I take a vacation every morning when I go out to do chores. Chores at Sassafras Farm still feel like a vacation, and I am reminded daily of how easy it is here. Easy when I just, pow, flip the switch on the water faucet. Easy when I just, pow, toss a bale of hay out of the window of the hayloft. Easy when I sashay across the flat ground of the barnyard, faced with no greater obstacle than half a dozen chickens trying to trip me because they think I might have something in my pocket. Chores at Stringtown Rising Farm invariably meant getting something from one inconvenient location to another inconvenient location, slugging through mud, maybe climbing over a gate, hauling a bucket of water, and so on. I advise everyone to start with the most difficult farm you can find. Then after you are really, really tired, move to a properly laid out farm. Then you will never complain about chores for the rest of your life because a little hardship goes a long way, makes a really long-lasting mental picture, and you can spend the rest of your days in gratitude.

Chloe is still coming back to the house in the evenings.

Right at dusk, I go out to feed the chickens in the barnyard, at the same time enticing any that flew out of the barnyard during the day back in there. I’ve been pretty successful at keeping most of the chickens in the barnyard and around the barn most of the time now, and the chicken poop on the back porch has decreased accordingly. After I give the chickens their dinner, I let Chloe out of the goat yard and bring her back up to the house. I feed her dinner, let her sit at my feet in the house for an hour or two, take her out to potty, then she goes into a very large crate on the back porch for the night.

I bring her up to the house because she would never get any dinner if I fed her in the goat yard. The goats would steal it. In the morning, I give her breakfast then back she goes to the goat yard for the day. She was scared of the goats at first, but now she tries to be like them.

For some reason, they like that dry hay stuff! She nuzzles around at it to imitate them.

Sometimes she jumps in it, right in the middle of them, and that’s just one of a number of reasons they find a puppy so annoying. They question why I torture them so.

Sometimes I see that particular look on her face, the early, yet unformed visage of the livestock guardian.

But it’s too exhausting to maintain for long because, after all, she’s only a puppy.

About once a week, I take her on a car ride to pick up Morgan from track practice. I want to keep her accustomed to getting in and out of a vehicle voluntarily.

I’ve had the donkeys in with the sheep for a few weeks now. I moved them even before the cows moved.

The rear barnyard is on bedrest for now.

I’m hoping to get most of my fencing repairs and other new fencing done by the end of March. Grass is growing and we have warm temperatures in the forecast for the next week, too. I don’t expect we’ve seen all of the last of winter, but I believe the cold snaps left to go will be brief. We are having an early spring, and I am glad to see grass! I have just enough hay left to make it.

And, I have a sneak tidbit for you today: Remember my promise to Morgan when I brought her to see the farm for the first time? This weekend, we are going to look at a couple of rescue horses. I won’t bring one home until the fencing repairs are finished and there is grass in the fields, but we are going to start exploring while I’m making the preparations at the farm. We stopped by the little store last night on the way home from track practice and Morgan fondled the bridles, halters, and saddles. I told her it was too soon to think about any of that. She wanted to get something for her horse. I let her buy an 89 cent hoof pick. She was happy!


  1. shirley T says:

    The look on Chloes’ face in the first photo is to die for. Does the donkeys presence in with the goats serve to protect them from predators?

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      The donkeys are in with the sheep just because I wanted to give the rear barnyard a rest. I don’t believe donkeys provide any substantial predator protection. Some people say they do, but I haven’t seen that in action. The best protection for livestock is a livestock guardian dog.

  2. shirley T says:

    By the way~ what is the news on Coco.I really miss her presence?

  3. outbackfarm says:

    Wow, I had no idea how small those donkeys are til they are standing next to those sheep of yours. The one on the right (is that Pokey) is not much bigger than the sheep.

    My Finn-Suffolk ewe had a ram lamb Tuesday morning. Very big surprise as I had no idea she was pregant. Apparently she was when I got her the end of Oct. 4 more to go! And 2 does too.

    Looking at all your fat bellied goats, are they all expecting soon?


  4. kdubbs says:

    I used to work on a farm that was the height of inconvenience! I enjoy my “chore-cation” every day at our place now.

    Good luck horse-hunting! As the owner of a couple of canine “SPCA Specials”, I think it’s nice when you can give a homeless critter a good home. Certainly there are huge numbers of unwanted horses out there these days (due in no small part to the economy). This makes now a great time to potentially pick up a great horse at a great price (or even for free). As a horseman, I just want to remind you and Morgan to shop with extreme caution. Sometimes, rescues are rescues because their former owners fell on hard times, and they may be wonderful, well-trained animals available for a song. However, other times, they’re rescues for other reasons. I work with youth equine programs, and I can’t tell you the number of 4-H’ers I’ve seen saddled (pun intended!) with free or rescued horses that were ill-trained, had soundness or behavioral issues, or were genuinely dangerous. Some of these horses might work out all right for a very experienced trainer, but teen riders trying to work through the horses’ issues on their own can be frustrated at best and in actual danger at worst.

    That being said, there are some wonderful rescues out there, and I’m sure that you’re being highly selective. If you have a friend or contact with lots of horsemanship experience, this would be the time to enlist his or her aid. Way back when, I was that horseless kid who took riding lessons, so I can honestly say that lesson time, while very valuable, doesn’t make up for years of horse handling and training experience. I deal with young people and horses constantly in my job, and I know what great things are possible when the right match is made between horse and rider. That’s why I feel compelled to give a little unsolicited advice while you and Morgan are on this side of the buying (or adoption) process. Good luck!

