Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Monday, October 11, 2010

Little evidence of ecofriendliness . . .

I just returned from my annual pilgrimage with friends to one of the nation's largest breed horse shows and trade venues . . . . To be honest, I was a little disapointed in the amount of ecofriendliness I observed.

Other than seeing some trends among horse trailer manfacturers for build upgraded bumper pull horse trailers to accommodate the growing market of horse owners who want to downsize from their large goose neck w/living quarters rigs, I saw little evidence little evidence of "green".

The show horse industry is without a doubt one of the least sustainable venues of horse ownership. The need to upgrade your show tack and attire was apparent everywhere from larger show saddles that looked more to me like parade saddles, to show shirts so laden with bling that there was little evidence of anything natural other than the paper hangtag that revealed its price . . .

As for myself, I hope I made my ecofriendly vote by bringing home very little in the way of product literature and horse publications. Instead of reaching for a brochure, because it might be something of interest later, I asked a few questions and then made my decision whether to bring home the literature or not. I'm proud to say I only brought home just a handful of material. This year the 2-inch thick journal filled with mostly four-color ads was tempting to drag home, however, the thought of having to throw it away - even if that meant in the recycling bin - was far to wasteful a thing for me to do.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall Barn Cleaning

We had our annual fall barn party for family and horse freinds last weekend; this of course, spawned a frenzy of cleaning activity beforehand . . .

Cleaning the barn prior to winter is a great opportunity to set yourself up for a more "green" winter. On of the biggest tasks was sweeping down cobwebs. It's amazing how much cleaner the barn feels without them and how much more light comes into the stalls.

In addition to sweeping the cobwebs I organzied the tack/feed room. Emptying out used supplement containers and finding reuses for most of them from storage for cat food, to horse treats, and grain carriers for horse shows.

My biggest challenge is throwing anything out. I was raised on a farm and my parents were Depression babies. I grew up hearing "waste not, want not". For me, to throw anything out is like a sin. It's also not very "green". I try my best to reuse everything at least once - from my used grain bags (for garbage bags) to empty fly spray/coat conditioner bottles, which I use for my homeade fly spray (marigold and lavender).

Some things should go, as a cluttered barn is not very efficient and therfore not very green.

Tack that is unrepairable or hasn't been used should either be salvaged for what can still be used (like the reins or bit on a broken bridle), or sold or donated to a 4-H group etc. for an upcoming tack sale. Wood, broken fence post and insulators should also be recycled instead of stored in the barn and probably never used for anything.

As much as I hate to discard baler twine, keeping more than a handfull for uses like tying grain bags and tarps down, is pointless. In my upcoming Green Horsekeeping Guide (for 2011) I will have some sources for recycling twine and rfor eusing it to even make things like hay bags.

So for right now, our barn feels pretty clean, and hopefully "green".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Battling Weeds This Summer . . .

I'm actually glad to see the last day of summer . . . . Here in southwest Michigan it was a very hot and WEEDY summer. This is why you haven't seen a post since May. I spent the better part of the summer being the weed terminator in my hay fields and pastures. Sadly, despite al of my efforts, the weeds are still winning. My madness started in May with a good crop of Hoary Alyssum. The plant had bloomed and I spent the better part of the month pulling it - so much that for a week or two my right arm was so sore that I couldn't even lift a water pail. Later I moved on to milk weed, Canadian Thistle, and Burdock. What I couldn't get pulled out, I at least cut off the seed heads and destroyed. In one hay field - where the mlk weed, Canadian Thistle, and some other unidentifiable weeds were especially bad, we simply went around the area when making our thrid cutting hay, and then later brush hogged it. Unfortunately I will probably have to break done and use a broadleaf herbacide on some of my fields next year . . . I hate to, but there are only so many hours in a day to pull weeds.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reuse of Horse's Water Grows Grass in Riding Area

I recently started to use the old water from my horse's water pails from the stalls to water down an indoor area I use to work my horses. I was pleased with myself that I was reusing the water, rather than dumping the pails outside. It did take more time than just hosing the area down, and required that I rake it pretty well to get the wet dirt distrubuted evenly. Still, I was happy I was conserving my water use in the barn by doing this . . . Imagine my surprise, one day, when I thought I saw a green haze across the area. First, I thought I was seeing things. Then, I thought I'd dropped some of our really green second cutting hay while walking from our hay stack across the area to the stalls. Neither conclusions were correct; grass was actually growing in the area! I guess the more concentrated water application from the dumping of the water from the pails helped to geminate seeds that must have been in the sand footing. I've sinced joked about it - saying I could be the first person who has an indoor pasture for their horses!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Being Green Sometimes Means Not Being So Green

I just spead my first chemical fetilizer on my pastures since owning this farm . . . Up until now we have just spread manure both in the fall and in the spring. It wasn't my intention to use any commerical product, but after walking my pasture last week and seeing that it really didn't have the vigorous growth as the neighboring hayfields on our property (two things have probably cause this: I overgrazed these pastures a little and we had a very dry early spring), I knew I needed to do something a little radical.

This thinking may be where I differ from other people who practice "green" living in their households and horse owners who have stustainable stables . . . I am willing to lose the battle occasionally to win the war. I wrestled with the dilemma for several days asking myself if not applying the fertlizer because of my moral "green" obligations would be the best green solution for our farm. I know from my years of writing about lawn care for the home section of our local newspaper that the best defense against weeds and drought in a lawn is a bed of vigorous grass. I'm sure the same is true for pastures. Weak stands of clover, orchard grass, alfalfa and other pasture grasses are very vulnerable to weeds and viruses. Therefore, I concluded that a little chemical fetilizer now would help to make these pastures stronger and would help them remain vital for years to come . . .

And isn't sustainability the ultimate goal of what we're striving for by being "green"?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Yet Another Pre-packaged Item . . .

Yesterday I just had to shake my head when I saw a television commercial for another pre-packaged item that is a great idea for convenience, but another waste of pre-packaging. It was strips of all of the spices needed to make certain meals . . . We also have our share of packaging when it comes to horse care items - especially in supplements. As we wait for manufactuerers to become more eco-friendly in their packaging, we can make better choices by buying larger sizes of these things like fly sprays and grooming products, as well as containers of supplements. Even better is to buy in bulk from your local grain elevator. Most horse owners are probably not aware that you can buy 50 pound bags of Biotin for a fraction of the cost of a 5 or 10 pound tub and 30-50 pound bags of pysllium. One thing I would love to see changed are the number of dosages of horse wormer in a tube. I find it interesting when you purchase paste Bute you get several dosages in a tube, yet wormer is still one dose per tube. Having a year dose for one horse in a tube would greatly save on the number of used tubes that get thrown away . . . Something to think about . . . .