Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Washing Away Anxiety

Last night I had the most freeing and mind-clearing ride. It was so needed. While I have no photos because of an unexpected downpour that resulted in me stashing my phone in a safe place mid-ride, I want to document the ride all the same.

I've had...a week. Actually, more than that. My stress and anxiety due to the construciton process, work, and other personal life dramas is at a high. So, I did what any horse person does in times of need and went riding. 

Stan and I headed out with the dogs to explore another new trail option. As we descended the backside of the mountain, the cloudy western skies moved in. It began to rain, lightly at first, so lightly that the forest canopy blocked the large majority of the drops from reaching us. However, as we rounded the low point and began to climb, the skies began to open up.

Not expecting this, my phone was unprotected in my pocket. I opted to take my gloves off and stuff my phone in them to give it a bit more protection, and then stashed it in my waistband along my front body to give it the protection of my forward leaning body as we climbed the mountain. 

Up and up we went, bushwacking where necessary. I ducked branches and grabbed mane as Stan navigated up the near-vertical slope. I slipped backwards and had to finagle myself forward a time or two and made a mental note that a bareback pad may not be the wisest choice on this section in the future.

As we emerged from the forest into a mowed field near the top of the mountain, I turned Stan loose into a gallop.

The rain pounded down on us as we raced to the summit. My laughter was lost to the sounds of the rain, wind, and pounding hooves.

As we cruised by the house, I tossed my phone to safety and opted to continue onward. I was already soaked through, why stop now? Rain is has been rare the past month, and I wanted nothing more than to revel in it.

And so we headed back out along the neighborhood road. Out to the main development where the flat, open ridgetop yields 270° views when it isn't socked in with mist and clouds and rain. We meandered through the open spaces, the rain still falling in large drops on us as we went.

I realized about halfway along the ridge that the remote for the dogs' electric collar was no longer on my waistband and cursed under my breath knowing it must be somewhere on the mountainside we climbed and bushwacked up.

I told Stan we'd have to go get it, and turned him to the right, picking up a hand gallop across the open meadow.

We backtracked our previous path, slowing to a walk when we entered the forest at the top of the incline where I dismounted so I could look closer in the fern-laden understory. 

While my day to this point had been rife with poor luck, I was excited when I spotted the remote on the ground halfway down the mountain where we'd been 20 minutes prior. I whooped and hollered my excitement over my find at the top of my lungs, laughing as it echoed in the hollow below us.

I pocketed the remote, positioned Stan on the downslope, and jumped back on, grabbing up two fistfuls of mane as he rocketed back up the steep slope. 

As we emerged from the forest into the field once more, Stan dug deep and flew, faster than before, up through the field. I laughed and cheered and threw my arms wide to the wind and the rain.

We settled into a trot along the road at the top before picking up a hand gallop again along the path that borders another open field. We galloped along, flushing turkey hens and poults from the tall grass as we went. Stan's ears darted forward and his pace slowed a titch, but he still plowed ahead. 

In minutes, we arrived back at the barn.

I dismounted, dropping to the ground in a squelch of water from the puddles that had accumulated in my boots. My tank top and tights clung to my skin, thoroughly drenched through from all of the rain. 

Despite this, I smiled. The rain and a good, fast horse had washed away all of my anxieties. It was just what I needed.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Stall Walls and Sunset Views

Just a short update on this week's progress. We dipped out of town Thursday for a weekend away for a wedding, leaving the barn and horses behind in the hands of great friends.

I'll admit - it's a bit nerve-wracking to leave the horses! But I am infinitely calmer about it all knowing my sitter is amazing and knowledgeable. Additionally, it's great to know that some progress will be made on the barn despite our absence thanks to Dave's buddy who is continuing to work on pieces while we travel. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by such incredible folks. 💜

August 5

Dave worked alone today and the changes weren't too dramatic from a photo-perspective, though they will make a big difference as things move forward as the stall walls and doors will quite literally depend on this foundation. In fact, other than knowing the dimension and height of the walls, I'm not entirely certain how everything will look! Dave's visited all of my local friends' barns to garner ideas. I know I'm going to have sliding stall doors because he wants to preserve my aisle space, but beyond that, I don't know how exactly everything is tying together. We'll all be surprised together as this unveils itself in coming weeks.

