Thursday, September 8, 2016

Healthy Soils = Healthy Animal Feed

September already!  There is a slight chill at night and the leaves are starting to change.  With these early hints that winter is approaching, my thoughts turn to next year's pasture and browse.  Soils fed in fall have all winter to rest, rebalance and rebuild.

The soil in pastures is alive with various organisms, including the forage or crop growing on/in it. These complex living systems have biological processes very similar to human or animal bodies, right down to the preferred pH.   I find it fascinating that as the soil becomes more mineralized the pH of the soil becomes more alkaline, just as it would in a healthy human body.  The soil has circulation, nutrients, waste products, life cycles - all the functions of a body.  All the components are interconnected, and there are synergistic (enhancing) and antagonistic (supressing) relationships between the components.

If you can view your land as a living organism, you can enhance health and increase production. Please, avoid the conventional N-P-K model.  This approach to soils leads to nitrogen-addicted imbalanced soils and low-nutrient pastures.

There are many ways to make soil healthier.  I have gathered up various tidbits and tips and links to give you some starting points for your research.  I encourage you to muscle test or dowse your possible approaches to find what best suits your land.

If you only invest in one book about soils, I highly recommend Eco Farm by Charles Walters.
If you are going to buy 2 books, add Weeds, Control Without Poisons by Charles Walters.
I also suggest learning all you can about the Albrecht Model of soil fertility.  Here is a simple starting article.  Albrecht's papers and talks are available on Amazon and from Acres USA.

I also encourage you to look into radionics and broadcast towers.  I did a brief summary of both, with related links, here.  The government cracked down on these a few years back, so information can be tricky to find.

Your first step, before applying any fertilizer, is to analyze your soil. How To Interpret A Soil Test by Steve Frack. This is a fairly conventional discussion with good descriptions of the various components of a soil test

An excellent soil test service is Western Laboratories in Idaho.   Contact me please for their phone number.

There are many foods for soils.  In general, I believe fertilizers should be plant-based or contain chelated minerals for the best results.  There are many many sources of healthy fertilizer.

Fertilizers can be made from sea vegetation.   Wachters sells seaweed-based fertilizer that can also be used to bring up sodium and iodine levels in soils.  You can do an internet search to find other sea vegetation fertilizers. has some interesting information about seawater and sea salt fertilizer. There are lots of great links on this website, and information about how seawater works on soil.  Keep in mind that seawater these days can be very polluted, so please muscle test or dowse any product you are considering.
[At Oak Hill, natural trace mineral salt applied at 2 pounds/acre tested well]  has a lot of information about chelated minerals. Albion and their founder, Ashmead, are the original chelate innovators, and a great place to learn the basics.

Composted manure is another fertilizer option.  Generally, if you are applying composted manure, the best application time is early fall.  You may want to consult The Old Farmer's Almanac for more precise spreading dates.  Check your manure source.  Manure from farms that use chemical wormers or herbicides may contaminate your soil.

Zeolite is a possible addition to a fertilizer program.  It holds moisture and also traps toxins.  Here are some zeolite resources:

An important note about green (fresh uncomposted) manure:  Green manure is very high in potassium.  If you use green manure you may need to add a bit of sodium (sea salt or mined mineral salt) to your soils to balance the potassium.  Epsom salts/magnesium chloride are commonly suggested as a remedy.  However, magnesium can harden soils.

If your soils test as acidic or low in calcium, you may be told to add lime.  Before adding lime, consider your soil type.  Calcium can be added as dolomitic lime (magnesium carbonate), calcium carbonate, or gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate).  Choosing the wrong calcium can harden your soils or create a mineral imbalance.  Gypsum raises calcium and sulfur levels without affecting pH.
[Oak Hill does best with gypsum, as we have low calcium, high iron, high clay soil]

Now that you have a sense of direction for your soil-wellness research, go forth and learn!  Your land will thank you.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Humility & Horses

In my experience, there is no better teacher of humility than a horse.

IF you have a heart open to hearing.

This point was driven home for me the other day by my mare Sugar.

