Sunday, October 28, 2007

A bag, a peck, a bushel?

Thank to my sister, who scrounged these up from who knows where, I have been spending my precious weekend processing tomatoes.

Yesterday I did up a total of 29 pints: 10 of garlic basil sauce, 10 of a medium salsa, and 9 of a plain, mild salsa.

I am about halfway through what she brought in two totes.

This morning, I have to go through and rearrange my entire pantry area to make space for all these jars I did not anticipate filling. I have not even started on the berries in my freezer yet, lol!

I'll make more sauce, another batch of salsa, and probably make stewed tomatoes out of the rest, into quarts.

I am sure thankful I have the the extra jars, and the know how to put it up!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Poor old fart

Thursday, the neighbor's old gelding showed up at the barn again.

This time, my hub was home and he heard a ruckus up at the barn. He was easily caught with sweet feed in a pan and put in the arena. So hub hops onto the four wheeler and heads over. It's almost a half mile by road, but not far through the woods. There wasn't anyone at the mobile home, so he went down to the woodlot and found some guy working on the log splitter.

They walked the poor old fart home, commenting on his terrible feet and general lack of care. The gelding had pushed over a part of the fencing-which is light weight cattle panels that are in very poor condition. Hub and the guy stood the fence back up and put in one panel at a 90, to help keep it the owners phone number and left.

We talked about it when I got home, an we both feel really sorry for the old guy. No care, by himself, no one lives on the property. There was the remains of one round bale, maybe 60 pounds of mostly trodden and terrible looking hay left. He did have water in some sort of tote, but hub said it stank from ten feet away and the entire inside was blackened.

A call to the owner revealed he couldn't afford more than $150 a month in board (which is a crock because I know how well he does with his firewood business) or we could have him for free. So we discussed what it would take to get him healthier-feet, teeth, joint sups for those terrible knees, etc. And heck my hay costs alone are way higher than $150 a month-which pays for about two round bales only.

We agreed to take the poor old fart, but we couldn't find the owner. Sigh. Hub is now gone for two weeks working so I suppose we will let it go until then. If he shows up in the meantime, I think I will just stall him and go put a note on the log splitter and have myself a crippled up old horse I don't need, but feel compassion for.

And I will have a word with the AC officer that responded the last time. To let him know that the horse was out, feet haven't been trimmed, and that there is no one living on the property. Not that it will do any good, but the officer wasn't doing a very good job determining the facts surrounding that horse.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Flakes abound!

And I am not talking about the first dusting of snowfall we got overnight. That was an expected and welcome sight (for me) as I do enjoy the dramatic change from brugly to fresh and white. (Brugly is my own take on the brown w/no leaves period each year-brown+ugly=brugly) Nope, this time the flake is the human kind.

We've all met them, know them, and sometimes are related to one or several. Flakes can be ditzy, charming, clueless, but they aren't always harmless.

Earlier this week I got a call from a younger gal, about boarding her horse with me. She had called because a vet recommended my place to her, based on care and location. We had a phone conversation about what I feed, and what I have here, in some detail. She was pretty anxious to see for herself, and a few hours later she showed up and my hub met her. We talked again that evening, and she was firm in her statement to bring her mare over asap. I asked if she could wait until Saturday morning so that I could be home to monitor her horse closely-something I ask of all new boarders. She agreed.

So I call her last night and she tells me she has talked to the other stable owner and she is going to stay put until at least the first of the month. I figure she was either guilted into staying or told she couldn't have a refund for the balance of the board.

In the meantime I spent quite a lot of time trying to locate another insulated stock tank (which is not available), and then managed to get my spare smaller tank into town, sprayed with urethane and back out to the Valley. It was a serious amount of bother, and who knows what the new insulation will cost me-it's the new environmentally friendly stuff, very expensive.

I had arranged for extra barn cleaning, told the one training boarder she needed to take her mare home, and we had figured out how to set the panels so that every horse had a stall and adequate space. I stocked up a bit more on grains to have on hand, and we made plans to make a few changes at the barn to accommodate more tack, etc. In other words, it's not like I did nothing in preparation for the expected arrival. I only asked for fall vaccinations, which for me is simply flu and rhino, perhaps the following week or so. I also planned out how much hay to bring home from the next van and how to get get it there, and stacked.

To say I was a mite peeved to hear she "might call at the first" is accurate.

