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Horses and permaculture

 
Julie Carney
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Someone mentioned there was no place for horses in permaculture.....Unless they're working horses...By this I understood the poster was referring to horses that help plough [But Permies usually avoid plowing the fields / carry loads.....
I cannot believe this is the only "nitch" for them...... Deer are allowed to browse under the food forests etc.... Presumably WILD horses could do the same...But how about horses for riding pleasure........ Used to inspect the fence lines - save on gas I would EVENTUALLY like to be able to give a home to a therapy horse for my adult special son's needs..... What would this look like in a permaculture setting?
Does no-one else who reads permaculture have horses
Thanks
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think horses definitely have a place in permaculture, for hauling and other transportation. There are horses at Zaytuna Farm "Dairy cows are milked every day, beef cows and working horses play an integral part in the management of the farm."

http://www.permacultureglobal.com/projects/426-zaytuna-farm

I would hate to think we have to get rid of all pet animals in permaculture, but a horse can be so much more than a pet, a very useful companion.
 
Julie Carney
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Couldn't find the horse info on the link you gave, but it was a huge site with lots of links, so I might have missed it.
 
Tyler Ludens
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It's just the part I quoted.

 
John Polk
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Permaculture is very much about a balance of flora/fauna on a particular site. Humans, as the stewards of that site, have a significant role in the equation. If a horse brings great pleasure to those humans, the horse certainly has a place on that site.

If it can be used to 'ride-the-fences', or hoof it a quarter mile to the mail box, so much the better. But a horse (or pet) does not need to be totally utilitarian to be justified. Bringing pleasure is enough 'utility' to fit the bill. We are not just robots trying to do Mother Nature's work. "All work, and no play, makes Jack a dull boy."

If somebody says there is no place for horses in permaculture, they are partially correct...there is no place for horses on their farm.



 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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My Grandmother used to say "horse manure is gold in the garden".

That, of course, was before herbicide/insecticide sprayed hay and chemical dewormers.

If you could find a way to feed your horse hay that was not contaminated and keep parasites at bay with out the use of chemical dewormers then I believe that not only would you have a wonderful companion but also some 'gold' for your garden. Sounds like a permaculture win/win to me.
 
Julie Carney
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Thanks for the encouragement...... I think the horse would be able to eat the forage grass....We have 15+ acres, and several neighbors only have 10, yet keep horses and have them fat and sassy w/o feeding extra....... I believe my soil's "clean" as it hasn't been used for years!!!
I have to keep the deer out of everything that's planted, so the plantings will be "horse-safe" too.......We have so much to look forward to!
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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What is your zone Julie? I am in 7b/8a and I used to always plant winter rye to keep the horses in green grass all winter long. Don't know if you can do that there.
 
Julie Carney
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I'm zone 9....Sierra foothills of CA....Grass grows great in winter and Spring............ I have a few low spots by the creek and where the pond leaks that are green through summer.....Fall is rougher, but the local horses seem to do well on the dried stuff........ The couple across the road from me....non-permies but very concerned folks and "anti Monsanto" were told by the vet, that their horses were too fat coming OUT of winter....Just graze on what grows.........
It'll still be awhile before we get the horse [s?], but it's good to plan and work out how to do it.......
Rye might well work well....THIS winter I'm planning on sowing a bunch of legume mix, and then try sowing prairie mix for a couple of years if I can afford it.........
 
Mia Shae
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My dad has an organic, self sustaining farm in iowa and for many years we had two horses that grazed all over our 7 acres and in the winter ate the dried alfalfa bails from our own field. We used the manure from their shelter in our manure spreader and put it all over the property as well as our vegetable garden. Our experience was that it did a great job of regrowing lush grass for future grazing and did not harm our garden at all. I can't say for sure if it made the vegetables grow more quickly but the vegetables did grow really well! Having the horses to keep down the field grass was great too, as we didnt have to be out there using gas in our tractor trying to cut it. I would say horses would be great for permaculture!
 
