Struggling to Find the Light

I’ve always struggled in the winter. Not only does the cold slow me down, but the shorter, darker days leave me depressed and unmotivated. I’m normally a health nut, eating right and exercising every day, but this time of year, I indulge in cookies and donuts and am lucky if I hit 5,000 steps on my Fitbit Alta HR. The farm chores seem harder and less rewarding.

To add to the depression, I’m put off by the obligations of parties and gift exchanges that have so very little to do with the season of Advent. I enjoy the quiet contemplation that fits so well with Advent, but I live in a world that calls people to shop until they drop and to attend one party after another.  Instead of preparing the way for the Lord, the world around me consumes and consumes and consumes some more.

For me, Christmas existed to remind me of how much I wasn’t like others. As a kid, I hated opening box after box of things I didn’t really want, pretending to love each one.  As a mother, I hated the ridicule I received because I taught my daughter the stories of Saint Nicolas rather than following along with American traditions of Santa Claus. As a Christian, I resent being told to celebrate the season when it isn’t here yet and being expected to prep for the next holiday when for me it’s still Christmas. Continue reading

Should I Blanket My Horse

Every winter, horse people produce copious amounts of literature on whether or not you should blanket your horse.  I have friends who insist you should never blanket a horse and others who insist all horses should be blanketed under certain temps.  The reality is much more complicated.  Like everything in the horse world, it depends on your horse and the situation.

Horses are built to survive in the cold, but the reality of living with horses is that our very relationship with them is unnatural.  We create unnatural situations but helping to keep horses healthy that would have been weeded out by natural selection in the wild.  We create unnatural situations by clipping our horses or using lights to keep their coats slick, so they can be show-ready as late as November or as early as February.  It’s only fair that we respond by making sure we keep them warm!

My gelding is an excellent example of this.  He has terrible teeth.  He’s 11 and has had three teeth pulled so far.  If he were in the wild, he would have starved to death two years ago.  Instead, my vet keeps up his teeth, and I keep him blanketed in freezing temperatures, since he can’t consume enough hay to keep himself warm.  My mare on the other hand almost never gets a blanket. I just shovel the hay in her direction, and she does just fine.

I’ve included the full size image below of the the poster Auburn Agriculture offers.  I highly recommend following the link and paying the $15 for a full-size laminated poster for your barn.  For me, it helps my non-equestrian husband figure out whether or not he should blanket the horses when he’s responsible for bringing them in.  For larger barns, this poster can guide less experienced horsemen/women in figuring it out.

I highly recommend reading To Blanket or Not To Blanket from Colorado State University’s vet school, which gives a great overview of basics. Equus Magazine Blanketing Q & A provides some great basics as well.  Perhaps the best article online I’ve found is Thermoregulation in horses in a cold time of year.  It’s lengthy but gives the reader an in-depth look at the science behind whether or not to blanket. Natalija Aleksandrova includes her sources if you want to dig a little deeper.

Surviving the Winter

First, let me say that I’m eternally grateful that my husband and I settled in Tennessee, where winters are mild!  If I were trying to do this in the winter in New England, I wouldn’t survive.  I would sell off everything and walk to Florida if I had to!

That being said…  Winter on a farm sucks.  It sucks even more when your farm is under construction!  We started winter with a to-do list.  We started with optimism that this list would get done.  Then, winter started.  NOTHING has gotten done on that list.

The first day of winter fun started with waking up at 5 am to no heat.  The temp had gotten down in the 20s, and we hadn’t realized how low we were on propane.  We woke up to all the dogs in our bed and a cold house–a term I use loosely since we’re sleeping in the travel trailer!  Tractor Supply doesn’t open until 8, so we fired up the electric heater to get warm.

I was headed off to the office in Franklin that day, so I was very grateful that the measures we had taken to keep the water from freezing had worked, so I could brush my teeth.  🙂  Unfortunately, around noon, my husband called.  Not only had the water frozen, but Buttons was loose.  Needless to say, I cut my work day short and headed home.

By the time I got home, Ken had caught Buttons and put her in her stall.  He’d also retrieved poor Comanche from the pasture and put him in his stall.  While he worked on getting the water running, I went out to assess the fences.   I discovered that the round bales were surrounded by ice, so the horses weren’t remotely interested in going near them.  The front pasture, which isn’t currently fenced (on the to-do list), still has grass, so Buttons thought she would break through a week spot in the fence and go munch over there.


After getting the water turned on, we got creative with the tractor and managed to roll the round bales to higher ground where the horses had better access.  We don’t have a hay fork yet, so that was a rather hilarious exercise in redneck ingenuity!  We started fixing the fencing, but lost our daylight, so Ken finished in the morning, keeping an eye on our escape artist mare.  She was much happier with the new hay locations.

Since then, we’ve had roof leak in the barn, drainage problems at the house, drainage problems at the barn, and lots and lots of mud to contend with.  The latest round of fun, was of course on a morning I had to commute an hour to the office in Franklin.  After several days of rain, all of the solar spots on the property were dead.  Ken had parked my truck in a driveway I wasn’t used to using, and I couldn’t see where the gravel ended.  So…  I ended up leaving late for work after getting my truck stuck and having to wait for daylight to get the tractor and pull it out.

As I write this, it’s raining…  AGAIN.   The forecasters predicted a mild and dry winter.  I’ll buy the mild but not the dry!  Our property slopes back to a dry creek, so the water doesn’t stay, but the drainage is terrible.  The to-do list will have to wait until we re-direct all the water!  We’re already looking forward to spring, when we can get busy with renovations and new construction again.  Sometimes we feel like Tom Hanks and Shelley Long in The Money Pit.  I remind myself that in the end, the renovations were beautiful!