Friday, December 15, 2017


The sun rose yesterday morning on a winter wonderland!

There is nothing more beautiful, to me, than the farm right after a fresh snowfall.

Everything is still and quiet... peacefully tucked under a soft, downy quilt of fluffy white.

Just as dawn touches the sky, the earth is bathed in dreamy blue light.

As the sun reaches the horizon, the pre-dawn blues are replace by golds and oranges.

It's magical!

We sent the horses and donkeys into the pasture for their breakfast of hay.
Eventually they will nose around in the snow in search of grass
(which, at this time of year, is sparse).

More importantly, though, a snowy pasture gives them the opportunity to stay out longer...
getting more exercise and more mental stimulation.

  Every morning, as the sun rises, we open up the guinea house and they come
bustling out...running and flying... ready to take on the world.
Yesterday morning....

The dogs have a blast in the snow...
playtime made even more fun with the appearance of Daisy and Buddy
(Dr. Becky's dogs).

Sam always takes playtime to a different level...growing and snarling.
He's all bark, though.  It's just his way of playing.
Although, I must admit - he sounds a bit like a junkyard dog!
You might have noticed that Annie and Chester swapped parkas this morning.
Chester needs to grow a little for his to fit better.

Every winter I receive questions about what I wear
 to stay warm while outside for long periods of time.
Perhaps the most important of my cold weather gear is my base layer.
I wear either merino wool top and bottoms or Under Armor.
I have found that merino wool is the warmest.
I wear merino wool socks and tall Muck boots on my feet.
I have never found warmer, drier boots than Muck boots.
Over my base layer, I wear gore-tex pants (from my Cabela's rain suit) tucked into my muck boots and an Under Armor sweatshirt.
On my head... a fleece headband.
Most days, this is enough. 
I don't like to be too warm, but rather just a little cool.
There is nothing worse than sweating while outside in the cool.
When the wind blows, I add my gore-tex rain jacket.
When the temperature drops below thirty, I add a quilted work jacket, 
but often end up removing it.
On my hands... I usually wear insulated leather rancher's gloves...
several sizes too big.
Extra large gloves provide an airspace around your fingers that allows for the circulation
of warm wearing mittens.

I have also found that my hands are warmer in the winter if I resist the temptation to 
put on gloves early in the season.
Acclimating your hands to cold weather gradually helps your hands to build up more
capillaries...bringing more blood flow, and hence, warmth to your fingers.
It's a principle used by mountain climbers who condition their hands by plunging them into ice-cold
water to get them used to the cold.
Then by the time the temperatures drop below freezing, gloves are enough to keep my hands toasty warm.
I rarely need gloves if the temperature is above freezing.
(and this was not always the case)

My best advice when it comes to cold is...
to embrace it!  Don't fight it.
Buy yourself good gear and get out in the cold... you will eventually become used to it.
There is nothing more invigorating than cold fresh air filling your lungs!
And make sure you have something on your feet to keep you from falling!
I use ice cleats when the ground gets frozen and slippery.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

It's Winter Parka Time

Ole Man Winter blew in yesterday
with winds whistling and temperatures plummeting.
The pond is half frozen already!
And... by the time you read this, we may have had snow....1 to 3 inches predicted.

I pointed to the calendar and tried to remind him that we still have a week of autumn
to enjoy... but he was not to be intimidated!

Luckily, when Chester joined the pack last week,
I ordered him a winter parka in anticipation of just this.
As you can see, it has not slowed him down one bit!
His parka is just a little long... anticipating that he still has some growing to do.

Besides being snug and warm,
there is no misplacing this fellow.

He sticks out like a crossing guard on a busy city street!

I am not one for dressing my dogs, but with two senior hounds (Sam and Oakley),
a young lady that doesn't have a lick of fat on her anywhere (Annie),
and a puppy who is using all of his energy to grow (Chester)...
winter coats are a must!
They don't wear them for short visits outdoors - but when we are out for hours doing chores,
a little insulation keeps them from shivering.
It's important to remember that not all dogs are designed for winter weather.

My favorite dog parkas are made by WeatherBeeta.
They are weather-proof and insulated and are very similar to the horse blankets that
are made by the same company.

When we aren't outside, you can find our canine companions occupying
every available surface of our living room furniture...
in front of a roaring fire.

It's no wonder I never sit down....there is never any available seating!

Although I continue to think of more cookie ideas,
I took a break from baking yesterday and knit Easton his Christmas stocking.

I had seen a photo of a wreath that I wanted to make,
(I found all the makings at 50% off!)
so I put this together as well...

I think I will keep it hanging somewhere 
even after the Christmas decorations are safely stowed away.
For now it hangs on our loft banister.

And if you are wondering what is written on the beam 
on the lower left-hand side of the picture...

this is written on the main beam through the house just as you enter the dining room.

And so, to you...
you may have stopped by the farm as a guest...
but now you are a welcome friend!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Party Animals

Thank you so very much for your concern and suggestions regarding
dear Chloe and Daphne's fence chewing.

I must allay your fears...they are definitely not cribbing.

