We Plow Through the Second (Very Wet!) Winter on the Farm

farm morning

Here’s the view of the farm from my desk. This was taken in winter after a heavy rain. There’s also a reflection of a portrait of a horse that hangs on the wall in the upper right of the picture, like a horse head in the clouds.

It’s been so long since I’ve written that you may have wondered if the Zombie Apocalypse happened here.

And while we did lose a couple of chickens, it appears the cause was more bad luck and a very clever, quick fox than the undead.

chickens and dog

Ah, the life of a chicken. They go wherever they want, and Chiko patrols when he can.

The truth is that between my day job and our busy life on the farm there’s not been any spare time to write. So I finally vowed to carve some out so we could get caught up! Ready?

  • We sold Wilhelmina (to a really great home, more on that in a moment)
  • Matt bought a tractor
  • We lost two chickens
  • We discovered that our multi-colored chickens are not Astralorps, they are Americanas!
  • Matt got a black Lab puppy and named him Levi
  • We added an arena for the horses
  • We added a new shelter for the horses
  • We added two new critters, and finally
  • We put a roof on the compost bin (which is actually exciting news if you know anything about composting).
  • For those of you who rolled their eyes at the news of the compost roof, I will use this little anecdote to explain why it’s so important:
compost bin

Look at the lovely roof on those bins! It makes all the difference in the world for decomposition–too much moisture prevents the manure from heating up and turning into compost.

Imagine it’s night in the middle of a wind-blown rainy Pacific Northwest winter. The rain is drumming on the metal roof of our farm house, a sound that makes me smile as I envision the horses all dry and happy in their new big shelter; the chickens snoozing comfortably on their perches, safely tucked away in their coop; and the dogs snoring and twitching on the floor as they dream about boldly chasing deer out of the back yard.

With these peaceful thoughts, I drift off to sleep.

Not so for Matt.

He hears rain and his thoughts run like this:

I wonder if the septic system is flooding out?

I wonder if that leak in the roof is going to come back?

I wonder if the fields will dry up enough to not be destroyed when Amy wants to turn the horses out?

I wonder if the plastic cover on the compost bin is staying fastened or if it’s blown away?

That last one is why we had a top installed on the compost bin. And of course, made sure it was a red roof.

So, back to Wilhelmina, our 3/4 Friesian cross filly out of Neela, our Friesian/Quarter Horse mare, and Litrik, a STER Friesian stallion. She caught the eye of two of our riding friends from Colorado, Mary and Michael Ellenberger, who decided the filly would make a perfect addition to their herd of two: a Welsh cross mare and an Arabian gelding. Both Mary and Michael are active members of the Weld County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse, so I knew Wilhelmina was going to a caring home where she could not only show off her gorgeous looks but also have a job. And since she has her dam’s very sensible nature, Wilhelmina has a strong sense of purpose. She would not have been happy simply being another pretty face. Although, what a face!

filly and geldings

Our friend Sus is in the background as Wilhelmina the supermodel says hello to her half brother Quill and to Yukon, Matt’s gelding. This is what winter looks like in the Pacific Northwest!

filly in snow

Black horse, white snow! Wilhelmina seems to love her new life in Colorado.

filly and mare

Wilhelmina, right, is now bonded with Miss Tia, Mary’s mare who closely resembles the filly’s first “aunt,” my Quarter Horse filly, Mocha.

Of course I cried when she left.

goat and horse

What does a goat eat? Pretty much anything she wants. Here Lola the goat takes over one of the hay bins as Mocha tries to sneaks mouthfuls without getting head butted.

After the departure of our first farm baby, we got our first farm geriatric: A sweet old (very old – 34!) gelding named Silver, and his devoted sidekick, Lola the goat. Silver came to us as a boarder (his previous board situation dissolved when the farm he was at sold) and since Lola was part of the package, she came, too. I held my breath when they arrived–introducing new members to a herd can be a dicey thing, and one that ends with someone being injured–but we took it slow and kept them separated by a fence, putting each horse in with Silver one by one so they would not overwhelm him, and it went fine.

old horse scratching

Silver really, really loves to rub, so much so that Matt installed several panels of Scratch n All so the old guy could scratch safely.

But wait, I’m out of order! The tractor? A brand new, bright orange Kubota. I dropped Matt off at the ferry and he later drove home on it, grinning the whole way. He smiles every time he sees it. It’s a tractor thing.  And a back thing–cleaning out the compost bins is now a job that has been reduced from a back-breaking four hours to an easy 30 minutes!

tractor on ferry

How do you get a tractor to an island? You drive it onto the ferry, of course!

horse lot and shelter

Matt puts the new tractor to work dragging the horses’ dry lot. That’s our lovely new horse shelter in the background (and yes, that’s a red roof on top).

The chickens? Well, one somehow just died in the barn–we don’t know what happened as there were no obvious signs of trauma. The chickens like to wander into the barn and lay eggs and one day we had one less chicken,and a few days after that, Matt found her body.

The other chicken was snatched by a ^%$@#! fox, judging from the feathers left behind near the coop and also that Matt found in the woods. We both took it very hard; I had no idea chickens were such cheerful animals, and losing one that way was tragic.

Since then, we have tried to be more vigilant and more random with our appearances to check on the chickens, and it seems to be working. I do a head count every night as they toddle into the chicken coop: Three red, two white, four black-n-white and one rooster–all present and accounted for!

horse and chicken

Chickens are fun! One of the Americanas takes a jaunt in the winter rain to say hello to Silver.

The lack of presence of Mr. Fox could also be the result of the presence of a new, yet very large puppy: Levi.

black lab puppy

Levi at two months–ridiculously adorable.

Levi is pure black Lab, solid muscle and boundless energy. At seven months, he weighs 55 pounds, and that’s with a lean build. He has a throaty bark that makes him sound like a Doberman, but his nature is all Lab–he’s happy to see everyone.  He loves “Wilson” – if you’ve seen the movie ‘Castaway’, then you know who that is.  Wilson makes Levi very happy.   Matt is also doing some basic search training with Levi who seems to have a knack for it – he trails the footprints of anyone who has recently walked on the farm.

black lab

Levi at seven months. Don’t let the that calm exterior fool you–Levi’s “on” switch can be flipped in two seconds and last a long, long time.

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