Farm work

Snowy Farm Mornings With The Mares

The one thing that I still miss about the farm is the silent snowy mornings. Moving to town has its advantages in snowy weather… streets get cleared a lot faster and the grocery is a lot closer but something is just not the same, let me explain.

My horses on in the top pasture on a snowy morning.

My horses in the top pasture on a snowy morning.

When you own livestock you never get a snow day. So the mornings for me always started early even in the cold. I would get up early, like all farm families do, so I could get the feeding done before work and school would take the day.

Dressed in my coveralls, hat, and gloves, I head out of the back door of the farm-house. I cross the back porch and hear the first crunch of the snow on a step. Walking my way to the barn across the yard I look for them but can not see them in the top pasture. Even though the barn doors are always open the herd of four quarter horse were never in the barn until feeding time.

Even if they heard me tracking slowly through the snow they never moved. They stand at the farthest point away from the barn on the top of the hill. I holler at the top of my lungs”Here Girls!” and get no response. Just the quite… no cars or trucks, no snow plows (sometimes for days), no other person for miles was outside on a 12 degree morning. I reluctantly fill the feed buckets with two heaping scoops of sweet-smelling grain. I Complain to myself about walking up the bank into the pasture to looking for them.

You do it to make sure that everything is alright if they do not come in. Horses trapped in fences, cases of colic and babies born in the open all happen when humans are not looking. Today was not going to be one of those days. I open the gate with the frozen chain and hear it bang as I swing it through the snow and across the frozen ground and into the pasture. The hill blocks my view. No knickers or neigh for me to hear from the group, just my snow boots crunching up the slope to the orchard trees.

Annabell in snow at the farm in Jane Lew

Annabell in snow at the farm in Jane Lew,West Virginia.

Past the orchard trees, I finally see the huddled mares in the upper corner of the field. Snow only ankle-deep and they still do not want to move. “Come on Girls!” I yell again, this is ridiculous I think as the wind blows the quiet snow in my eyes.  I give in and walk to top of the hill and discover I am out of breath and breathing hard. The steam I blow matches the clouds that surrounds them. They breath in and out almost in time and the moisture from the four 800 pound bodies rises into the air. They see me and two heads turn as I finally come close enough to actually touch the snow-covered beasts.

Their winter coats are such good insulation against the cold that snow flakes dance on top of the longest hairs of each animal. Icicles form on the whiskers of each damp muzzle and each wet eye lash. The mares do seem to mind the cold and seem more at home in the winter snow.

Daisy with skippy in snow

Daisy with Skippy in the snow on the Jane Lew farm.

For the small herd, standing and sleeping is more comfortable than slipping down the hill to the barn. I can’t blame them, they have stood together most of the night and have melted some of the snow on the ground . I sneak up close to the oldest mare and slide my gloved hand across her back and talk softly and she murmurs back to me. I get close and feel the warmth of her 100 degree body against me. Warmth and friendship, could life get better for her?

The others push closer to me, nose to nose, they breathe me in and I, them. The smell of the mare’s breath and coats is warm, round and deep. It is the smell of the summer dirt, fresh-cut hay and dark warm stalls.They smell of old barns and fresh shavings,of carrots and cookies, of sunshine and creek water. I kiss each nostril in turn.

Hidden in my coat pocket is a lead rope that I slide around the old mare’s neck. I clip it under her chin… more imagination than rope. I lead her and she willingly follows me down. The younger horses gallop back and forth across the field, bounding, bouncing, jumping and twisting.

Horses Playing in the snow

Horses Playing in the snow

Play time for the young and feed time for the old. I walk her through the gate to the barn, each following her lead without a fight. Her head lowers into the bucket and she blows out the air in her lungs as if to sigh. The rattle of those buckets is the only sound for miles. The sun rises to the shifting sounds in my barn. I toss hay into each stall as the last of the gain gets lipped out of old buckets.

My chore is almost done. The water is thawed and waiting when they finish their meal. The gate is locked up tight. I am alone again in my walk back across the large yard. My cheeks are cold and frosty but my heart is warm. I think to myself…. “Love You Girls” as I hear the squeaky snow under my boot.

 

Categories: Country life, Farm work, Friendship, Horses, Jane Lew, Memories, snow, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

4 Tips to Avoid Getting Poison Ivy From a Girl Who Has It!

Ok lets just say that my husband told me so…. and I did it anyway. I have never really had a bad case of Poison Ivy up until this mothers day weekend. I wanted to clear away a vine that was clearly poison ivy off a tree we use as shade in the back yard. I wanted to put a sand box and pick-nick table under the Dogwood tree for the kids to play on. So without any thought I had Tom who gets terrible poison ivy to trim the vine off the tree and I would drag the pieces to the burn pile. I took no precautions other than a pair of gloves and that was my first mistake. I should have at least put on a long sleeve shirt, but no, I can handle this, I never get it, were my last comfortable words for a while.

