Hard-working farm dog

You’ve read my perspective on mucking out the barn. Now Baxter shares his point of view.

Being a farm dog is a lot of work. The last few weeks, we’ve been cleaning out the barn.

Usually, Matt and Julia don’t let me in the barn.

They say it’s Ralph’s home, and she’s allowed to have her own space no dogs allowed. I don’t know what the big deal is. I don’t chase her too much. And I’m her brother. Aren’t I supposed to bug her?

The first time I came into the barn, it was very interesting. There were so many sniffs. Ralph was there too. And I didn’t bug her at all.

By the third weekend in the barn, I was exhausted.

Ralph was guarding her food dish, so I climbed into her bed. It’s a big pile of straw, but all of the nests are cat-sized. I turned and turned and turned, but I did not fit. I dug around and was able to make a dog-sized nest.

I gotta say. I’m a farm dog. But I’m not a barn dog. That straw was prickly. This is my not impressed face.

Baxter curled up in the straw

Ralph seems to like it for some reason though. She left her food dish and came over to give me dirty looks from the stairs.

Stand off over the pile of straw

Apparently I was still bugging her. My work as a farm dog and as a brother is never done.

Oh, Baxter. You have such a hard life.

Want more Baxter? Check out That Mutt tomorrow where I’m writing about his favourite toy. There’s even a give-away for your own furry friends.

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Mucking out and working out

You’ve been hearing about me spreading manure on the garden pretty much all fall. However, this post has been an even longer time coming. In fact, it’s been sitting in my drafts folder since June 2012. Way back then, Matt and I mucked out our first stall.

I was responsible for raking up the old straw.

Mucking out a stall

And Matt was responsible for getting the straw out of the stall and into the field behind the barn.

Raking straw

We just used rakes, rather than bothering to find the pitchforks, and then we piled the old straw behind the barn. This stall became Wiley’s garage.

The previous owners of our property had boarded horses. When they left, they didn’t bother to clean out the stalls.

And this fall, three years later, we still had 14 stalls full of straw and manure.

We also had a brand new vegetable garden that had been super productive. If I wanted to keep it productive, I needed to replenish the soil.

That meant it was finally time to tackle the barn.

It took me about 9 hours spread over three weekends. There were more than a dozen trailer loads of manure, and I don’t even know how many wheelbarrow loads. There were two assistants, Ms. Scratches and Mr. Sunbather, neither of whom gave very much assistance.

Ralph and Baxter in the barn

There was no way to get the tractor or the trailer into the barn, so I wheeled all of the straw through the barn, up a plank and into the trailer. When the trailer was full, I towed it out to the garden.

I got very proficient at backing up the trailer through this project. It just fit through the gate on the garden.

I usually laugh when people ask me what my workout routine is. I own a farm. That means I work. No need for a gym membership. Here’s my version of a workout video. Repeat that about a 100 more times.

So it only took me three years (or really three weekends once I got started), but finally the stalls are clean.

Now to find a new workout…

Have you ever had to muck out stalls? Any tips to make it easier? (Not that I’m planning on doing it again). What’s a project that you’ve had hanging around for awhile?

Happy Thanksgiving

Maple tree behind the barn

Photo by my mother-in-law, Audrey.

Today, I am thankful for (in no particular order) a day off, starting the weekend with a fun night out with my father and brother, Doritos (Sweet Chili Heat and Dill Pickle) and fizzy Coke, a squirmy nephew, a wiggle-butt dog, a barn cat with a serious balance issue (and an affinity for belly scratches), two turkey dinners and all of the chefs who cooked them, my mother who works so hard to bring everyone together, my father-in-law and his chainsaw, my mother-in-law who takes the dog for a walk and shares pictures for my blog, my husband and helpmate (who supplies the Doritos and wields his own chainsaw), an outstanding harvest that’s more than enough to share (seriously, so many squash), this farm and my favourite tree out behind the barn.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians.

Dealing with my hang ups

Hang up #1: Plumbing makes me nervous.

Hang up #2: The hose by the driveshed lies on the ground and is super awkward to use. It drives me crazy.

Hang up #3: Less emotional. More physical. As in galvanized. As in the solution for hang ups #1 and #2.

Galvanized hose hanger

Allow me to back up for a moment.

