This afternoon the kids and I (Anna) decided to try sledding behind King. After some initial testing I decided he didn’t care about the sled behind him and since the kids didn’t have the strength to hold on I tied the ropes to the sled. Probably not the safest venture but the ropes were tied on with very breakable baling twine. The kids had a blast!!! They wore their helmets as did I of course. Next we need some plastic skis and a tow rope…
A few weeks back, Huey joined the farm. After an adjustment period with Devil and Precious, we turned him out with King and Calli too. The result was surprising. Huey, the 11 hand Dartmoor, drove King away from the other ponies. Calli was allowed to stay with King initially, but once she came into heat, Huey claimed her too.
Now Huey keeps his band at close hold while King grazes alone. Huey was gelded late (around 5 or 6) and clearly knows how to be a stud. While King spent many years in charge, life in nature, sometimes a younger stud takes over.
Moving has a way of taking up all the free time. As a result, the horses were not getting used much and we certainly we not doing any trail riding. However, since our 14th anniversary was Wednesday and we didn’t really do anything special, I decided Anna and I would go trail riding today. We arranged for a babysitter to give us a block of kid-free time.
Saturday evening, we took Mack and all the kids hiking in the woods behind the house to scout the horse trails. Pachaug State Forest is the entire rear of the property line. The first direction we went, we encountered a creek. So, we reserved course and headed off through the woods. 30 minutes later, we arrived at the gravel road into Pachaug, but there was no horse path to get there. Clearing the trail of enough branches to not be constantly hit in the face would take a lot of work.
This afternoon, once the babysitter arrived, Anna and I headed back into the woods on foot to cross the creek. The path to that point had clearly been used as a riding trail, so it was much more promising. We took a couple of hand tools to clean up the trail as we went. 30 minutes later, we had found the horse trails we were looking for and cleared a sufficient trail to get there. We scooted back to the barn and saddled up King and Calli for a ride.
Off we went. Until we got to the water (which is only about 2 minutes down the trail from our barn. 10 minutes later, we still had not gotten Calli to cross the water, so we went back to the barn. We put on her halter under the bridle and went back with a lunge line. This time Anna rode King across (for probably the 15th time) and held on to the line to Calli. It took some encouragement, but success! We left the line there and continued on the ride. It turns out, Pachaug has a lot of water right now. The good news is, Calli didn’t refuse any more water crossings. In fact, as we returned home an hour later, she didn’t even hesitate where we started out. That was actually surprising, because it was the largest of the water crossings at about 12′ across. Our little loop was just under 3 miles.
I went back out after we untacked and spent some more time improving the trails. I believe it was actually a driving path in the past based on the size. So, overall, it was a very successful day. Calli got comfortable with water crossings and Anna and I got a trail ride in. We are planning to take all the kids out on Tuesday. It’s time to start logging some serious mileage if we are going to be ready for Alex and Vicki to ride a hunter pace this fall.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a trimming client about detoxification for her horse. I will freely admit this is something new to me that we haven’t been doing with our own herd. Bentonite clay is primarily used for detox in horses. I have been doing some reading about detox and was surprised to find information about potential benefits in reducing ulcers through the use of bentonite clay. This is of particular interest to me since my 5yo TB mare is a windsucker, which is commonly accompanied by ulcers (enter chicken or the egg discussion here). We have been using Aloe Vera Gel added to her feed for about 6 months, however, we have not noticed a significant change in her propensity to windsuck as soon as she is put into a stall. With all the detox benefits and potential ulcer benefits, I think it is time for me to order some bentonite clay. I might even add some to my coffee to get the benefits for myself!
Feel free to read more about this at these resources. If you find others, please leave a comment here.
detox info: http://www.tribeequus.com/detox.html
relating ulcers: http://www.equinewellnessmagazine.com/art/aV43_16.php
bentonite clay info: http://www.californiaearthminerals.com/science/clay-minerals-research.php?16
Next weekend, Milo will be leaving us to go to a new home. The young woman who will be taking him has more time for the training he needs. While we only had him about 2 months, we were able to make significant improvements on his hooves. I just hope they allow him to continue to heal without shoeing. He has also calmed a lot since we brought him home.