Now that I have an out break, and a pretty good one, I want to share some ideas on how to prevent getting Poison Ivy and Oak. The Appalachian Mountains are home to many poisons plants but the most terrible of all is Poison Ivy. Here are a couple of photos I took after removing the vine last week.We have tons of sprouts that still can cause problems and still need removed before the littl’ens  can play safely under this tree.

Spring shoots of Poison Ivy on tree near children's sand box

Spring shoots of Poison Ivy on tree near children’s sand box

poison ivy new leaves in spring and 3 leaf pattern

poison ivy new leaves in spring and 3 leaf pattern

To identify Poison Ivy you will see three leaves in a group, usually the stems of the leaves grow red or pink. Each leaf that is mature in size has a notch on one side. In the case of these baby leaves they start red and slowly turn green. They have a vine stem of brown with what looks like brown hairs growing around the stem. This is actually the way the vine attach to things to climb.

So now that you know that you have poison ivy how can you prepare yourself to deal with it.

#1 First wear the correct clothing. Yes, I am sitting here wishing I had taken my advice. Long sleeves, long pants, gloves and shoes all need  worn if you know you are going to battle this monster of a vine. Even the slightest touch from a leaf can lead to out break.

#2 Use some of the pre-contact products out on the market both of which we have in our homes medicine cabinet and I still did not stop to think to use. First is the pre-contact towelettes.

Ivy-x towelettes for pre contact and cleanser for after contact

Ivy-x towelettes for pre contact and cleanser for after contact

Simple easy to use and cheap they form a barrier on the skin to stop the plants oil from getting into contact with the skin. Then they also have a Ivy-X product to use after you get exposed and think the skin needs cleaned. My husband is always getting exposed to poison something and gets these at work. He works outdoors year round and cutting trees cleaning up under bridges is just part of the job.He uses these often with great results.

#3 We also have what the family calls the secret weapon for poison ivy. It is a life saver for my husband and son who get terrible cases of poison ivy.  They use Poison Ivy Pills, a Homeopathic Remedy for pre-treatment and exposure to Poison Ivy and /or Oak.

poison ivy pills and homeopathic way to control an outbreak

poison ivy pills and homeopathic way to control an outbreak

The pills contain a micro amount of the oil from the poison ivy plant and by taking very small doses of the aggravating oil your body has time to build up a resistance to it. I have friends and family who once exposed to the plant end up going to the hospital for shots of allergy medications.This little pill can prevent and or reduce the reaction to the oil that humans find so irritating. Each spring my husband and son usually take a preventative dose for the summer and a few again when exposure was possible. It seems to really help if you remember that you have some in the medicine cabinet. Which I did not remember until Tom reminded me and I took the starter dose of about 6 of the tiny pills over 6 hours. They are working to calm the pain, swelling and itching but I should have started earlier.

#4 The best all a round way to reduce the reaction to poison ivy is washing off. With the use of a good dish soap(one for grease cutting) you can almost eliminate a break out altogether. I my case we were working out side for several hours and then got company and I just forgot until a few hours had already passed. I still washed off but the damage was already done.

Then if all of these ideas fail you like they did me, use over the counter medications. I take a allergy medication already and it helps to reduce the itching but the rash needs specific treatments and there are lots of creams to use. I like Ivydry, it is a mixture of drying agents and soothing creams to help get you through Hell Week!

So my friends spring has sprung and the Ivy is growing wild everywhere so take care not to end up like me and think ahead so you do not have to live with this rash for 14 days or more. Now I just have to get a gallon of vinegar and some hot water to kill the rest of those baby Ivy vines without having to touch them.

Poison Ivy on the inside of my forearm

Poison Ivy on the inside of my forearm

information on how to get the Poison Ivy Pills :

Washington Homeopathic Products Inc.

260 J.R. Hawvermale Way

Berkeley Springs, West Virginia 25411

1-800-336-1695

or the website   www.homeopathyworks.com.

Categories: Farm work, gardening, Healing, health, home remedies, wellness | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Country Roads Take Me Home West Virginia, photo review

As things usually go, now that everything is getting settled and the stress from the last year and the move are over, I have a cold. This one has lasted longer than usual and I am just not up to being to creative so I though a trip down some of my favorite West Virginia country roads would make all of us feel better.