Chewing is sometimes confused with cribbing, however they are two different things.
When a horse cribs, they lock their teeth onto a fence or stall wall and draw air
into the back of their pharynx.
Rarely do they eat the wood, but rather use it as a means to hold fast 
while they arch their necks and suck air.
They have found through fluoroscopic studies,
 that the equine does not actually fill their belly with air, as was once thought...
but rather just fills the back of their pharynx and then exhales it again.
Apparently this causes an endorphin release.
So, in essence, it is a bad habit that is actually a way that horses self-soothe...
and one that is very hard to there is so much positive reinforcement from the endorphins.

What these girls are doing...
is just plain old eating my fence.

Donkeys eat wood to get more fiber into their diets.
It's important to remember that donkeys come from arid parts of the world with poor vegetation...
so, tough, woody growth is natural to them.

So, while I don't appreciate having to replace fence boards on a somewhat regular basis...
I am at least relieved to know that they are not doing something far worse.

Boredom should not be a problem for these two party animals.
They are good company for each other and have plenty to keep them amused.
They also get to spend a good deal of time out in the pasture
(albeit with their grazing muzzles on... no worries....they have become quite adept at eating
with their muzzles on!)

The slow-feeders have been a Godsend.
Yesterday I had to move them into the donkeys' shelter.

By late afternoon, the sky turned tumultuous and the winds picked up.
A cold front had moved in... bringing icy winds with it...
not a favorite amongst the donkeys.

And so, they are safely tucked in their house...
with their heat lamp...

and room service!
(a meal that will take them hours to consume...thanks to the slow feeders!)

While the cold winds blow outside,
Chester continues his training inside.
He is a quick study.
Here he is demonstrating how well he can sit and stay....
patiently waiting for his treat.

Chester the wonder dog... with the biggest ears ever!
Hubbs says he looks like what a fifth grader would draw, if if asked to draw a dog.
Oh Chester.... we love you!

PS....we sent off his DNA test kit.
Soon we will see what type of traveling salesman was his father.
His mother was apparently a cattle dog.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Donkey Update

I am happy and relieved to report that Chloe is back to her old self...

Last week's treatment 
(tube through the nose into the stomach to give mineral oil)
put all systems back in check.
No blockages.
No belly ache.

So, once again we are tweaking the donkeys' diet.

They remain on grass (by way of a grazing muzzle)...
out to graze each morning...

and hay...
by way of these new slow feeders.

We simply put a flake of hay into the feeder and drop the insert on top of the hay...
leaving only what you can see through the holes exposed for nibbling.
This slows down their consumption and makes them work for their dinner.

I had to order two because chubby Daphne would chase Chloe away if there were only one.

So, if one of them becomes possessive of a feeder, there is always another one to visit.

By the time they have finished a portion, the feeders are moved across the dry lot.
These feeders are extremely sturdy.
I would bet they will last my lifetime.
I like them much better than a hay bag, because the donkeys get to eat 
in the same position they graze in... nose to the ground.

We are still left with the problem of them eating their fence, however.
If anyone has any suggestions... I would welcome them!

Now if I could just put Christmas cookies in a slow feeder!
Or, perhaps I just need a grazing muzzle!
I may be addicted to cookie decorating.
Here is yesterday's batch...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Weekend Surprises

There is nothing better than a cold winter walk in the woods.
Fresh, clean air fills your lungs making you feel immediately healthier.

I love the woods in winter... the stark stillness.
There is no canopy to block the sun, 
but rather the skeletal branches of trees that have already shed their 
dry crunchy leaves.
Those same leaves make every footstep crackle, giving all of the forest
residents a warning of our approach.

Invariably a trip to the woods will yield sightings of deer
or turkeys.

Saturday's hike provided us with a special surprise.
What was that?
There in the distance, about a hundred yards in front of us...
(my camera had a hard time focusing on her.... I only had my small camera with me)

A Jersey cow... a most unexpected woodsy visitor.
She spooked when she saw us and headed into the woods.

We checked the game cameras and sure enough...

there she was... passing by the tent.

Once home, I got on the computer and messaged all of our neighbors with cows.
No one claimed her.

We made a visit to all of the dairy farms in the area.
No one was missing a Jersey cow.

Later in the weekend, we went back to the woods with halter in hand...
searching for the lonesome wanderer.
It's been very cold this week so I was quite worried about her.
The good thing is there is much shelter to be had in the woods,
and in the middle of the woods is a large meadow full of grass...
so she will have plenty to eat.
There are streams nearby for water... I only hope she can find them.

We deposited some hay near our tent and put the game cameras in that area.
We will continue to check the cameras and look for our mysterious bovine visitor.
Hopefully we will be able to catch her before winter brings
harsh weather our way!
We'll keep you posted.

The rest of our weekend was spent mostly at home,
enjoying the decorations,

(yes, it's true...there is rarely room for humans on our couch!)

in front of the fire,

listening to our favorite holiday music,

and baking and decorating more cookies...

and more cookies....

Chester has settled in quite nicely and is learning our routine.
He seems very happy with his new living arrangements and spends a lot of time
observing the older dogs.

He's a fast learner and very eager to please.

Every new activity is a little scary...

but, by the second time, he seems to understand and joins in willingly.

He's learned all about moving horses

 and seems to enjoy our trips to and from the pastures...
leading the way back to the barn as we all follow.

This little fellow is going to be the perfect farm dog.
Looks like we are all very lucky!


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