Katahdin \ Dorper \ Tunis

The 2016 lambs arrived at RPF Sunday. They will remain in the barn  for a few days. We will let them out on the pasture when someone is around all day to see that they don't climb the fence or squeeze between the rungs of the gates. They are bigger than the Southdown we had last year for sure. They came from Callahan Farm in Northfield VT. 

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Lambs RPFThey will live a very happy 4 -ish months with us before being sold as naturally raised mostly grass fed (some grain) lamb.


The Very Bad Bully Boy

I neglected to take a photo of the steer we had on the farm for several weeks this spring. He was ~600 pounds of attitude who was reported to be "semi-halter broke". He was about a year old and the last of a local small herd dispersal, and his price tag was less than a dollar a pound. He was Angus / Shorthorn/ Gelbvieh. He was black with a white jaw that the gal who delivered him said made him look just like the Joker. I should have known then what I was in for as she left wishing me luck with this one.

 My experience with Bovine is limited. Betsy aka Holy Cow, who I planned to keep as a pet to produce edible offspring--but who kept producing salable heifers, her daughter Ghirardelli, her next daughter Gracie who I didn't get a picture of and who I traded for a bull calf named Echo who died unexpectedly--thus ending my first raising beef experience. Anyway Betsy had been out to pasture for several years and didn't really like the idea of being contained and handled again at first. But after a week of being tied and groomed she loved the attention. I assumed the new young man would respond the same. I assumed wrong.

The one time I managed to get a halter on him and tie him off to a sturdy barn beam while he was eye deep in a bucket of sweet feed he managed to break the halter during his frantic struggle which began as soon as he realized there was something fastened on his head--sweet feed went flying and so did I. I repeated the process of distracting him with the feed the next day and got myself tossed around again before the new halter even touched his ears. I tried this each day for a week with the same outcome, he actually was getting violent earlier on with each attempt. I was going to get seriously hurt if I continued so I found a cattleman to talk to.

I was told that if the steer was coming out of a bucket of feed and coming over the bucket of feed to get to me (rather than just bumping me on his way out-of-Dodge) he was mean and likely fixin' to get meaner. I'd best leave him be for 4 weeks in the stall while graining him up good and then ship him for processing.  So that is what we did. I had to give up mucking out the stall as he lost fear of my presence even with a manure fork. I had to just add shavings twice a day over the wall while he was eating. My husband likes to tell how you could smell the rubber burning when he pawed the stall mats at anyone's approach. I think he got even madder when someone called him a nice boy to try to win his affection--he wanted everyone to know he was a very bad bad bully boy! He dressed out at 495 pounds of some of the nicest beef I've ever tasted. Next year we are trying a longhorn.


Princes of Maine

We have 3 Pennsylvania pink pigs this year and I made a much larger pen for them. ~150' x 100' then the little one we kept two in last year from mid May through October which was only 12' x 35'-ish. In the small pen I did a lot of shoveling and mucking out and it still got right stinky. I have heard that letting the pigs run around in a large area will make the meat tough. But I LOVE the cleanliness of the larger pen. No mucking! This pen is soil that is so sandy we have to add water daily to the mud hole or there wouldn't be one. I like that the pigs have so much fun rooting and romping and choosing to bask in the sun or sprawl in the shade, wallow in the mud hole and coat themselves with thick black mud against the biting flies, dug a nest in the sand to lounge in, or shove themselves under the rubber mats in the run-in shed. They graze on grass and weeds. They eat Poulin Pig feed. They eat our home grown tomatoes and Squashes every day and other bits of vegetable and fruit matter from the kitchen. They get a 5 gallon bucket of spent grains once a month or so from a home brewery operation. They are getting apples from our trees in New Hampshire because the Hollis Maine trees are not producing yet. I have not needed any medicines for them. I give them a few cups of Diatomaceous earth every week instead of chemical wormers. I am enjoying the lessons and stories of raising pigs at Sugar Mountain Farm. Lots of great information there--it will prompt some changes to the way we do things next year I bet--maybe even more grazing. Maybe some yogurt.

