Wednesday, August 30


Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Coy Dan met Scott, a local farrier, at the Fair Play swap meet. Coy Dan was purchasing an old halter when Scott approached him and asked if he needed a farrier. Coy Dan told Scott that he did have a horse that needed shod, in fact he had several but wanted to make sure Scott was capable.

When I arrived home from work I headed down the hill to the Blakemore farm. Jennifer had called me and told me a farrier was coming. She had been waiting for Coy Dan to get the horses feet worked on before she started training them. I knew it might make a neat photo opportunity as well as a very educational experience. To see more of the pictures, check out my farrier pics on my flickr stream.

Jennifer and Coy Dan approved of Scott's work. Scott kept up the friendly banter while they kept him busy with 3 of Coy Dan's mares, his pony Dude, and Coy Dan's stud Cody. With a little light left he removed the shoes from Eve at our place.

If anyone is in need of a capable farrier in Southwest Missouri, I can recommend Scott. He can be reached at (417) 773-9170.

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Tuesday, August 29


I created quite a pile of brush some time ago clearing out a fence line. At the time we hadn't quite settled on where the new fences would go, and as luck would have it I placed the pile right in the middle of the next fence line I needed to build. This fence line will create a smaller area for our new horses to graze.

I needed to move the pile somewhere or burn it in place. I didn't really want to burn it in place since it was underneath some oak and walnut trees and in close proximity to the house. I had mentioned to our neighbor, Coy Dan, that I was going to have someone estimate moving it out of the way and possibly hauling it off.

Yesterday I arrived home to fin the middle of the back field. I was happy to see my neighbor and his tractor making short work of the pile. We started the pile to flame well before dark, around 6:30 PM. We all sat around enjoying the peaceful sounds of a crackling fire. Eventually Coy Dan's wife, Glenda joined me, Jennifer, and Coy Dan. She brought up making smores and before long we were trying to get close enough to the bon-fire to roast our marshmallows without roasting ourselves. The smores hit the spot.

By 10:00 at night Coy Dan and Glenda were heading home. Despite the recent rains, Jennifer and I were both weary of leaving the still burning fire unattended overnight. All it would take is one errant spark to hit the hay barn to ruin the day and more. So I volunteered to watch over it. I backed my pickup truck into the field and armed myself with a water hose, an air mattress and my sleeping bag.

It was a peaceful sleep, when I got it. I periodically woke up to check the fire. I gave up watching over the pile of embers around 4:45 in the morning this morning and put it out with the hose. That's when I headed into the house to try and get ready for work. I ended up needing a little more rest and was a little late to work this morning.

Those who know me were already trying to deduce what farm catastrophe occurred to make me miss. Luckily there wasn't any catastrophes to speak of, but I'm tired none-the-less.

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Thursday, August 24

The flock is back on active duty

Guinea Flock
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I awoke this morning to feed the animals and was happy to see the guiena flock busily scratching away. As Pablo commented on the previous post, perhaps they were roosting to high for me to see with my flash light.

Wednesday, August 23


Jennifer inadvertently let a couple guineas out, so she let them all out. I read somewhere that after several weeks of being in an enclosure they would imprint on the hen house as "home" and return each night to roost. Since I haven't completed the chicken yard around the hen house we had to cage all the chickens in order to leave the door to the hen house open.

The guineas didn't go far the entire day, staying within site of the hen house, so we thought things were going pretty well. When I got home they were busily going from one part of the yard to another. They'd stop and scratch and make all kinds of noise then quickly move to another part of the yard. It was entertaining to watch them.

My Aunt Julia, who has a flock of her own, told me that her and Uncle Bill usually just had to wait until after dark and go close the door on their hen house and all the birds would be quietly roosting in the safety of the building. So tonight as dark approached we watched to see if they would go in by themselves.

They did get very close, in fact a few went in momentarily, but the flock seemed to want to settle outside the door. We tried shooing them in, but that didn't work. We tried placing one or two in to coax the rest in and that didn't work. So we decided to try it Aunt Julia's way. We both went in and about 9:45 PM I went out to check on them.

They're gone. MIA. No where to be found. I hope I have better news in the morning.

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Monday, August 21

OK, Corral!

Jennifer and I moved into the farm in late April and after four months of country living many projects have been started but few of them completed. I'm proud to say that I did complete the corral project, well at least phase 1 of the project anyway.

It's a bit of a running joke at work that software projects will always have an ellusive phase 2 (or more). This is where features initially thought to be "must-haves" are pushed off to a later date in order to meet a deadline or resource constraint. Much is the same in the farm project world. I had originally imagined a much more elaborate corral system, complete with reconfigurable sections for different needs. As in the software world, I needed to prioritize the fundamental features and focus on delivering them first due to time and resource constraints. Other "must-haves" had become "would-be-nices".