Julie Carney
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Encouraging and BEAUTIFUL.........
All creatures and plants have amazing beauty and when they all work together and make things better and more beautiful it's GREAT!
 
Ben Stallings
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People (including both Bill Mollison and Toby Hemenway) have also said there's no place for cats in permaculture, because some cats kill birds.

But if we're evaluating animals by their impact on other species, I think we'd have to say there is no place in permaculture for PEOPLE. And yet people are what we design permaculture around. If we can design an ecosystem to turn people into a positive ecological force, then surely we can do the same with horses and cats. To say otherwise is a failure of imagination.
 
Julie Carney
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Good point.......I LOVE having cats around...The catch those pesky gophers...And snakes if you're lucky [well...If they get the rattlers and leave the kings......]
Being only a permie newbie, I'd say there's no plce for gophers in permaculture, but I guess a lot of the expert permies love them..... Maybe they don't have as many as we do!
At least the horses won't eat the birds!...And their manure is definitely useful...
I guess what I want out of parmaculture at this present time, is to have a lot of varieties of perennial food growing that grows w/o a huge effort once established....grows w/o extra water eventually, and ALWAYS w/o herbicides / pesticides and other noxious toxic stuff.....Get plenty of food so there's SOMETHING available for every season, and enough to share with nature on my terms...... Make it beautiful with a huge variety of flowers etc A huge beautiful polyculture with always improving soil, and a healthy balance of nature .... And a couple of meadows where the horses can eventually come and run freely.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Off-topic gopher comments

Julie Carney wrote:
Being only a permie newbie, I'd say there's no plce for gophers in permaculture, but I guess a lot of the expert permies love them..... Maybe they don't have as many as we do!


I think it's probably something like, gophers have a place in nature, permaculture strives to emulate nature, therefore gophers have a place in permaculture. As you have excess gophers in your system, you can "return the surplus " (3rd ethic) by eating the excess yourself, feeding them to your chickens, or composting them. Think of them as a gift of gophers challenging you to find a way to make the most of them, since they proliferate without your efforts. (easy for me to say because I don't have gophers! )
 
Julie Carney
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Oh JOY!!!
 
wayne stephen
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Uses for Horses ? After oil prices skyrocket they will be invaluable as transportation locally . Have one on hand . As part of a grazing plan , they can graze along with goats in a paddock , easier to keep fenced than cattle . Farm income - our $ 3000 fillie will be worth at least $ 10,000 after completing her training . By the way I can't say enough about Parelli trainng - Want a relationship with a horse try it. You could train horse for others , while they board and graze and you earn cash. Keeping kids on the farm - my 16 year old daughter said at dinner Thursday that she would not consider marrying an accountant " My man is going to be a farm boy ! " It wasn't slaughtering chickens that produced that statement - horses ! I have tasted mares milk cheese - fantastic ! If you can milk a mare I want to shake your hand - you could charge a hazardous duty fee for that value adding product . If we were more dependent on horses as we have been for millenia this would not be a question. I won't even touch upon our history of eating horseflesh - Oops I just did. Read the Lewis and Clark Diaries and this will at least seem patriotic. The domestic horse - like the dog - is certainly tied to us . How many other critters on the farm will perk up it's ears and wait for us to interact with them ?
 
edwin lake
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wayne stephen wrote:Uses for Horses ? After oil prices skyrocket they will be invaluable as transportation locally . Have one on hand . As part of a grazing plan , they can graze along with goats in a paddock , easier to keep fenced than cattle . Farm income - our $ 3000 fillie will be worth at least $ 10,000 after completing her training . By the way I can't say enough about Parelli trainng - Want a relationship with a horse try it. You could train horse for others , while they board and graze and you earn cash. Keeping kids on the farm - my 16 year old daughter said at dinner Thursday that she would not consider marrying an accountant " My man is going to be a farm boy ! " It wasn't slaughtering chickens that produced that statement - horses ! I have tasted mares milk cheese - fantastic ! If you can milk a mare I want to shake your hand - you could charge a hazardous duty fee for that value adding product . If we were more dependent on horses as we have been for millenia this would not be a question. I won't even touch upon our history of eating horseflesh - Oops I just did. Read the Lewis and Clark Diaries and this will at least seem patriotic. The domestic horse - like the dog - is certainly tied to us . How many other critters on the farm will perk up it's ears and wait for us to interact with them ?


