Just Horsing Around

Chipper pawing the water

On occasion, we allow our horses the opportunity to swim in one of our ponds.  Chipper, our middle-aged gelding, really enjoys the water.  For some reason, he always likes to paw at the pond water, as you can see above.

Pawing becomes more frantic

The pawing starts off with gentle strokes of his front leg, but before long, the activity becomes more frantic, splashing water all over the place.

The commotion attracts others to the pond

Soon, all of this commotion draws the attention of Gracie, who feels compelled to check out the activity going on at the pond.

Pretty soon, the whole gang’s involved

Eventually, the whole gang gets involved.  Chipper, meanwhile, continues non-stop with the odd water pawing behavior.  He wants to be sure that every fish in the pond knows of his presence, I guess.

Just one more bite, please

Content in the knowledge that he has successfully sullied the pond for the next few days, Chipper grabs a few bites of grass before heading back to his grazing pasture (located away from the pond, of course).

Invasion of the Corn Snatchers

Black deer in Arkansas?

“Look honey, more deer at the far game feeder.

Wait a minute, deer aren’t black!

These animals aren’t deer, they’re cattle!

“Hey y’all, look what I just did over here.”

Well, as long as we’re already here…

“Well, as long as we’re already here…”

Well, just when I thought that I had pretty much solved the problem of critters molesting the game feeders by the judicious use of appropriate varmint guards, I find I may have to figure out a way to make them cattle-proof, as well.

Another one bites the dust!

You see, we share 1.75 miles of barbed wire fence with one of our neighbors (who has holdings of about 500 acres), as shown on this map, in the form of a bold black line.

Existing common fence

There is a .25 mile long section of this fence that I rigorously maintain to pen our horses.  Unfortunately, the remaining 1.5 miles of existing fencing between us is old and in pretty sorry shape.  This neighbor has recently rented out pasture to a local rancher, and over the past several days his cattle have been testing and challenging the old barbed wire fence.  Each day, try as it might, the fence ends up losing the battle, as two dozen bovines make their way into our early spring hayfields, eagerly dining on the succulent fresh fescue and red clover.

Each afternoon, a telephone call brings the rancher over to our place, to round up his errant cattle.  Yesterday the cattle discovered that not only do we have the best grass in the area, but there’s corn for dessert as well!  So, even though the neighboring rancher is apologetic and is working daily on mending the fence, I’m guessing we’ll be seeing the cattle here again soon.  But I really hope I’m wrong.  Besides the damaged feeder, there are other concerns that the encroaching cattle bring about.  Whereas I have been working to maintain healthy banks along our creeks, the cattle trample the banks, causing erosion of the soils and decimation of the filtering vegetation along the creek sides.

If this were twenty or thirty years ago, my neighbor would have come over to round up the cattle mounted atop his trusty steed.  Alas, cowboys don’t ride horses anymore, but are experts at herding cattle as they sit astride ninety horsepower ATVs equipped with aggressive off-road tires.  As you can see below, vehicle traffic and emerging hay fields don’t mix well. 

Modern “hoof prints”

Hopefully, the repairs that our neighbor made to the fence will hold the cattle.  I plan to walk this portion of the fence line tomorrow to make a current assessment of the situation.  I’d rather not have to share in the expense of having a new, sturdy fence built along this great a distance, but I am not prepared to try and keep an old brittle fence cattle-tight as a do-it-yourself project.  As they say, “I’ve been there and done that, and I ain’t doin’ it again.”

A Quaint Remnant of the Past

Perhaps you recall from a post back in July (Welcome to Our Hen Houses) that we have two structures for housing our fowl.  The guineas are housed in a free standing hen house, with  indoor and outdoor areas.  The chickens are housed in an enclosure within our equipment barn.  Locating the chickens within the equipment barn has proven to be a BIG mistake.   We like to release our chickens each morning and pen them back up at night, which means that there are times during the day that they congregate in the barn and on the equipment.  I’ll spare you any photographs, but you can imagine the mess they create on the equipment, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is totally unacceptable.  I suppose I should have anticipated this occurrence.  I mean, it is called an equipment barn, is it not?

As it happens, our chicken flock has been reduced in number by predation, and there are only three remaining at this time.  We have ordered chicks from a hatchery to augment our shrunken flock, and expect them to arrive in a few weeks. (if this cycle does NOT seem like deja vu to you, see the post To Free, or Not to Free (range your chickens, that is).   Prior to their arrival, we thought this would be a good time to relocate the chickens to housing located some distance away from the equipment barn.  We have tried housing the chickens in a chicken tractor (see A Tractor for Chickens?) without much success, and have decided that another free standing chicken structure would be appropriate for our needs.

