Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Friday, July 20, 2012

At the Barn # 61 - Load stars + notes from the farmette...

Settling up on some teasers from the last post...

Last week it was time to clean out the trailer, which had been serving as overflow hay storage. Val was cool and comfy, having enjoyed a post work rinse and a tasty grazing session. On a whim, I opened the ramp, placed a treat on the chest bar, threw the rope over his back and in he went, not a moment's hesitation. I've encouraged a self load or two after leading him in before, but this was the first time I just pointed him at the ramp and he complied. What a goooood boy. I love my horse. :)

The next day it was Cowboy's turn. Cowboy hasn't voluntarily entered a trailer since the fall. We believe some very bad trailer driving may explain his reluctance. His people schooled him furiously for a while. Feeding him in the trailer (without ever closing the bar), and chasing him with a broom were some of the strategies. Then they got discouraged and gave up.

It took about an hour, but we got him in calmly. No bribing, no head throwing, no bolting out backwards, no flying off the side of the ramp. Planting on the ramp was his evasion of choice. Out of respect for his owner, I waited him out with her, though I must confess, I finally shook a bucket with some noisy pellets in it, ending the session when suddenly he walked all the way up to the chest bar. Next session I'd like to turn up the pressure just a tad, get the butt bar up and take him for a very short, very slow, very safe ride, followed by excessive praise and lots of treats.

Cowboy's owner has been very discouraged about not getting to travel to lessons, or go to shows. She had signed up for several last year but didn't make it off island because he refused to load. I worry about emergencies, and Cowboy's well being. I think we're on our way to solving this problem - wish us luck.


I've learned some important lessons about gardening this season:

Leave half again twice as much space as you think you need around tomato plants, especially when planting in composted manure.

Even though you don't usually see deer until the fall, you need a very tall fence around the garden. Plan on it. When there is drought, the deer come out of the woodwork trying to find moisture. I don't even think it's about food as much as water.

The giant plants that result form the fab compost need serious support. Your run of the mill tomato cages are not sufficient. For next year, I am designing a model made from pvc that can be broken down and put up in stages. Easier to store in the off season.

No matter what you do, the majority of the harvest will come in at once. This weekend I will be processing tomatoes. All weekend long.


Deja vue.  The other day I brought a sheet in that had been drying outside. As I spread it out on the sofa, a wasp lurking in a fold in the fabric stung me three times on my left hand. My usual response to wasps in the house is trapping them under a glass and letting them out. This wasp ended up in the vacuum. Hello giant baseball glove hand.

The one bright spot was the next day, Val sniffed the sting hand all over, then licked and groomed it thoroughly for me, nibbling the super swollen back of my hand especially. I have no doubt he knew it was a hurt, and was helping.

fat hand 2012

fat hand 2011


And then there's snakes.

I'll have to tell a tale on myself. I found a rat snake under Cowboy's manure bucket. His people are likely to kill a snake reflexively, so I had the bright idea to relocate Mr. Rat Snake to my tack room. There is an obvious rodent issue lately. Why not let nature take it's course rather than resort to poison or traps?!

There's no need to be a smart ass though, by trying to multi-task while transporting a snake. The only thing stupider would have been trying to photo document the procedure as well. As I attempted to hold the snake in one hand, the feed bucket in the other and open the gate, Mr. Rat Snake saw his opening and bit the tar out of my thumb. I'd be lying if I didn't admit to having a fleeting thought questioning my snake id-ing skills.

Val was also interested in this injury, suspiciously sniffing the bite, then my arm where the snake had been wrapped, then the bite again, then the hay I was trying to stuff into his hay bag. I'm pretty sure he was letting me know that I better not be getting any snake juice in his dinner.

Not the snake bite snake - just a junior water moccasin by the manure pile.

 A lovely amphibian


In the works - A CONTEST! With prizes and everything. Stay tuned - details to come...


  1. Oh my goodness! I would run screaming if I saw a water moccasin. Also I hope your hand gets better :/

  2. Oh, my, now I have the heebie jeebies. I can't imagine picking up a snake and carrying it. And the water moccasin creeps me out. I think it's sweet the way Val groomed your hand. You two have such a great bond.