Stonecoal Lake, Lewis County West Virginia

Stonecoal Lake, Lewis County West Virginia

In the summer time every thing is green and lush. Many times this is the view you see as you pass by one of our large lakes. This one just happens to cover two counties Stonecoal lake is one of the states largest lakes. It is a lively place with fish and ospreys that sore and deer who drink quietly at its banks.

Old cabin in Cleveland West Virginia

Old cabin in Cleveland West Virginia

Almost every country road here has one of these old cabins. Many are for hunting in the fall and winter and in the summer you would think the cabins are abandoned. This one is one many that I have fallen in love with over the years.

Mr and Mrs Tenney's barn Ten Mile West Virginia

Mr and Mrs Tenney’s barn Ten Mile West Virginia

Like cabins when driving country roads you will always see lots of barns and most of them are still in use. The foundation of the barn is from the 1800’s and has been recently updated with a new roof and siding.

Vine covered shed with wild roses in Middleburn, West Virginia

Vine covered shed with wild roses in Middleburn, West Virginia

There is just something so beautiful about this old tool shed. Taken over by time and flowers it shows the beauty I see every time we drive a back road. The mix of the old with the new.

Hunting Bus  Hacker Valley, West Virgina

Hunting Bus Hacker Valley, West Virginia

One of the many junked cars, trucks, buses and tractors that have been left to return to the wilderness. I find many of them so fascinating. This one got cut in two about a year after this photo and dragged away to the scrap yard. I kind of miss seeing it when we going fishing farther up this old dirt road.

Seneca Motors, Seneca. West Virginia

Seneca Motors, Seneca. West Virginia

Are you seeing a trend here? I like old rusty stuff. The thought did cross my mind to show off the wonderful rock formations in the Seneca Valley but I have yet to get a good photo of them so maybe next year. instead I fell in love with the town and its river and its old-fashioned stores and friendly people.

 

 

Jim Devricks, Mowing his hay fields.

Jim Devricks, Mowing his hay fields.

Mini Donkeys in Ireland, west Virginia

Mini Donkeys in Ireland, west Virginia

If you travel around West Virginia on country roads long enough, you will get to see this scene replayed a thousand times every summer. The summer measures out by mowing,bailing and feeding of the hay to the thousands of animals West Virginians love.

Randy Brown tiny Sago rd. Chapel, Buckhannon, WV

Randy Brown tiny Sago rd. Chapel, Buckhannon, West Virginia

Another huge part of life in the mountain state is church. I have heard that there are more churches in West Virginia then there are people. I have no idea if that is true, but I have never seen  more churches in my life. This is the smallest chapel east of the Mississippi River and only has 4 pews and a small parking area. This is the only chapel that I know that is open 24 a day 7 days a week. I pass it on the way to Christopher’s school and always think of the family who built it as a memorial in 1964.

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Almost every one in West Virginia has taken time to fish in a farm pound. You may even find a snapping turtle or a muskrat making their home in the muddy edge. My older son caught a huge bass in a pond like this one when he was little.

Moss covered rock along Ten Mile creek. Ten Mile, West Virginia

Moss covered rock along Ten Mile creek. Ten Mile, West Virginia

The mountains of West Virginia are deep and lush and every things covered in moss and leaves. It is the story book forest of Hansel and Gretel.Where a person needs bread crumbs to find a path back home.

The Mystery Hole near Hawks Nest, West Virginia

The Mystery Hole near Hawks Nest, West Virginia

side view of VW bug at the Mystery Hole

side view of VW bug at the Mystery Hole

As you can see from the photo of the Mystery Hole, Mountaineers love to laugh and try new things. This wonderful road side attraction is actually one of the funniest experiences a person can have. Travel back to the 60’s and have the world turned up side down ( Literally) on you.It takes several minutes to regain your bearings after a trip to the mystery hole.swiss helvietia flagg

Cobblers Shed along the road in Helveisha, West Viriginia

Cobblers Shed along the road in Helvetia, West Virginia

There are lots of immigrant towns in West Virginia. Most are built by Swiss, Italian or Irish families and many have wonderful architecture. This one is one of my personal favorites. Helvetia a Swiss settlement in the mountains where they have a wonderful restaurant that serves town made cheeses, honey and cured meats.

I-79 south Gassaway area

I-79 south Gassaway area

Even our highways twist and turn and have the feeling of entering another world. As the sun and clouds rise on an early fall morning,I just could not help but enjoy the view of the clouds rising through the trees. Even our interstates have the feel of a country road.

