Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Happy New Year!

Winter has certainly found us. We have had several days of double-digits below zero temps and it looks like almost the entire US is suffering with this 'cold snap.' I am so happy with our bright yellow and red Ritchie fountain. It is so nice not to have to drag water hoses and to plug in and pay the bill for heating the 100-gallon water tanks in the pastures. However, since there's no water in the barn, we still have to schlep hoses to fill those tanks. This wrong will be rectified in the spring when the barn area and building are renovated. I'm counting my blessings and the dollar savings on our electric bill.

Speaking of the electric bill, well, the heating bill in our new digs actually, I must say this geothermal system is really nice. We have no propane or wood/corn pellets bills (or any of the related work to keep the stove fed) and we are as toasty as can be. Our December bill to run the heat pump was $130 versus to fill our pellet stove and run the propane heater that ran us $600 a month at the Stanchfield farm. True, the two farmhouses are not exactly comparable, but I can count the money staying on our account as well as you can.

The horses are well, but I have some that are ribby and I don’t like that at all. There is a combination of things that cause weight loss in horses; worms, poor nutrition among them. We deworm the herd at set intervals, and sometime this year I’m hoping to have each horse diagnosed as to how often they actually need to be dewormed. There are some that only need to be done four times a year, others need it monthly. The common practice is to deworm monthly or to feed dewormer pellets as a top dress with a horse's daily grain. However, research has shown that worms, like viruses, are becoming resistant to deworming drugs so our regimens are not working as well. This is why each horse should have its own fecal egg count number and be dewormed accordingly. Click here for more info on worms and fecal eggs count.

If a horse is not pregnant (late term), in training or being pleasure ridden regularly, I don’t believe in feeding grain. In the winter, the hay we feed is sufficient, and that coupled with good shelter and 24/7 access to water keeps most horses very happy. There are other factors like disposition, age and bad habits that should also be factored in – some horses are just nervous nellys that do energy sucking things like pace the fence line or stall weave or wind suck and these types are a challenge to keep at a healthy weight and if it drops they need help to recover and maintain, especially when the weather gets cold.

In our herd there are two mares, Eve and Mara, full sisters, who have been brought in from the pasture and are now blanketed and fed the high fat/easily digestible senior equine feed twice daily. Today, our vet, Jennifer, power floated their teeth to restore the needed grinding surface. Florida-based equine vet, Geoff Tucker, has an informative site on Equine Dentistry. Geoff’s site also has a video on the floating process.

I expect with these helps the sisters will now pick up the weight steadily and be in really good form come spring.

On the personal home front, our Christmas Day and New Year’s were as we like them; quiet, uneventful. On Christmas Eve during a break in a three-day snow storm, we went into the Cities and took my Mom to lunch at Mall Of America’s Napa Valley Grille. Mom (age 85) had a series of mini strokes in October and has had to give up living in her own apartment. She is on the list to get a room at the Minneapolis Veteran’s Home and while she waits for that to come open Mom lives at a transitional care facility in Minneapolis. Mom is doing well but has problems with her short term memory. She writes in a journal to help with remembering visits/appointments, medications and people’s names. This works and gives her comfort. Ian and I will empty Mom's Minneapolis apartment this coming weekend and store her belongings here on the farm.

Ian is Ian; happy at work, happy at home. On the weekends we enjoy unpacking more of our stuff and finding places for all of it - hanging the artwork is the most fun.

This week brings us a mid-January thaw with daytime temps in the high 20s and low 30s, however there is still plenty of winter left for us here on the frozen tundra. We smile every time that geothermal system kicks in!