A DOWS­ING ROD AND GPS

EQUUS - - Starting from Scratch -

Wa­ter avail­abil­ity re­mains a crit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tion through­out much of the South­west. We’d been told this area was blessed with abun­dant wa­ter. So much wa­ter and so few peo­ple, in fact, that there is a con­tro­ver­sial plan in place to “har­vest” wa­ter from un­der­ground aquifers on the Au­gustin Plain near Datil and pipe it north to sub­di­vi­sions near Al­bu­querque. Many lo­cal folks con­sider this akin to steal­ing lo­cal res­i­dents’ wa­ter and sell­ing it else­where. We would need to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion closely Lo­cal well-driller Wal­ter El­liot drove out from Pie Town to help us de­ter­mine the like­hood of find­ing wa­ter. His wife Kathy and son Jesse both search for wa­ter us­ing the an­cient method of dows­ing- the art of find­ing wa­ter, trea­sure or other hid­den things with a di­vin­ing rod. Jesse wielded a pair of brass weld­ing (braz­ing) rods as he walked along the south­ern perime­ter of the prop­erty. When he passed over un­der­ground wa­ter, the rods snapped to­gether. “I have no idea how it works,” Jesse

told me. “All I know is that it does.”

The rods clicked to­gether, mark­ing one po­ten­tial site, but tipped off by the pres­ence of large ant mounds, Jesse set off on a di­ag­o­nal path up­hill and soon found a bet­ter spot. “That’s the place!” Jesse said. Af­ter record­ing the GPS co­or­di­nates, Jesse and Wal­ter marked the spot with a post and red sur­veyor’s tape. The next step would be to se­cure a drilling per­mit from the state en­gi­neer’s of­fice in Al­bu­querque.

We learned that sev­eral prop­er­ties in the area had found wa­ter, but some of the wells dried up within two to three years. In some in­stances, wa­ter would have to be hauled in. With the num­ber of horses we have (at last count, 14), we were of course con­cerned but hope­ful this site would yield suf­fi­cient wa­ter.

That same af­ter­noon we drove to Show Low, Ari­zona, to meet the owner of the prop­erty and his girl­friend, both of whom are de­light­ful free spir­its. We signed the pa­per­work, had it no­ta­rized at a lo­cal bank, and wrote checks for the down pay­ment. It was ours!

The next step would be to fur­ther ex­plore site se­lec­tion for the house, barn and stor­age shed. On Satur­day af­ter­noon, we headed back to the prop­erty and scouted out a num­ber of spots. It needed to be fairly level, with suf­fi­cient space to build a home, barn and metal stor­age build­ing. We wanted it to be some­what se­cluded yet not too far from the well or the road. And we hoped for a spec­tac­u­lar moun­tain view in at least one di­rec­tion. We kept com­ing back to a place on top of a ridge with a lovely open area. Kenny marked the co­or­di­nates on a GPS and we made plans to ride the prop­erty the next day.

RE­FLEC­TIONS ON SIM­PLIC­ITY

“It’s nat­u­ral to over­think it,” said our friend and fu­ture neigh­bor Karl Phaler, “but now it’s time to strip away some of the com­plex­ity.”

Kenny and I had ini­tially en­vi­sioned putting up a barn and stor­age shed be­fore build­ing a home. But be­cause the goal is to get ponies and peo­ple here be­fore an­other Texas sum­mer sets in, we are be­gin­ning to think it makes more sense to pro­ceed di­rectly to build­ing a house, then spend the next sev­eral months learn­ing what the horses need be­fore build­ing ad­di­tional fa­cil­i­ties. The tem­per­ate cli­mate for much of the year, along with abun­dant trees and hills, is na­ture’s de­sign for happy horses.

Karl has been feed­ing his herd of five lit­tle more than large (1,200 pound) square bales of al­falfa grown in Las Cruces and de­liv­ered to a sup­plier 20 miles away. One bale lasts them a week (longer dur­ing mon­soon sea­son). They also have free ac­cess to a min­eral sup­ple­ment.

With our cur­rent herd of 14, we would need about two of th­ese large bales per week. Our ponies are ac­cus­tomed to

get­ting soaked mashes ev­ery morn­ing (one pound of al­falfa-ti­mothy pel­lets along with a pound of a low-starch, high-fat com­plete feed) laced with var­i­ous sup­ple­ments, from pro­bi­otics and omega-3s to joint and hoof health. But one look at the ex­cel­lent body con­di­tion and strong hooves of Karl’s horses shows they are not lack­ing for good nu­tri­tion.

