Archive for September 21st, 2012

The Little Banties


I keep meaning to post about my new little banties and forgetting! When I hatched out my first batch of chickens lo those four years ago now, I had two little banties, a rooster and a hen. I still have the little red banty roo, but the hen was killed a few years ago by a raccoon. Which met its due demise as a result. A few weeks ago, Adam (my hired man) was working out here with his dad, Gary, one day and Gary took a hankering to one of my silver-laced Wyandotte hens. He asked if I would trade him one hen for three banties. I agreed and the next day he brought a banty roo (black and white) and two hens, one black and the other a tan/gold mix (pictured above). I think she is the prettiest. So now I have four little banties running around like tiny birds here on the farm. They’re cute as they can be. Not worth much for eggs because they lay such tiny eggs. But cute!

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My Sweet Sugary Shortcake


Shortcake had her first farrier visit here yesterday afternoon. Here she is in the crossties, awaiting her fate.

Getting ready for the farrier means:

1. Shut off the goats and sheep to the upper barn field.

2. Get Jack and Poky to the front barnyard.

3. Shut Jack and Poky in a stall in the barn.

4. Get the horses to the front barnyard.

5. Trick Shortcake into the alleyway.

6. Crosstie Shortcake.

7. Tie Zip to the hitching post.

Then you do all of this in reverse when it’s over, which works better if you actually do it in reverse. Yesterday, I let the goats and sheep out before getting Jack and Poky situated, which caused all kinds of trouble, but eventually I got everyone sorted to their proper fields. It was just a little more trouble than necessary. Then I came home last night after some master gardener volunteer work and found THE ENTIRE GANG (goats and sheep and even Chloe) on my back porch. That’s another story, but they were all back where they belonged before I went to bed.

I actually never tie anybody to the hitching post, by the way. I just wrap the end of a lead rope around the hitching post and they think they’re tied. Ha. Yes, SOMETIMES I GET ONE OVER ON THEM INSTEAD OF ALWAYS THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

Shortcake was perfectly behaved.

She’s such a little doll!! She was so wonderful at the party. She gave pony rides for about an hour and a half, longer than scheduled, but there was always someone waiting to ride her. She was perfectly patient and calm throughout the rides. She was led in circles around the front barnyard with a different rider on her back every few minutes, sometimes walking through a crowd of people.

Shortcake, with little–and big–riders at the party.

It would be interesting to know more about her background, but I know nothing other than that she was picked up off a horse trader. She’s possibly a mix of Paso Fino/Quarter/Halflinger. She’s short, but stout. (Morgan likes to call her Sausage.) She wasn’t a serious neglect case–she wasn’t starved or abused. She doesn’t trust people–thus her “catching” problem. Most likely, she’s been through a long series of owners and may have never been truly loved, or perhaps she was a long time ago then entered the horse trading circuit and lost her trust. There’s no way to know. What is clear is that she has been ridden, quite a bit. Once she’s caught, her behavior is near perfection. I say near perfection because my one complaint with her (when riding), if you can call it that, is that she has a lot of get up and go. That’s not a bad thing, really, except that all I want her to do is walk. I’m content to simply amble around the farm on her back, looking at stuff, going to visit the cows, or just meandering up the road and back. She’s a relatively young horse (maybe about 7) and she’s energetic. On the upside, she’s very obedient. If she starts up with her get-up-and-go stuff, I just remind her that we’re only walking and she slows right back down. She’ll get used to how boring I am eventually! Between how short she is and how obedient she is, I feel so safe and comfortable riding her. The other evening, I rode her up the road along my farm, out to where the road turns to a gravel road, and down to the neighbor’s house, and back. All by myself!

You can see her size a little better when she’s next to Zip. Shortcake is 13.3 hands, and Zip is 15 hands.

She’s going to need a lot of work on the “catching” thing, but she’s worth it. Here’s what she does–if you walk toward her (with or without a halter), she’s off. Off, I tell you, off! She does not want to be caught. She runs away. Now if you’ve got an hour and a half or maybe two hours (I speak from experience), you can wear her down. But by then, you don’t really feel like riding. She is not swayed by directly offering her any kind of food/treat that I’ve found so far. Best bet is to get Zip and take her to the barn, because Shortcake will follow. Once you get Shortcake in the alleyway, you can walk right up to her and put a halter on her and from that magical moment on she transforms into the most wonderful horse on Earth. Of course, she’s figured out this alleyway trick and is more often loathe to enter the alleyway each time. Yesterday, I tricked her in there with a bale of hay at the back of the alleyway. Offering food indirectly without my presence does work. I went back to the house and waited for her to be sucked in by the bale of hay. Then I sneaked back into the barnyard, crept along the front of the barn like a cat, and shut the gate to the front of the alleyway before she knew I was coming. If she’d known I was coming, she’d have been out of there like a rocket. But she didn’t, so she stood there like a little dream doll while I got her haltered and crosstied, and charmed the farrier with her sweet compliance while her hooves were worked. He said when he goes to work with a new horse, he can tell most of what he needs to know by looking in their eyes and that she was a good one, kind and smart. Every knowledgeable horse person who’s been around her says the same.

After I get my book in, I’ll have more free time this fall to work with her. Everyone I talk to has an idea on how to solve this problem, but maybe there’s an idea I haven’t heard yet. Feel free to throw yours in if you’ve got one! Remember that 1) directly offering food doesn’t work, and 2) I’ve tried the walking, walking, walking her down thing. (Not chasing or running after her, just walking her down. I read about that method on some natural horsemanship site, can’t remember which one, and let me tell you, after several days of doing that, it took longer and longer each time–instead of shorter and shorter–until I was too tired to keep it up.)

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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