Earlier this year I made a decision: I will no longer have the manure pile in the corral! I don't care how convenient it is to have it just outside the barn door, I want it gone. I don't care if I have to push the wheelbarrow twice the distance through snow and mud. I don't care if it means a day's work to cut a gate through the corral fence. No more manure pile in the corral.
I don't mind of that corral has to double as turnout area for the horses as well as training/ riding space. That's fine; we can ride without walking into the watering trough. But the pile, man, it not only gets in the way, it cuts the riding area almost in half, and creates a big mucky moat around it. Not to mention the flies. And stink. That's IT I've had enough. So far this fall, if the horses have spent the night in the barn, I've pushed the wheelbarrow all the way out the pasture gate and around the corner to the new pile. It gets old fast.
I figured with the old liquid manure tank right on the other side of the fence, I already had the perfect spot. It's concrete, it's got drainage holes into the tank for all the nasty runoff to disappear into, and I can just drive the tractor onto it to scoop everything up in the spring and take it away to compost. All that stood in my way was that fence.
And in case you're not from the country and you're wondering... YES much of my thinking space is taken up with fences and s**t. These two topics are a constant concern. If these are my biggest problems I consider myself lucky.
Yesterday afternoon, I convinced my ol' man to come out to the corral and bring his tools. It wasn't raining and I wanted to get this done. Armed with the chainsaw, hammer, knife, crowbar, and a box of nails, we got to work. Dad cut the rubber strips which we use instead of planks. I like this system, because it looks good (black, and never needs to be painted) and when it sags we just tighten it up like a belt through loops. We had two cedar fence posts to be used as cross braces. A fence post holding a gate or corner can't just be sunk into the ground and expected to stay up. It has to be braced to the next post.
My ol' man is an Eyeballer. He eyeballs the angle he's about to set the angled post, and then cuts a matching notch into the vertical post. Over the years he's learned to not cut too much off at once, because there'll be a few adjustments before it sits just right. The brace post gets a slanted end cut, and then we do the other side. My job is to hold the brace post so he can eyeball it and cut it. He doesn't measure when doing a job like this. Kinda blows my mind, even though I'd probably do it the same way, only I'd for sure screw it up. Maybe he's just screwed up often enough by now that he doesn't have to anymore.
Once the end post is braced to the next one, we get out the fence stretcher tool. Like a lot of stuff around here, the ol' man made it. It's just a metal pole with a curved spike at the end. I stuck the spike through a hole at the end of the rubber strip, braced the pole against the post, and leaned on it with all my weight. He hammered a few nails in at strategic places and we're on to the next one.
Most of the time taken, truthfully, was locating and carrying all the darn tools around. Also, the fact that neither of us moves particularly fast, that really stretches out a task.
I had to laugh at our horses. They had to come up and see what we were doing. I joked that Phoenix, aka "The Mechanic" would be watching and learning, because he has that look. Sometimes I swear he's gonna start speaking to me in my own language, he just looks clever. He likes to untie his lead rope then just stand there, to prove a point. We're lucky he doesn't have opposable thumbs. (I have a thing about curious geldings: Champ was the same. Dad used to joke that that horse would be driving the tractor if he could ever figure out how.) Phoenix had to sniff each tool and pick up a rubber strip in his teeth. When Dad fired up the chainsaw they both did this totally lame routine where they went, "Wah, we're horses, like, we're supposed to act like we're scaaaared, whoo ah, awright what are they doing now let's go see." The second round of chainsawing had the two of them flicking their ears and rolling their eyes but they couldn't be bothered to do more than that. I sure do like my Appaloosas.
They weren't sure about this new gap in the fence. It took Phoenix about a half hour of investigating before he ventured through. I still haven't seen the little mare try it.
This afternoon, we'll build brackets to hold the planks in place. When I need to get through with the wheelbarrow, I'll lift the planks out of the way. Easy, right? I might have to put the manure on a toboggan to get it across the snow, at which point I'm sure I'll see my ol' man snickering at me.
In the evening I worked a bit more on my tack room project, while thinking about all the fencing we need to do around here. One side hasn't been changed in decades and is looking pretty rough. Do we have enough materials to fix it? I sure don't have the funds to buy any new fencing and my parents aren't able to throw any money at it. At this point, any new fencing will have to wait until spring.
I sat on my decrepit chair gazing around my tack room, thinking about these things, these things that are so important in a life full of horses and pasture and a busy highway out front. A lot of folks have no idea how much thought goes into this. A fence keeps the neighbour's kids out of their dog poop in the backyard, or vice versa, but in my world, a fence keeps horses out of the path of oncoming transport trucks.
I actually worry about that less than you'd think, simply because of all the thought put into fencing already. For now all I'm thinking about is keeping my horses out of s**t. Which if you think about it, is kind of the same thing, not?