Round Pen Slowing Coming Together

Ever since we got horses, I’ve been planning on building some kind of enclosed riding area. Once I decided it was going to be an 80 foot diameter round pen, the serious stages of planning went underway.¬†About a year ago I wrote about planning my round pen here. I basically talked about materials, pricing, and trying to decide where to start.

A year later and our round pen is nearing completion! We decided to go with the free/as cheap as possible route and build with all salvaged materials. We cleared a small wooded area for a paddock and used the downed trees from that venture to build the pen. The only things we had to buy were a large box of 4 inch screws and some gas and oil for the chainsaw.

riding in the yard

We ride the horses in the yard usually

horseback riding on a lunge line

Some of the horses have to stay on a line when out in the yard

I found the circumference of my 80 foot diameter round pen by doing a little simple math. The diameter (80) multiplied by Pi (3.14) is equal to the circumference (251.2). I adjusted it to 250 feet around so I could do nice, even 10 foot spacing between each post.

Since the round pen is on a slight incline, we planned to level it by adding fill dirt and building a retaining wall on the downhill side. But, I wanted to be able to use it before we get the fill dirt, since it might be a while. We installed taller posts on the retaining wall side. That way, we can add the retaining wall and fill dirt when we are ready without having to tear all the fencing down and starting from scratch.

After lots of digging, all 25 posts were set at least 2.5 feet into the ground. All of the holes were dug by hand by my family and I. My husband and I easily installed all the crossrails and top rails within a few weekends. We got the gate for free from a nearby farm.

how to build an 80 foot round pen

Our almost free DIY round pen is nearing completion

It’s so close! All it needs now is a few more rails to be safely usable. Before long, we’ll be using this round pen!


17-Year Cicadas are Coming Back this Spring!

The cicadas are coming back out this year! We haven’t seen this variety in 17 years. Since I first heard about it, I’ve been worrying about our fruit trees. After reading the article below, I’m thinking we’ll be alright. There are going to be LOTS of cicadas, but supposedly they do not eat the trees.

17-Year Cicadas to Emerge in Central Virginia – NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather.

I haven’t seen these bugs since I was in elementary school. Boy do I remember them well! They come out in masses and they are LOUD! Hopefully I’ll have a chance to get some good pictures of them while they’re out. Check out these pics I found online–they look so creepy!


close-up cicada

17 year cicadas

17 year cicadas

Have you seen cicadas before? Apparently this 17 year variety is unique to the eastern US. There are other kinds as well, such as 13 year cicadas and another variety that appears in smaller numbers every summer.

Spring is Blooming!

It’s definitely spring time around my neck of the woods! My wildflowers are shooting up and starting to bloom, the sun is shining, and the breeze is blowing. I’m hoping we have just enough rainy days to keep everything as green and beautiful as it is now.

signs of spring

Tiny shasta daisy seedling coming up

pink dianthus blooming

These pink dianthus have been blooming for a few weeks now

We’re seeing butterflies, birds, bees, and all kinds of insects everywhere! I heard that we’re going to be seeing a swarm of cicadas this year. It’s been 17 years since they’ve come out in full force. I hope it isn’t too bad! We have lots of fruit trees and I’ve heard that is what cicadas prefer.

companion garden patches fruit trees

Our garden tilled up into companion patches–you can see our fruit trees behind the garden!

butterfly eating nectar

Check out this pretty tiger swallowtail butterfly stopping by my wildflower garden for a snack!

Wildflowers are my favorite! They are all shooting up so fast out here. Some of them are blooming already. Before long, these beds will be full of vibrant, colorful flowers in different shapes and textures! I love how natural and earthy a wildflower bed looks.


A patch of yarrow growing up

bachelor buttons

A bunch of bachelor buttons will be blooming here before long!

I know the names of lots of wildflowers that pop up, but some of them have me clueless. There is a really pretty variety of pink, white, and red flowers that come up every year in one of my wildflower beds. Do you know what it’s called? I haven’t a clue! If you know what it is, please let me know if the comments section. ūüôā

mystery wildflower

What am I?