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Setting up the ground work foundation for the stalls...two of them anyway!
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Roof finish work and exterior siding on the back of the barn
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Stall framework again
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Deep(er than it appears in the photo) hole and the water hydrant. Had hoped to put it IN the tack room, but was a little too late making that decision. Ah, well. All is well regardless.

August 6

When I arrived home on this day, I was a bit preoccupied trying to quickly prep some things for a dinner with friends and get back out the door in record time. I tossed off my work shoes, put on barn shoes, and with a cursory greeting to Dave, headed down to the barn to muck and feed. (OMG the joy of doing this every day... I can't even.)

I could see right away that the second front window had finally been installed. I had assumed that the windows and exterior work would be completed on this day, so seeing the window was exciting, but not a surprise. I was almost IN the barn before my eyes and brain made the connection that, oh shit, STALLS! And I then called up to Dave, who was sitting on the porch with a beer, "Damn, you did some work!"

Not only did both windows get put in, but the framing for two stalls was completed, some of the walls were also completed, and the interior boards for the rear door had been placed.

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Look at the stall framing inside the door!
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Beginnings of stalls! And some creepers who wish they could stand in the barn lol
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Milled wood!
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Prettiest dang stalls around. Pinkish wood is cherry, lighter wood is maple
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Front stall
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Middle stall and third stall
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Awful evening lighting, but a shot of the first stall again
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Big ol' window in the front!
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Another shot of the front window
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And the matching back window!
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Second shot of that back window
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Some work on the interior of the back door and my jankily stacked hay that makes me giggle
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This view has really changed with the addition of partial stall walls
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Progress on the door from the outside and that window!
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Can't wait to watch how this will evolve as we get more siding up
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This trailer had been HEAPED full of milled wood....not so much now 
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Seriously loving the fact that the windows are all in now
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Easy to imagine the finished product when you can see a fully finished side. I only wish we could frame the end windows the
same as the side windows. Unfortunately, framing them shadow box style like that would prohibit the sliding doors from opening.
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Door progress. Outside will be finished with white oak
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A lovely little palace!
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Every time I look at this POV, I imagine the grass inhabiting all of the bare spots...

August 7

While not as impressive as the previous day because I was expecting it in some regards, coming home on Wednesday found more completed progress on the stall walls and back door.

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Daily shot from the porch
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Dave fussing with the exterior of the back door which will have a chevron pattern because Dave gets real #extra about this shit lol
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Cherry boards on the inside of the door
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Progress on the stall walls. Those boards leaning are 14" wide and 14' long!
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A beautifully complete stall wall. The knot on the top board is mirrored on the opposite stall wall's top board (center stall)
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If you squint through the glare, you can see the mirrored knot on the top board. This was unintentional
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Beautiful stall walls and a Kenai!
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And a Taiga

August 8

I was running amok in preparation to depart for the long weekend, but I did grab a couple daily shots of the ongoing progress of finishing the exterior on the front of the barn. With luck, I'm going to return home to find the stalls further along and the exterior complete everywhere except for under the eaves (which will be cedar shingles, I believe) and under the overhang.

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The front is evolving!
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Can't wait to come home to a finished front...

: : : : :

In addition to barn progress this week, I have to share that in the week that the horses were home, I rode not once, not twice, but FIVE TIMES. I knew getting the horses home would result in more riding, but to begin settling into that reality is far sweeter than I imagined! I rode all three horses, Grif 3x and Q and Stan once each.

Grif received a bit more attention purely because he expresses a much greater need to play and burn energy than either of the other two. In an effort to keep the peace among the little trio, it seemed prudent to provide that playful energy an outlet that doesn't result in poor Stan or Q having to put up with his persistent requests.

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The first view from behind one set of ears
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A different view and different ears on a different sunset evening
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And a third view behind a third set of ears
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Striking out along a lovely new trail
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Sun rays as viewed from behind my favorite chestnut ears
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This mare's stellar hooves thrill me to no end. She was striding out so confidently on the gravel!
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Listening ears on top of the world Wednesday evening
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Just a walk in the neighborhood!
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Morning vistas
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And one of the best views of all!