I second the natural horsemanship methods of training. We have three horses on our place, and they produce a lot of horse manure. So far, we have used it effectively as compost for the annual garden as a component of lasagne method. The horse manure is also fantastic for red worm vermiculture, which has a number of beneficial by products for growies.

We are working on a plan of paddock shifting using an electric laneway. Like other livestock, the horses natural grazing method is moving around. Using a laneway keeps the horses well exercised and facilitates the wear on the land.

My wife tried her mare's milk and said it was really sweet, much sweeter than cow's milk. She and her mare have a special relationship and it didn't mind her taking a bit of milk.
 
Bonnie Johnson
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I have 9 horses on our 27 acres at this time. Seven of them belong to us and 2 are here temporarily due to the drought in Missouri and high hay prices. I view horses as producers of gold in the form of manure. I use this manure in our raised bed gardens and in the chicken winter home deep litter system to produce amazing veggies. The first year using the horse manure in the raised beds I canned over 160 lbs of tomatoes. This year I canned over 300 lbs of tomatoes(canned whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, pureed tomatoes, salsa and ketchup) from two 3x12 foot raised beds. I use both composted and fresh horse manure in the raised beds. Fertility is amazing. The tomatoes grew taller then my 5 foot 6 inches and made my home built wooden tomato cages groan. All the other veggies love it too.

I put loads of horse manure in the chicken winter home. I then toss some bad hay in there that comes from the bottom of the round bales or from under the rabbit pens to catch the droppings and rabbit urine. The chickens scratch around in it and if it starts to pack down, I throw in another couple of loads of horse manure and some more hay. When spring comes along, I pull the moveable chicken pens off of the 10 foot by 20 foot winter home area and let it sit for a couple weeks to a month. Then I plant directly into the deep litter mix of horse manure, chicken manure, rabbit manure, and hay. You can easily turn this stuff with a spading fork. Works great, grows veggies amazingly well. This year in addition to the volunteer tomatoes and squash that grew on their own among the beans and corn I planted we also had a bumper crop of purslane which was delicious. I do hope the purslane come back next summer! I sometimes take a small amount of the deep litter out of the chicken winter home base and top dress it on the our raised beds then mix it in with a spading fork.

By the way the chickens and muscovy ducks also get to free range all summer and winter during the day. In the summer the chickens and the ducks find a lot of bugs in the horse manure and scratch it apart scattering it successfully. There is nothing happier than a chicken scratching through a nice pile of horse manure finding all kinds of good things to eat except for another chicken scratching away at the hay and droppings under the rabbit pens. My horses love to follow the goat's electro net rotational grazing pen. The goats clear off the weeds and the horses eat the grass. The horses have three pastures to rotate through.

I am hoping to get a cart system going some day so the horses can help me with hauling manure and other items around the farm. Several of our horses are broke to ride and drive. I just hauled five cart loads of horse manure myself to partially top off a raised bed. By spring, with a just a bit of spading it will be awesome! I will gradually fill up the rest of the raised beds between adding loads of horse manure to the chicken winter home.
 