Having never built fence on my own, many valuable lessons were learned in this project and my loyal readership will hopefully benefit from my mistakes. First and foremost: while your four-legged animals won't care if everything is square and true all your visitors of the pipedal primate orders will immediately notice and comment on crooked things.

I originally laid out the corral with spray paint and mason's line, being sure to mark where I wanted the post holes on the line with spray paint. However the holes, to no fault of the auger operator, didn't stay perfectly centered. So when I began concreting in posts they were no longer on the centerline. At the time it seemed to make sense to start on one end and work to other. I carefully made sure each post was vertically level then set it in concrete. I was so pleased with my progress I continued on around the corral setting each post vertical and cementing it in. It took an outside voice (my wife) to point out how crooked of a line the posts made. I blew it off and made a comment that it didn't matter. In fact it didn't affect the operation or diminish the utility of the fence. Even if it did it was too late! I was reminded about how crooked it was each time someone else too a look at it (the neighbor, my Dad, my wife, my Dad).

Lesson learned: set up your corner posts first, pull your string and then set line posts based on the string from corner to corner.

Another lesson learned wasn't so much as embarrasing as it was exhausting. I mentioned before that the barn was built of hand-sawn oak right off the land and surrounding places. What I learned is weathered and seasoned oak must be one of the hardest substances on Earth, second only to diamond, I think. I wanted to attach the 2x8's to the barn to connect the barn to the first line post. I had purchased 4" coated screws and charged up my trusty 16.8 volt Craftsman cordless drill.

I began to get frustrated after the third or fourth stripped out screw (on the very first board). I remember by that time it was getting into the heat of the day and I decided it was a good time to quit on that project for a while. It was such frustrations that led to the many start and stops of the project and the overall lenghty implmentation.

In addition to stripping out the screws, it seemed like my drill didn't have enough umph behind it to get the job done. At least that's how I rationalized it to myself. I ended up borrowing a more powerful DeWalt hammer drill from a friend of mine. When I pulled it out to use I noticed it had a funny square shaped bit. It was then that I noticed the box of screws had a label stating the screws would work with with a phillips bit (which I was previously using) or a square-tipped bit.

I tried the square bit and the more powerful drill and with some effort I was able to get the screws to drive. After some experimenting (putting the square bit on my drill) I learned that the square bit was the key. It still took considerable effort to drive each screw, and my charge didn't seem to last quite long enough, so I resigned myself to only putting in one screw for now and coming back with the other two screws per end to hold it securely.

Lesson learned here: read the directions, even on something so simple as a box of screws.

The effort required to attach each 2x8 into the treated 4" wood posts was very tiring. The steps necessary to complete each section was lengthy. First measure the distance between center on each post. Then drag board off the pile and set it on the saw horses. Measure (twice) and cut the board and repeat that process for all four boards. I initially didn't work on this project unless I had the help of two strong teenage cousins of mine, the pace by myself was demotivating. Having help made the dragging of the boards from one place to another much quicker, as we could pipeline our efforts (one dragging, one holding, and me measuring and cutting). Having help also made the next step possible as I hadn't figured out a way to hold the boards up by myself while securing it. It took at least two of us to hold each end on the carefully measured mark and secure the board.

My next valuable lesson came in creating a set of jigs to correctly position the crossboards on the posts. The first board up from the ground was 8", the second was 5" above the first, then 8" to the next, and again 8" above the third to the fourth and final board. The measuring, marking, and holding of each crossboard was time-consuming, and could only be completed by at least two people. After we made the jigs which where simply scrap 2x8's cut to length, I could hang the boards myself. I just placed one 8" board on the ground agains each post, set the crossboard on top putting pressure against the posts and attached the board to the post. I repeated that process on up the post setting the scrap pieces on top of the newly attached board.

Lesson learned: work smarter not harder.

Flash forward to this last weekend when I set a personal goal of finishing four more sections of fence, hanging three gates, and adding the remaining fasteners to each board. This time I was armed with a Rigid Pneumatic Framing Nailer. I set the nailer to rapid fire where I can hold down the trigger and a nail fires each time contact is made with the board. I made short work of several sleeves of nails and in no-time the boards were securely mounted. The nailer made it so attaching the boards was no longer the bottle neck in the process. Had I been in possesion of this tool 4 months ago the project would have flown by.

So the exahusting lesson learned here that I allueded to earlier.: the right tools make all the difference in the world.

The picture above was taken this evening and started as 4 shots that where stitched together with some software (thus the ghosting of Desi as she moved about the corral). It's taken from the bed of my truck as I panned from left to right. It looks so simple in the image, and indeed it's not that big of a project. But none-the-less it's something I'll be proud to see put to use.

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Sunday, August 20

Four inches to a hand

Pictured here is a group of Percheron draft horses being led to the barn early Saturday morning. I included my wife in the crop to give the viewer a sense of scale (Jennifer is 5'3" tall). I was aware the "hand" measurement for horses, that is 4" to a hand. I learned also that the hands are measured from the ground to the withers, which is the top of the front shoulder.