The reason she called me in the first place is that her horse is in with 5 or 6 other horses, and they don't let her into their run in shed.....she got wet and was shivering. Well here the horses have individual shelter unless I am positive the horses will get along together-in which case I open up two runs together and still feed separately. And too, there is a huge difference between crappy round bales at the other place, and my imported hay based, carefully balanced diet. About $50 a month actually.

A flake is a flake is a flake, no matter the name on the drivers' license.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The cost of being short sighted

Many times, the true cost of being short sighted does not register with us, until after such time has passed that we can see our previous choices with 20/20 vision. Our lives are punctuated with decisions made hastily and without much conscious thought, from split second choices behind the wheel of a vehicle, to impulse purchases, to whatever thing you do sans serious forethought.

The Alaska horse community is no exception to this, and it's a foolish owner who practises such folly. Or worse yet, knows the risks and chooses to do so regardless of consequence.

This can be as obvious as deciding it's too hot and too much work to stock up on hay when it's harvest time, to deciding not to check the stock tank heater this one time, or not using the proper equipment to handle a horse, or even leaving the barn without checking all gates. On the whole, none of these might be particularly risky at first glance, but they can have fairly severe consequences for the horse(s) in your care, should something go awry.

It's short sightedness when your feelings are more important than your horses' wellbeing. I have met many people who chose one vet over another, vowing they won't use anyone else. Usually this is based upon a diagnosis or result that didn't turn out as expected, or simple heresay from someone they like and admire. Or sometimes, personality conflicts that magnify during a time of crisis.

For a practical person such as myself, this veterinary choice is a mine field littered with rumors, accusations, and innuendoes to such a degree that I cannot discern the truth, mistruth, or verity of the information imparted with such emotion. Everything is always learned second or third hand at minimum, and always its even further distorted at every retelling. I try as hard as I can to be a good horse owner, and so my management practises show the result.....I seldom have need of additional veterinary help-but when I do, you can be assured it is a true emergency. I pay attention to details, carefully balance the diet, and I strive to learn, learn, learn about any and all facets of horse stewarship.

But others won't budge from their stubborn position, even if it puts their horse at risk. If a vet has a call out that goes wrong, you can be sure the blame will be laid at the vets' feet, not the owners. They will vehemently state that they will never call ________ again, no matter what! This is truly a short sighted position to take. What happens when they have a subsequent emergency and another vet cannot respond? Well, they don't think that through to a logical conclusion because their own feelings/ego is more important than their horse, of course.

I am sometimes ridiculed by friends for my veterinary choice, but their opinions do not sway me. I make it based solely on what is best for my horse. I consider what each professional is the most capable and successful at handling, and go from there. I also base my choices in part, on fees charged, as any reasonable person would do.

And this is where the real schism for some lies-aside from personalities. Why is a procedure (just quoted to me yesterday by a very reliable source) quoted at well over $3000, when another can do the same for one third the amount? Where is the benefit in paying more, besides to the practise itself? Is paying more a badge of worth, or an example of being short sighted?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's offical....

The beginning of true winter has started. For horse people, we knew it was coming months ago, as we watched the changes in our horses' coats-a direct result of rapidly changing sunlight as opposed to true temperature.

For myself, it is always marked by the first "drag out the hose and water" episode. I am not as good as I should be to the hoses we have, and I often leave it coiled up along side the farm hydrant we have. Me bad. Many an evening in the summer, it's ran out across the whole parking area to water the garden and the greenhouse too. After a while, dealing with a couple hundred feet of hose becomes as chore and I admit that I would probably use a hose reel, if we had one. But hose reels and Alaskan temperatures are not a very good mix. The best hoses are heavy walled and don't take kindly to being rolled up so tightly....and there is nothing so infuriating as coping with kink after kink at below zero temps (don't bother to ask how I know this, just trust me)

So in the winter I am able to get by with 150 foot of hose. It's what I have had out for about three weeks now, without any troubles. Naturally the temps turned off cold in the past week and I had the misfortune to trust my 8 year old son about whether or not the "hose was laid down the driveway and drained" Being 8, laid down hill on the drive means the end is pointing downwards-sorta. Last night I attempted to water and of course discovered the hose had a bunch of ice in it. I tried working it through the hose by hand, but there was too much to work it out. This meant that I needed to get the small pickup, coil the hose into the back, drive to the garage, make room for the truck inside, and wait for it to thaw. It did. Tonight the horses' stock tanks are topped, the hose is back in the truck, truck back in the garage and all is set until the next time. Oh, and I need to remmeber where I stuffed the rubber hose gaskets because sure enough, it leaks too.