Lisa Paulson
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I have bred show hunter and show jumper as well as dressage horses for decades and slowly incorporated permaculture aspects into our intensely used 4 acre farm in zone 8, coastal British Columbia Canada. It started decades ago with planting perenial food plants on the way from the house to the barn so I could graze without stopping to go in the house much. We have derived our entire income here from the horses but I honestly do not see show horses in sport as a sustainable practice into the future . Horses require a lot of inputs , in the right circumstance your land may provide for many of them or the utility of the horses themselves may compensate for their input requirements . They can be fodder/grass fed and do not neccessarily have to have shoes so you can reduce some inputs but the toughest one here is the supply of year round hay . For the utility, they can work herding, transportation being ridden or pulling a cart or sleigh , harnessed to turn a wheel for grinding or pumping water, hunting , plowing and use with various farm implements and skidding logs , they can replicate themselves so are a renewable resource and you absolutely could havest horse milk or meat but they are likely far less efficient at production of either than other animals . Milking a horse can be by hand or by machine and once trained to it, mares can be easy to deal with, my friends use the milk commercially to make medicinal shampoos and soap and I know a few other companies use raw or pasteurized horse milk as well. http://www.spacreekranch.com/maresmilk.htm
As our stallions can be intimidating, we do not have any two legged trespassers wander onto the property to date either but plenty of wildlife call it home for such a small pocket of a farm.
Traditionally they have served in battles as well and of course in various industries again mostly in harness .
Since my job was breeding and training horses , we have integrated poultry that go through the manure piles in the pastures for food, ponds and waterfowl , gardens with bees and food production , an orchard the horses graze, multipurpose shelterbelts started which include feed for the animals in the form of willows and bamboo for example, into our space here . We have even planted food 'islands' consisting of 45 blueberry bushes in our riding ring . We have other specializations that make managing the horses and other aspects more congruent as well , like planting nuts and other trees in the actual pasture to start more of a food forest that as the trees mature will have glens for the animals to graze and still keep avenues open to ride and rotate various beasties on the grass and even a lane between two stallion pastures that is planted either side with fruit trees and is used also for freejump training down the center . We use a movable hot rope system powered by a solar charger to configure pastures accordingly to the availability of food and footing .
We have traded breeding services for hay as well . And we repurpose a heck of a lot of things including reusing free ground coconut fibre from a local green house operation as an absorbant bedding and then using that again in gardens, orchard and for trade this year for canning jars and plants . One thing that would be an additional benefit would be the use of the manured bedding in a biodigester or compost water heating project . So while it is a bit of a stretch, horses can be of utility and be integrated into the permaculture type aspect , or in our case permaculture is integrated into our small horse farm and we are adding more to it all the time . For instance this summer as my horses are kept more an more outside , we will be raising batches of organic meat chickens in the horse stalls for subscribers in our family that is another source of income and trade goods and we will be starting meat rabbits .
 
wayne stephen
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As you can see from my previous reply and others : horse are primarily pleasure animals at this point in time. Ours are Western Pleasure Quarter Horses , others have said Hunter Jumpers. Those sports are what may not be sustainable. The horse is . The future will tell us what the role of horse are in permaculture.
When the need is there the niche will be obvious.
 
Lisa Paulson
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In one of the most recent videos at Geoff Lawtons website www.geofflawton.com there is mention and brief video footage of keeping what looked like riding type horses present day for a future possible role as transportation. In my own situation , due to the location, climate and size of my own property as a resource , I do not view my own horses as sustainable . As I mentioned they need vast inputs off of my own small property and we have a very wet coastal climate north of the 49th parallel where if my horses ran on the pasture day in day out , I doubt there would be vegetation. I do deal with issues of damage the horses do to vegetation and I currently plant shelterbelt and orchard- come - future- food forest planting with pallets wired around them to protect them from the animals integrated around them on the grass pasture. My situation is one of having a small self sustaining horse farm that is transitioning to more and more permaculture aspirations. There is also the issue of soil compaction. So while I have reasons to transition away from horse keeping on my own property in favour of smaller livestock and bicycles as nonpetroleum transportation, I would say that horses in the right setting, well utilized , absolutely could be a fit with permaculture design and lifestyle. Right now many a permaculture swale is cut by machinery which is essentially a petrol fueled tool to provide 'horsepower' using masses of inputs of fuel etc. It makes sense to me that a horse could be accomodated in the right permaculture setting but not every one .

 
Tyler Ludens
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In my locale it takes 30 - 50 acres to support one horse on native pasture, though excellent pasture management might reduce that amount. So those of us with smaller acreage (we have 20, for instance) probably would not be able to keep horses permaculturally unless we could work with neighbors to share land.
 
