Monthly Archives: March 2012

We Have A Winner!!!

Danny and Cecily draw the contest winner's name out of my cowgirl hat!


It’s been fun running the “Name Your Small Home Farm” contest.  I love hearing everyone’s stories about what they’re doing with their farms and/or how their farm was named!  You guys are so much fun!  JJ and I wrote out the entry names on slips of paper and threw ’em into my cowgirl hat.


My cowgirl hat is the only reasonable protection from gnats and black flies in our bug-infested neck of the woods.  For some reason they don’t venture in under a wide brim, so all spring we wear our hats outside.  After that they sit on a shelf, hook, or in the closet the rest of the year.  But they come in handy for drawing names for a contest!


Our winning farm name is:

If you can't read my chicken scratch, it says "Susan Isla, Breezy Pines Homestead." Yay, Susan! Yay, Breezy Pines!


Thanks to everyone who participated.  At Small Home Farm Radio, we really do appreciate each and every listener, and we thrive on listener input!  Thanks for stopping by, thanks for participating!  Happy Home Farming y’all!

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Don’t Get Caught Napping! Submit Your Entry for the Small Home Farm Radio Contest!

We caught Cecily, Zuzu and Benson napping! Don't *you* get caught!


Only eight days left in the Small Home Farm Radio contest!  If you haven’t entered yet, don’t wait!  You can win a $25 gift card to!  Listen to Episode 22 of Small Home Farm Radio for instructions on how to enter!

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Fencing Options

Centaur HTP (High Tensile Polymer) Equine Rail Fencing. Click on the photo to go to their site.

Our Aspendale Farm arena/paddock expansion project is well underway.  All the brush is cleared (and believe me, there was a lot of brush) and nothing is left but large trees that need to be taken down.  After that we will remove the existing fencing and an excavator will grade the sandy footing at a slight slope away from the barn, to the south and west sides of the arena/paddock.

Then comes post installation, and finally, fence rails.  We can’t take too long on the post and rail installation, as a friend will be babysitting the horses for us while the existing fence is down.  I still haven’t decided 100% what product I am going to use.  My husband suggested using board and rail just for one side of the arena so we can do “on the rail” exercises on that one side of the arena, then use electric braid on the other three sides and the front paddock.  I liked the idea pretty well, but after some reflection I can see how it could get to be a problem having only one side of the arena available for doing rollbacks into the fence (where they might bump it) or any other exercises where there is a good chance their noses will touch the fence for one reason or another.

So I’ve revisited a type of fencing I poo-pooed earlier in the fence selection process: Flexible Rail Fencing.  Not the PVC fencing that is a replica of board rail fencing, such as Ramm fence.  I’m talking about the high-tensile flexible rail fencing such as that Centaur and Systemfence have.  It looks like a rail from a distance, but up close you can see the “rail” is 5″ tall but only 1/4″ or less in depth.  It requires the same kind of post installation as high tensile fence (concreted posts and braces at the corners).  My objection to it has been that, in every application I’ve seen (only a handful of uses) it has been sagging, sometimes badly, and looks terrible!

Due to dwindling options that will fit into our budget and my tolerance for additional items that need extensive maintainence, I dug in and started researching the flexible fence more.  If you haven’t been with me in this selection process, it’s important to note that our paddock doubles as an arena.  We put the horses in their stalls when we want to ride and their paddock turns into “instant arena!”

Answering my objections to the sagging fence look, apparently  proper installation is hugely important and makes a big difference in whether your fence sags … as well as the regular (3-4 times yearly) tightening of the fence.  I already tighten our existing braided electric fence regularly, so that’s nothing new.  And it’s good to know proper installation can make a huge difference.

This photo was taken mid-brush-clearing on the west side of the paddock one misty morning last week. We are expanding the arena/paddock from 70x110 to 100x200. It will make a big difference in our under-saddle training!

So today I’m leaning toward installing flex-rail fence on the inside of the posts, with electric strands running along the outside of the same posts so the only chance the horses will have of contacting the electric will be if they actually stick their heads through the fence to get at some grass on the other side.  Electric is needed to keep the horses from leaning on the fencing and shortening its life.  It won’t deter any chewing fenceposts or rubbing on the fencing, though, since it would be outside of the fence rather than on the inside of the posts.  Incidentally, the electric wire down low to the ground along the outside of the fence will also deter predators.  And unfortunately for me, make it very difficult for a lazy human to sneak through the fence rather than go around to a gate!  Guess that means I’ll want to install a man gate or two at intervals along the arena in spots I might usually want to sneak through!

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Bide A Bit, Orchard Blossoms

This gorgeous, summer-like weather we have had the last week has brought forth the tulips, crocuses and other spring bulbs.  The buds are breaking on the maple trees and green fuzz is showing itself in the lawn.  But I worry for the orchard.  As Robert Frost tells his orchard in early winter, “Goodbye, and keep cold!”  I hope the same for my trees … that they keep cold.  This warmth is stirring the sap in the orchard trees every bit as much as it the trees elsewhere around the property.  If they bud and blossom so early in the year, they are almost bound to get frost-killed.  That will destroy our hopes of an orchard crop again this year.

