Friday, April 1, 2011

Latest excuse

Quite a lot of our work here on the farm consists of coming up with new excuses for "why we haven't gotten back to you yet."

Here's the latest one:

Like all good drama, there is both tragedy and joy in this story. This is "Atlas", born 1:30 AM, March 31st, 2011; about 12 hours before this photo. His sire was Brigadier. But- his sire is dead. We lost him to colic, months ago; a devastating thing for us, and still painful.

He left us with two mares pregnant; and yet more tragedy. The day before Atlas was born, his half-sister was born- in a breech position, and she did not survive. Meg was able to save the mare, which was great, but did not entirely ease the pain of the lost foal.

Then- 24 hours later- Atlas arrived. His dam is Lacey, an Appaloosa. He seems to have his father's size. It was mostly an easy birth, but he still needed help. His hips are so big they stuck; Meg had to pull and rotate, to get him out. She was there.

Then there were hours of "imprinting". It's critical to get a foal used to humans immediately; all of us had to spend time with him. Not onerous- but time consuming.

And in the background there, you see a big part of the reason for the horses. Grass. In hazel rows.

Last fall, before chestnut harvest, we did put the horses on pasture under the chestnut trees. We used temporary electric fence, which they are trained to, and watched carefully. Mostly, we wanted them to mow the grass, so we could find and pick up chestnuts. But the results were actually far better than we hoped. They mowed the grass- and they also cleared brush, under trees were machines can't go. I think the dollar value of the work they did, in terms of cost of diesel fuel and human labor replaced, was certainly more than $2,000.

At this point; we think we'll be able, in a few years, to show that the expenses of keeping and managing the animals will actually total out as less than the alternative expenses of machinery, time, and fuel necessary to control grass in the nut plantings.

We've experimented a bit with the horses and hazels; and initial results are more than encouraging. Even in a couple rather uncontrolled circumstances, the horses leave hazel bushes virtually untouched, apart from an experimental taste here and there.

We'll see.

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