It has been SO NICE to get back to riding after a nearly two month hiatus. I'm starting to figure out new training loops and am putting my previous day dreaming about where I could create new trails to practice. It's the best kind of meditation after a long day - and the best way to forage for berries and mushrooms! There's still a lot of summer left, and I am thrilled to get out, explore on horseback, and make the most of the beautiful weather.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Chaos, Fence Stress, and Forward Progress

July 26

Friday was yet another crazy, crazy day. There were SO many moving parts and so much that needed done. Every where I turned my head there were people working, machinery running, and things happening. At the peak of it all, we had 11 (!) people present. The French drain was installed, we finished milling all of the wood, accomplished some detail work on the barn, and we got the fence started.

And everything went well! ...except for the fence. Sigh.

After having ample time to dissect it over the weekend, I can say that every issue with that damn fence is a result of miscommunication - as so many problems in life are. Though Mercury was in retrograde and is supposed to rule communication, so I guess score 1 for Mercury. You bastard.

To begin, we had an incredibly delayed start building fence, beginning at 12:30p. UGH. Things limped along from there: prepping posts, sinking some posts, and then, yanno, blowing a water line. A private water line that calling 811 doesn't take care of. A private water line of which there is no known map of the water system. A private water line only known by ~3 people, all of whom knew I was putting in a fence, all of whom were on site while the fence was going in, and all of whom never mentioned to me that we should be aware or cautious of said line.

SO. An extra $800+ dollars later, we've learned where part of that line is thanks to absolutely destroying the pipe and one valve.

UGH. And double-ugh because it happened at a point in the month when my anxiety is infinitely worse than it is all of the other days. Hormones are a bitch, y'all.

As a result of the water line debacle, the late start, and the utter chaos that ruled the day, we only got a fraction of the posts in the ground that we'd hoped to. The crew can't come back to [hopefully] finish the fence until August 16. SIGH. Such a let down after a stressful day.

However, in my quest to be grateful and find things to be grateful for, let's focus on things that went well amidst the chaos that triggered several small anxiety-attacks:
  • we had the only people capable of repairing that water line on site right when it happened, so the neighborhood was only without water for a few hours before we had it patched (permanent fix to follow this week)
  • we did get the posts in for the dry lot so I can temp tape that and put the horses in there when the dry lot is complete
  • all of the materials for the fence are on site now so we just need to get the man power there to finish the job
  • the French drain is IN!
  • the dry lot is nearly complete
  • the wood is all milled - and gorgeous!
  • the barn is basically dried in so that progress can happen even on rainy days - and it's so beautiful
  • the sky didn't fall and the world is still going 'round, even if my anxiety tries to tell me otherwise
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Milling the trees
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Eyeing up the next cut
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My excavators' company is family owned and run. There are three generations right here.
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This little boy loves nothing more than to come to job sites and sit with his granddad learning the ropes
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French drain! 
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Installing soffit
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Lots of people. Lots of happenings.
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Milling chaos
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So many things in the pasture
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The French drain forms a capital "E" The long side is along the toe of the slope, with a fin extending on either side
of the barn and right through the dry lot before it meets the overhang
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Heavy equipment and milling and fence posts OH MY. It was SUCH a chaotic environment with everything going on!
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Dave helping the gentleman milling for us. 
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Dave also had him cut what will eventually become the new bar top on
our kitchen island. One live edge! Now to wait 2 years for it to cure...
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Tying twine to help align the posts
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Nice and straight!
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Two wings of the French drain
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Pounding fence posts the easy way - with machinery
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Still a lot going on down there...
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Two in machines, two on the roof.
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Yet another view of the chaos lol
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Bit quieter...
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Yet still driving posts! And pushing the gravel to allow space for the hay delivery
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The short section of exposed French drain. I realized I had few photos of the pipe in the ground and rushed to take one before they covered it

July 27 & 28

Things didn't slow down on the weekend. Dave was down at the barn on Saturday and Sunday toodling away with things making small, but important progress on some details that need to be completed before work could move forward on Monday. I even helped out with some small menial tasks AND helping him put the final roof panel up! 

