Monthly Archives: April 2017

Back Yard Chickens

We decided to get some broiler chicks this year so I wanted to make a new pen to raise them in. I wanted something I could move around to help control the squash bugs and grasshoppers that always feast on our garden and give the chickens fresh grass every few days. Between the coyotes, the dog and the cats I don’t thick we can let them out to be true “free range” birds so this is the next best thing.

I got some 2-7/8” pipe for the base and skids so I could drag it around with the tractor.

I welded 1-1/2” square tubing on top of that and put a floor in the house part.

I put plywood on the floor and used OSB on the walls. I just cut out a chicken door for access to the out yard.

I went ahead and built nests because we planned to get a few new laying hens as well. I learned from my old nests to slant the top or they will roost on it.

I used hardware cloth because I’ve had problems in the past with predators getting through chicken wire.

I ran a string through to the back side that opens and closes the chicken door. You definitely want to shut them up at night!

I went ahead and put a storm door on it so I could open the window and get air flow through the house.

You need a good quality paint on OSB because it won’t stand up to moisture on its own.
I’ll write a post about raising the chicks later but the most important lesson I’ve learned so far is to get your temperature regulated a few days before your chicks arrive. I didn’t and I had quite a time the first 24 hours. Luckily I bought good healthy chicks and they are quite resilient because it got cold and windy and I didn’t have enough heat to begin with.

Happy Trails!


Rainfall and Cowboy Wisdom

It’s Raining

We got 2.8 inches of rain today and it was really a good deal. When you have outdoor plans or hay down it’s not so great but our ponds have been really low since last fall.

This is actually our county road.

So what does all this mean to someone who is not a farmer or rancher?

First, by receiving a good heavy rain like we did today it soaks the pastures and fields. This causes a really good moisture base and allows the crops and pasture grasses to put down deep roots that will help sustain them when it gets really hot.

Second, it causes runoff that fills the ponds and reservoirs. Besides fish, wildlife and most domestic livestock depend on this for drinking. If the pond isn’t fenced off the cows will get in for a cool down and to help fight flies in the hot weather.

Third, there is a certain amount of water that leaches through the soil, which cleans it, and gets back into the water table that is then pumped through a well for human consumption and crop irrigation.

Fourth, the rain cleans everything! I’m sure you’ve noticed how much brighter the tree and plant leaves look because it cleans the dust and pollen off them. Did you know that the rain even cleanses the air we breath? It helps take out the pollen and pollutants that are often thick this time of year.

Finally, it nearly eliminates the risk of wildfires as the lush green grasses overtake the dry dormant grass from last season.

Sure I’d rather have a nice mild sunny day with a light breeze and a pleasant temperature, who wouldn’t? But free life sustaining water that just drops out of the sky every now and then is exactly what we need. I’m sure there are a lot of other benefits that I didn’t think of so feel free to chime in! I’d love to see your comments about how the rainfall benefits you.

’Til next time, keep your rubber boots handy!


Horse Training

Since my last blogpost I’ve had some discussion about what I meant by being late with my horse. I really enjoy studying about horsemanship and being the best person I can be for my horses. The style of horse training that I like uses words like pressure and release or make it his idea or make the wrong thing difficult. There is no force in there and you are not making your horse do something.
You can be late in a variety of ways with a horse. Say you are lunging out on the end of the line, if your horse wants to take a shortcut and come in and crowd you instead of staying out at the end of the rope he will tip his nose or bend his neck or place his inside foot a bit closer to you before he actually comes in. When he does this you can liven up and put pressure on him to stay out before he actually comes in and your timing would be perfect, not late. If you’ve started the horse to understand to move away from you when you liven up or bring pressure, it will be an easy thing for him to understand. There would be no contact of any kind from you but your body position and stance would bring all the pressure that was needed.

When I was really young I witnessed a man discipline a stud horse in a way that stuck with me to this day. He had the horse restrained in a corner and was really working him over with a whip! I got so mad and upset I decided if that’s how you have to handle horses I wanted nothing to do with them. Thankfully that is not how its supposed to be done. You can be firm without being mean, and horses will respond willingly to you if you speak their language.

Here are a couple videos I did of Bob and what we are currently working on.

And this one is Bob under saddle.