Sigh. It's always somewhat of a chore, watering. I am extremely thankful I have the hydrant because it's a good 400 feet to the first stock tank from the closest bib on the house-I can't imagine dealing with *that* much hose! Tough enough to wrestle stiff hoses into a truck in the dark!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Gourmet Hay"

I went from a surplus of the imported hay, to nothing in two days. This works for me as I have another van showing up any day now, but I always worry that it won't sell in a timely fashion.

One of my customers who is stocking up for the winter, came back by today and got the last bundle I had on hand. We were talking at his truck after using the forklift to load it, and he just blurted out that I needed to raise my price.

Raise my price? What??

I protested that I wasn't a feed store, never mind the premium quality that the grower ships me. People wouldn't stand for paying the same prices as a feed store either, I said.

He just broke out into a big grin and said, "You need to change the name of your business to Gourmet Hay" and he starts laughing. Puzzled, I just stood there like a lump, open mouthed, and he continued, "People know your hay is IS gourmet, to their horses....besides, anytime you hang a label like gourmet on anything, it commands a premium price. Time to raise it"

Well I can't argue with his logic. Much. It's a whopping amount of cash to run through my books for not even five percent margin. Some vans I only break even. Once in a while I do a little better, but often I don't know the exact landed cost per ton until the van is already in port-long after I have quoted a price to folks.

It's a lot of work, that is true. I run the financial risk, all of it. I have tried to be very prompt in making sure the grower is paid asap....that is a given. But when people back out of buying, I get real nervous about whether or not I can sell it all. I am always reassured it will sell, but it's very stressful for me just the same.

I spend hours talking to people about the hay, explaining how I sell true weight, not a "bale", and how and where it is grown. I am fortunate that I can use my boss' forklift to help unload it, otherwise I would have to hire labor. Even so, it's hours of work, takes a lot of pallets, and is a royal pita dealing with some of the prima donna's who come, expecting me to do all the work for them. Truth is, at my age, it's darned hard to toss around those bales and I have to make sure I have help when I bring home hay for the horses at my own place. Besides, my work comes first, every time.

It's only because we cannot seem to grow any decent hay up here that I got into this in the first place, and while I am happy to provide hay to Alaska Equine Rescue and others who have come to rely upon my efforts, there is a point on each van where I question whether it's worth the hassle and the work. Pepl have started to get pretty complacent about coming by to pick up what they said they'd need....leaving me hanging for days. I suppose I could start asking for deposits, but that would delay the vans by weeks, and that isn't good either.

On the other hand, I did manage to get one very small feed store to start stocking the hay, purchased from me....they sell by bale and I hope this works out for them. No feed store up here is selling the same quality, period. I hope people will figure it out.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Good fences make for good neighbors....

I am sure we have all heard this little maxim before, and it is ever so true when it comes to the well being and safety of the horses in our care. This is why I am positively paranoid about the safety and functionality of my fences. Gates latched and locked at all times. All lines up and properly charged, with a decent amount of joules at the terminal end. Good luck or fate, most of the horses I have had in have been very respectful of my fencing-even if they don't always know it's an electric one to start....usually, it only takes one good zap! and they stay well off the lines, for good.

The same can not be said for others in the area. There is a guy down the road, has had a total of three horses there over the years. In previous years, he was pretty active in the local rodeo scene, as a roper...he had both a header and a heel horse. He has since sold most of his property to a developer and last I knew he had actually moved off the property to another house. His horses stayed as a succession of renters/employees lived in the trailer house left behind. No barn or anything, just panels. When he had cattle they were always out, creating havoc in the area but those went away a few years ago. Now there is just the one horse left over there, a Tobiano paint gelding.

This past spring, not three days after I had planted my vegetable garden, I found the paint gelding at my barn, loose. He had torn the heck out of my new garden, and was generally creating mayhem up there. Called AC, they came and got him fairly quickly. I later heard that the owner fiddle farted around for three days before finally trying to find someone to haul the horse home for him. At that time, the paint with the crippled and fused knees, was in good flesh, but had an untreated wound on his fetlock-likely from running loose. At any rate, it ended up costing the owner over $300.