Doug’s Transition Back to Health with CVHR

Can I get a round of applause for the hard work and dedication of CVHR’s founders, volunteers, and supporters? Check out Doug now! Here he is the image of a happy, healthy horse ready to learn his job in the world. Doug has been evaluated under saddle now and he was an absolute gentleman!

Doug CVHR rescue horse

Doug April 2013

Doug has come a LONG way since his arrival to Central Virginia Horse Rescue. Doug is not the first horse to come to the rescue in such poor condition, and he won’t be the last. Thankfully, the good people at CVHR know how to rehabilitate horses incredibly well. This rescue truly gives every horse taken in another lease on life. Check out Doug’s transition over the past several months below:

Doug CVHR rescue horse

Doug’s transition back to health

I support CVHR because I can see the difference this organization makes every day. You can literally see your donations at work as horses are rehabbed, trained, and eventually adopted out into loving forever homes. Thanks for all that you do, CVHR!

Want to help the horses at CVHR? Donations are very much appreciated! Donate to CVHR via PayPal at or via snail mail to 389 Boydton Plank Road, Brodnax, VA 23920.

Stretching the Iliotibial Band

Since my leg has been feeling usable again, I’ve been researching ways to stretch the iliotibial band. Since it is such a large band, it can be tough to get a really good stretch.

Boy, it sure feels awesome when you find that perfect stretch though! I’ve been using the IT band stretch and the bum stretches for my hip pain. It really makes a difference in my day if I start out with these stretches.

The link below is the original page I found these stretches. It is illustrated with cute little stick figures! I thought I could show you the IT band stretches a little better with actual photos though.


IT Band Stretch

Stand on one leg and lean sideways away from that hip. You can put your other leg in front crossways for balance.

Bum Stretch 1

While lying down on your back, cross one leg over the other. Pull the lower leg up towards your chest.

Bum Stretch 2

Sit with one leg bent and cross the other leg over. Press the hip of the crossed leg downwards to stretch.

Just a Lil’ DIY Fire Pit

outdoor fireplace camp fire pit

Our bonfire area

The hubby and I built this awesome area for our bonfires! They seem to be pretty frequent this year, so we finally made an official outdoor fire area. It was fun making this area together and it was very easy and free!

Eddie cut a fallen pine into 3 foot sections to use as benches around the fire. They’re great! The rocks around the fire pit were found around the yard, woods, and the creek. We’re planning on building the rocks up into a more stable wall with some kind of cement or grout soon. For now, the rocks contain the fire and help give it stability.

I just love this spot in our yard now! I’m thinking about adding some mulch or pebbles around it to define the space better. There are so many things we could do with it! Do you have a favorite DIY outdoor area? What is it and how did you build it?

Iliotibial Band Syndrome = No fun!

Remember a few months ago when I posted about my bum knee? Well, I wanted to share the cause of my problem. Hopefully some of this information can help another person experiencing knee pain!

I found some great information at the link below. Check it out!

Iliotibial Band – A common source of hip and/or knee pain.

My pain was caused by ITB Syndrome. It’s often associated with runners, but apparently horseback riding and even walking can cause it. Basically, it’s an overuse injury. The pain can be excruciating.


The IT Band is illustrated in red                                        (Photo credit: fickleandfreckled)

A few weeks ago, the knee pain finally subsided (it only took 4 months). I wasn’t very happy when it was soon replaced with hip pain on the other end of the iliotibial band. Apparently the inflammation can occur at both joints it connects to. Thankfully they don’t both hurt at the same time!

I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on stretching and strengthening exercises. Once the inflammation starts to go down (this can take quite a bit of time), you can work on relaxing the IT band with stretches. The condition can also be treated by strengthening surrounding muscles. ITB Syndrome is often caused by muscle imbalances in the legs.

I’m going to try to post something soon that illustrates the different stretches you can try to relieve IT band tightness. I’ve also found that massage works great! My wonderful husband has spent many evenings trying to massage the tension out. He’s the best! ‚̧

ITB Syndrome can also be caused by a gait disorder. I’m not sure what caused mine, but I’m going to do my best to stretch and strengthen my leg back into condition.

