Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Tractor Revolution

Of course, we would still continue to do a tremendous amount of work by hand as we always have, but a tractor with a good set of implements would revolutionize the setting in which we produce our horses and administer our ever growing programs.

It is not so much that it would make the work easier, it is the fact that it would make things go so much faster. I can dig post holes by hand all day long. I am only fifty seven and I expect to be able to do so for years to come. But the progress that I can make is 6 hours of digging by hand is eclipsed by what can be done with a tractor in an hour.

With a tractor we could:

1. keep the sacrifice pastures scraped clear of manure and create wind row compost lines.
2. dig two small ponds on the new land.
3. complete the clearing of the new land at a much faster pace.
4. ring the lower side of the pastures on the old land in a half mile of hugeleculture mounds.
5. build mounds, trenches, and water coursing obstacles in the training portion of the old land.
6. drill annual winter forage seed into the pastures.
7. keep our nearly 1/2 mile path back to the tack shed in good driving condition.
8. maintain a maze of trails through Jacob's woods for riding during hunting season.

Such a revolution would be expensive. Our deep well and sprinkler system was expensive and it has given us our first summer in which water did not need to be hauled to the horses and, most importantly, it has allowed us to maintain lush pasture though the summer. That has been great for the horses and has reduced our hay bill several thousand dollars.

The tractor and implements that we would need would likely cost between twenty and twenty five thousand dollars. Just a few short years ago that last sentence would have been the end of the analysis. In those years years Beth and I covered monthly program deficits and what equipment was purchased was generally purchased by the two of us.

As our program has attracted more regional, and even national, exposure I have learned that we can raise money.

 That would be a lot of money to raise, but it would be worth it.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Livestock Conservancy: Heritage Breeders Tell Your Story

In November the national annual meeting of the Livestock Conservancy will be held in Williamsburg and on the Friday session of that meeting will be held at our horse lot. We will be presenting sessions on how we bring the horses that we are working to preserve before the eye of the public. The bottom line is that we have a lot of programs that attract a wide array of people to see the horses.

These programs give us a lot of volunteers and active participants, but the publicity about what we do is the first step in bringing those people in. We have a story to tell and we tell it, using social media, using our blog, in presentations to civic organizations and on tv and in print media. Kay Kerr has done tremendous work traveling across the nation promoting her children's book about Croatoan.

I have a link below to Margaret Matry's tremendous article from the Virginian-Pilot from several years go. If you have not read this article make sure you do.

If you have already read it many times, read it again.

And share the article.

It helps us tell our story. At the Livestock Conservancy meeting we hope to be able to tell other preservationists how to tell their story.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Taking the Plunge: A Bold New Programing Step

Growth is not easy when everyone is a volunteer and already hampered with the hassle of normal day to day living. To have reached the point that our program has with out a paid staff is difficult tohave foreseen.

But we have made it

This spring we are taking a bold step in the educational programs that we offer. We are going to be offering very affordable field trips to Tidewater schools in the spring of 2018. We will likely have at least two separate types of field trip programs available, one focuses on the horses and livestock breed conservation. The other will focus on soil and water conservation programs that we incorporate in our permaculture approach to land management. (this topic has proven to be tremendous interest to our home school program participants).

We will make it clear that we are not a petting zoo and this is not a riding opportunity, or merely a trip out in the country to play horsey. We recognize the breadth and diversity of our programs.

Our focus is on breed conservation and preventing the extinction of nearly extinct stains of Colonial Spanish horses. We do that within the context of being an educational and cultural institution with tremendous emphasis on promoting the horses by using them to bring pleasure and healing to people with little or no horse experience.

Second Foal of the Year Born To the Corolla Breeding Program

This little filly, Lefty, was born to Polished Steel this week. Her father is Tradewind, named the 2011 National Pleasure Trail Horse of the Year by the Horse of the Americas Registry. In about six months I hope that she has been purchased by a breeder who will join us in seeking to prevent the extinction of these historic horses from the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

We are a 501(c)5 non-profit breed conservation program. We are all volunteers with no paid staff. If you would like to learn more about these horses, how you can become a breeder  and even come up and ride some of these Banker strain, Colonial Spanish mustangs send me an email at

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Dirt Farmer: Simple Soil Solutions

I am where I was twenty years ago. I had trained horses to saddle from the time I was an adolescent. I knew how we did it. I genuinely believed that the way we "trained" was the same way everyone else did.

We trained a horse by riding him. Period. Of course,the result was that the horses that we all rode were not trained. We were good riders. If one is not to be a good trainer than one had better become a good rider.

Then I heard about natural horsemanship. What I heard did not seem possible. It was alien to everything that had been practiced around here for over 100 years.

I was intrigued and confused. I purchased Parelli's "Natural Horse-Man-Ship". Read it cover to cover--I genuinely believed that the book must be part of a multi volume set and I had simply picked up the first volume. It seemed to me that the entire volume was designed to teach one to teach a horse to be lead. I wanted to find the volume that must be out there that taught how to train a horse to be ridden.

Of course, what I learned led to the opening of my eyes and better lives for hundreds of horses and scores of young people.

I was only the second man in my direct line since coming to America in the 1630's who was not a farmer at some point in his life. I had a basic understanding of agriculture and I studied everything that I could find about pasture management from the publications of the established horse world.

Then I started learning about permaculture. All of that has lead to bumping into a spectacular teaching program found here in Virginia. Vail Dixon's programs though her company, Simple Soil Solutions, particularly the program Grazing Power, are something that I hope to take complete advantage of.

I am impressed with her for several reasons. She actually has horse pasture that she manages. She relies on science but learns from trial and error. But most importantly she is a first rate communicator.

And she believes in what she is doing. She has another session coming up on August 10.

Take a look at her website

Keep your mind open. That is the only way that knowledge can slip in.

( This foal was born nigh before last. She is the second foal born to our Corolla breeding preservation program this summer.)