  3. Please share your tomato vine support plans when you have them - all mine are lying on their sides after the vines grew huge and bowled them over! The tomatoes are still yummy and getting ready to deluge us, but the garden doesn't look nearly so tidy as it did before this growth surge happened!

    Can't believe you got stung by a wasp AND bit by a snake - glad that Val took care of you and that he is still being such a trailer-loading dream boy... :)

  4. I will come over and help you process those tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and load them into my mouth ;)

    Glad it was just a rat snake! Your poor hands have been through enough lately. The only snake that ever bit me was a rat snake - they're so grumpy.

  5. Ouch and double ouch! Your poor swollen hand! I'm impressed that you are brave enough to pick up a snake though!

  6. That water moccasin creeps me out, too! I'm generally a "live and let live" type of person, but water moccasins make me feel all stabby. They are mean and territorial!

    The garden looks great! I have cages made of heavy gauge square wire fence for my tomatoes, but they're starting to rust and break down. I hope you post a tutorial on your PVC tomato cages.

    I always keep a lunge whip and a small bucket of grain in my trailer, just in case I have loading issues. I can only imagine that trailering must be a strange experience for a horse. And with the way some people drive, I can see why a horse wouldn't want to load!

  7. Geez, your Mickey Mouse hand looks awful! You should see about getting and keeping an Epi-pen around if you get such bad reactions to stings. My son-in-law is allergic and the doctor told him something like its cumulative , the more you get stung the worse the reaction. Please be careful.

    And carrying snakes around is never a good idea. I'd have been running screaming the other way. Aren't water moccasins deadly poisonous too? I guess it's a good thing you're not afraid of snakes, you seem to have a lot on the farm.

    Val is a star loading hope you have good luck with Cowboy. Your tomatoes look yummy. Have a good weekend and let's be careful out there.

  8. Story-

    The snake got my other hand - minor annoyance compared to the wasp.

    Those tomatoes are Mortgage Lifters, Purple Prudens, Yellow Pear and Wild Cherry. When you plant the last two, you only need one plant of each. ;)

  9. billie-

    It's discouraging when the plants collapse all over themselves. I will pass the tomato frame plans on. :)

  10. Funder-

    Your comment the other day about the rat snake cracked me up. He/she was grumpy. It was surreal watching the fangs come out and enter my thumb. However, wasp sting was a billion times more painful with worse repercussions.

    I wish I could share the tomato bounty with you. You and Dixie need to make an East Coast trek - we've got lots of room!

  11. Shannon-

    The way I look at it, for every water moccasin I run into, there are a hundred nearby that I can't see. Killing the one in front of me doesn't really affect snake danger in the area.

    Now, if one were threatening the horses or dogs - I would dispatch it with a hoe, in the style of my grandma. :)

  12. GHM-

    I feel very foolish about getting bit. I actually thought I was doing a good turn, because if my boarders had been surprised finding a snake lurking under their wheelbarrow - off with his head!

    I do have an epipen in the medicine cabinet. So far, benedryl has been enough, but I do wonder if the reactions are escalating.

  13. That was quite an update!

    You must be one tough cookie, walking around with a snake in your hand! I admire your good intentions, as snakes are despised and feared by so many. I am not as brave as you and would not pick up a wild snake, but I like your approach so much better than certain death. So many dismiss the important role that snakes play in the ecosystem. Rodent infestation is more of a health concern than the occasional snake!

    Those big tomatoes look like heirloom tomatoes that we used to grow on the produce farm. They were delicious.

    Stay away from those wasps!

  14. I saw that picture of the snake and went 'NOT A RAT SNAKE!!!' and was really, REALLY hoping you had not picked that guy up! Otherwise I figured you'd be writing that post from the hospital, lol!

    SO sorry about your poor hand, that really sucks. I hope you heal up quickly. And your garden produce looks amazing and delicious, even if it IS all coming in at once. Lots of tomato sammiches and tomato salads in your future, I'd imagine! Oh, and please post your design for the tomato supports! I'm having the same problem you are - plants are huge and have completely overgrown their cages.

