Working with Animals

This morning we moved the steer and horses to another pasture as the grass is getting sparse in the one they were in. Our steer has never had a halter on him and of course, never been broke to lead. We had to move him maybe 20 yards outside of the pastures and fences to get to the new grazing spot. Coby wanted to set up a make shift fence with paneling. Probably the smarter way to go but that seemed like waaay too much work for me. I opted to throw a lead rope around his neck instead, not sure what that really does but it made me feel better. So, being armed with the lead rope in hand and a tub full of feed in the other I opened the gate. He did pretty good, until he felt the lead rope tightening around his neck. Then he started romping around and playing like silly moo cows do. I let go of the lead rope because I am clearly not going to stop him and let him run. Luckily, he is a very lazy steer and didn’t go too far BUT, he did go in the opposite direction of where we needed him to go, of course! He let me walk up to him, grab the lead rope and feed tub and slowly I started backing toward the pasture. I could tell a couple of times he was getting nervous so we stopped and let him grab some bites to calm down and continue on.

Scarlett and “Baby Cow” getting to know each other. She was clearly more excited about that then he was!

It took mere minutes to get him moved but it left my adrenaline a little ramped up! It sounds silly but we are dealing with a 750 pound steer. In all honesty we should still be chasing him around the property 6 hours later but we aren’t. To get an animal, especially one of that size and power to trust you and follow you to a new and unknown place is very a humbling experience.

One thing I have learned when it comes to dealing with animals, especially large animals is that you have to be patient, no matter how hard and excruciating. I sometimes have a hard time going on other peoples schedule, my husband likes to remind me that if it’s not done on my time it’s not right.

Getting ready to walk the boys around the perimeter of their new pasture!

I bought my horse Chocolate when I was in the fifth grade, he was my baby before I had a baby. We have learned so much from each other over the 21 years we have been together. But most importantly, he has taught me to slow down, that not everything can be done by my schedule. There are times you just have to stop everything else, everything that you had planned to do that day may not happen because you are asking this animal that is literally a thousand pounds heavier then you to do something and they aren’t so sure of it yet.

I think over the years Chocolate and I have developed a mutual trust that makes it so much easier to ask him to do something. That, and we are both older, matured and just don’t have the energy to be sassy with each other any more! The other night we went for a ride and I decided it would be fun to see if Chocolate would step up onto the cement patio that has a couple stairs on it. He did it without blinking an eye and then just hopped down like it was no big deal. I was so proud of him and how far we have come as a team.

Scarlett’s first ride on Chocolate at 6 months old. He is such an amazing boy!

It is a great privilege to have this bond and mutual trust between large animals and a human. I have trusted Chocolate not only with my life but also my daughter’s, that’s a lot of trust! It is a gift that we have been given to communicate with animals and it is amazing! I am definitely not perfect and get a little rammy sometimes when it comes to dealing with the animals but I hope to teach Scarlett the same love and affection I have for animals so she can have great bonds with them too.


Building Fence

Thankfully when we moved to this property in the December a little over a year ago it hadn’t turned bitter cold yet and the ground was not froze. My husband and I constructed a make shift holding pen for the horses until we could build proper fence when the weather turned.

There’s something oddly peaceful about looking at a pretty fence!

The previous owners hadn’t had any livestock for years which meant that all of the fence around the property had to come out and be rebuilt. My husband was a farm hand growing up so he is quite a good fence ripper outer! EVERY Saturday last summer was devoted to fencing. I would take our daughter to my mom’s in the morning and linger there a little longer then I should knowing that Coby was starting fence work while I was there. Once I got back it was time to put up some fence. We would complete a single line of fencing each day. Now, some might envision a couple arguing with each other and bickering incessantly while building fence but oddly Coby and I seem to be at our best as a couple under usually trying times so it was actually fun.

Some people feel close to God when they are sitting in a church pew. I felt alive and blessed working on our fence. Maybe it’s because it took us four years to find our acreage but God blessed us with a piece of his earth that he created and entrusted it in our care, that honestly blows my mind. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard work and was exhausting but in the same sense it was exhilarating. We have looked back on it and both felt a sense that someone was there with us. For me it was surprisingly a spiritual task.

Happy boys enjoying their new pasture!

The Steps to Building a Fence

Coby did an insane amount of research into building fence. He watched YouTube videos from the pros because we were going to do this once, and do it right!