The Princes of Maine also have Miss Raychell to come play with them when we travel. She always takes the most creative photos.

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A New Name for the Farm ?

There are no more horses on the farm. The most fabulous opportunity came along for Hot Spot (the last of the horses and the one I thought might be around for a while cause he couldn't just go to anyone!) henceforth known as Hennessy--yes after the cognac. He will have the best of everything from now on--a lovely field and a sweet mare as a companion. His work load will be light and he will summer in Maine and Winter in the Carolina's. That will be much more to his liking as he was a PA boy until he was 11 and needed his heavy PJs when the temp dipped low as it does often during winter in Maine.

Hot Spot and Bailey

Here he is in his new home in western Maine taken near the end of April 2015.

At the new Old Grassy Farm (formally known as Red Pony Farm) we will focus on back yard beef, Corn Grass fermented barley and squash fed pork (no twinkies and day old bread!), grass fed grain finished lamb, and maybe chickens we'll see. 

The goal is to have no critters in the barn to care for during winter, so that we can travel, and play and rest like real gentlemen farmers should --all winter.

I will tell you the story of the very bad bully boy who tastes amazing next.


Big Changes for 2015

As most of you know I have been through a lot of changes in the last 4 years. I have been recreating myself and exploring the possibilities: Could I own my own home as a single person? Yup. Could I create pasture and afford to keep my two horses and the cow? Well, I could turn 9 acres of forest to pasture and I could work hard enough to keep the animals--but it wasn't much fun and I wasn't much fun either. Not sustainable. I sold the cow. Still working harder than I liked. So last year I tried giving up the weekend work, I sold one of two horses and brought in two boarders. We had a cold and snowy winter. I hurt my back twice. Chipping manure from the frozen ground every day was not sustainable for me and I am not investing in the machinery to do the work. I don't find the the pleasure I get from riding is worth the work--especially when the snow comes twice a week and involves 4 hours of snow blowing and a at least 2 more shoveling. 

My interests are in spending less money, working less hard, playing lots more, and traveling. So 2015 will see more vegetables growing, the horses all move out as the spring sun starts the pasture grasses growing, a beef critter  move in followed by several pigs, maybe a sheep, perhaps a dozen broiler chickens along side the laying hens--all of which (except 3 of the laying hens) will be sold and or become our food (and the dogs food) before snow falls leaving us free to play all winter like happy"gentleman farmers" should!


Mysterious Sweating

SweatSpot01062015One evening about a week ago when I brought the horses into the barn I found the Arab / Saddlebred with this big sweating patch on her rump. It was sore to the touch but no apparent injury. The temps outside were near zero F. but the frost melted shortly once in the barn but the sweating continued. I blanketed her when I turned her out next morning to protect the wet area from frost bite. I have not seem anything like it in 30 years of life with horses.

The vet examined her and she had not seen this either with no apparent injury in a horse who is turned out in her paddock alone each day. The horse received Banamine for 3 days and then Previcox for 3 days. The sweating was gone in 3 days and no longer seemed sore.

Has anyone in the blogosphere seen anything like this?


Owl Rescue

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Little Hooty the Owl was sitting in the dark in the middle of the break down lane of a busy roadway last night with heavy traffic whizzing by. She /He didn't appear to be broken—just standing there a bit hunkered down turning its head from side to side in no apparent concern for anything. It was blinking left eye more than right eye (this is significant I later learned). I almost didn’t see the owl. But something made me turn around and go back thinking: “could that have been an owl?” It was. And it was not afraid of my car pulling up close to illuminate it with my headlights. I took off my jacket and the bird did not offer to defend itself against the coat sack scooping it up. It only shifted slightly in my arms on the way back to the car.  I held the coat closed and drove home with one hand—it wasn’t far. I put it in a cardboard box and called 911 to be put through to the game warden. I was told someone would contact me at 9: AM to pick it up. I was told to leave the box somewhere it could be easily found. I was told the Owl would be fine in the box meanwhile. I put the boxed up Hooty Owl in the tack room and went to bed.