Do you have ITB Syndrome? What have you done to relieve the pain and tension?

Raw Meat Diet for Your Dogs?

Wolves eat raw meat and bones as the main source of their diets. What about our domestic dogs? Genetically, dogs and wolves are practically identical. Heck, my dogs hunt voles, rats, squirrels, and even birds down all the time! Stray domestic dogs hunt and scavenge anything they can find to eat and survive, too–including raw meats and animal carcasses.

Would you feed your dog a diet of raw meat, bones, and forage? The article below considers the issue.

The Raw Diet for Dogs | Marks Daily Apple.

I’ve found that two of my dogs, Malachite and Bandit, have some kind of allergy to several commercial dog foods. Their skin gets dry and itchy and their fur turns coarse and wiry. Sometimes we’ll be feeding the same thing for months before they have a reaction, other times it is as soon as they start eating it.

Meet my puppies!

sandy yellow lab

Sandy (yellow lab)

sage german shepherd lab mix

Mama Sage (Sable German shepherd X yellow lab)

butters german shepherd yellow lab mix

Big Brother Butters (Sable German shepherd X yellow lab)

malachite german shepherd lab mix

Daddy Malachite (Sable German shepherd X yellow lab)

bandit german shepherd yellow lab mix

Little Brother Bandit (Sable German shepherd X yellow lab)

Corn, soy, gluten, chemicals, preservatives, and lots of other ingredients in commercial dog food can be troublesome to sensitive dogs. I’ve also heard of popular brands being recalled for making dogs get very sick and die all across the nation. Plus, the hubub about GMO corn and soy is enough to make anyone want to go organic.

We usually supplement our dogs’ dry food with leftovers, raw fresh fruits and veggies (like apples and carrots), rice, and olive oil. I think this helps keep them healthier and they certainly appreciate the taste!

german shepherd lab mix sleeping

Malachite snoozing with my niece

german shepherd lab mix

Butters and me

We often buy “soup bones” at the grocery store for them. My mom used to get these for our dogs when I was a kid, too. They are usually cow or pork bone with marrow and sometimes even a little meat left on the bone. The dogs LOVE them.

Mom likes to cook hers, but I leave ours raw. The marrow cooks out and the bone splinters easier when you boil them. Plus, I always figured it would be fine raw because…well, wolves and coyotes chew on raw bones and survive. Our dogs also get dewormed and vaccinated regularly, so I’m not worried about them getting “something” from the raw bones.

german shepherd lab mix

The boys hanging out in the snow

german shepherd yellow lab mixes

They loved hanging out in the snow

german shepherd lab mix

Bandit, Malachite, and Butters out in the snow with the kids

german shepherd lab mixes

Sleeping brothers Butters and Bandit

Anyway, I’ve been seriously considering this raw diet “fad.” There seems to be pros and cons on both sides, but ¬†my intuition tells me that natural is healthier. What do you think? Would you give the raw diet a try with your dogs?

CVHR Spring Hay Fundraiser

central virginia horse rescue dollar hay fundraiser


Don’t you wish they did? LOL Sometimes I do! Horses are expensive to feed and maintain. Central Virginia Horse Rescue has kicked off their Spring Hay Fundraiser with this funny picture! Donations can be sent via snail mail to CVHR at 389 Boydton Plank Road, Brodnax, VA 23920 or via PayPal to .

If everyone who sees this sent $1 to CVHR, they would have enough hay to feed the rescue horses for a year! A dollar isn’t much and every little bit will help feed the horses. Now, off to find a stamp… ūüôā

Companion Planting and Garden Planning

This year my garden is going to be totally different than it has ever been. Instead of making rows of vegetables, I’m growing my garden in small patches. Each patch will contain groups of companion plants that aid each other. I’ve been planning this since last year when my garden went kaput!

In addition to small companion patches, I’m adding flowers into each patch. Flowers are beneficial because they attract good garden bugs and cover the ground space, leaving less room for weeds to grow.

black eyed susans, marigolds, nasturtium, and lavender

Flowers are great for your garden!