  5. wildcat says:

    Oh dear. First it was a lamb that wanted to be a dog, and now it’s a dog that wants to be a goat. Animals are so funny! :yes:

  6. FreedomValleyFarm says:

    I’m sure you’ll get plenty of advice about horses. But, if you need any, I’ve been working with horses for 25+ years. I also have rescue horses. I would suggest an older “been there, done that” horse for Morgan. Sometimes the issues that come with rescue horses can’t be trained out of them and they may never be able to be trusted with a new rider.Of course, each case is different. Do you have any experienced horse person there to help? I’m so excited for Morgan, horse lovers are kindred spirits!

  7. CATRAY44 says:

    This makes me very happy for you!

  8. KellyWalkerStudios says:

    I had forgotten about the horse. If that doesn’t work out let me know. We have a couple of horses at our shelter looking for homes. I’m sure we could find someone to bring them over. They really need a good home. 🙂

  9. JerseyMom says:

    Yes, yes, yes to the rescue horse!!! One of mine is a rescue, the other was a gift. Both of them are ‘older’ (14 and 18) and I think you should stick to the older ones for Morgan. With good care horses can live well into their 30s so she’s still have many good years with her new friend. I’ll second the other posters who advocate going slowly and carefully and enlisting the aid of someone who understands both horses and kids. It’s easy to fall in love with most any horse but in the day to day Morgan needs the right horse so that it will be a mutually beneficial relationship.

    I still get a huge kick out of buying anything at all for my boys…this week it was a new shedding blade 8)

  10. Leck Kill Farm says:

    kdubbs and Freedom have given sound advice. Horses often turn into “large dogs” for owners and that can result in very bad and potentially dangerous habits.

    My parents had a horse farm for years as did my mom’s cousin just a few miles down the road. Both Cousin and Dad were very experienced and would often take in unwanted and/or poorly trained horses. They both liked the challenge of training horses. My dad did it for profit (he made a nice side business out of it) while Cousin did it for fun.

    To get to my point – do you have any contacts in your local horse community? If so, put the word out that Morgan is looking for a horse. There may be people with “extra” horses that need a home, horses that they like enough to keep around (and feed!) but aren’t necessarily long-term farm residents, horses that have good socialization and a proven background. Dad and Uncle placed many of their project horses this way.

    Don’t let her fall in love with a horse before you truly know what you are getting. Buying a horse may be much less expensive in the long run.

    Horse recues scare me. I visited a number of them as part of my past job and some seem to do nothing more than add another horse to the farm, the operators didn’t ride or interact with them in any way. I would make sure to deal with ones that really work with their horses and are invested in making a good placement.

    Lucky Morgan! I was horse crazy well into my 20s.

  11. Leck Kill Farm says:

    “Sometimes the issues that come with rescue horses can’t be trained out of them and they may never be able to be trusted with a new rider.”

    So true. My dad had one that liked to lay down, saddled with a rider, and rollover. Thank goodness Dad was spry and a good jumper! Had another one that would slam sideways into buildings, trees, fence posts, etc. Cousin dislocated his shoulder on that horse.

  12. Bev in CA says:

    For sure you will get lots of advice. The two biggest things is to make sure that the horse loads really well into a trailer. Hauling your horse to the vet is much cheaper. Something new for you to learn and is quite easy is to be able to give your horse it’s yearly shots for Tetanus, etc. I have done it for years. Also make sure that they can be easily handled for being trimmed and shod. It is critical for good hoof care and health for the horse. Morgon will love having a horse. There are some great books out there, too. Love seeing all your animals, miss hearing about their antics.

  13. kdubbs says:

    Oh, and I forgot to say congrats on the Master Gardener classes! The MG program is awesome! (But I’m an Extension agent, so I may be biased…)

  14. Remudamom says:

    More unsolicited horse advice. I’ll just say that I’ve trained for 40 years . I start our horses under saddle. Please get someone who really knows horses to help you.

  15. kdubbs says:

    Remudamom said,”Please get someone who really knows horses to help you.” Amen!! This is the first thing I tell 4-H families who are looking to get into horses.

  16. Camille says:

    :happyfeet: Hi Suzanne; I haven’t had much to say lately – too many other things going on family wise – but have never failed to made you my first read every single morning!

    The horse issue – yes indeed, good advice from all re: rescue animals.

    Not sure if the following would apply down there, but way up here in NH (in the rural areas of course) there is a “booming” business for individuals with good quality, small farms who will board others recreational horses on a monthly basis. The average price right now in central NH is around $800.00 a month per horse. Yup -you heard me correctly. I have a neighbor who boards TWO horses at a nearby farm (and at those prices-yikes)for twelve months of the year. Just a little something for you to think about. :happyfeet:

  17. Bev in CA says:

    Sorry Suzanne and Morgan, in my previous post I goofed and typed an o instead of an a in Morgan’s name. Need to pay more attention.

  18. princessvanessa says:

    I chuckled at the 89 cent horse pick. First the horse pick then the horse!

  19. princessvanessa says:

    Hoof pick! Hoof pick!! Yeegad, you’d think I’ve never been around a horse and all their grooming aids.

  20. Diane says:

    At our fair grounds last weekend they adopted out horses that was rescued from WV I think. I know a few people who own horses that was rescued and they are very pleased with them.

    Little Cleo is so cute. She is going to be a good dog for you. Coco will be please also with her. I think they will make good companions.

  21. sunhurteyes says:

    89 cent hoof pick…cute!You all are living my dream!!

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