have figured out the secret. Each day when I let the horses in, I water the ferns. Since they’re in hanging baskets, they seem to dry out quickly. And judging from the moist environment in the mountains where ferns thrive, I’m guessing the container-bound ferns prefer to be moist as well. I judge how much water to give them by sensing the weight empty versus wet. I’ve gone as long as a single day without watering without trouble. It’s extra work but the results are worth it to me. I’m going to have to find someone to water my plants when we go on vacation.

I learned one important lesson that in retrospect should have been obvious. Do not put a plant within reach of horses. Remember, they have long necks! Last year Moonshine ate the fern on the pole nearest the pasture.

I’d love to hear how you decorate your barn with plants or flowers in the warmer months. Any green thumbs out there? In the meantime, maybe someone can tell me if the ferns in the picture are green or brown. 🙂

Romeo gets his head stuck

Romeo gets his head stuck

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.