How did these two end up in Northern Tennessee you ask?
The story begins with hay.
In the South, we grow and feed coastal bermudagrass. The oppressive heat nixes any chance we'd have to grow anything decent like alfalfa or timothy. Add to the soup the woody textured lower protein content and you have a recipe for colic. Colic isn't the same in horses as it is in babies. Horses die from it, or in the least. end up spending a week at the vet school costing you $6000. Been there, done that, couldn't afford the T-shirt. After that little experience 12 years ago, I had been driving to Kentucky to buy timothy hay. I stopped doing it when I moved here because my horses became part of a larger herd. Plus, I'd found a farmer who's bermudagrass tested out at 14% protein right around the corner.
|Mr. Jones in Tennessee|
Then last year and this year, he let his fields go to seed...
... before baling (woody), he jacked his prices way up and when I had the hay tested, it scrapped the bottom of the barrel (goat hay). Granted, part of the problem has been the monsoon weather patterns of the past two years. Either way, enough is enough. I did my research, I made calls, I crunched numbers and I found the holy grail... over a mountain in a remote little pocket of Northern Tennessee. Including transportation, pound for pound cheaper, yet far superior hay than anything available around here!!!
Mr. Jones' timothy hay tests consistently at 18-19% protein. His bales are dense 60 pounders held tight by Portuguese baling twine. The only twine any self respecting hay farmer should ever use, as he states it. And he never lets his fields go to seed. If the weather foils his baling plans, he lets the field go fallow and loses that cutting, he does not bale garbage.
I'd been on the phone with him since May, trying to find an opening in the unpredictable weather to have a load delivered. By the time I met him, it felt like reuniting with an old friend.
Meet him we did because the hay hauler wouldn't deliver without a 3 day window of dry weather in the Southeast, so I rented a 26' Uhaul, packed up a driver, two dogs and a picnic and we hit the road a 3 AM on Monday morning.
We didn't get very far. By 5 AM, Flynn and I were circling the Uhaul, trying to figure out a way to jimmy the doors open that the dogs had locked. Staring back at us was the key on the dash. We scoured the truck stop grounds and dumpsters for anything to use. Taking turns with a mop bucket handle, then with something more suitable, it only took a little over an hour to break back in. (No pictures, sorry, phones were also in the cab.) I called this the beginnings of a good character building day, which has become the farm motto. Any struggle or hardship is now recognized as an ingredient for a character building day, not a recipe for a bad day. It's all perspective my friends!
With two 60 lb pointers sprawled out in the passenger seat, it meant the spare driver had only one butt cheek on the seat and the other on the cupholder. For 907 long miles.
Cannot tell you how much I delighted in the fur overload for over 24 hours.
Can't speak for Flynn. Good God, the man has the patience of Job.
I spent hours playing with theirs ears.
Many hours mesmerized by how angelic they are sleeping.
Yes, yes, the views were extraordinary.
Twisting and narrow roads.
But, did I mention how adorable the dogs were?
Plus we had a few mini adventures.
Explored fields looking for field mice.
We found a pole vaulting practice set up in the middle of a semi abandoned baseball field.
While the dogs played, Flynn and I looked for the pole. We're getting to that age where breaking a hip is a concern, but not a deterrent.
We also found a knife shop in an ancient stone school house. All manners of knives and every conceivable material to make your own. Including antlers... put to better use by the dogs.
I was over the moon when I found an apiary shop. I know where I'll be ordering my hive supplies now.
Comb honey, the best kind.
Getting home and dropping the hay in the aisle before shooting it up in the hay loft. Guess what? The Uhaul was too tall to fit in the barn, we had to walk each bale in. Another one of those character building moments.
Peter as our mascot.
Now when you walk in the barn, it no longer smells of desiccated dead bermudagrass, the sweet scent of timothy fills your lungs.
Totally worth all the character building. Totally.