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Sympathy Weight

I have the most amazing dogs.  There, I said it.  I know everyone thinks their dogs are amazing – and they are.  I just happen to know my dogs better than I know others, so I think they are the most amazing.


Although they are both black Lab-type dogs (Kody is only part Lab), they are really very different.  Carly, our female, is built like a tank with a low deep bark and is not the least bit feminine.  Kody, our male, is taller but lighter than Carly, and extremely sweet and sensitive.  Carly is obsessed with Gator – she is definitely a daddy’s girl.  Kody is much more of a mama’s boy.

In spite of their differences, those two dogs are extremely attached to each other.   They love chasing a Kong donut (also known as “the squeaky”) that we throw for them. Even though they have similar speed, Kody has always been more of a thinker than Carly, but she has had the weight advantage and has never been afraid to throw it around if it will help her push Kody out of the way to get to the squeaky first.

Normally it is a friendly rivalry.  They both have times when they will back off and let the other take the throw.  However, a couple of months ago, we had a rare but impressive crash.  Both Kody and Carly went for the squeaky at full tilt and they slammed into each other. Kody came out of it limping.  Usually he shakes it off within a few minutes, but this time he was still lame after a couple of days, so I decided to take him to the vet to have him checked out.  Nothing was broken, but he definitely had a strain and is showing signs of arthritis in his back lower legs, so he was put on rest and given pain and anti-inflammatory medicine.


I wasn’t terribly concerned until I heard the definition of rest – it meant NO activity for 6 weeks.  Kody was allowed to go outside to do his business (and even then it should be on a leash), and that’s all.  No running, no walking – theoretically he should be in a crate all of the time.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  My vet flinched as I started negotiating with her.  I was pretty sure she didn’t understand – we live on a farm, our dogs go everywhere we go.   There was no way Kody was going to tolerate getting left behind all of the time.  Actually, I think she understood just fine – everyone around here lives on a farm.  We finally agreed that I would limit Kody’s activity as much as possible, knowing that more rest would give him the best chance of recovery.

The crate wasn’t really an issue.  When Kody is in the house, he spends nearly all of his time on the couch.  He doesn’t move around much at all.  As it turned out, as long as both Gator and I were home, we were able to keep Kody in the house with one of us while the other one went out to feed horses and chickens.  However,  Gator was leaving for work at 5:00 AM at least three days a week and there weren’t many days that he would get home from work before dark, so the tag team method didn’t get used nearly as much as I would have liked.

I tried just leaving Kody in the house while Carly and I went out and did chores for the first week or so.  It was one of the most miserable weeks I can remember.  He howled like he was being tortured!  I could hear him all the way down at the barn.  I’m not sure how much running around he did, but I can say that he wasn’t staying on the couch because he would be standing at the door panting the second we came back in.

Clearly, that didn’t work.  Next, I tried leaving both of them in the house.  Not much better – I had two howling dogs.  It’s funny, because when we leave them to go out to dinner or something, they are just fine.  But they know when we are here on the property, and they don’t appreciate being stuck in the house.

After a couple of weeks, Kody had improved enough that I let him go out with us as long as he didn’t run.  He quickly learned the “don’t run” command and was really very good about it, especially since Carly did everything she could to get him to run and play.  Actually, Carly was suffering much more than Kody during this ordeal.  She had lost her running buddy and was not happy about it.  The worst part was that even though Kody was now allowed to go out with us, I wouldn’t throw the squeaky anymore.  There was just no way to keep Kody from chasing it, so it was off limits.  Carly was devastated.

We took both dogs back in when it was time to check on Kody’s progress because they each needed vaccinations. Kody had improved a lot.  Still not great – he will still need to keep his activity in check, however the vet said that moderate exercise will help with the arthritis.  He had gained a couple of pounds, so we were instructed to get them off because any extra weight would just aggravate it. When Carly got on the scale, I got the shock of my life.  She had gained 12 pounds!!


It looks like phase two is going to be getting Carly to lose the sympathy weight.  Oh, this is going to be fun….


Belated Birthday

As you may have gathered, we have gone a little crazy with the projects here at Glenmore.  In our defense, this was not a horse property when we bought it and that’s what we really needed, so a lot of these jobs have helped to make it one.  We have cleared out overgrown land, built a barn, fenced in pasture and built an arena.  The arena is really great, but I have hesitated on putting a fence around it.  There are a lot of good reasons for having an open arena, but it is also nice having a fenced in area to ride or work a horse from the ground.  The solution, we decided, was to put in a round pen.