The reason we decided not to keep him is, we really don’t need multiple horses for adults and we have plenty of projects. If we are going to spend the money to keep extra horses, they need to be suitable for the kids to ride and grow with. Milo didn’t fit that requirement, so we found him a good home.
First, Thank You to everyone who supported Sawyer Family Farm in 2012!
Last year was marked by significant growth and trying new things on the farm and we learned a lot. When we started our farm, it was with the intent to provide healthier food for our family, that we could trust was free of antibiotics, artificial hormones, injected juices, and all the other things that we don’t know about in the mainstream food supply. We are well on our way to achieving that goal. Frequently last summer, we were able to serve entire meals with items produced exclusively on our farm: meat, vegetables, and dairy products. We enjoy raising the animals, however, it is a lot of work (just ask our farm sitter who experienced the life for 10 days while we were gone at Christmas)! A frequent conversation starter at our house is “What do we enjoy, what do make money at, and what isn’t worth the money.”
So, here is a breakdown across the areas we tried out in 2012 and some of our 2013 plans.
Eggs: There is a constant demand for our eggs. We love the idea of having a cooler at the end of our driveway to sell fresh eggs to local neighbors, however, after losing around $100 in coolers, eggs, and money, we had to stop. We have been providing eggs to other groups such as Wesleyan University Food Co-op and for sale on CT Farm Fresh Express, however, our local customers come first, so if you still want our fresh eggs, give us a call. 2013: We will continue to have fresh eggs available, however, we will not expand our laying flock. NOTE: we are getting ready for chick hatching season soon, so eggs may not be quite as available as we set them aside for hatching.
Meat Chickens: Wow. I never expected so much demand for the meat chickens. We ended up selling almost half of what we planning to keep for ourselves, but that is ok, because we have been eating more rabbits. In 2012, we tried Freedom Rangers as a meat chicken and also raised more heritage roosters. While we didn’t raise any Cornish Cross, we did process them on a number of occasions for another farm. While the Cornish Cross get bigger, have more breast meat, and are ready in half the time, we have decided they WILL NOT be raised on our farm. Additionally, we will not raise the Freedom Rangers again. We have decided that we prefer chickens that move around, scratch the grass, and act like chickens, even if that means it takes longer to raise them at a slightly higher cost.
2013: We will still raise some chickens as meat birds. However, based on the time it takes to process when they are all ready (and our extremely busy weekend schedules), we will likely have a very limited number of chickens available for sale. These will be offered to previous customers first.
Chicks: We hatched a lot of chicks in 2012 on a continuous hatching plan. This year, are going to try a very different approach. Stand by for an update on this within the next week.
Turkeys: Turkeys are stupid. That’s all there is too it. While we did get excellent feedback, we haven’t decided if the turkeys are worth the trouble. It was definitely more stressful than I anticipated as we approached Thanksgiving and realized many of the birds were going to be smaller than expected. We haven’t decided what future turkeys will have on the farm, however, we are committed to the heritage breeds if we raise them again.
Rabbits: This has to be one of the more frustrating areas of the farm. The rabbits are easier to care for than the chickens, easier to breed year round, and require less work. However, due to the feed costs, they are more expensive, which I think is negatively impacting our ability to sell more rabbits. Additionally, since rabbit isn’t a mainstream food source in the US, many are reluctant to try it. Rabbits are not going away (in fact we would really like to expand). We have a few ideas about what we might be able to do in order to lower costs for feeding. Stand by for a new project announcement in the near future.