I was thrilled in the morning to see it was still upright and wide eyed. I went to work. I did not receive a call at 9:00 and not even by 3: PM. I called back. I was told I should just wait for the call. When I got home at 6:00 and no one had called I decided to have a closer look at Hooty. I dragged a large parrot cage--purchased a few years ago used when I thought I was going to acquire a parrot but thought better of it sense winter can get pretty chilly at my house if I work late and no one is there to keep the fire going--from the back of the grain room into the kitchen. I gently dumped the owl from box to cage. It immediately stretched its wings (or extended them as far as it could in the cage) and climbed up the side of the cage.

“OK well I see your wings are fine and your feet and legs as well. This is good news” I told it enthusiastically. “Now I need to figure out how to give you some water and food” I was contemplating out loud. Hooty glared unblinking into my eyes. I swear it was sending me its will. I could feel it. I responded suddenly.

“You want me to let you go to get your own food and water don’t you? Are you sure you’re all right now? You are aren’t you! Well, OK, do I have to take you back to the spot I found you or are you good with right here on Old Grassy Road? We have lots of mice and rabbits too!  and no traffic! I felt Old Grassy Road was the choice. I carried the cage out on the deck and opened the door. Hooty looked at me for a long moment more and then hopped onto the edge of the cages door and took flight out over the pasture toward the pines. I learned that these Barred owls hunt often next to roadways and get hit by vehicles a lot. Sometimes they just get stunned and can recover if they don't stand around on the roadway in the mean time. I was honored to have helped this one out a bit. A real privilege to have had this encounter.


Safety: Horses on Ice

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We got just enough snow overnight to gum up the ice--YAY!! we have had a lot of rain this week with temps just about at freezing it was falling on top of ice and snow so it just made more ice. As I was dealing with horses on icy ground I decided to do a search on line to see what is out there for advice.

There is very little information that is helpful. I found this: Iron Shoes on Ice  which advocates for not leading or being close to horses that are navigating ice. It also mentions studs on the shoes-- another good idea.

I found a couple of videos that had helpful information about how to keep you safe on ice without the horse. Having to do with core fitness and balance, also treads that give one the least amount of contact with the ice as possible and it shows examples.

While I was at it enjoyed this video from Sweden it shows racing on snow / ice and shows you the special shoes those races wear.

If your horse is shod or barefoot snow packed hard into the hoof can create balls for the horse to have to walk on --a very round surface instead of the flat hoof. This is most dangerous. Special pads can be put on the hoof under the shoes to keep this from happening. Regular trimming of the barefoot will keep this from happening  as well. Here is a nice piece with some additional information.

I use a salt sand mixture that we can get for free from our Town Maintenance Folks mostly. When I haven't had that available I have used mulch hay  or shavings. But it's important to remember that you need water to adhere the material to the ice or you have a situation where the horse thinks it might be stable footing until he starts skating. I have not had a problem with horse’s feet getting overly dry from the salt sand mix. We don't have conditions where the ice is an issue for extended periods either, so the salt washes away. I do not remove snow from paddocks except where I must to get in and out of the gates to the sheds so there are always plenty of places to be away from ice even when conditions are producing icy walk ways. I have had occasions where horses have needed to traverse icy footing to get from or to the barn. we have all heard horror stories of the person who was laid up healing form hideous breaks all winter and through the spring because their horse fell on them while being led on ice. I cannot stress this enough: DON'T DO IT. The horses I care for are trained to come in and go out on their own quietly or they don't go until the footing has been stabilized. I do not lead horses on ice. I have seen horses walk and trot on ice just fine when unencumbered by people, and left to negotiate on their own. I have seen them fall on ice when they are trying to follow a person attentively the way they have been taught--the safest way when the footing is stable, but add ice and it's a bad idea. I have my fencing set up to create wide avenues that direct the horses travel to and from the barn and we practice some times.