Oh great – another project.  Although I have a habit of making anything horse related a high priority, I have been able to work the horses just fine without a round pen, so it was low on my list – too many other things I want to get done.  Gator, however, had other ideas.  Once we decided on a relatively flat place to put it, he started the dirt work  like a man obsessed.  He spent several weekends scraping and moving dirt, making sure the spot was perfectly level.  Around the middle of September, he told me he had gotten a great deal on  the round pen that our local co-op was using as a display, so that was his birthday present to me.  OK, well that explains the rush since my birthday was just a week away.


Now just to explain a little, this particular round pen is only about 57 feet across.  Although we have worked in many round pens that aren’t on level ground, it is a fairly tight circle for a horse to canter, so the more level the ground can be, the better.

However, I was not prepared for what I was going to hear next – we need a retaining wall.  Remember one of my previous posts about the sucking vortex?  Well here we go again! As he was walking it off and showing me what he had planned, my head began to spin.  This wall was going to be almost 100 feet long! Did we really need all of this?  Gator calmly explained that if we were going to do it right and have good drainage so that the water wouldn’t puddle in the middle of the pen, this was the only way to go. Before I know it, a huge truck pulled up with six pallets of cement blocks.


Normally, Gator and I work together on big projects like this, but this time things were really busy at my job I and had to work several weekends, so for the most part, he was on his own.  With several weekends of interruptions with rain and company coming to visit, Gator finally got the wall finished.  I must say, it’s beautiful!


Once the wall was done, it was just a matter of having sand hauled in and getting the round pen delivered and set up.  Two months later, I have a first class round pen that is level and won’t get washed out when it rains!


That Gator – he really knows how to win my heart!


Hunting Season

In this part of Virginia like many other states, late fall is the beginning of hunting season. Many weekend mornings, we wake up to the sound of gun shots from deer or goose hunters in the distance and Kody cowering in the closet.

That’s not the only hunting going on around here though.  Fox hunting is huge in this part of the country.  Now for those of you not familiar with fox hunting, there are no guns involved.  A whole bunch of people get together and  ride their horses all over the countryside following a pack of hounds that are chasing a fox.  Usually the fox gets away but after several hours of galloping through fields and jumping fences with a bunch of other people on horses (some in more control than others), anyone that survives couldn’t care less about losing the fox.  They are so happy to have come out unscathed, they just want to party – and party they do!  After the hunt, they have huge champaign brunches out in the field.  It’s as much about the party afterward as it is about the actual hunt.  There are a few deer hunters I know that can relate to that!  I don’t want to make fox hunting sound uncivilized, though.  It is a sport that is filled with rules and traditions.  There is a very strict dress code for both riders and horses, as well as etiquette and protocol that must be followed by members of the hunt clubs and their guests.



Another kind of hunting going on in this part of Virginia doesn’t involve animals.  It’s the Civil War artifacts hunting that club do after the harvest.  In this neck of the woods, farmers don’t till the soil after they cut the corn, soybeans, or other crops.  They often plant rye grass over the winter which prevents erosion and keeps the weeds down.  That leaves a short window of only a couple of weeks when there is bare ground.  During that time, people can play a flat fee and come in for a weekend with their metal detectors and hunt for Civil War treasures.  Since the farms all around this area were either the site of battles or encampments, there were a lot of relics left behind that have been buried over time and seem to keep working their way back up to the surface.


Now we don’t get a lot of traffic out here, so when a hundred or so people descend on on farm at daylight on a Friday morning, it creates quite a traffic jam!   I was coming home from the gym a few weeks ago when a whole caravan of cars and trucks pulled out of one of the local hotels and drove to one of the neighboring farms.  It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but once I did, I went over there and got some pictures.

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After a couple of days, they all pack up and go, leaving the fields looking like they are full of prairie dog holes.  In a few weeks, the grass has filled in and there is no sign that anyone was ever there.  Just in time  for deer and goose hunting seasons – I sure wouldn’t want to see all of these people out in the fields with hunters shooting guns all around them!


Another Busy Weekend

We have had just spectacular weather the past several days.


Not knowing how many more beautiful weekends we are going to have before winter,  Gator and I took advantage and got an enormous amount of work done.

All three water troughs got scrubbed, both horses got bathed and their brushes got cleaned.  That would have been a successful weekend right there – but no!!  We got so much more done than that.  We washed windows, got firewood cut and cleaned the chicken coop too.