While Dave toodled I wasn't idle. I was actually quite busy:
  • bringing the horses to Canaan for a chiropractic appointment at a friend's farm (hopefully will have time to do a separate post on this eventually)
  • driving to Front Royal and back to pick up the hay basket that will grace the dry lot
  • helping make hay and put hay up in my barn
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Still a construction zone, but now a construction zone with HAY! It smells a lot better now ;-)
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Starting to get an idea of what the finished product will look like!!
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From the back door looking toward the front
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Hay basket full of bales the teenagers threw so hard they exploded...smh
Just bought the slow feed net for this thing. The horses are gonna hate me.
And look closely to find three little ponies in their temp fence area!

It was a VERY full weekend. But it feels REALLY good to have the roof done, the hay basket home, the horses sorta home, and - the biggest one! -  hay in the barn. Bonus? We managed to fit in about 40 more bales than I thought would go in the space based on my calculations. Though, I honestly think we could easily fit that and then some if I'd had the good hay stacker there at the beginning. That shit is not stacked well and I'm well-aware of it, but the good stacker did his best to rectify what the first crew (high schoolers) did with the initial 144 bales. Free help is better than no help and young, strong backs are better than inexperienced, weaker backs when it comes to doing this. I'm grateful for all of the help I had even if some of those bales will end up crashing down later this winter when I go to pull them down! Hay in the barn is hay in the barn - made all the better knowing it's quality hay that the horses like!

July 29

On Monday, incremental progress on small things was made in the barn:
  • a bit more of the final siding was put up, 
  • soffit was installed, 
  • detail finish work on the roof trim was completed, 
  • building wrap was put up, 
  • protection was installed to the bottom of the framing in the stalls from the eventual stonedust, 
  • the header board for the interior sliding stall doors was installed, 
  • the #4 clean stone was spread in the dry lot and finished around the barn, 
  • the stonedust was delivered, 
  • and they began spreading the stonedust.

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Yep. That's paradise right there. Even if it isn't finished
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Eeeeeeeee!
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The dry lot makes everything look SO MUCH BETTER. Now to get the stone dust layer in the barn...
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Still gotta finish spreading the stone and compact it, but omg. It's looking so good.
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*swoon*
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I keep telling Dave I'm gonna have the prettiest barn in the whole state.
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Protection for the untreated lumber against moisture that will inevitably be present due to the stone dust
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More detail work to protect the untreated lumber

They'd hope to finish the dry lot Monday evening, but the truck carrying the final load of stonedust broke down around 4:15p and that killed any hopes of finishing. Still, it looks amazing even though there is still a bit more to be completed!

July 30

On Tuesday, believe it or not, we were praying for rain. It surprisingly hadn't rained in 8 days. We fortunately had a few bouts, but nothing overly substantial. Still, it was good for the stonedust that had been laid already to get a quick douse to help with compaction.

While I didn't take any photos on Tuesday progress was made. Soffit was installed along more of the roofline, Dave continued putting up the white oak siding on the side nearest the house, the tack/feed room ceiling framing began, and Dave got the lights mounted in the aisle - three 8-foot LED lights that light the space beautifully!

July 31

On Wednesday, Dave finished the exterior siding on the side of the barn that is nearest the house. I joke this is so he doesn't have to stare and obsess over it while he sits on the back porch, but in reality, it's because those windows are the only ones installed. We should have the other three windows tomorrow or early next week (they're coming out of my buddy's house and their contractor is waiting on the new windows to arrive).

The excavator also popped by for a few hours to compact the dry lot. It's real nice now. I didn't fully comprehend how much of a difference that compaction would make!

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Those thin little lights don't look like much, but HOLY. I've never been in such a brightly lit barn before.
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Compacted stone dust!
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All of the heart eyes
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So close...just need hot tape and horses...

August 1

Due to a work meeting in Canaan, I teleworked on Thursday. As I was about to head out the front door to the meeting, four trucks pulled onto the job site: two electric company trucks and my two excavators. I had no idea they were going to do the utilities on this day! They'd originally told me Friday, Monday, or Tuesday and because they end up being delayed every time they tell me they're coming, I'd just shrugged it off any expectations, figuring it wouldn't be until late next week at the earliest. I've never been so happy to be wrong!