  1. Set the corner posts. We just followed the existing fence line so we would take out the old corner posts, use the fence post digger attachment on the tractor to clean out the hole and throw the new creosote post in there. We would use a level to ensure it was straight on all sides before filling the hole in.
    • Creosote is a tar like substance that is used to coat fence posts and soaks into the post leaving it a very dark brown/black color. Creosote helps slow the wood post from rotting and can also deter harmful insects from damaging the posts. Definitely wear gloves and full sleeves when working with these posts. Coby would develop a slight rash whenever the posts made contact with his skin and it would burn for a few hours afterward.
  2. The next step was to place the brace posts on either side of the corner posts. We placed these a metal brace post length away from the corner post.
  3. We used 9 Gage Wire and looped it around the corner post and the brace post at a diagonal, attaching it together with a Wire Tightener. For this project we did have to buy quite a few specific tools but we wanted to ensure this fence was going to withstand the test of time, and my mom’s fence stretching horse.
  4. The last step in bracing the posts was to use a metal brace in-between the posts. I grew up seeing these metal posts placed diagonally between the posts but my Dad said to put them horizontally because the diagonal would start to lift the post where the diagonal was lowest to the ground.
  5. We would then run our bottom line of barbed wire to use as a guide for the metal “T”-Posts. We would wind the barb wire around the wood posts, put fencing staples in it and then put a metal rod through the spool of barbed wire and we would walk it to the other post. Once there we gave ourselves about 3′ extra to work with and cut the wire.
  6. Coby bought a Come-Along Tool or winch that we hooked to the hitch of his pickup. Coby also got an adapter to be used with the winch that can hold the barbed wire. We then tightened the wire and would wrap it around the post and attach it with fencing staples.
  7. The next step was placing the “T”-Posts. We placed ours every 8′ along the outside of the fence. We loaded them in the tractor bucket and Coby would drive the tractor slowly alongside me and I would throw them out at estimated 8′ intervals. I would then measure 8′ and pound the post in with a post pounder with the flat part of the “T”-Post facing inward so electric fencing insulators could be attached later.
  8. Once these were all in we started running the rest of the barbed wire strands. We chose to do 5 strands. My Dad ran 6 because when he built his fence we had sheep and since they’re smaller he wanted smaller openings between the strands. We only intend on having horses and steers so we decided we could make them slightly farther apart. We placed our barbed wire 2″ down from the top, then 12″, 22″, 32″ and 42″ on the 4′ post.
  9. We would run the bottom 3 strands and would then have to adhere them to the post using fence clips. Any more strands then this and they started getting caught in one another while on the ground before we attached them to the post. We would leap frog each other, each doing the next post in line and would attach the wire. We used both regular pliers and fencing pliers for this, both worked but the rounded head of the fencing pliers made it easier for me.

We divided our pasture area into three fairly equal parts so we can rotate the critters to give the grass a chance to catch up growing. We placed gates in-between the pastures to make it easier to move livestock and get the tractor in and out for maintenance. There’s nothing worse then needing to get into a pasture with the tractor and having to worry about the critters running out!

When we had an over tiring day I would make Coby look at the horses and remind him of how happy they are going to be in that beautiful pasture. I don’t think he quite shared my enthusiasm on that but as he always tells me, “If it makes you smile, I’ll do it.”

Finally the day came to let the boys into the completed pasture. I honestly think I was more excited then they were. We each took a horse and walked the perimeter of the fence so they knew where it was and then we let them go. They were so excited to have beautiful green grass they didn’t even do their typical run around like idiots when they get someplace new. They just dropped their heads and started munching, it was a wonderful site!

It was hard work and honestly I’m exhausted even reminiscing to that time but we have gotten numerous comments from people about how nice our fence is. Coby says if we ever have to do it again we will hire it out but we both puff up with pride whenever someone comments on our fence!

For this section we just had to put up the new gate and replace the post next to Coby. Once we make some other changes to the property this will be replaced with vinyl fencing!

Building a Wood Gate

We moved to our new homestead on a snowy day a year and a half ago during a winter that my Dad referred to as “This is what I remember winter’s being like when I was a kid.” i.e. I think he was going for that, “We had it so bad we had to walk up hill both ways to get to school” kind of vibe! So once we got everything here we hunkered down and just tried to make it until spring!