To top it all off, Gator and I both rode our horses twice!!  I’m telling you, that’s a feat.  It’s a big deal when I get to ride twice in one weekend – when Gator rides twice, well, I can’t remember the last time that happened…

All of this activity has been exhausting for the dogs.  They are wiped out!


As for me, I’m wiped out too.  I’m going to sleep well tonight!



Ode to Bob

We lost our horse, Bob, last week.  He left us the same way he came here into our lives – with a jolt.  This post is not going to be about losing him though, it’s about how he managed to work his way into our hearts and bring such joy to our lives in the short time he was with us.

Bob’s previous life was very different from life here at Glenmore.  Not to say that it was bad – just different.  In many barns where there are show horses, they are not allowed to be turned out in groups.  Horses either take turns getting exercise in a small field or lot for a couple of hours a day or they are kept in stalls and are ridden daily.  We are much more casual about things.  My philosophy is to let horses act like horses as much as possible.  That includes turning them out together.  Bob was thrilled to have buddies to go out with!  He had never been turned out with another horse before.  What he didn’t know was that there is a pecking order and he was at the bottom.  Banjo and Max made a point to put Bob in his place.  Bob, however, didn’t care.  He was happy to be at the bottom of the pack and although he didn’t know any of the rules in the beginning, he was a quick study and before we knew it, he was just one of the guys.


Another thing Bob didn’t know a lot about was ground manners.  I am really a stickler when it comes to  horses behaving well when they around people.  I expect them to stand still and put their heads down for me to put their halter on and walk quietly beside me when I am leading them.  Bob didn’t have a lot of experience when it came to ground manners – in fact, he had never even had his halter taken off!  That first couple of weeks, I felt like he was constantly jumping on me and pushing me all over the place. One of Bob’s best qualities, though, is that he wanted to be a good horse and when he knew something was expected of him, he did his best to figure it out and get it right.   And figure it out, he did.

Bob was a favorite of the dogs too.  He had never been around dogs prior to his life with us.  At first he was a little intimidated by all of the commotion.  It would never occur to the dogs that a horse might be unsettled by having the two of them running around his legs.  Once again, Bob being the quick study that he is,  figured out that the dogs were great company and they loved to hang out with him.  In return, Bob “fed” them.  His stall had a open spot in the bars to make it easy to pour feed into the bucket.  Bob would take a mouthful of feed and stick his nose through the hole and spit some of the feed out while Kody and Carly would wait to catch it outside his stall.  It was a win-win for everyone!

My favorite thing about Bob was that he was extremely social – and very outspoken.  Every day when we would go down to the barn, as soon as  Bob could hear us coming, he would nicker.  If it was breakfast or dinner time, he would tell me.  He would carry on a regular conversation with me.  And not just me – if I would have one of the other horses out, as soon as we got back in the barn, Bob would nicker a welcome back to them.

The barn is quiet these days – it’s hard getting used to that.  It took several days before the dogs quit standing under Bob’s stall waiting for him to feed them.  Banjo and Max still look into Bob’s stall like they are waiting for that welcome nicker when they come into the barn.

Bob, we will miss you so much more than you can ever know!



The Dog Days of Summer

The past several weeks have been sweltering here in Virginia.  Most of the days in July and August have been over 90 degrees with heat indexes well into the 100s.  We try to get outside work done as early as possible in the day because by early afternoon, it’s just too hot to function and it doesn’t cool down until well after dark.

Along with the heat, we’ve been experiencing afternoon thunderstorms.  It’s incredible – at 5:00, there isn’t a cloud in the sky.  Yet by 6:00, it is dark overhead and thunder is rumbling.  In previous years, most of these would just blow over and occasionally we would get a quick shower.  This summer however, we are getting drenched.  One afternoon we got 4 1/2 inches of rain – I’m not kidding!  Our driveway was completely washed out.  A few days later, we got over an inch in just about an hour.  The winds that came with it were really strong and we had a huge branch go down over the driveway.  Gator spent the whole weekend repairing the driveway and cutting up wood.

This week another one of those storms came through and we got 2 1/2 inches of rain with howling winds.  This time a tree came down in our yard. It wasn’t just an ordinary tree – it was one of those majestic maples that have graced the yard for a hundred years.