When we had our whole water system fixed during our first summer on the farm, my Dad had our contractor trench across the driveway and add an exterior hose at the corner of the driveshed. Since then the hose has been laying on the ground–a very inconvenient configuration.

Every time we mowed the grass, we had to move it. Turning the hose on and off and coiling it up were a pain.

Hose coiled on the ground

It was on my to-do list last May to fix this situation, but I didn’t get it done. I was distracted by other projects, and honestly I was a little nervous about tackling even this simple plumbing job on my own.

Now that we have the vegetable garden, we’re using this hose all the time. My frustration finally motivated me to pull up my big girl pants and deal with my hang ups (all three of them).

The first step was shortening the waterline. I turned off the water, pulled out the hack saw and sliced the pipe. I yanked the tap out of the original waterline and jammed it back onto the shortened pipe (hint: some boiling water softened the black pipe enough to slide the tap into place). I tightened the clamps to hold it in place.

A 2×4 mounted on the side of the driveshed holds the tap far enough off the wall so that I can turn it easily, and some metal brackets hold the waterline to the 2×4.

Hose attached to the side of the barn

Then comes hang up #3. The galvanized hose hanger holds our three hoses. Yes, three. We need every single inch of hose to reach the vegetable garden.

Hose hanging on the side of the driveshed

I’ll admit that lugging three hoses out to the garden is still not super convenient. However, having the tap attached to the wall and the hose hanging on the wall are an improvement.

Some day, I’d like to split the waterline and add another tap out at the garden. Despite confronting my hang ups, that’s more plumbing (and trenching) than I want to tackle on my own at this point.

However, this simple update boosted my confidence about tackling a simple plumbing job on my own.

What hang ups do you have at your house? How do you handle plumbing? How do you handle irrigation?

Watch out rabbits

Ralph is a top-notch barn cat, but she’s become a bit… soft.

This winter, as soon as HRH deemed the temperature too cold and the snow too deep, she retreated to the barn and refused to venture outside.

As a result of her hibernation, we had our first rabbits this spring. Two of them living behind the barn.

The snow is now mostly gone, so Ralph is outside again and the rabbits are also gone. She hasn’t gotten that soft.

But then last weekend the snow returned. It fell all night from Saturday into Easter Sunday.

HRH poked her head out of the barn.

Ralph peeking out of the barn

She looked to the left and the right.

Ralph peeking out of the barn

She paused for a moment to consider.

Ralph peeking out of the barn

And she retreated back into the barn.

Ralph peeking out of the barn

Oh, Ralphie. You’re such a tough barn cat.

At least the Easter bunny was safe.

Our new pond

I’ve written before how important it was to me to have a pond on our property.

Well, this spring we have a new pond, although it’s not quite what I imagined.

Behold the pond in the driveshed.

Puddle inside the barn

Can’t you just picture it? A peaceful afternoon at the shore, watching the trees reflect in the water’s surface, surrounded by recycling bins, tools and the smell of oil. Ahhh.

There’s always been a low spot inside the door of the driveshed. Occasionally after a big rain, we have a puddle. However, this year’s thaw resulted in more than a puddle. The really hazardous part of our new pond was that for a long time it was still partially frozen. The bottom layer of ice was extremely smooth and extremely slippery. Taking out the recycling took on a new layer of adventure.

Even now that the ice has melted, the adventure remains. Ralph was helping Matt with the garbage this week, and she had to make quite the leap to get in and out of the driveshed.

Addition for the spring to-do list: as soon as the gravel pile thaws, pick up a big scoop (or two) of stones for the driveshed.

How are things thawing at your house? Any water where it’s not supposed to be?

A painter’s premonition

Matt’s grandpa was a painter. It was his hobby, and he was very skilled and prolific. Everyone in the family has a few of his works. This summer, Matt’s Dad came across a piece, and he immediately gave it to us. For our Christmas present, Matt’s parents had the painting framed.

It looks like it could have been painted at our farm.

Barn painting

What makes this a truly uncanny back to the future moment is that there’s a stump right at the edge of the driveway where the big centre tree stands in the painting. The small evergreens behind the barn ramp in the painting have now grown into our towering stand of pines.

Barns on a sunny, snowy winter morning

Matt’s grandpa died in 1991. I never met him. With this painting, it feels like he is a part of our life at the farm in a very meaningful way.

Do you have any artists in your family? Do you have a painting of your house or property?