Once the weather turned last year we focused on fencing ALL SUMMER LONG (a post on how we did our fencing to come soon!) Now we are looking into some smaller projects that just make our lives easier. The owners that lived here previously used the hog shed for of course, hogs! We are using it as a barn for the horses and chickens and therefore need to do some adjustments to make it more suitable for us. The main thing I wanted to change was getting from inside the barn to the pasture. The previous owners had a very heavy, large piece of wood that slid into slats blocking the doorway in-between the horses shelter and the rest of the barn where we store feed and hay. This large and heavy piece of wood was great for hogs but very difficult for me to give the boys their feed each night. It was easiest for me to go outside and access their pasture via the outside gate. This meant I had to leave Scarlett in the barn by herself and a 2 year old in the barn without visibility made me nervous! I couldn’t wait to make a swinging gate for this doorway!

This board doesn’t look like much but it is a beast!

Like I have mentioned before, my Dad has done construction for longer then I have been alive so I know the basics but I have always had him there to help guide me through projects so this was the first I have really done on my own from start to finish.

The first step I did was measure. I measured about 20 times and then cut once because I tend to get excited and get ahead of myself and have been known to cut things without accurately measuring. I liked the height of the heavy board they had because it blocked the giraffe necked horses from reaching around the corner and grabbing hay that was stacked there for winter. I did want to leave some room on the bottom for clearance of apples that accumulate from the horses during the winter because it was so dang cold that first winter there was no way we were going to get them cleaned out regularly. In total the height of the gate was mounted at 48″ tall but the gate itself was only 44″ in height, leaving a 4″ gap at the bottom for the apples.

I locked the boys out of the barn while working on the inside gate. They were quite intrigued as to what I was doing with their house!

I used 2″ x 6″ lumber. The lumberyard I got it from cut it to length for me which was 44″. I had to cut the width of the final piece so it would fit in the opening. I used a battery operated circular saw for all of the cutting I did. Next I lined up the pieces on saw horses and worked on the brace pieces. I wanted a classic and simple “Z” pattern. I again measured the top and bottom pieces very carefully and cut the boards to length. I screwed these in place using deck screws, that is what my local hardware store suggested for this project. For the diagonal piece of the “Z” I just laid a board across the gate at the angle I wanted and marked where they met the top and bottom brace pieces. I then used my square to take that measurement across the width of the board so I would have an accurate guide to follow and cut those as well. Once I cut it I screwed this into place.

I used one of the other boards as a straight edge to draw a line to follow as a guide to cut the length of the board.

The next step was to take out the slats that held the heavy board into place, they were nailed to the 2″ x 4″ stud that outlined the doorway so it took a little elbow grease and a few choice words and those were out!

I then went onto installing the hardware for the gate, starting with the hinges. I was nervous about this step because I didn’t want to mess anything up. I got large hinges because this isn’t a lightweight gate! I screwed the hinges to the gate and then found various items to put under the gate to hold it in place 4″ above the floor to give me the clearance for any excrement that would accumulate from the horses. I then screwed the other side of the hinges to the 2″ x 4″ stud.

I just started attaching screws at random to get it in place and then filled in the holes.

The next step was attaching the latch, I found a heavy duty latch at Home Depot, one that the horses could not manipulate with their mouths because they can be stinkers like that. I attached the latch to the gate using the accompanying hardware and then slid the latch out like I was locking the gate and fitted the accompanying latch piece and screwed it into place to the stud.

Attaching the latch. I had to use a screwdriver, my drill was too big to fit against the latch itself.

I ensured that my gate would swing into where the horses are because horses can be stinkers and lean on gates, especially my mom’s horse that lives with us, he is a total nuisance and loves this trick. To help with this I made a simple ‘stop’ with the piece of 2″ x 6″ I shaved off for the gate itself. I simply latched the gate into place where it would stop naturally and screwed this extra piece of wood to the stud behind it to offer more protection from naughty ponies leaning against the gate.

My handy dandy “Gate Stop.”

This simple project took a few hours one rainy Sunday afternoon, including beer breaks to let the battery charge for my power tools and it has made doing chores so much easier and safer because I don’t have to leave Scarlett in the barn for very long if she chooses not to come into the pasture to help me. Even Coby and my mom have commented how nice it is to simply walk through the gate and not have to traipse around outside and open the outside gate.

Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?!

I hope this gives you some encouragement to tackle a project that will make your life easier as well. Please let me know what DIY projects you are wanting to tackle in the comments and we can offer each other motivation!