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As I’ve said in previous posts, most of these trees are so old that they are starting to die.  Many are hollow inside and just aren’t strong anymore.  I thought this was still a fairly healthy tree, but as you can see from where it broke off, the inside was rotting and it just couldn’t stand up to the wind.

It’s so sad to lose these gorgeous trees.  This one will really change the look of the yard.

Just when we thought we were getting caught up!  Oh well, good thing we have a chain saw and a tractor!

Bumper Crop

Although the last couple of weeks have been extremely hot, we’ve had plenty of rain and  the weather has been good for growing crops this summer.


I added an extra garden in my yard this year. Last year, Gator leveled out a spot in the yard and made a really nice garden that gets good morning sun.  It just wasn’t quite big enough though, so when he filled in a low area in another part of the yard that gets a lot of sun, I claimed it for another garden.  I have to admit, I overdid it.  Not only are we getting great growth from our vegetables, the weeds are taking over and I haven’t been able to get them under control.  We did get a lot of spinach and lettuce earlier this summer, and I just picked the first of the tomatoes.  I need to get out there and pick some peppers and cucumbers, so I can’t really complain.

Another thing we’ve got a bumper crop of is poison ivy.  There is a scourge among us!!  As it turns out, Gator is highly allergic and has spent most of the summer fighting a rash as well as the weeds.

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We’ve managed to keep the trees in the yard free from poison ivy, however the trees along the driveway are another matter.  Most are completely covered in it!  Not only the trees, either.  Poison ivy is growing in the pastures as well.  After trying several different ways of killing it, including several homemade solutions – all of which were unsuccessful, Gator finally found a solution which is some type of  a salt mixture and is deadly to poison ivy but harmless for animals.  It takes a couple of weeks for them to die off but once he was able to start killing those nasty vines, he became obsessed with getting them knocked out.  He finally decided he needed a sprayer that had a 25 gallon tank.  Just one more implement in our ever growing inventory.


He has made good use of it though.  He mounted it onto a pallet so that he can either put it in the bed of the truck or he can pick up with the pallet forks on the tractor (yet another implement we got this year).  We got the pastures sprayed and we drove up and down the driveway and sprayed every single tree.  The poison ivy has met it’s match!

I think we’ve finally figured out that farmers spend as much time trying to stop things from growing as they do trying to get them to grow…

Catching Up

Wow – it’s been a long time!  Several people have mentioned that they missed seeing my updates, so I will spend the next couple of posts getting you caught up on life at Glenmore.

We spent all of last year doing huge projects like building the barn, clearing land and building fence.  This summer, we are transitioning to smaller projects.  Among other things, we have done some painting, remodeled a bathroom, replanted pastures and had several big trees cut down.


We had one tree leaning over the house, so the insurance company wanted it removed. We also had several other trees that we thought were at risk for falling either onto the house or Gator’s shop.  Don’t let me give you the impression that we cut them down ourselves – we do most of the work around here, but that was too much for us!  As I have mentioned before, most of our trees are between 80 and 100 years old and many of them are hollow and have dead branches.

Phase one of our plan was just to get the trees cut down that were posing a problem – so nine of them came down.  We saved most of the wood that we will burn over the winter in our new heating fireplace (another of this year’s projects), but we were able to sell one section of a walnut tree to a sawmill which managed to pay a lot of the bill to have the rest of them cut down.

We have started growing new trees from seeds that we’ve collected this spring.  In the coming years, we will have a few trees taken down a year and we will start planting the saplings that came from the old trees to replace them.  Hopefully we will have a second generation of trees that will last another hundred years!

Herd Dynamics

My two horses, Banjo and Max, have been together for a couple of years and even though I do a lot to separate them and get them used to being alone, they are growing increasingly attached to each other.  Since we have room in the barn and we were adding more pasture, I thought maybe it would be good to add another horse to the mix. But because we were late getting the new pasture fenced and winter was quickly approaching, I figured it would be best to wait until spring.

We did a lot of planning of the layout of the barn and the adjoining fields and it has been nice to be able to leave the stall doors open to the outside so the horses could come in and out as they pleased. For the most part, they stay out except to come in for feed twice a day and occasionally to get out of the rain.  Banjo has always been the herd leader. No matter where we’ve kept him or how many horses have been in the field with him, Banjo has been dominant.  He mostly doesn’t have much to say, except when someone gets out of line, although he does seem to get quite attached to the youngsters. He’s always been an “old soul” and you can definitely see it in the way he interacts with other horses. The only thing Banjo has insisted on is to be able to have first pick as to which stall he gets at feeding time.  I quickly discovered that if I didn’t want to spend a lot of of time arguing about who goes where, I could just let Banjo pick his stall and Max would take the other one.