Upon moving to the farm I was first introduced to the neighbor's quarter horses. Not accustomed to being around farm animals even quarter horses looked quite large to me. Coy Dan's horses are in the 14.5 to 15.5 hand range or about 5' to the top of the front shoulder. Add into that the length of the horse's neck and head and I have to look up a ways to see into the eyes of one of these beautiful animals.

When Jennifer started working at the local draft horse farm, she described the horses as very large, in the neighbor hood of 17 to 18 hands or 6' to the withers. I'm not sure why the hand measurement was created. To me it's confusing. Eighteen hands is a lot of hands to be sure, and of course it's only to the shoulder. But despite the accuracy of the measurement I still had a tough time trying to get a sense of how big the Percheron horses really are with the hand measurement. It would have been simpler for someone to tell me it's about 8 or 9 feet in the air to the top of their head. Now that sounds big. Add into that the weight (close to and sometimes over a ton) and you really get a sense of their size.

Incidentally, Jennifer has acquired a Percheron draft horse and we'll soon be bringing her home. Desapina, or Desi, and Socks will call our nearly completed coral and barn home (one more gate to hang). A complete post on the coral will follow it's completion including all of my very valuable fence and corral building lessons.

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Friday, August 11

Morning Light, Not So Light Horses

pre-sunrise over Geek Acres
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
The days are getting shorter and it's later and later it seems before the sun rises. I took this photo a few days ago in the pre-sunrise light at Geek Acres. Don't be fooled by the cloud cover, we've seen very little rain. Our place seems to be a true geographical oddity when it comes to precipitation, we always just seem to get missed.

My honey-do list continues to grow and the amount of daylight hours to accomplish the necessary tasks grows smaller. Jennifer is happily working away training horses at a near by draft horse farm. I suspect we'll be the owners of a very friendly draft horse filly in the near future. Jennifer and I have been married for over 3 years and this week I finally witnessed her training horses, her first love (before she met me of course!).

Wednesday evening I went along with her when she planned to work with the most stubborn mare. Gala, is 2200 lbs of Percheron attitude. I watched as Jennifer wrestled her into the roundpen (at the draft horse farm, I still have yet to complete ours). The roundpen is made of temporary panels stitched together with chain. The equipment is barely sufficient for a horse of normal size and stature and quite weak and small for the draft horses, and Gala knows it.

Jennifer began her running around in the circle but Gala insisted on testing every panel for weakness. Each time she would stop and test a panel Jennifer would holler, yell and put the horse back into the pattern. OK, not quite the horse whisperer (horse hollerer, maybe?), but the concept is the same (more on the horse whisperer in a moment). At one point the giant horse decided she had enough and was getting out of the pen. I had to run to the outside of the pen and motion for her to get back in the pen. A whip waved in her direction (but never actually touched her) assisted with our convincing. I repaired that section of the pen as quickly as I could as Jennifer continued Gala going round and round.

Eventually the horse showed the tell-tale signs of submission. Well, tell-tale to Jennifer that is, I didn't notice anything but the massive amount of dust that a ton of horse running in a circle can generate. Jennifer told me she was looking for Gala to start chewing and drop her head and that she knew Gala was ready to admit who was now boss. Soon after Jennifer was leading her around the farm like a well trained dog.

I was impressed.

On the horse whisperer technique: I told Jennifer, after watching her work, that for a horse person watching the horse whisperer must be like me watching a movie that features a "computer hacker." To the layman, it's amazing, but for the indoctrinated, that's just how things work. The horse whisperer has simply added a dramatic aspect and marketed himself well.

Monday, August 7

Baled out

Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Pictured here is our neighbor Coy Dan in one of his trusty John Deere tractors. Coy Dan was baling our first crop of "green graze" or Sudan grass mix. As with the rest of the country it's been near drought conditions and exteremly hot. The approximately 6.5 acres that produced 14 round bales of oat hay in late may only managed to yield 11 bales of the Sudan. That was a pretty dissappointed sight for us.

We went partners with Bruce, Coy Dan's son. Bruce and Coy Dan provided some seed and the equipment to no-till the seed in exchange for half of the hay. We also agreed to sell our half to Bruce, which at this point just barely covered the cost of the seed we bought.

This farmin' business is quite the gamble. Coy Dan, being the experience farmer, has several places rented out to produce hay this year. In a typical year he completes his haying activities by July 4. This year, with the drought conditions he's still haying, into August to get enough hay to last the winter. I suspect many farmers didn't plan as well as our wise neighbor and will be in a pinch when the laws of supply and demand catch up to hay prices this winter.

More fair pictures

tickets please
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I made another trip to the Ozark Empire Fair. Take a looksee at the photo set here.