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Happy New Year! 50 Things I Learned on My Colorado Ranch

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  • Happy New Year! 50 Things I Learned on My Colorado Ranch

    Years ago, after my first year living on my farm in Kansas, I wrote a little article, "75 Things I Learned My First Year on the Farm." I shared it with some friends ... who shared it with some friends ... who shared it ... and it ended up being published in the American Quarter Horse Journal and on the back of one of those "feel good" calendars ... which was fun.

    This year I realize I've gained a whole new set of learnings ... here are 50 Things I Learned Living on a Colorado Ranch.

    1. The term, "high desert," does not mean it's a little drier than Kansas. It means the soil is sand, those big holes house jack rabbits, the mounds house prairie dogs and rattle snakes hide in the tall grass. You are definitely not in Kansas anymore!

    2. There's water here, but it's deep underground. It's ancient glacial water, ice cold and delicious. But it's a limited supply and when it's gone, it's gone. Treasure it, conserve it and protect it.

    3. Do not waste water trying to grow a lawn of grass or drip irrigate a small forest. See #2 above.

    4. The eyes are the windows to the soul and, like glass windows, they are fragile. Once broken, they are almost never mended. And you will miss their light forever.

    5. The eyes are the windows to the soul, but -- they are NOT the soul. A beautiful soul can still live in the darkness.

    6. A life well-lived is enough. In the end, the best any of us can hope for is an easy passing, surrounded by our friends and family ... and, that our last view of this world is the faces of those who loved us most.

    7. An old toothless ex-race horse can still beat any horse on my ranch ... or yours.

    8. There is a thing called a Bomb Cyclone and it's exactly as bad as it sounds.

    9. You need a barn. Do not think a 3-sided shelter will do. It will not. You need a barn with proper stalls and a secure place to store feed ... and lights ... and running water, hot and cold. This is not a luxury. Because there is a thing called a Bomb Cyclone and it's exactly as bad as it sounds.

    10. However, be aware that as soon as you build the barn, your previously hardy horses who thrived on 24/7 turnout will instantly require veterinary care, stall rest and meds administered twice daily along with feed soaked in (hot) water.

    11. Your barn will cost twice as much as estimated, take three times as long to build and be half the size you'd hoped. And, here in Colorado, you'll need a lawyer to get it finished.

    12. It does not cost $3,000 to install an automatic waterer. $300 will get the job done. Get several quotes.

    13. If you're a little too round, it's best to lose weight in the winter. This way, when the spring grass comes in, you get to go out and play in it longer.

    14. Don't put motion lights in the ceiling of your barn ... above the horse stalls. Horses move. All night. Who knew?

    15. The trough heater WILL go out on the coldest cold snap of the year. It's what they do.

    16. You need a bigger tractor. That is all. You just do.

    17. Do not build horse stalls that open on the north. The wind is always from the north. Even the south wind comes in from the north.

    18. Pigeons.

    19. They make a thing called bird spikes and you need them ... because ... pigeons.

    20. Poop. Horses poop. A LOT. Remember this when you're looking at that empty stall. Do not let your mind's eye fill it with a cute pony face. Think of it full of poop instead. Store hay in that stall.

    21. A sliding barn door can be sealed with door sweeps attached to the side. Do not let the contractor tell you that the gap is supposed to be there. The gap will let in a snow drift waist-high inside your barn. Two door sweeps cost less than $10 and can be installed in less than 5 minutes. And, there is a thing called a Bomb Cyclone ...

    22. If you can hear the ocean through a stethoscope in your horse's belly, this means he has eaten too much sand and could die from this thing called sand colic, which we don't have in Kansas. Your horse will need several rounds of Sand Clear, at significant cost, to clear the sand from his belly. Just buy it and don't look at the price tag.

    23. Love your friends. Play with them. Fight with them. Steal their food. But always stand by them. You will grieve when they're gone.

    24. When the sun rises at just the right angle ... and the sky has just enough clouds ... the mountain will turn pink. This is called alpen glow and it only lasts for a minute. Don't miss it.

