Â Â Â Â This morning when I went outsideÂ to feed the horses, I could tell something was capturing their attention becauseÂ Zammie, Isabelle and Freda were gallopping around the corral and snorting. A few minutes later, after I’d fed Zammie her sweeet feed, she ran over to the far end of the corral and was whistling through herÂ nose as she stood, ears erect, looking south.
Â Â Â An unharvested corn field that earlierÂ had been sheltering a mooseÂ andÂ her twin calves lies to the south outside of our farmstead, so I suspect thatÂ may have beenÂ what wasÂ attracting the horses’ attention. Or it could have been deer that sensed that hunting was going to begin at noon today andÂ were seeking shelter inÂ the farmstead grove just beyond the horse’sÂ corral. I suppose it could even have been the coyotes that like to harass our dogs.
Â Â Â Whatever the critter(s), it made the horses skittish, although hey don’t need much excuse to react to things by taking flight on these cool, crisp fall mornings. The weather makes them even peppier than normal.
Â Â Â When I get home tonight from work it should be light enough to see what the horses were excited about. I hope it’s the moose or deer, not coyotes. I don’t mind the coyotes, but I’d rather they keep their distance. The moose and deer are welcome, anytime. In past years, moose have taken up residence in our farmstead shelterbelt during bad winter weather. They seem to like the company of the horses. The horses act pretty leery of the moose at first, but seem to get used to them after awhile.
Â Â Â When I was putting on my coveralls this morning I could hear the wind whistling through our farmstead grove so I knew that it would be chilly. I was pleasantly surprised, though,Â to see when I stepped out the door that it had stopped raining.
Â Â Â Â That was a good thing, not only because I wasn’t looking forward to getting wet, but because the ground is saturated. We have pools of water standing in many spots on the farmstead and the fields surrounding it do, too. It’s been a rainy few weeks and the water table has risen. No water in the basement — yet.
Â Â Â Â Â Â The horses’ corral was a muddy mess this morning so I opened the gate so they can go out into their pasture. The grass is short so I was trying to let it grow, but decided I better forsake the grass to ensure that the horses don’t develop hoof problems. Meanwhile, the pasture was a much drier place to feed them their hay.
Â Â Â Â I was feeling pretty discouraged about the weatherÂ after slogging through all of that mud and water. But then, on my way to the house, the wind blew the clouds out of the way of the moon and there it was,Â round and full. Seeing some light after the past few days of darkÂ brightened my mood.
What a crazy few months of weather. This spring people were battling floods and farmers couldn’t get into the field because it was too wet. Then summer came and it turned dry. Now we’re back to monsoon-like weather.
Our rain gage has a crack in it so I don’t have an accurate reading of how much rain we’ve had on the farm, but I know it’s more than enough. The farmyard has water puddles everywhere and the horses’ corral is a swamp. I had locked them out of their summer pasture about a week ago so the grass could grow, but I turned them back into it today. I decided it was better to sacrifice some grass than to have them standing in mud.
Our garden soil is saturated and the fields around us also look wet. I noticed there was some water standing between the rows of the row crops. I’m sure it will soak in once (if) the sun comes out. Then I hope we get some warm temps so the beans, corn and sunflowers can catch up and farmers can combine.
Once combining resumes we’ll be baling straw for our horses and to sell. I used our last two bales today, so I hope that it won’t be too long. A few weeks ago, I thought we had plenty to last until baling time, but with the wet weather the horses have been spending a lot more time in the barn.
It’s been a fairly mosquito- and fly-free summer and I’ve appreciated that when I’m working outdoors. Our horses also have been happy not to be bitten by flies when they’re grazing.
The situation has changed a little duirng the past week or so, though. I noticed a few mosquitoes buzzing around me when I went to pick some peas in the garden the other day and a whole cloud of the blood-sucking insects were following me when I was riding my horse, Isabell.
Although the mosquitoes don’t bother the horses, they’ve been stamping off flies the past few days. I’ve sprayed them with the stuff that’s supposed to keep flies off for several days, but it seems to only work for one or two. I hate to spray them with that any more often than every several days because I figure it’s probably not good for them to have too much of the chemical on their skin. Running the large barn fan seems to keep the flies off pretty well , so I use that as a back-up for the fly spray.
I’m hoping that the mosquito situation will resolve itself before we get into the raspberry-picking season. I would hate to have to resort to wearing coveralls and a cap with a mosquito net over my face like I did a few years ago. While that outfit keeps off the mosquitoes it’s also extremely hot and after awhile I can’t stand wearing the net.
If we don’t get a lot of rain maybe there won’t be another big hatch of mosquitoes to spoil berry picking.
The other day when I was putting Rosebud in her kennel because I was going to feed the horses, I started thinking about how much I had written about our dogs lately and how little I’d written about horses. That struck me as ironic because, while I like dogs, I’ve always considered myself a horse lover.
I started riding when I was five and my mom bridled my pony Flicka and sent me on my way. I "graduated" from Flicka to my brother, Richard’s high-spirited mare, Beauty, when I was 12 and have ridden horses ever since. I didn’t have formal riding lessons and rarely rode with a saddle until I majored in the Light Horse Management program at the University of Minnesota Crookston. Instead, I learned to ride bareback, gripping with my knees. Not depending on a saddle was a great way to learn how to balance. I also learned to never be lulled into complacancy when I was riding because Beauty could move lightning-fast. Just when I started to "zone out" she would see something to shy at and step out from under me. That taught me another less; how to get on from the ground bareback.
I’ve continued riding as an adult and am teaching our children to ride. Ellen, age 6, especially loves it and over the weekend had a big smile on our face as she guided Isabell, our 6-year-old quarter horse, by herself. I was at their side in case anything went wrong, but the pair did very well. Isabell, an always quiet, gentle horse with a sweet personality, seemed to be even more careful with Ellen on her back. Ellen, meanwhile, has the confidence to be the boss.
It isn’t just riding horses my family and I enjoy, though, it’s simply being around them. Sometimes we go out to the barn just to "visit" and to brush them. I feel fortunate that I can live on a farm and have the room to house both horses and dogs — and a couple of cats.