Sugar (Miss Doc Alena) is a wonderful cutting mare who came into my life around the time I was first learning to hear the horses speak to me.  She and I had bonded well, and on the ground, she is very much my friend and companion.

On her back, well, that was another matter.  I just haven't quite been "clicking" with her.  And I was a bit stumped about why.

She has loads of training in her background.  She was super smooth and super sensitive when I rode her before bringing her home.

My first clue that maybe I was missing something, was her reaction to the bitless bridle compared to wearing a bit.  I figured she would enjoy going without a bit.  I mean, after all, who wouldn't, right???

Sugar likes her bit.  Her whole expression softens.  Put a hackamore on her, and she is tense, no matter how padded the nose.  I just wasn't listening, because I had made my mind up that I knew best.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that it took me this long to figure out what was wrong.  I was still getting on her with an attitude of "I'm the teacher, you are the student."  Even knowing that Lucky, my Arabian, had already insisted on giving me lessons about how to use my seat, somehow I just didn't stop and think that maybe Lucky was pointing out that my skills aren't quite as good as I thought they were.  

So I was getting on Sugar, and thinking, I'll do some basic bending, and some yields, and start to show her the different types of rein (direct, indirect).  Maybe ask her to yield her hindquarters or open her shoulders.

Sugar was not amused.

So a couple days ago, I had my new-to-me Bob Marshall treeless to try out (this one has the setback stirrups) and my new-to-me SaddleRight pad (I had been using a Skito).  I tacked her up, mounted, and as soon as I started asking for some movement I started to get attitude from her. Nothing mean, nothing strong enough to dump me, just unhappy and cranky.

I started to cue Sugar for a move - maybe it was opening her shoulder? - and suddenly we were spinning. After finding my balance again, I thought, "well gee, she didn't understand" so I changed my cue a bit.  And I got a quick light sidepass.  I almost fell off.  Then I started laughing, and I'm still grinning as I type this.  She was trying to tell me all along, she already knows this stuff, and more.  It's me that needs to learn how to ride her.  
Taken at that moment that I finally understood her message
The instant that thought crossed my mind and settled in my heart, her attitude changed.  She calmed. She softened.  I felt a clear sense of relief from her that finally her person is getting "it".  She's got it covered.  She knows what to do.  My job is to learn to stay with her, and learn to lend her confidence and courage when faced with something scary.

Since that ride, our relationship has deepened.  She comes to me more often.  She comes to me and relaxes and sighs.  And chews.  And falls asleep.

I'm very excited, and perhaps a bit daunted as well, to see what she will teach me about riding a highly-trained sensitive cutting horse.

So, if you are ever feeling a bit overconfident and need a dose of humility, open your heart and listen to your horse.  Amazing things can result!

PS - If you are wondering how we liked the new style of Bob Marshall, for riding her, my more forward-set stirrups on my other Bob Marshall seem to suit us both better.  The SaddleRight pad we both like.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Fencing at Oak Hill

I'm in the process of updating all the fencing, so this is a great time to revisit the principles and materials.  For those new to this blog, we are fencing in goats and horses and a livestock guardian dog, and fencing out stray dogs and predators.

There are five types of fences at Oak Hill:
The perimeter  fence is permanent and keeps all the animals from leaving the property, and keeps predators from entering.  This fence must be goat and horse proof, and strong.
The fence that divides the runways and pastures  must be horse and goat proof but does not have to contain the livestock dog and keep predators out. The goats are not allowed in the same encloser with the horses, as they could get trampled by a horse by accident.
The third type of fence surrounds the goat pens and must be goat and predator proof.
The fourth type of fence encloses the horse corrals.
The fifth type of fence is used for intensive rotation grazing.  It must be portable and goat proof.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Week 3 of the Chair Challenge from Carolyn Resnick

Third week of Carolyn Resnick's Chair Challenge!

I'm taking an online class with Carolyn Resnick called the Chair Challenge.  I have used her methods before a bit with the herd, and love learning more from her.  She's my favorite conscious horsemanship teacher. When the special offer showed up in my Inbox to do the Chair Challenge, I jumped at the opportunity. Carolyn talks more about the importance of sitting with horses here.  I suggest reading about the weeks in order, starting with week 1.

