Saturday, January 30, 2010

Winter On Our Horse Farm Is For The Birds

(Pictured: Mares enjoying their snowy pasture.)

The year 2009 was a big emotional blur for us with unbelievable highs and sorrowful lows, but Jack and I plowed through the remaining months of 2009 with a determination that 2010 would bring a more peaceful balance into our lives.

For me, the year always ends in my mind with the first major snowfall, a signal from nature that it is now time to rest from the frenzied activities of spring, summer and fall.

Spring 2009 opened with construction of a new apartment above our show barn that would serve as a guest house, although I'm secretly lobbying for this space to become my art studio. I went to work immediately on the landscaping and preparation for our first big garden.

(Pictured: The new guest house and future art studio.)

Summer 2009 brought us a handsome new colt, now named Asfaar, and a new world-class stallion, Monopolii (His story derserves an entire article). Jack's sister from Poland made her first trip to the USA at the same time I was leaving the farm to take care of my father who then passed away in August.

(Pictured: The newly renovated broodmare barn)

By the time I returned from Arkansas in September, my garden was overgrown but literally loaded with vegetables. Jack and his sister had been enjoying fresh cucumbers, radishes,broccoli, beans, eggplant, and tomatoes, and the tomato vines were still heavy with fruit. I frantically salvaged all I could from the garden, quickly learned home canning, and proceeded to use everything the garden gave us. The end result was a pantry full of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, green tomato relish, hot peppers, yellow peppers, spicy tomato juice, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and beets. I put green beans, yellow beans, swiss chard and spinach in the freezer. The horse manure in the garden paid off! We had volunteer garden plants all over the farm, enough for us and for neighbors and friends.

(Pictured: The last of the 2009 home canning. The yellow gourds came up as a volunteer plant. This one plant produced over 70 gourds!)

In late fall I put the garden to bed for the winter, pruned and fertilized all shrubs, flowers and trees, and removed all my "garden art" pieces in anticipation of winter. Although tired, I realized what a gratifying experience I'd had starting that garden from seeds, nurturing and caring for the plants, harvesting the vegetables, and preparing them to eat. No worries about pesticides, chemicals or country of origin. I loved pushing my cart through the grocery store saying to myself, "No, don't need that...already have these....look at the price on those." I felt very self-reliant. Yes, living life with horses has its perks. It may take a lot of shoveling, but it's well worth the effort!

With the first snowfall of the season, it's now time to relax by our big picture window and rest as the snow lays a peaceful white shroud over our farm. But this snowfall also signals the beginning of another activity - feeding the birds. Over the past two years we've amassed quite a collection of bird feeders and we enjoy the visits of our colorful feathered friends. Now I won't go as far as to say Jack is obsessed with feeding the birds, but every time he comes back from the farm store he proudly shows off another feeder! He fashioned clever platforms for the feeders and found some great clear plastic bowls that he converted to shelters so that each feeder is sheltered from rain and snow.

Horses need more hay during the winter to generate body heat. Within 20 minutes of eating hay, our horses can raise the temperature in the barn by several degrees. That being said, we're short on hay this year and it's the middle of winter. Our work for the year may not be done after all.......

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