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Join Us for A Small Home Farm Radio Contest!


Hurry!  Better get going!  Listen to our latest episode of Small Home Farm Radio (episode 22) which goes live today, and find out how to enter the “Name Your Small Home Farm” contest!  You don’t have to own acres and acres… any small home farm qualifies, from an urban windowsill garden on up!  You could win a gift card to!

Winner will be selected at random from all entries on March 31, 2012.  Winner will be announced here, on Facebook, and also on the first episode of Small Home Farm Radio in April.

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March Thaw

A March thaw at twilight is not a hopeful thing.  Particularly when it arrives only a week after a doozy of a snowstorm that left, literally, dozens of broken trees and branches littering the farm.  It is the bearer of news, revealing how much work will be required to put the place to rights this spring.  Half the garden lays bare of snow, looking dismal with heaps of wet roughage and displaced mulch.  The chicken fencing sags ominously.  I don’t know really if it will even stay up until the ground has thawed enough to pull old posts, re-space them and add a few more for reinforcement.

An owl calls. The dusky green-blue horizon lays behind the treetops. Rivers of snowmelt carve miniature canyons from the big barn at the top of the slope to the horse barn down by the gate at our wooded road.  It is the ending to an absolutely glorious, blue-sky, sun-drenched day of clearing out the undergrowth and popples beyond our paddocks.  It was sixty degrees and sunny.  Now the temperature has dropped and the last bit of light makes the work yet to be done look heavy and hard.  A good night’s sleep is a must.

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Farm Update – First Week of March

It’s been an unusual 10 days or so here at Aspendale Farm.  I was two days in Ohio while my Mom was in the hospital, then drove home through both a heavy rainstorm and a near-blizzard snowstorm.  The usual 3 1/2 hour trip took 7 hours.  But I was relieved to be home.  Jess had driven down to Miami with his Dad and JJ (taking the wifi card with him!) and the younger kids needed a parent home with them.  Moreso than usual.  About an hour and a half after I arrived home the snowstorm knocked the power out.

We were without water, heat, a stove, or any other of life’s electricity-dependent amenities.  Even though we have a wonderful wood-stove, we need an electric blower to get the heat to actually disperse through the house.  The great majority of our entire county was without power, actually – some doing without for as many as six days.  Ours lasted only a couple days and we were good to go again.  We actually enjoyed keeping toasty by the kerosene heater, and the soft light of candles and the kerosene lamp. The first morning, we visited with some very gracious friends who fed us breakfast (and lunch!), letting us keep warm at their place, enjoying several hours of good conversation before we needed to return home to mind the farm animals.

Admittedly I began to get nervous when, on day two of the power outage, the horses’ water was low.  We could drive back and forth to my friend’s house to refill our water jugs for the chickens, dog, cats, and our own water needs.  But horses drink upward of 10-12 gallons of water a day.  Each.  I wasn’t sure how we were going to haul 35 gallons of water.  I didn’t have that many jugs!!!  But God is gracious and we did have power again before what little water was left in the tank was completely frozen and you can bet we high-tailed it down to the barn and refilled the water trough and Lacy’s 5 gallon insulated waterer faster than Jack-Be-Nimble could jump over his candlestick.  We ran around refilling jugs, taking super-fast showers and in general, preparing for a second round of no-power should there be more problems.  Our hasty prep was unnecessary, and I have been so grateful for heat that just comes on when its needed, and water at the turn of a faucet!

Since then I have lived quietly, with no internet other than my iPad.  I can’t do blog updates on it, and of course I can’t record or upload any Small Home Farm Radio episodes.  Of course, my technical staff (JJ) was in Florida running in a marathon anyhow.

On that note, I am going to drop down to recording shows twice monthly for awhile.  As we gear up for summer the work begins to build.  I’ve started my first batch of plants (peppers, some flowers, some geranium cuttings, cauliflower and broccoli.)  And there isn’t such a heavy stream of listener questions as of late, so I don’t feel any urgency keep up with answering questions so I don’t fall behind.  I’m open to any suggestions or comments on the issue if you care to share.

Last summer I spent so much time training for upcoming races (I do the 5k, everyone else in the family has their own distance).  I did not get to work with my horse nearly enough, and I’m determined not to let anything; race training, travel, the radio show… crowd out one of my chief pleasures in life again this year!

This last ten days without the big boys at home has been deliciously quiet and somewhat introspective.  I continued doing the usual round of errands, lessons, and so forth, though admittedly I didn’t work out a single day!  But otherwise I kept mostly to a cheerful corner of the sunporch, relishing a little R&R.  I was sorry to see the quiet end when the boys tromped into the house yesterday afternoon, though of course, it’s nice to have them back safe and sound.

On the whole, it’s been both terribly exciting (snowstorm with the tops of trees so heavily laden with snow and ice that they bent to the ground) and not exciting at all (sitting in the sunporch with books and notepaper working on some quiet project).   And that is pretty much it.  Contrary to possible suspicion, I did not die, become comatose, get kidnapped, nor take a long trip.  I’m still here, happily anticipating “springing forward” tonight, and waking up to what is about to become spring!

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