Moundsville State Prison, front entry, Moundsville, West Viriginia

Moundsville State Prison, front entry, Moundsville, West Virginia

Then if you are lucky enough to find a town you may find that their some of the most beautiful stone buildings hiding in our towns and cities. Where you can take a break from the long rides on the twisty roads and explore the history of these wonderful buildings.

 

Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum , Weston West Virginia.

Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum , Weston West Virginia.

In West Virginia you really have no idea who you may meet along the country roads. As we drive I find it is always better to travel with friends. I hope that my little road trip gave all of you a little better idea about why John Denver wrote his song about my state. Just remember it is always better to share a country road with friends even if it is the Muppets.

Moving right along with the muppets

Moving right along with the Muppets

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Farm work, Hardwood forest, Monongahela National Forest, Moundsville State Penitentiary, photo review, Photos, Seneca Rocks, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Horse Farm Labor is Our Second Job, Finding the help you Need.

     Tom and I  travel to so many farms during the year that we hear some of the same complaints at every stop. Frist there are not enough well-trained Farriers and second that finding farm workers, caretakers and horse handlers is almost impossible. Thiers reasons for both of these problems and some of it has to do with economics. Frist, Low pay for the hard work  sends many into town and second, farmers are not  good at  letting people know that they need or want help. 

Tom leading horse to pasture

Tom leading horse to pasture

Tom putting shoes on Oat

Tom putting shoes on Oat

 If you have a problem on a horse farm the best two things you can do is let your farm community know what kind of  help you are looking for. Farm stores have bulletin boards, clubs have news letters, and friends have kids these are all great ways to get the word out the you need a helping hand around the farm.  Pay well and often, everyone loves payday and even the kid who cleans out the barn needs paid before he leaves for the day.  

 Over the years of showing, raising and training horse I have worked for several farms in my area. Yes, I shoveled horse poop for a living. Not glamorous work but it beat the rat race any day. I received fair pay, always about double what minimum wage was at the time.  Farm work is hard, dirty and at times stressful. To modern kids Micky D’s is a lot easier and pays better than most farm jobs. Keep this in mind when you are looking to put up hay in 90 degree weather with a 5 am in starting time and that kid at Micky D’s is making 9 dollars and hour.If you want them you will have to pay them.

      This also is true for your Farrier, if you own a horse part of owning that animal is occasional foot care. Most farriers charge a standard rate for trims/ shoe/or resets. Pay your bill promptly and you will have a good relationship with him, wait to long or try to haggle the price and you will be looking for a new one very quickly. If you are not able to afford to pay everyone cash remember that some people are open to barter for services. I have  mucked stalls for riding lessons and Tom has trimmed horses  for hay. Just be clear about what you need and what you have to offer. We have always been happen when we worked out a deal.

 I also do sitting for several horse farms. We all need a vacation now and then. Sometimes families  just go to the fair and other times families need to head out for an emergency, it is this short periods of time that I help out on the farm.

Squaw and dancer

Squaw and dancer

I find that there is a real need for farm families to leave  a few head of horses, a couple of dogs and cat alone for a few days. The horses really need people who understand them if you are going watch them and the time to care for them is pretty labor intensive. I find the best way to find some one who can help, is asking your other horse friends, farriers and farm stores. I get asked all the time because my husbands farrier business. We both are willing  and able to help with animal care. The rate that we get  to come to your farm and care for your horses is not  much less then you would pay to a stable them while you are away. So with each additional horse we charge an additional fee. I find this the fairest way to charge for my time and gas. This way I can keep my rate the same from farm to farm. This makes everyone pay the same and no one gets up set over changes in pricing. The biggest difference is that the horses are at home in their own stalls with their feed and water and no hauling needed. It’s to the advantage of my clients that they do not have to stress the animal while they are away. 

  No matter what type of labor you need for  your farm, remember to just get the word out that you need a farrier, a farm sitter, a person to help string fence. They are their and if you pay them fairly they will be willing to come back and work for you over and over. It is worth building these kinds of relationships because over time you never know who it will be to help out. I never thought that Tom being a farrier would over flow to farm sitting and that I would be working with some many wonderful families and their animals.

Farm that I sit for while the owners are out of town and one of their walking horses

Farm that I sit for while the owners are out-of-town and one of their walking horses

 I hope that my friends Ron and Marylyn have had a great trip and that they feel confident that their horses were in good care while they were away. It is always fun to spend time on their farm and we love doing it.

Categories: Farm work, Farming, Farrier work., Friendship, horse health, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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