Things to think about: Your horse’s routine for one thing and connection to the herd.  This story I heard recently; You are at a boarding facility and the horses are stuck inside for days because of ice when they are used to all day turn out. You really need to get yours out for some exercise. She has always been a quiet horse so you take her to the arena or paddock even though there is ice to deal with. You make it there ok but once you let her loose she is not happy and running around not paying a lot of attention to the footing. She is clearly not safe and for some reason that you can't quite understand she seems to want to go back in. You risk your own safety to get her back in and that is not a happy feeling. My advice is : don't take one horse out while the others are all still in especially when they are all in the habit of being turned out at the same time ( even if turn out is into different paddocks or fields). Remember: Most Horses are very much creatures of habit and are constantly aware and concerned about each member of the herd and being part of it.


Growing Grass

We have had frosts at night and temps into the 90s during the day during the last 2-3 weeks. But not near enough rain. However, the Hay season in southern Maine has been wonderful overall. Many hay farmers got a full 3 crops of hay in this year. My pastures are not quite bowls of dust yet. The soil is very sandy here and we are making new soil to add as fast as we can by mixing and composting the horse manure, mulch hay, composted cow manure and loam. This is the second growing season since It was stumped and seeded. It is the first year of being grazed and bush hogged to keep the weeds from seeding. I am not dissatified. It needs improving but each year it will get a bit better.  And I do like the dryness for the health of the horses hooves. This picture was taken Sep 20th by my daughter who came and stayed at the farm so we could be at the Common Ground fair.

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This one was taken  mid August:

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And this is aforementioned Daughter taking a selfie with the new boarder Sep 20:

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And a Smiling Pink Piggy Named Five who also got photographed that weekend:

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Mysterious Lump with a Surprise Inside

This past summer in June I discovered a lump near my horses wither. My first thought--Ouch that looks like a nasty horsefly bite lump. It was much different than any I have ever seen in 30 plus years of horses. It was maybe just a tad larger than a pencil eraser and stuck up about 3/4 or an inch. It was hard. It was in the skin, not attached to anything deeper. The hair was still on it. There was no scab, there was no indication that I could see of a bite mark--nothing like a tick would leave or a bee sting would leave behind. there was no other swelling outside the eraser sized protrusion.

Knowing what I know now, I wish I had taken a picture then, in order to give readers something to go by if you happen to be here because your horse has a strange little lump you are researching.

Anyway as it wasn't sensitive to the touch and didn't interfere with the saddle I rode the day I found it and serval times over the coming weeks. Then I noticed one day the lump became hairless and as I was rubbing My horse reacted in a way that I recognized as "OH YEAH Scratch right there!!" So I did and the hairless lump came right off in my fingers. It had that sort of "brains" look to it. It was starting to get dark so I brought it into the house to examine it.

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I ripped it apart with my finger nails to see what was inside. It was fibrous but there was nothing that I could see inside. It was slightly moist. These are the pieces.

I went back outside to examine the hole in my horse. I found the divot filling with blood.

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I washed it and applied Blue Kote. The next day It had dried and was scabbed over. I pressed on it to determine if it was healing clean. a tiny drop of blood seeped out from under the scab. Not healing clean. I soaked it to remove the scab and gave it a good scrubbing with betadine and peroxide. added another bit of Blue Kote. Next day it was healing clean and the day after that same. within a week it was completely closed and smooth. Now when I try to find a scar I cannot. Mystery not solved though. Vet said perhaps some minute particle in the skin caused an irritation that created this little nub of scar tissue that was subsequently ejected.


Red, Silver, Sugar: Is that Maple Dangerous to my Horses?