To install the utilities they had to churn up more of my future pasture (ugh), but they had the trench dug and filled in within one day, completing about 85% of what needed to be done. I had hoped they would also get around to finishing the dry lot, but no such luck. Sigh.

While the utilities were going in, more of the siding was completed on the barn.

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All of that newly churned up dirt causes me a lot of *internal screaming* Even if it is necessary.
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Deep trench for utilities. Or, as I joked, we're ready for the next war - get in the trench and take cover!
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This thing is looking beautiful though. That dry lot makes all the difference for me.
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The guy in the ditch is ~5'11" for reference.
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The daily "work is done" progress photo
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I'm pretty happy with this
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One completely done side
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The back door
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Detail work along the door
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Dave says this is "standard" but I still think it's pretty cool!
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RIP the grass in the foreground *sob*

August 2

When I realized the dry lot wasn't going to be finished on Thursday, I told myself if I could just make it through to the end of Friday (when it should finally be completed) everything would be better. It has been so exhausting managing expectations through this process. The fencing and the dry lot were the two huge things I was looking forward to having complete. I can wait awhile on the barn interior, but the fencing and dry lot are pretty crucial for the horses.

The fence getting delayed the previous Friday was a hard blow for me mentally. I knew it was out of my control and it was going to be the way it was going to be, but it was still a disappointment. The excavators told me each day this week that the dry lot would be finished "tomorrow". And each day, it wasn't complete. Teasingly close, but still not complete.

And so, on Friday they finally finished it. In fact, except for spreading the final bit of topsoil on the backside of the barn where Dave currently has materials stacked, they finished everything they were slated to do on Friday (utilities, dry lot, and stonedust into the barn). My relief over this is nearly palpable because it means I can not only move the horses into the dry lot while we await the completion of the fence, but I can also focus on getting grass seeded and regrown in almost every area of disturbance. The site of bare earth, to quote my fifth grade teacher, 'irks my liver'.

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SIGH. Earth work gives me anxiety I learned on this day when my HR rocketed up watching him tear up all my new grass
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Where the water will go. 
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That's my French drain pipe getting to see daylight for the second time in a week.
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*elevated HR* Can't wait to get grass back on this slope...
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Where the electric meter box will be
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I thought the tape was clever
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Water to the left, electric to the right. 

Progress on the barn also moved forward Friday. The windows were finally removed from my friend's house, so I fetched them. The first was immediately installed into the tack room because Dave would like to focus on that next.

More trim work along the roof was also completed, exterior siding along the backside put up, and we hung the frame for one of the barn doors to test that out. ...and discovered that one end of the track needs to be raised a quarter inch to make things perfectly level. Dave is a stickler for perfectly level things!

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The beginnings of a sliding barn door!
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Pretty cool stuff. Dave was pleased, I think lol

And finally, the most exciting part of Friday: I finally moved the horses from their temporary dry lot to their permanent dry lot. They are so much happier. I am so much happier. Everything seems so much more right with the world.

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I spy with my little eye, a Q mare!
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Squeeeeeeee
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Now to make all of the brown green again... And, because life is funny like this, we're in a drought for the first time in literal years.
Soooo, I bought some sprinklers and will commence using them to help me get my grass growing and established for the next few weeks!
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Hi buddy <3

After moving the horses into the dry lot, I went riding for the first time since bringing them home the week prior. It had been a literal MONTH since I'd ridden any of my horses. I was beyond ready to get back to it! And besides, Grif was going to drive Stan and Q crazy if I didn't burn off some of his playful energy. We fit in a quick 2.7 miles from sunset into dusk and both came home much more relaxed and settled. I don't know which one of us needed that ride more.

Progress on the barn will continue over the next few weeks as we work toward completion. The realization that I'm going to get to decorate a tack room in the next few weeks is making my little organization-obsessed heart go pitter patter. Expect some dramatic changes to the barn's appearance - inside and outside! - for my next update. We're getting so close!