Danger from above

Icicles hanging off the edge of the old barn roof

Some fairly impressive icicles have formed along the edge of the barn roof.

However, they are fairly dangerous as well, as they don’t stay on the edge of the roof.

Broken icicle stuck in the snow

This particular one landed straight up right outside the cats’ door (the gap cut out in the barn boards). If you imagine a cat fitting through that hole, that might give you an idea of the size of these icicles.

The roof edge above the human door was clear thankfully, but Matt rightfully thought that all creatures should be safe, so he went to work removing the daggers. As the edge of the barn roof is about 20 feet in the air, this was a bit challenging. Heaving things at the icicles seemed to be the most effective.

He was successful in the removal, but we now have a hunk of wood on the roof of the barn. Not quite sure how we’ll get that one down.

Snow day

Snow day on the farm

Friday brought a record-setting snowfall, a day off work for both Matt and me and lots of unusual happenings, like going back to bed at 7am, eggs and bacon for breakfast on a weekday and movies in the afternoon.

Some of the other unique ways we spent our time included rescuing a not-so-bright kitten who decided she was bored in the barn, but then spent some time cowering under Matt’s car when she realized there was no one outside to play with and the snow was too deep for her to return to the barn.

Cleaning snow off the kitten

In this oh so flattering picture, Easter is being de-snowed over the kitchen sink.

We returned the kitten to the barn, which was definitely more sheltered than under Matt’s car but still slightly snowy. Lots of light and fluffy snow combined with strong winds meant drifts were everywhere, including inside the barn.

Snow drifts inside the barn

We traded the kitten for Matt’s GT snow racer, picked up a crazy carpet that came with the driveshed and headed out across the fields.

Snow was deep and the field with the best hill is farthest from the house. The walk was a workout, and rest stops were required.

Matt takes a break with his GT snow racer

The quote of the day came from Matt: “I don’t remember tobogganing being this tiring when I was a kid.”

A tip for anyone else who’s no longer a kid, yet still wants to ride his GT snow racer: the best way to “fit” on the sled is to ride in a mostly standing position.

Kid or not, a snow day is a pretty good deal–an unexpected free day. No excuse needed to stay home, break from the usual routine and have some new experiences.

Who else loves a snow day? Have you had one yet this winter? Anyone have a pet who’s not too smart? How about a GT snow racer? Matt figured out that his is about 24 years old. Have you been tobogganing this year?

No chandeliers here

Last week on the Art of Doing Stuff, Karen professed her love of chicken coops and shared images readers had submitted of their coops.

Her post inspired me to get out and investigate our chicken coop. I confess, this is a spot that I usually prefer to avoid.

Karen wrote, “some of the most dilapidated coops are among my favourites.”

Well, dilapidated is a good descriptor of our coop. If you’re feeling charitable, you might call it rustic. Usually, I tend to just call it gross.

Chicken coop lean to on the side of the barn

Abandoned chicken run

Rustic chicken coop

Broken concrete in a chicken coop

Perhaps a chicken laid a very heavy egg and broke the concrete floor?

I’ve seen some coops with chandeliers and artwork. The leaky roof in ours has started to form stalactites, which I guess could be considered sculpture.

Leaky chicken coop

And in case you’re starting to wonder, you are in fact correct. The coop has not been cleaned out. Likely not for several years. (Warning: The next photo may spoil your appetite).

Manure under chicken roosts

The coop is cozily tucked into the west side of the barn under the pines. The worn barn boards, old mullioned windows and generous size are appealing. The abandoned water and food dishes in the run, the layers and layers of manure inside and the overall dilapidated state both inside and out are decidedly not appealing.

I’m planning on adding geese, ducks and chickens to the farm someday, and they will need a home–a better home than this coop. My Dad (the general contractor) upon seeing the coop for the first time suggested that dynamite might be the best solution. We probably will end up starting over, but we’ll likely still end up more on the rustic side of coop design–I can’t see myself putting a chandelier in a chicken coop.

If you’re looking for some slightly more inspiring coops than ours (albeit no chandeliers), check out what Art of Doing Stuff readers submitted. And while you’re there, make sure to check out Karen’s own coop which completely puts ours to shame. Even though she says her hens don’t care how their coop looks, I don’t think Walnut and the ladies would be too happy if their home was anything like ours.