Flowers in a vegetable garden? Sounds crazy, I know! I’m hoping that the end result is both beautiful and functional. I’m planning on planting marigolds, yarrow, black-eyed susans, daisies, asters, echinacea, lavender, and sunflowers! Hopefully they will do their job attracting ladybugs, hoever flies, lacewings, and wasps to the garden. Those insects are great at keeping garden pests at bay.

painted daisies, echinacea, asters

More wonderful flowers to keep your garden healthy

So what plants go well together? I’m so glad you asked! Here is what I’ve determined are good companion plants based on gardening experience and research into the topic. I have not included beans or peas because we don’t plant them here.

  • Asparagus should be planted near basil, parsley, tomatoes, and marigolds
  • Cabbage can be planted near celery, chard, cucumber, lettuce, onion, potatoes,¬†spinach,¬†chamomile¬† garlic, catnip, hyssop, rosemary, sage, dill, mint (in a container!), nasturtium, tansy, and thyme
  • Carrots go well with lettuce, onion, peppers, radishes, tomatoes, chives, rosemary, and sage
  • Celery likes to be near cabbage, tomatoes, chives, garlic, and nasturtium
  • Chard should be planted near cabbage and onions
  • Corn does well next to cucumbers, melons, parsley, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, marigolds, white geraniums, and pigweed
  • Cucumber can be planted near cabbage, corn, radishes, tomatoes, marigolds, nasturtium, oregano, and tansy
  • Eggplant does well near peppers and marigolds
  • Lettuce likes to be near cabbage, carrots, onions, radishes, strawberries, chives, cucumbers, and garlic
  • Melons do well near corn, pumpkin, radishes, squash, marigolds, nasturtium, and oregano
  • Onions can be planted close to cabbage, carrots, chard, lettuce, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes,¬†chamomile, summer savory, pigweed, and sow thistle
  • Parsley makes a great companion to asparagus, corn, and tomato
  • Peppers go near carrots, eggplants, onion, and tomatoes
  • Potatoes can be planted near cabbage, corn, eggplant, horseradish(very good at 4 corners of potato bed), sunflowers, and marigolds
  • Pumpkins like to be near corn, melon, squash, marigolds, nasturtium, and oregano
  • Spinach does great near cabbage, strawberries, and eggplant
  • Squash should go by corn, melons, pumpkins, borage, marigold, nasturtium, and oregano
  • Strawberries love it near lettuce, onion, spinach, thyme, and borage
  • Tomatoes are good near asparagus, carrots, celery, cucumber, onion, parsley, peppers, basil, bee balm, chives, mint, borage, and marigolds
  • Broccoli can go near onion, dill, sage, and peppermint
  • Cauliflower likes to be near onion, peppermint, sage, and thyme
  • Chives should be planted near onion and cabbage
  • Eggplant does well by peppers and lettuce
  • Marigolds can be added near basil, broccoli, cucumber, eggplant, potatoes, squash, tomatoes, and melons
  • Catnip helps pumpkins and squash
  • Lavender aids cabbage and cauliflower
companion planting

My garden plan sketch

This year, my garden will have four patches of companion plants. Here is what I’m planning:

1. Strawberries, spinach, lettuce, eggplant, cilantro, cucumber, marigold, cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, onion, chives, and lavender

companion plants

2. Corn, sunflowers, squash, cantelope, watermelon, pumpkin, catnip, oregano, parsley, marigold, nasturtium, lettuce, carrot, onion, chives, cucumbers

companion plants

3. Potatoes, cucumbers, marigolds, cabbage, chives, lavender, sunflowers, corn, echinacea

companion plants

4. Tomatoes, asparagus, cilantro, zucchini, parsley, okra, peppers, eggplant, carrot, onion, and marigolds

companion plants

We don’t plant beans of any kind because Eddie is allergic to all fava beans. Even the pollen from bean plants can cause a reaction, so we keep them out of our gardens.

seedlings for companion patch garden

Seeds I started have begun to sprout!


Baby strawberry plants!

onion seedlings

Onions are sprouting up too!

I’m so excited to see how everything does! Are you doing a garden this year? What does it look like?

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