It's that time of year where in all the pretty pictures of Autumn Foliage in New England the Maple tree takes center stage. Everyone is sharing photos of lovely landscapes, children playing, dogs romping, Horses grazing, lovers strolling, all amongst the colorful foliage of one our most prolific deciduous trees. The Maple leaves are magnificent. Filling or lenses with vivid crimsons, fiery oranges, and yellows so bright they seems to create their own luminescence. 

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It's a gorgeous time of year to be out and about enjoying the weather and the beauty of this season. But if you have horses and or friends who do the spledour of the Red Maple defoliating brings up a most disturbing topic. The deadly threat of its wilting leaves to horses who might graze on them. We've all heard that the Red Maple leaves can kill horses if eaten wilted. But other details become clouded with hearsay and superstition and so many horse owners having differring stories to tell of the experiences they have had. We must revisit all the details as best we can to convince ourselves once again that we have not put out horses at risk. One of the major sticking points is: how does one define "wilting" anyway?

My veterinarian told me that it is a very specific condition of the leaf, a chemical reaction that happens within a living leaf when the branch that the leaf is attached to is cut or broken from the tree, and the leaf subsequently begins to die. This chemical causes a reaction in the horses blood creating Hemolytic Disease . Oxygen is removed from the blood and death is imminent in many cases. She told me that leaves turning color in the fall and falling to the ground do not create a hazard in New England.

Here is a Good resourse of information on Hemolytic Disease and Maple identification. (just click on the colored text)

Armed with this information I do not worry over the brightly colored leave that carpet the paddocks this time of year--UNLESS a storm should knock down a Maple or brake a branch from one. I always remove the felled maple and any broken branches from the horses reach. We did some amount of pruning on some of our Sugar Maples in the yard this summer. I was very careful to remove the prunings all branches and leaves.


Slaframine on my New Grass?

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I wondered if this could be Slaframine growing on the grass in my brand new pasture that was about to turn the horses out on. After learning that the condition called Slobbers that it creates in horses was not going to cause any harm and would go away soon after removing the mold from the horses diet, I decided to experiment.

Grazing

I watched closely and saw no drooling each morning (they only went out to graze on the pasture at night during August and September because the bugs drove them back inside every time they tried so I left plenty of hay in the shed for day time eating).

Now after more than six weeks they have consumed all the potentially offending material with no sign of slobbers.

Conclusion: it must not have been the mold called Slaframine. If anyone has stories of their own especially with photos, I would LOVE to add to this article!


Pay It Foward

Henny Penny and the Stupid Chickens have been producing more eggs than I can eat--especially on the weeks when The Man is away. So I bring them to work to share. Lots of people are doing that these days. We get amazing baked treats (one woman who retired still sends in her lucious Irish bread for St. Patty's day!) beer samples, chocolates, fresh produce, fruits and berries. This is such a very groovy thing!! and sometimes you even get some notoriety. BTW follow the link for a yummy egg recipe and LOTS more great gluten free cooking.

Thanks Paleo Musings for the kind post!!


2013 February Blizzard

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We got a couple feet of snow first week of february in one blast.

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Old (15 this year) Bear getting frosted up on the front deck.

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This is Merry Dog who helped me get the little bull calf in the barn for the night of the storm. Little Echo calf did not want to follow me once I got the halter on him--no way. I asked Merry to just walk behind him--I thought she would chase and bark and nip--but she carefully just walked behind him and guided him in. When I asked her to get really closeto help him along the little level ramp to the barn door she just did it and no more. She's a good girl.

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This is Avalanche in his snow fort.

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Av's version of snow angel.

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Echo baby getting warm and dry during the storm in a pony blanket.

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Back out again YAY!

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Big Wind

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This was the scene that greeted me from inside the Sun room on a day late in January 2013. Bleary eyed it took me several blinks to figure out what I was seeing. Then I realized that the shed in the distance was missing something.