Horses, You Gotta Love ‘Em


Last fall I decided to get a new horse. The horse I normally use is getting old and has developed some stiffness in his joints so I thought it was time to quit riding him. I don’t know about you but I tend to make a list of all the traits I want in a new purchase of anything. The top of the list was cow bred, meaning he had to have working cow horse bloodlines. When you use a horse that will watch a cow and then get on one that won’t you might as well be on foot! I shopped around for a few weeks and found a gelding close by from a breeder that I trust. He was younger than I really wanted but everything else about him fit my criteria really well so I bought him.

I wanted to share some of my experiences with him so maybe you could learn from my mistakes and save yourself some time. This horses name is Bob and they sold him to me as green broke. I figured that would be no problem because I have started several horses and got with them really well. The problem was I hadn’t started a colt in a few years and time can cloud your memory just a bit. Bob is really a good minded horse and really wants to please, He’s a quick learner and really easy on the eyes.

Since I hadn’t ridden a young horse in a while I handled him just like I would if I was riding my old horse and he really did fine with that for a while. One day while I was just sitting up there being a passenger Bob’s attention was a quarter mile away on something other than me. I finally realized he was tensing up and getting nervous because of where I was riding him but I was really late and he was really bothered. A horse kinda needs to know that you are looking out for him and we hadn’t developed that bond yet. All of the sudden my dog ran out of the timber toward me and the horse with about 40 calves running after her! Wreck fixing to happen! Do you remember the movie Smokey and the Bandit where Jackie Gleason wore the blood pressure monitor that would beep faster as his pressure went up? Bob’s was on a maxed out constant tone! Well he bolted and I thought no problem I’ll just reach down with my left hand and pull one rein up and bend him to a stop. Simple right? Done it a hundred times on other horses. The problem was I hadn’t taught Bob how to bend to a stop so he went into a spin that that a professional rained cow horse would be proud of at about a hundred miles per hour! Well I’m using my reins and my seat position and my voice and anything else I can think of to try and get control of the situation and here comes the dog. Now the dog is a working cow dog and she thinks she wants to heel the horse while we are in this wild spin. Now folks I get dizzy on a merry-go-round so by now I’m trying to pick things out and focus but I’m about to fall off from dizziness. You’ve gotta picture this in your mind, the horse is spinning, the dog is nipping him as his heels go by, I’m getting sea sick and the calves are all stopped watching the show by now. I finally yelled at the dog and the horse stopped for a second and then bolted off again. This time I thought hey, I’ll grab the right rein and maybe that will unwind me, wrong! I finally got the dog downed because in the excitement of things I couldn’t remember the command? I let Bob lope out a few hundred feet and then gathered him up without much of a problem, then I just sat there for a few minutes until my head stopped spinning.

I know I did a lot of things wrong in this scenario and since then Bob has easily spooked anytime we ride in this area understandably. Since I don’t know the guy who started him originally I decided to restart him with the kind of feel that I am accustomed to. I really like Bill Dorrance’s approach to getting with a horse by asking him to move one foot at a time on the ground. I have been doing groundwork and riding with a lot more purpose and asking him constantly to keep is attention on me and his response has been fantastic. I hope to share more with you as I get farther along with him.

I’d love to hear your horse experiences! Until next time, happy trails and pen your dog before you ride your colt.


Making A Western Buckle

I wanted to make a new buckle set a while back because I had never tried something like that before. I had seen a lot of buckles that I liked and I had a silver buckle on a thin belt that I really liked. The one thing I don’t care for is a buckle with a tongue that bends and pulls the leather out of shape in the belt.

I started with a sheared square of 10 gauge mild steel.

Next I traced the basic shape that I wanted and cut that out roughly on a band saw.

Then I cut and bent the keeper, I just clamped it in a vice and bent it with a hammer.

Next I picked an appropriate sized rod and welded the parts that hook to the belt on the back of the buckle. I actually braised these in place.

Then came the hard part, cutting the brass plate to overlay on the buckle. I printed the letters out on mailing labels and stuck them to the brass and the cut around them by hand with a jewelers saw. That is pretty tedious work. After they were rough cut I got a really small file and filed everything to size.

Next I soldered the brass to the steel plate trying to keep everything straight. After soldering I dipped it in acid to loosen all the slag from the flux and buffed it with a wire wheel.

I actually used a fabric buffer to get the wire marks out of the brass and smooth it up a bit.

Finally I applied an antique finish used for finishing out gun barrels called gun brown. You just apply as many coats as you like to get the color you want. Then buffed it all out with some really fine grit polish on my buffing wheel. Next time I’ll try silver but I wasn’t sure about how all this would go on the first try.