Having settled on the type of chicken housing we wanted, the next step was to choose between buying a prefab chicken structure or building one ourselves.  When attending a HorseFest in Springfield last year, Retta brought home a catalog from an Amish owned company in Seymour, Missouri that produces a variety of livestock shelters.  Within the catalog were several structures that could possibly suit our needs, so we thought we would take a ride to Seymour and look them over so that we could make an informed build-buy decision.  Only one thing stood in the way of our plan to drive to Seymour – Bull Shoals Lake.

Bull Shoals Lake

This topographic map depicts a portion of Bull Shoals Lake.  It is a lake about 40-50 miles long created by the (some would say the damn) damming of the White River, which formed a lake with a multitude of fingers and a shoreline exceeding 1000 miles!  You can see a yellow boundary line in the map, which represents the Missouri-Arkansas border.

We reside on the south side of Bull Shoals Lake, while Seymour, Missouri lies well north of the lake.  Driving all the way around Bull Shoals Lake is a long detour for someone heading due north, and there are no bridges spanning the lake at any point.  So what’s a person to do?

Peel Ferry

That’s right – hop on board a ferry to be shuttled across the lake!  The Ozarks is an area that is blessed with an abundance of surface water in the form of creeks, streams and rivers.  In earlier times, there was a large number of private and public ferries in operation that transported people, wagons and livestock across the many waterways that occur in this region.  One by one, the ferries halted operation as bridges were built to span the rivers of the area.  In Arkansas, by 1968 the hundreds of ferries that had served the state were reduced in number to 17.  By 1986, there were only 4 ferries remaining in operation, and today, there is only 1 ferry that continues to serve the public in Arkansas – the Peel Ferry.  And so our journey to Seymour, Missouri would take us on a minor, but quaint adventure across Bull Shoals Lake on the last surviving Arkansas ferry.

I have had the good fortune to travel around the Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca in the Pacific Northwest on many occasions.  Ferry travel is common in that area, and I have ridden those ferries a number of times.  Big ferries, with multiple automobile decks, passenger lounges, food and beverage service, and some (for longer journeys) with sleeping accommodations.  The Peel Ferry has none of these amenities, as is obvious from the following photograph-

The Peel Ferry

The Peel Ferry is about as simple as a ferry can get.  It is no more than a barge with ramps on each end, powered by a small tug lashed to the side of the auto barge.  It will only hold about six vehicles, and has no passenger amenities at all.  Simply a way across the lake.  But the price is right – the ferry is free for all to use.

Peel Ferry departing the dock

Here is a photograph of the ferry leaving the the dock on the south side of Bull Shoals Lake, as it begins it’s short journey to the opposite side of the lake.

What if there is a wave?

Unlike the ferries of the Pacific Northwest, which ply ocean like waters, this ferry only traverses a short section of placid lake water.  The loading ramps do not even need to be elevated for the trip across the lake.

Destination straight ahead!

Eventually, the ferry approaches the dock on the opposite shore of the lake.  Notice the massive lineup of cars awaiting the ferry at it’s terminus?  The question might arise, “why does this ferry continue to run, especially at no charge, when all the others have discontinued operation”?  The answer lies in a close examination of the topographic map that appears at the beginning of this post.  You will notice that below the Missouri border, but north of the lake the is a large chunk of land protruding down into the lake area.  This land area is too small to form it’s own political jurisdiction, but large enough to contain roads, and probably several hundred residents, all of whom need the services that are typically provided by a county government.  Lacking a costly bridge, the county would be faced with the daunting prospect of having to provide services to this portion of the county by routing vehicles and road equipment all the way around the lake, into Missouri, and then back down into Arkansas again.  Instead, the Arkansas Department of Highways and Transportation has opted to maintain the services of the Peel Ferry, primarily for the benefit of the county, but available for all motorists to use.

One lane bridge

After leaving the ferry, the small highway that services the area winds through the beautiful landscape of the Ozarks.  The picture above shows one of the two one-lane bridges that are located shortly beyond the north terminus of the ferry.  All-in-all, the Peel Ferry adds a quaint charm to what would otherwise be merely a bucolic and picturesque drive in the countryside.  If you are ever in the area, make it a point to be one of the few people who gets the opportunity to ride the last remaining ferry in Arkansas.