To sim­plify our horse­keep­ing, we are con­sid­er­ing go­ing with free-choice al­falfa and min­er­als, and giv­ing a mash when­ever we ride or travel to an en­durance ride. Start sim­ple and add as needed is our new mantra.

As for shel­ter, the abun­dant hills and full, round pinyon and ju­niper trees pro­vide plen­ti­ful wind­breaks. Win­ters are con­sid­ered rel­a­tively mild, with highs in the mid-40s and lows in the mid-teens for about three to four months of the year. Run-in sheds will re­main part of the long-range plan as needed. We do plan to con­struct a tack­ing-up area and wash racks.

Of course, fenc­ing is one of the first con­sid­er­a­tions. Orig­i­nally, we had planned to di­vide the 55 acres into four quad­rants, en­abling us to split the herd into two groups and ro­tate pas­tures to pre­vent over­graz­ing. Now we are con­sid­er­ing the idea of a “Pad­dock Par­adise,” a horse­keep­ing sys­tem TAK­ING STOCK: de­vel­oped by Jaime Jack­son based on a wild-horse model of how horses move, in­ter­act and eat. It al­lows horses to roam the perime­ter of the prop­erty on a fairly nar­row track, din­ing as they go on hay fed in small-hole hay nets. This ap­proach max­i­mizes herd move­ment and min­i­mizes dam­age to the sen­si­tive blue grama grasses that grow here sea­son­ally. The nat­u­ral con­tours of the land and trees make this sys­tem very at­trac­tive.

SUR­VEY­ING THE LAND

We had a rough pho­to­copy of the plat map to iden­tify the metes and bounds of the two parcels that com­prised the prop­erty. Now the chal­lenge was to

trans­fer them to a Google Earth dis­play and con­firm the bound­aries of the prop­erty. It had been sur­veyed, but some of the mark­ers were over­grown in weeds or cov­ered up by prairie dog tun­nels. So Kenny set out to trans­fer the metes and bounds to the Google Earth map and mark the way­points of each bound­ary in a Win­dows graphics pro­gram called MS Paint. With a screen shot in one hand and a hand­held GPS in the

The tem­per­ate cli­mate for much of the year, along with abun­dant trees and hills, is na­ture’s de­sign for happy horses.

other, we ex­plored, and sure enough, buried in the grass was a for­merly hid­den marker.

Karl and I sad­dled up a cou­ple of ponies and rode to the ridge we keep com­ing back to. The land was quite level and the views fan­tas­tic. It was look­ing more and more like “the” place. On our way back we bumped into neigh­bors Jeff and Lynn Haught on their ATV and stopped to chat. While my Walker mare Gypsy was try­ing to frisk them for car­rots, we learned that Jeff and Lynn build fences, dig trenches and do many other things. We in­vited them to stop by Karl’s place later that af­ter­noon.

Jeff and Kenny took off on an all­ter­rain ve­hi­cle to ride the perime­ter of the prop­erty, and upon their re­turn, Jeff worked up a quote for fenc­ing with four strands of twisted smooth wire, t-posts with caps and wooden posts for corners and gates. Price for la­bor and all ma­te­ri­als will be about $1.25 per lin­ear foot. They thought they’d be able to be­gin con­struc­tion some­time in late Oc­to­ber.

We re­turned home from our trip to New Mex­ico---from 7,300 feet to near sea level, from 73 de­grees to 93, from lit­tle hu­mid­ity to sauna-like con­di­tions. But re­cent rains have left the grass in Texas green and grow­ing---a won­der­ful byprod­uct of liv­ing in this cli­mate. And the abun­dant rain will en­sure a good sup­ply of hay for the win­ter from area grow­ers.

While there are a num­ber of un­re­solved is­sues to be dis­cussed be­fore we break ground, we are ex­cited about our New Mex­ico ad­ven­ture and ready to take the next steps to­ward ful­fill­ing our dream.

SITE SE­LEC­TION: Ide­ally, the home, barn and stor­age build­ing will be lo­cated on fairly level land with moun­tain views.

Bob­bie Lieber­man ex­plores the prop­erty aboard her mare Gypsy.

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