To say I was surprised to find the same horse at my barn in the dark this morning is an understatement. I walked out and saw one too many heads, and thought "Oh no!" and made a U turn to get on better footwear. When I get up there I see the same old lame horse, he's a little rattled but just my voice calms him enough I can get him haltered. I stick him in the round pen out back of the barn, and proceed to call AC. Which of course isn't open that early, so I end up at the Palmer Dispatch, who informs me AC does not open until 10. Oh great! Head back up, feed the rest of the horses. Call my coworker to inform her I am going to be late, and why. As I am sitting in my car, drinking coffee, daylight shows that the horse had been there quite some time. Hoof prints and four piles of manure prove this. I feed the old horse some grass hay to quiet things down up there.

I had hoped to speak to someone at AC, but of course their policy doesn't allow for easy communication between the public and the officers themselves. I get a call just before 10 that they will send someone right out. By 11, I am concerned enough to call back, only to discover that all officers are in a compulsory meeting of some sort. Yeah right, and whats not compulsory about my boss needing me at work? 15 minutes later I get told to leave a note by the horse, they will come pick him up. Which I do. Leaving my work phone number of course.

It's now almost three and I don't know if the horse has been picked up, no one has called and of course you can't get any information out of the triage types manning the phones at the front desk.

I had wanted to explain to the officer myself, that the horse had been over the previous afternoon, shortly before I arrived home from work. My new boarder, who is pretty much a novice handler after 15 years away from horses, had taken her mare out to the round pen for additional exercise when the paint galloped on up the hill to the barn. This scared her silly, but she was able to shoo him away and he took off again. I shudder to think about what might have happened if she had been at the barn with a mare on a lead (in heat of course) when the horse came visiting.......very scary thought.

That horse had been loose all night, from at least somewhere between 4 and 5 pm, and 6 am this morning. No one came looking for him, no one called, and he obviously had tummy issues as he had very loose stools. Poor old fart. I took pictures with a disposable camera I happened to have on hand. I still want to discuss the changes in the horses' physique with the officer who picked him up as it's obvious he has lost weight over the summer.

So you may be wondering why I didn't bother to find the owner, if I know his name. Well, first, the guy really is a jerk. Everyone was thankful when he moved out of the area. He had come over to my place five years ago, crying about having no hay for his rope horses. I "loaned" him 250 pounds of hay which I could not really afford to let go-of course he never replaced it, despite promises to do so. Strike one. Strike two was when the horse showed up the first time. Today was strike three. If he didn't care enough about the horse the first time AC impounded him to talk to me about it, then screw him. He surely won't care this time as the horse is in worse shape now. If the poor old horse is lucky, he'll get three or four days at the AC facility, to get some decent feed and access to a barn at the very least.

I wonder if AC knows that there is no shelter there, as required by statute......

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A box, with strings

Sometimes I just have to wonder what motivates people.

This morning I sit here, conflicted over information I learned recently. It has to do with horses, of course. No, it isn't anything I saw for myself, but it illustrates perfectly just how varied are the strings and demands of friendships. If I *had* seen it for myself, I wouldn't be sitting here worrying about it, I would have already taken action to remedy the situation-but that's just me.

What type of person would put a "friend" into a box by exacting a promise of confidentiality, then tie it up with strings to keep that friend there?

So now I know about three horses in very serious condition, and two of them are at the "imminent danger" point, the legal standard by which the local enforcement agency could act to seize these horses.

Naturally, I cannot report the situation to anyone, as doing so would "burn" the person who told me about-that person sworn to secrecy. These are the strings by which friendships are bound.

In a twisted bid to play the hero, the "friend of a friend" acted as she is convinced is the best way. She went home, loaded up feed, and returned. She does not have the knowledge to recover horses in such bad condition, but of course believes she does-despite never having actually done it. With just seven years of horse ownership under her belt, she knows everything there is to know about horses. Sigh.

When horses become emaciated, all sorts of physical things happen, things that take time and very careful management to reverse. From the description there is one CS 1, one CS 2, and one CS 2.5 at best. They were staked out "to graze" next to a lake they could not reach, and had eaten everything down to the dirt-including leaves that had blown in.

Sans licensed veterinary care in a clinic, it's a dicey thing, saving horses in that condition.

When does the welfare of the horses outweigh the burden of that friendship?

With some folks, never. With others, it will be every time.