  15. Yikes, your poor hand!
    Those tomatoes look fabulous!

  16. So BOTH hands have taken a beating?!

    You are a far, far braver gal than I am. I freely admit snakes are one of my super fears. I know I shouldn't turn into a bundle of terror at the sight of a snake but I do.

  17. Val-

    Snakes get a bad rap, usually for no good reason. That young moccasin was a very pretty one.

    Those tomatoes are all heirlooms - good eye. Didn't you run a farm stand at one point?

  18. jenj-

    Rest assured I wouldn't handle a venomous snake! :)

    I will pass along the tomato cage plans.

  19. This time of year I make sure I leave water out near the garden for all the little marauders. Thefts are down :)

    Tomatoes are "vines", and not exactly designed to grow upwards. They will happily ramble all over the ground. My father suckers his and they are all trained neatly up T-Posts. I am lousey at suckering.

    I've gone frome the heavy square Burpee cages to the stackable tomato ladders. They work quite well especially if you prune and sucker, which I don't.

    So. I currently have my Sun Gold and now the Paul Robeson, surrounded by ladders. One main one (stackable), and six surrounding seem to be doing the trick. 3 square feet seems sufficient for one plant.

    Now and then I buy a determinate variety. Geez, those are easy LOL!

  20. I'm not having as many problems with the deer this year as I usually do. I'm having issues with the dang birds! They relentlessly poke holes in the tomatoes, I'm assuming to get at the juicy insides. They can't just do it to one tomato... NO, they have to poke holes in 5 or 6 of them. I bought some garden fabric to put over them, but they're still managing to poke holes in some of them. I even went out and bought a bird watering contraption so they'd have something to drink... but they seem to like the tomatoes much better.

    Ok, rant over... sorry! :)

    I hope you're hand is back to normal size in no time. I think it's the sweetest thing ever that Val licked your hand!

  21. Just realized when I read what your dad does with his tomatoes that that is exactly why it is so discouraging when mine go crazy - I have the memory of my dad's perfect tomato plants, staked and cotton-twined, and yes, suckered! He kept those things in line and they were so tidy and perfect. May as well call mine a tomato tangle, but in the end, we get more than we need and the tomatoes are delicious. But my dad is probably lurking out there in spirit form shaking his head at the chaos. :)

  22. How great that Val self loaded! Very impressive. Loading always makes me a little apprehensive. I hope Cowboy continues to make progress.
    Your garden looks so amazing. What a great selection of tomatoes.
    So sorry to hear you got stung and bitten. That's a nasty looking hand. How sweet that Val tried to help.

  23. There's nothing worse in ground manners than a horse that won't load. Its the area where even good horsemen because extremely frustrated- thats when brooms, etc. come out. I even took trailer lessons with a cowboy trainer to help learn healthy ways to load my big horse- I'm not into the rolling white eye, sweating method of "persuasion." It does take time, and consistency, and often a second person who also knows what he is doing and can patiently help.

    btw, your veggies are beautiful! I'm going to book it out to my parents this weekend to get some squash. I saw a great recipe for peeling "ribbons" of zucchini and carrot for a summer salad- looked delicious.

    the moccasin gave me shivers.... !


  24. I love the story about Val loading himself. I sure wish you could teach me to teach my boys that! Of course, I need the trailer first;)

    Not looking for a lesson on snake moving though! Ouch!

  25. Good Val - maybe he can teach Cowboy not to be afraid of trailers. And speaking of being afraid, I'm terrified of snakes so the idea that you carried one and watched it bite your hand is mind-blowing to me. When we lived in Virginia, I was always worried about the water moccasins when I rode. Silk is very good about spotting and avoiding snakes since we encountered many rattlesnakes on the trail when we were in California. She usually sees them long before I do. Those tomatoes are gorgeous! That's what the gold nugget compost our horses produce can do for our gardens. So, listen, be careful, okay?


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