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That must have been some wind gust to remove that roof blow it ~100 feet and take it for a 45 degree turn over the cow fence (note cut poly / wire rope) and leave it smashed up against the Hemlock tree.

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The Cow was not touched nor spooked much by all this commotion. Thank goodness. And yippee insurance covered it!!


The Girl in the little yellow house was given an amazing gift from the universe just before Christmas 2012. An Alpine God, my own personal Medicine Man, the love of my life, and the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I was completely swept off my feet and loving every minute of it.


2013 is suddenly lookin like it's holding a lot of fun in store for one lucky couple! More to come (if winter returns soon) as Avalanche (the great Pyrenees in my life) learns to haul a sled up to the mountain getaway and the girl learns how to use a life saving device called a sledaddle.


Scratches

The last time I had a horse with Scratches was somewhere between 2001 and 2002. But the first spring in my new place (June 2012) maybe due to the wet weather and maybe due to something in the soil and most likely due to both happening at once, all 3 horses got Scratches. Horse 1 got them on both of her white pasterns and it looked like this:

Scratches horse1A
Horse 2 got them on his one white pastern and his looked like this:

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Horse 3 got them also on one of his white pasterns and it seemed to follow an old scar he had there like this:

Scratches horse3

Now back in 2001 -ish I washed with betadine daily,treated with zinc ointment,  then tried blue coat (gentian violet) and then over the counter anti fungals (althletes foot meds) . The scratches resolved and healed in about 6 weeks.

This time I took a different approach. I did nothing. The weather was improving the ground drying nicely and one of horse 1's pasterns was already turning the corner towards healing when I first noticed it at which time the other 2 had not developed any scabs yet. Turning the corner towards healing looks like this:

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OK, well, horse 3 did get a bunch of anti fungal cream because his just looked SO bad. I'll mention here that none of the horses felt any noticable discomfort from their scratches--I assume because it did not get down under the heel where it would contact the ground when they walked. Horse 1 was the first to develope the scratches and the first to heal. but with and without treatment all cases resolved and were completely healed in about 6 weeks.

So,  I just did a search on Scratches in horses and every article I read said that scratches MUST be treated. I was saying "you've got to be kidding me!" Then I came across These photos of scratches.  I have revised my definition of "SO bad". And  now I agree if I ever had anything that looked like THAT I would be treating it. Yikes! I hope the photos I have posted of my cases of scratches and those in the link will help you know when you have a condition that MUST be treated or one you can leave to resolve on it's own. I will reiterate a bit for clarity: my horses are pastured not stalled. It was a very raining month with lots of mud and little to no time for drying between rains when the scratches developed. When my photos were taken the rainy season had ended mostly and the days were sunny and dry for long stretches so that even when we did have a rain the horses could stay out of the wet. AND: At no time did my horses resemble the linked to photos.


A Point in Time at the New Farm: July / August 2012

RailingsBWhile I was busy Splitting 4 cord of wood (a borrowed splitter from a good friend) I received a letter from insurance company telling me I needed railings on my front step (and warning signs on my electric fence) or they would dump me in 90 days. I came home one day from work shortly thereafter and was shocked to find --RAILINGS on my front steps. I am surrounded by angels!

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Grandsons in the red neck spa! Yes there are 3 of them--one just happens to be upside down. Don't laugh at the idea-- fresh water left to set in the sun all day in July is a lovely bathe. Of course on this particular evening there wasn't much left for Grammy--but oh what fun!


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The stumps are not out yet after the harvesting but so much grass was growing I had to fence at least some of it in!

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The excavation team has me on the list for stump removal before the big freeze. Then real pasture will be planted--and lots more fencing.

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I Have some moss to remove and shingles to bleach! I thought I was going to have to replace shingles because it leaked last winter--but I think maybe the leaking was due to the moss, and once it's scrubed off and bleached good it won't leak. I'll let you know.

Next up: Alternative roofing material, and 3 cases of scratches!