Goats: We love the goats. They are just fun. The human kids enjoyed showing last summer at the North Stonington Fair, and this year, in 4-H, they will show goats a little more. Last summer, we used the milk to drink (a lot), make ice cream, and make soft cheese until we got tired of goat cheese and wine (which takes about 3 months, every evening after the human kids go to bed). Right now we have 9 does that we think are all bred. Kidding season starts in February and continues into early June. We haven’t completely decided on how large our dairy herd will be in the future, however, we do plan to sell a lot of kids (goat version only). Anna has grand plans to make hard cheeses (as soon as I buy or build a press) and soaps. That’s right, we will be selling Goat’s Milk soap and other skin care products in 2013.
Beef: We didn’t do anything with raising beef in 2012. However, we did by half a veal calf from some friends who also raise goats, and the meat was fabulous. We got 40lbs of meat from our half calf. Our plan is, buy a bob calf (male dairy calf) at less than a week old. Switch it over to goat milk and raise it for 2-3 months. The calf will live with the goats and be raised on milk and hay – no grains. We will pre-sell the calves as a whole or half calf and you pick up your meat at the butcher. More info and pricing will be available in the future, however this will be a very limited commodity.
Horses: Anna has been teaching some lessons. She is very good at it, even if she doesn’t believe that herself. At dinner the other night, Alex even stated his favorite riding instructor was his Mom! This year, we expect to continue to expand our horse involvement as the kids are more active in Pony Club and Anna and I try to riding more hunter paces for ourselves. We became dealers for a number of horse care products, primarily as associated with my trimming work. Horses have always been our first passion, and we are always challenged to make time for that as the other activities on the farm grow.
Stay true to heritage breeds.
Continue to find efficiencies on farm.
Reduce reliance on commercial feed.
Yesterday afternoon, instead of sledding, we hopped on some horses and rode in the new snow. The kids have been enjoying riding the fuzzy ponies bareback. I think they have discovered it saves time on tacking up and when they are popsicles after the ride, there is less tack to put away. It was about 28F outside and we had a solid 9.5″ of powder in the arena. Alex rode Precious. Vicki rode Devil. I rode Calli and Amanda rode with me. I decided to put my western saddle on Calli (for the first time ever) since I wasn’t sure how she would respond to the snow covered arena and Amanda wanted to come along. Everyone had a blast. Alex only came off once when Precious reared up as Dillon, the new dog, came running up behind her. Vicki rolled off into the powder as she steered a corner too tight while trotting and didn’t have stirrups to keep her balance. Calli did great and Amanda and I stayed in the saddle.
Some of the pictures aren’t great because Anna’s hands were freezing as she used my iPhone. And the horses were moving.
For many years, Anna and I have owned horses together. We have used or investigated many different options for horse health over the year. Over the past year, a few things have occurred in our lives and on our farm that made us step back and reconsider the products we used on our animals. In the process, we became fans of and advocates for Zephyr’s Garden equine products. Here is why.
In 2011, we decided to start raising meat products on the farm for our family. This decision was based on health concerns about commercial food supply chains, such as uncontrolled use of antibiotics in meat animals. There are a lot of documentaries and articles about the food supplies in the US, and the more we learned, the more concerned we became. Now, over 90% of the meat we consume at our house was raised by us, harvest wild game, or raised by another local, small farm. This also led us to start raising dairy goats for the milk supply. We switched the family to raw goat milk and haven’t regretted it at all. Since we were now eating meat from our farm, and drinking milk from our animals, we were concerned about chemical usage on the farm and the impact on our own meat/milk supply. Additionally, our garden is next to the horse area and we stopped using all chemicals in our garden.
In late April 2012, we discovered a mass on Devil (Vicki’s pony). It was cancer and you can read the whole story about the surgery here. While we don’t know what specifically caused it, the consideration about chemically based fly sprays became very important to us. Would you spray your own body with the chemical fly sprays every day? We did research and found the Zephyr’s Garden products to be appealing.