Greta Fields
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I kept two horses for ten years until they died of strokes or heart attacks at ages 32 and 28. They took up 12 of 80 acres. I did not have to feed them until January in Ky, but I had to buy hay. I LOVED having horses because of manure, and kids love them. They were no work because they had a run-in barn with hayloft, and drank from pure creeks and ponds. I suppose I could raise beans and corn silage to feed them, and some hay, but I always bought their food in past.
I never had a chance to farm with my horses because I always worked off site. However, I think a little horse and plow and wagon would come in very handy now for hauling pond silt to the garden; carrying firewood; moving logs and rocks. I could do small-time plowing. And mowing. I always mowed with a tractor and bush hog, but I would like to switch to sustainable farming. Instead of mowing the whole place all at once, I would mow in small increments with a horse, I suppose. It would be a lot harder work.
My horses got out of their 12 acres and used small fields around my house too, so I guess they took more than 12 acres.
There are riding trails where I live even. My horses got too old to ride though. . .
I really just enjoy wild animals now. I don't have to feed them either, but I do plant things for them.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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A lot of good points by all. I wish to expand the original question. What of miniature horses and donkeys? We are considering adding them and would love to hear others input for or against. Thank you.
 
Greta Fields
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Cortland,
If you get minis, I hope you will try to adopt some. People abandon them at stockyards due to the recession now. I read in Virginia where somebody just turned a bunch of ponies loose on the road.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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@Greta

I have seen the prices on them dropping (private owners, not breeding center); and, many are re-homing all their stock. We want to be careful not to acquire more than we can afford to keep. We are currently thinking just one of each. We are also looking for feedback from those who have had both. We could use some clarification on whether we should go jack or jenny; stallion or mare. We are leaning toward two females currently. Note: we have goats and alpacas and poultry currently.
 
Greta Fields
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I never had the minies, but my sister had donkeys, minis, jacks and jennies. I think it depends upon their personality. The smallest one was boss. I would be afraid to breed animals to sell them, due to the recession.
 
Cortland Satsuma
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@Greta

We are not looking to breed...there is an abundance of unwanted ones on the market as it is. We are actually looking at compost purposes; and, possible pack animals and/or service animal. (Have second service animal due to retire...8 1/2 year old Great Dane.) I have found most say the same as you; a few say stallions can be a problem.
 
Greta Fields
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You can find free animals on Craigs list. You may also want to go talk to the Humane Society and Sheriff. Our sheriff is often called upon to investigate loose or neglected horses. I have an idea that you can get these animals free or dirt cheap now. My sister got incredible horses for a few bucks at the stockyards. They were fully trained but had defects, like a bowed tendon. She would get them and fix them up and give them to her friends' children.
She obtained an Amish trained carriage horse that was magnificent, and then a full blooded Arab that became an incredible child's mount: It was showed at the Kentucky Horse Park. There was nothing wrong with it, not even injured.
Ypu can buy horses with laminitis, turn them out on weedy pasture, and they heal. I had a 22 year old horse with laminitis since age 11 who grew all new hooves in east Ky. I told my vet and he said, It's the minerals in the weedy p1sture. Horses living on clover and Bluegrass get sick from lack of minerals apparently. but I am no expert. My horse lived to be 32 years old, with beautiful hooves finally.
I feel like, I could have healed Secretariat just by turning him loo9se in my "weeds".
 
Lisa Paulson
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Today on our farm, horses and meat chickens free ranging pastures with movable rope fencing , square pallets protect young fruit trees and A frame cold frames made of recycled bedframes protect evergreens planted for a future fence line and eventual harvest one day . When the weather gets wet in our fall the horses come off the pasture and the cold frames are put to use extending the veggie growing season in my garden .