Max is 10 years younger than Banjo and he has always been kind of a brat.  It is really kind of surprising how tolerant other horses have been of Max. In spite of the fact that he pesters older horses constantly, they always have taken  it in good humor. With younger horses, Max has been the ring leader, making up games and getting them to race around the field together. He seems to get along with nearly every horse, but yet he is always causing trouble.


Enter Bob. Bob is a five year old Quarter Horse – just a year younger than Max.  His former owners are good friends of mine but due to declining health, they were just not able to care for several horses through another winter. I have to admit, even though I had thought about getting another horse, Bob wasn’t what I had in mind. He is wonderfully bred but not the lines I was looking for and he is taller than I really wanted. Bob wasn’t started under saddle until the fall of his three year old year and hasn’t had a lot of consistent training since then, so he is pretty green.  I was thinking of a more finished horse if I was to get another one.  Oh well, none of that matters because when I got the call asking me to take the horse, I knew it was the right thing to do.


Gator and I were quickly able to get a small field fenced in before we brought him home right before Christmas and luckily the weather continued to stay mild through New Years so that we could get a much larger field fenced in.  Bob had never been turned out with other horses, so we knew that would be a challenge. He had no idea how to act in a herd. We started him out in the small field by himself for a couple of days, then moved him out in the bigger field with Banjo where he did just fine. Next, we put him out with Max. Bob wanted no trouble and was more than happy to be at the bottom of the pecking order – oh boy, did Max ever take advantage of that! Max became an instant bully, deciding he was going to be the lead horse in the herd.

We finished fencing in the third and largest field (about 5 acres) and were able to turn all three horses out after a couple of weeks of rotating them around between the two other fields. It has been fascinating to watch the new herd dynamics. It is often said that adding a single horse to or taking one away from a herd will change the order, but this is the first time that I’ve been able to see it in action. Max is working very hard to establish himself as herd leader – he’s working way harder than he needs to. Banjo just doesn’t seem very interested in running the show any more and Bob is happy to follow everyone else’s lead. Max, however, spends a lot of time every day just moving Bob around and letting Bob know that he is in charge. Max doesn’t boss Banjo around much – he’s discovered that Banjo will tolerate it for a little while but then he loses his patience with Max. I guess because we have a small herd, this time s a good opportunity for Max to practice his “leadership skills!”


Now that we’ve had Bob for a couple of months, things are starting to settle down a bit.  He and Max are actually getting along quite well. We still have occasional scraps but Max isn’t such a bully anymore and Bob is figuring out what it means to be art of a herd.  Banjo and Max are still very attached and now Bob is just as attached to both of them, but at least I’ve got three fields so that I can separate them. I’m really looking forward to daylight savings time so that I’ll have a little more time in the evening and I can get all three of them back to work!

Weathering the Storm – Part 2

We are at the tail end of the storm now and I think it’s safe to say that we made it through just fine.  This was a big test – it’s the first storm since we brought the horses home and got the chickens.  My biggest fear was that the power would go out with the high winds we’ve been experiencing but so far, so good.

We ended up getting 25-30 inches of snow.  It’s hard to tell, because it has been so windy that it has drifted everywhere.  Tomorrow we will start digging out.  The work that Gator did last night was futile but at least he had fun – he’s like a kid with that tractor!


Speaking of having fun, nobody had more fun than those two dogs of ours.  They couldn’t get enough of it! Between Gator and I, they went out with us at least 6 times today.  Not to mention the couple of times Carly went out on her own – although that didn’t last long since there was nobody to play with her.


Good thing they’re black – makes them easy to find in the snow.

The horses were perfectly happy in the barn.  They slept most of the day.  I imagine they will be ready to get out and play tomorrow.  That will take some work – every door on that barn has a big snow drift up against it!

The chickens fared well too.  We put a tarp up around two sides of the coop to keep the snow from blowing in.  The chickens really didn’t like that and Gator found two of them huddled in a corner as far away from that tarp as they could get.  Once he picked them up and put them in the hen house though, they stayed put.  I put a little food and water in there with them and they seemed comfortable.

I hope everyone else who’s had to deal with the storm has been able to stay warm and safe!

Hang in there – spring is coming!

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