Finally, as a barefoot horse trimmer, I frequently encountered horses with thrush problems. Previously, my only recommended solutions were chemically based, and usually contained stains and chemicals that I didn’t really want to get on my own hands. Then, I had a client with a horse who had bad thrush. 4 weeks later, the thrush was gone, and she made no changes in husbandry or diet. All she did was clean the hooves and apply the Zephyr’s Garden Thrush and Hoof Fungus Spray. I was sold and immediately purchase some products for our farm.
For the rest of the summer, we used only the Zephyr’s Garden fly spray, and it worked. Anna and I have been thrilled with the products. They are non-toxic, we don’t worry about the kids handling the spray bottles, and THEY WORK! Also, the customer service is excellent – if you send an email, you will get a prompt response from Georgette, the owner of the company. As a small business, I like to support other small businesses whenever possible, especially if the PRODUCT WORKS! In fact, we were so frequently telling everyone about how happy we were, we decided to become a local dealer for the products. We don’t have plans to open a tack shop, but we support what we believe in, and in this case, it just makes sense to help spread the word.
You can view our Equine Products page to see what other products we fully support.
This past week Alex and Vicki spent five days at Ayer Mountain Farm participating in Shetucket Valley Pony Club’s annual camp. They are part of Mystic Pony Club, but our club had been invited to join them at camp. The ponies stayed at camp all week, but Alex and Vicki came in the morning and went home at night. They had two riding lessons per day and chores and crafts in between. I (Anna) was there every day with Amanda helping out and watching over the kids. It has been an exhausting week, but it was a very rewarding time spent with the kids.
The kids got to experience several different things during the week. Besides regular instruction twice a day they also tried fox hunting with hounds (in the walk-trot group), Alex got to jump cross-rails for the first time ever, Vicki cantered over ground poles, they both did pony club mounted games and they crossed the water on the cross country course. Alex even got to have a lesson with two other boys his age. Amanda was quite the little trooper, hangin out all week and she got lots of attention from older and younger girls.
So what are my thoughts after spending a week at pony club camp?
Well, I believe Pony Club is good for the kids. It exposes them to other kids who also ride and gives them opportunities to do things with the horses they would not get to do otherwise. Horse kids are generally good-natured, hard-working kids. I wish there were more boys involved, but such is life with horses…in a few years Alex may come to appreciate being a boy among lots of girls.
As in any organization, volunteers make a difference. There are individuals out there that sacrifice their time for YOUR children. I wish more parents appreciated this fact, not just in Pony Club, but across the board in kids’ sports and recreational activities. Salute those energizer bunnies that make things happen.
I ‘ve decided I want to ride my horse more. I need to have some sort of goal with my riding. King is 18, but to be honest he isn’t really showing any signs of slowing down. Watching other people ride all week makes me want to ride too.
Being at camp all day made me exhausted and I want to get in better shape. Who wants to be walking around in breeches and a tucked in polo shirt and not be in shape? Besides it will make me a better rider (theoretically).
All in all, we had a great week at camp. The weather was good, the kids behaved, the ponies behaved, and nobody left in an ambulance (though one girl broke her arm and another fractured a rib). Below are some more pictures.
This weekend was supposed to be filled with trail riding and overnight camping with the horses. However, the threat of severe weather yesterday caused us to cancel some plans.
The clouds were still looming, but we went out this morning anyway. We met a group from Mystic Pony Club at Stepping Stones Ranch next to Arcadia in RI. We had an extended warm up period as everyone tacked up, and then headed out for the ride.
We had 15 riders total in the group. It was the first time we had taken Calli out for a ride somewhere else. While she was a little nervous at first, I moved her to the back of the group and she calmed nicely. Amanda rode in the Buddy Saddle behind Anna on King. Alex got to try out a new pommel pack as an incentive to do more long distance riding.
We were in the saddle for 2 hrs- by far Amanda’s longest ride yet (she’s not quite 27 months old).
After we got back, we ate our picnic lunch and headed home. Now we are watching some Pentathlon and then it is back outside. We still have to get everything ready to go again because the kids have pony club riding camp all week! Maybe the weather wi cooperate with horse camping next weekend.