Horses doing some of the mowing for me :
 
Lisa Paulson
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Spa Creek Ranch in Salmon Arm BC, milk their mares for the ingredient for their skin and hair care products that are particularly helpful to problem skin like eczema and scalp issues , the offspring of the mares are bred to be first rate show horses !
Photo is of a New Forest Pony mare :
 
Greta Fields
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Lisa,
]
I had trouble keeping my horses away from young trees, but I never tried using pallets like you are doing. A moveable fence is a good idea. I never did like fooling with electric fences though,
I have attached a photo of my horses grazing all over the place, haha. The photo resolution may be too high to open.
Greta
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Lisa Paulson
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What a gorgeous setting Greta, I have to intensely use the 4 suburban acres we have so permaculture ideas are really helpful. I find a few of my horses respect the pallets and leave the young trees alone , one of my horses does not and most of my horses left out to graze more than 3 -4 hours at a time just start looking for trouble , say dismantling the cold frames or running and playing hard which destroys the small intensive pastures quickly so we do have stalls for each horse and also gravel individual paddocks for the wet season ( winter here) .
This picture shows the horses individual paddocks, barn and riding ring. We have been trying things to utilize the riding ring as a multiuse area planting sunflowers in the corners and a few islands of blueberries we have to ride around and I will try planting and training grapes on the edges of the ring. The barn is used for everything from being a covered work area, lots of storage, raising a few hundred chickens in summer , parking vehicles inside , besides just horses .
 
Greta Fields
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Lisa,
My gosh, what a big barn. Why is it so big? It looks like it was designed for a 100-acre hay farm!?
Your farm is about like my sister's six-acre horse farm. She has 3 horses on 4 acres, and is constantly having to rehab pastures. I really think you all need to move to a bigger place!
I never had to feed my horses hardly, they had so much pasture. I had 2 horses on a field about 12 acres, and they had access to 3-4 acres around the yards too.
I bought only 20 bales of hay per winter.
You would not have to work so hard if you had more pasture.
I am attaching a photo of Thor bucking across my back yard.... the yard alone was big enough here for one horse. It was so wonderful, not having to tend to horses all day. They drank out of clean creeks and ponds and just ran into the barn. I dropped hay into the barn aisle in winter, and the sun shown in the door and kept them warm. I hardly ever had to put the horses up.
Thor died of strokes at age 28 and is buried under the tree in the photo.
Greta
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Lisa Paulson
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My barn was designed to accommodate milking cows and has a generous two story loft under the hip roof . The metal clad door you see about 25 feet in the air is to accommodate nets of loose hay that are pulleyed up into the loft using a chain that runs the length of the roof to the other side of the barn and is pulled by draft animals or a tractor . The property was likely closer to 40 acres when the barn was built then over the years the land was broken down into suburban hobby farm acreages. It is really quite suburban here now and I do find 4 acres keeps me sufficiently busy.
 
mick mclaughlin
Posts: 200
Location: Augusta,Ks
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Ok, i will be the neigh sayer!

Not sure folks are really taking in to account the resources a horse uses, especially on a small acrage, and how those resources could better be used.

If used for actuall horsepower, then yes they are justified, but otherewise i just cant see it.

I am just tsking the affection for a pet fron the equation.
 
Lisa Paulson
Posts: 258
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Mick , truthfully my horses do not serve me much these days and I am pretty much work hard at keeping them with shipped in resources of feed because I am choosing not to breed horses anymore. You are quite right on a small acreage they are rarely appropriate and as I said in my first post , they are appropriate in permaculture in the right setting. Moving forward I will not be keeping any more horses and I aim to will rely more on bicycle as fuel costs rise , not on a horse drawn sulky. That said, few small acreages run by a single woman have produced a family's living for near two decades . I was a single mom for 18 years raising kids and living off my farm without any social assistance because I managed the stallions and shipped semen for breeding. So in that sense, it very much created a permaculture existence for us being able to live on and from 4 acres.
 
mick mclaughlin
Posts: 200
Location: Augusta,Ks
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Gotcha!

I can certainly see where anything of value can pull it's weight. The key is others wanting it.

I do quite a bit of work for horse people here in ks, and know that some do very well. They are the minority, though.

You are to be commended!
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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