Some horses urinate more than others. That’s just a fact. Two of my boarded horses, Sadie and Cookie, are prolific producers of liquid fertility. It’s not a problem when they are out in the pasture, but all four horses are taken off pasture at night because they are all prone to obesity. I don’t run a show or a lesson barn where horses get worked every day. Horses at Apriori Farm are essentially pasture ornaments I keep to help with pasture management and to generate large piles of poo to feed my compost pile.
Thus with enthusiastic pee-ers in the barn every night, ammonia build-up in the stalls can get pretty horrific at times. Over the last five years, I’ve tried various solutions and had little success. The high levels of ammonia in Sadie’s stall cause respiratory issues for her and for anyone working in that end of the barn. Let me describe my stalls and what I’ve tried.
My barn is a steel Quonset toaster built on native Virginia red clay (top soil removed). Inside the stalls, the floor is 3 inches of rock dust packed on top of the clay. When we first arrived, there were rubber mats in the stalls. We pulled them out, scrubbed them down and put them in the stalls that weren’t being used for horses. At the time, my horses weren’t getting much stall time – instead they went into the round pen. When they did come in the barn, it was on the packed rock dust floor covered with pine shavings. Again not much time in the barn. Not prolific pee-ers. Not much of a problem.
Then Sadie came with her over active bladder. The packed rock dust floor quickly became saturated with urine. The urine wasn’t moving down into the clay below.
I added lime. I added Sweet PDZ. I put the rubber mats back in, continued pine shavings use and sprayed the stalls every day with vinegar. I put in a fan, at first blowing into the stall and then, when that didn’t help much, blowing out of the stall. The fan has help a lot, but still hadn’t solved the problem of urine pooling underneath the mats. There are days when it gets pretty overwhelming and those are the days Sadie lays the guilt trip on me, as she stands there coughing through her breakfast.
So for the last two days I’ve been renovating her stall. First I removed the mats and then I dug a two foot hole in the middle of the stall. I filled the hole with pea gravel, sand and quite a bit of lime. Then I regraded the stall with a fresh layer of rock dust, sloping everything down toward my freshly dug pee pit. Then I line the whole stall with a geotextile product called Stall Saver and put 6 inches of shavings on top of that.
In theory, Sadie will pee, wetting a very small area of bedding, but most of the urine will flow quickly through the Stall Saver and onto the packed rock dust. From there, the urine will travel down the slope into the pit where the ammonia odor can dissipate far below Sadie’s nose.
This was not cheap. The liner was about $250, plus another $60 in sand, pea gravel and stone dust, plus $70 worth of bedding. Now if the Stall Saver works as advertised, I should recover the cost fairly quickly because I won’t be removing nearly as much bedding from her stall every day. Currently we’re very parsimonious with bedding and use about a bag and a half per week per horse – about $10/week. Gonna be over a year before it pays for itself.
Now that it’s done, I’m second guessing myself. I’m thinking I should have removed the existing stone dust and several inches of the native clay. Then I should have layered in more permeable footings, maybe a layer of sand and pea gravel covered with, I don’t know, maybe just dirt.
Other farm doings
Last year, my bees froze to death in January. I am pleased to report that as of February 1, 2016, both my beehives are still alive. We had a lovely warmup after the snow storm and the bees were out and about, buzzing me on the porch, demanding hooch. I ignored them. Wild bees don’t get hooch and they survive the winter. I’m determined to get my bees off the welfare roles.
I watched a lot of how to grow thing videos this week as I went through the process of ordering seeds. Consequently, I’ve got some experiments planned and one already underway.
Pre-sprouted carrots – I’ve always had a horrible time getting carrots to sprout. I also lack the patience and time to go back and thin if a miracle occurs and the seeds actually germinate. So a couple of days ago, I put carrots seeds on damp paper towels and kept them in the house at room temperature. They have now sprouted. Tomorrow I will take my new dibble
(Thank you, Michael and Michael’s lathe.) Punch holes in the soil of an empty bed in the old hoophouse. I’ll fill those holes with compost and a single, sprouted carrot seed. 100% germination. No thinning required. Precision spacing. No rocks directly below the seed. No excuses for the carrots to be anything less than perfect. . . Um, yeah. We’ll see how that works.
I got this idea from a fellow in the UK who has a YouTube channel and he does a lot of gardening in pots. There’s something charming and peaceful about his videos, and he can certainly grow leeks! You can find his channel at Home Grown Veg
Incidentally, if you think giant pumpkins are cool, trying doing a web images search for exhibition carrots.
Uchepos – while reading up on some the seed offerings in the catalogs, I stumbled upon a comment about corn that was just lovely and this simple, brief description will have me on a quest come corn season. Read on and I’ll bet you’ll go questing too.
“Uchepos are…what can I say…softer than clouds, sweeter than dreams. They’re summer on a plate. Combined with the picante of the salsa verde and the slightly acid crema, they’re food for the gods.” quote source
No new recipes this week. The crockpot Balsamic Chicken sounded like a good idea, but it was the most dreadful meal I’ve concocted in a very long time. One full cup of balsamic vinegar in any recipe is probably a bad idea.
When expecting plowable amounts of snow, it is wise to mark the margins of your driveway. That way you can plow your driveway and not your yard.
When expecting plowable amounts of snow, it is wise to coil garden hoses that you may need somewhere other than the north side of your house.