Day 10 - Day 13
Rather than write each day separately, I'm recording overall impressions, results, and changes.  Both in me and in the horse herd.  Some particular quotes and insights particularly struck me this week.

From Carolyn herself  "I found the formula into the horses' world. It was simple; it was my job to wait for the horses to respond and acknowledge my presence. I had to be in a proper state of bliss..."

Bliss.  How often have I felt bliss?  And when/where/why?  This thought really got me pondering.  I realized that bliss for me is timeless.  It is present time only.  It has happened most often outdoors.  Most often when there were no distractions, just an appreciation for the moment.  And the bliss was ecstatic.  Sometimes just peaceful.  A knowing.  If this is how horses live every moment, wow.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tea time for the goats - bye bye parasites

I am using a new approach to herbal deworming for my goat herd this spring.

We are having a daily tea party.

Kristie Miller at Land of Havilah gave me the idea, as she has been using it successfully with her herd of dairy goats, and sells the herbal blend that can be brewed into goat tea.

You can read more about Kristie's tea here.

I currently have 19 adults plus all the kids, so while I CAN do individual doses at tie stations, having an approach that addresses the entire herd at once is a real time-saver.  Also, I only deworm when they have parasite stress.  In my herd, that is typically once or twice a year at most.   I will add that using a stainless steel or glass container to steep would be even better, and using distilled water is better than spring or tap.  I used what I had on hand.

So, here is how I have been hosting the tea parties at Oak Hill.  I waited until it was 2 days before the full moon to start.  Every morning I bring water almost to a boil, and pour about a teakettle worth of water over 1 cup of the herbal blend.  I let it steep in a small feed bucket while I start my other chores.

After 15 minutes of steeping I stir it up and divide it evenly between three 5 gallon buckets.  I then add plain cold water to fill each of those buckets.  I put one bucket in the bucks' trough, and 2 buckets in the does' trough. Then I add another 5 gallons of plain water to the bucks, and another 10 to the does.

Doe trough.  20 gallons of water, including the steeped tea slurry.
In the mid afternoon, I check to see that they have drunk most or all of it.  Then I add more cold water right into the trough stirring back up the herbal slurry from that morning.  The next morning, I dump the trough out, and start fresh with that morning's new brew.
Truffle having her tea

After some wrinkled noses and funny faces, everyone seems to have adjusted to the taste.  Some love it, and gulp it right down.  Others are a bit more reluctant.  Everyone is getting a share though, even the very young kids.

Once we finish all 5 days, I will wait a week or so, then muscle test to see if anyone needs some individual dosing to finish the process.  If I do any individual dosing, I will switch to my favorite herbal blend, which is different that the Land Of Havilah tea blend.

Want to learn how to muscle test or dowse for what best addresses parasites in your goats?
Interested in more parasite prevention strategies?

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or American Veterinary Medical Association, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your animal’s health program.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Week 2 of chair & reed training with Carolyn Resnick

Second week of Carolyn Resnick's Chair Challenge!

I'm taking an online class with Carolyn Resnick called the Chair Challenge.  I have used her methods before a bit with the herd, and love learning more from her.  She's my favorite conscious horsemanship teacher. When the special offer showed up in my Inbox to do the Chair Challenge, I jumped at the opportunity. Carolyn talks more about the importance of sitting with horses here.  I suggest reading about the weeks in order, starting with week 1.

Day 6
Explored their territory from my chair.
Using only the senses I can use while sitting, I tuned in to everything around me while sitting with them.  In my daily chores, I often get so focused on what I'm doing that I forget about "being".  I had forgotten how many sounds and smells there are, the breeze, the birds, the animals, the crunch of the gravel when I move my feet. I found myself feeling more connected with my surroundings.  Later, when I was working, I slowed down and appreciated more.

Day 7
Today I got to read a book.  I planned to read my new purchase about raising and training foals, as Malenna is pregnant.  I ended up catching up on Facebook posts.  I'm curious to experiment and see if they prefer when I read a printed book versus play with an electronic device...  I'll test that out next week.