    25. Frost-free spigots are not exactly frost-free.

    26. A heated hose sounds like a good idea, but it's very expensive, very heavy and in the end you're better off draining your hoses after all.

    27. On the other hand, you actually do need heated water buckets. You can insulate a horse's water bucket, but the water will still freeze.

    28. You need more gates. There are never enough gates.

    29. Music in the barn is a good thing.

    30.. So is a bathroom.

    31. One horse is not a herd and one person is not a rancher. It takes at least two horses to form a herd and at least two people to run a ranch.

    32. A sturdy hand truck will save your back, your knees, and the rest of your day.

    33. There is a vet clinic out there that has their act together. The vets are kind, don't overcharge, and will show up in an emergency. Find that clinic. And pay your bills on time.

    34. Never put your tax refund away for "emergencies" ... because the moment you do, your horses will have enough "emergencies" to squander it all. No, spend that refund as quick as you can. Take a trip, buy a boat, anything ... just do not keep it for "emergencies."

    35. Even an old horse still loves a good roll-and-shake now and then. Shake a leg as long as you can!

    36. A crisp mountain morning before sunrise is the reward, not the punishment, of ranch life.

    37. Wash your gloves after mucking stalls. They stink. (and so do you!)

    38. Fix things before they break. Notice the loose screw, the leaky faucet, the rusted hinge. Fix them now before they break at the worst possible moment ... because they will.

    39. Never go out to the field without a halter, a lead rope and a good knife. A tool box is a good idea, but you can probably go back for it if needed. There's no time to go back for a halter, a lead rope or a knife when you need them.

    40. Electricity travels in a straight line and stops if it reaches ground. That's all you need to know to string electric fence. Oh -- and a charge tester is a better idea than your finger for testing the wire for hot.

    41. Don't rush to turn out the barn lights after night check. It is in these quiet moments, when the horses are munching hay and tucked safely away from the storm that you are refreshed. Sit down on a hay bale or a tack trunk. Breathe and watch your breath fog the air. Listen and become one with the stillness. This is your reward. Savor it, for most people will never know it.

    42. Look up. Whether you're mowing, building fence, feeding horses, or riding ... never forget to look up. See the beauty and the vastness of the sky, the mountain and the range. Feel your smallness in it. And thank God for putting you right here -- with a horse -- at the foot of the mountain on the edge of the plains.

    43. Get on the trailer. It may be scary, but it's the only way to get to the next place.

    44. A western saddle is a good thing for ranch riding, but it's the same horse underneath and he really does not care if he is going western or english. He cares about soft hands and a balanced seat.

    45. When a can of orange landscape paint explodes inside your ranch utility vehicle, be glad you bought a Kubota and not a John Deere.

    46. You will definitely break something on your brand new tractor. Try to do it on the first day, to get it over with. Preferably before they drive it off the delivery trailer. That's what I did.

    47.Whomever put hard wood floors in the mudroom misunderstood the word, "mud."

    48. Contractors who leave screws, nails or wire in your fields, paddock or barn should be shot repeatedly in the foot with a nail gun ... so they know what it feels like when your horse finds their mess.

    49. Losing a friend hurts more than losing a eye. And takes longer to heal.

    50. The sun sets fast over the mountain. It won't linger .. but you should.

  • #2
    Beautiful
    "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"
    carolprudm

    Comment


    • #3
      So true.

      Comment


      • #4
        God I hate sentimentality ... but this was an excellent read.

        Enjoy that Colorado ranch. It sounds like you know exactly how lucky you are to be there.

        Comment


        • #5
          That was wonderful. Thank you.
          www.laurienberenson.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Thank you for this! What a refreshing read!!

            Comment


            • #7
              Beautiful! Especially from one who had a place not far from you. Been a while since I've seen you on here. Hope all
              is going well.

              Comment


              • #8
                Beautifully written. And bless the beautiful state of Colorado!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Lovely!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A wonderful read! Thank you!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      No. 40 made me think of this bit of wisdom: Watch the cows. Cow 1 will shove cow 2 into the electric fence. If cow 2 screams about it, cow 1 knows that the fence is hot.
                      “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.”

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        This is wonderful. I especially love number 38. It is so true.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Wonderful and thanks for sharing!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Beautiful but what is a door sweep?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              41. all the rest are wonderful as well. thanks. Where in CO are you? I am considering a move in a few years to the Hotchkiss/Paonia area where I have friends and I visit every eyar. (Yes I lived in Boulder for 10 years way back when....)

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by SusanO View Post
                                Beautiful but what is a door sweep?
                                I think is those long brush things on a metal strip you screw onto the sides of large door frames.
                                They keep snow and rain from being blown thru the sides and snow making a nice drift inside.

                                In the West, it doesn't rain and snow down, but always windblown sideways.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Thanks everybody -- it's been a couple of tough years since we moved from our farm in Kansas to Colorado. We have a small ranch (50 acres) on the Front Range outside of Colorado Springs. Gorgeous views of Pikes Peak to the west and the range to the east. We do love it here, though it's VERY different from Kansas!

                                  Haven't been on CoTH much, but recently had to jump back in to ask for advice. We are rebuilding our Ranch from the ground-up, and we've had a lot of good times punctuated by some hard times ... we lost our beloved little trail horse, Rocky a few weeks ago. We don't know his age, but vet estimated he was well into his 30s. Our 27-year-old OTTB, Cooper, has developed EOTRH and had 10 teeth removed two weeks ago. Then my current riding horse, a gorgeous 15-year-old QH, Cash, had a pasture accident and lost his eye last week. In the meanwhile, DH had heart surgery Dec. 6th. So, yeah, it's been a year of learning!

                                  Here is a link to a door sweep. This one is bronze and a little spendy, but they can be had for a few dollars. Normally, these are installed at the bottom of the door, but you screw them onto the side of a sliding barn door, they will block wind, rain and snow from coming in through the gap.

                                  https://www.lowes.com/pd/M-D-36-in-B...Screws/1194281

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by King's Ransom View Post
                                    Thanks everybody -- it's been a couple of tough years since we moved from our farm in Kansas to Colorado. We have a small ranch (50 acres) on the Front Range outside of Colorado Springs. Gorgeous views of Pikes Peak to the west and the range to the east. We do love it here, though it's VERY different from Kansas!

                                    Haven't been on CoTH much, but recently had to jump back in to ask for advice. We are rebuilding our Ranch from the ground-up, and we've had a lot of good times punctuated by some hard times ... we lost our beloved little trail horse, Rocky a few weeks ago. We don't know his age, but vet estimated he was well into his 30s. Our 27-year-old OTTB, Cooper, has developed EOTRH and had 10 teeth removed two weeks ago. Then my current riding horse, a gorgeous 15-year-old QH, Cash, had a pasture accident and lost his eye last week. In the meanwhile, DH had heart surgery Dec. 6th. So, yeah, it's been a year of learning!

                                    Here is a link to a door sweep. This one is bronze and a little spendy, but they can be had for a few dollars. Normally, these are installed at the bottom of the door, but you screw them onto the side of a sliding barn door, they will block wind, rain and snow from coming in through the gap.

                                    https://www.lowes.com/pd/M-D-36-in-B...Screws/1194281
                                    So sorry, a tough year indeed.
                                    Is DH ok now?
                                    It takes a while to get over those surgeries.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Bluey -- he's doing much better already, but yes, a long road back. Thanks for asking.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by King's Ransom View Post
                                        Bluey -- he's doing much better already, but yes, a long road back. Thanks for asking.
                                        M brother had heart surgery a year ago and he complained about how long it was taking to get his strength back.
                                        He had been part of a choir and wanted to get back to performing, but just not up to it for long time.
                                        He is fine now.
                                        Tell DH "this too shall pass".

                                        Wishing you the best in this New Year just starting.

                                        Comment

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