Recently, friends who plan to move to New Mexico asked kenny and me what we thought of a 40-acre tract north of Pie Town that was for sale. I sent the plat map to our Pie Town neighbor, karl Phaler, who took a tour of the area the next day. I thought his report was helpful for those looking from a distance (see “Reality Check,” EQUUS 481).
Land topography and other features: Has the land been overgrazed? Is the land fenced, or can it be easily fenced? Is existing fencing horse-safe?
Does the land have formations that would affect how it might be used? When karl walked the tract our friends asked about, he discovered a 50-foot deep arroyo that would be vulnerable to flash flooding. “It would be a really bad idea to be on the wrong side of this creek in a rainstorm,” he quipped.
Water: On this particular tract, karl noticed that there were no windmills in the vicinity of the neighboring cattle ranches—not a good sign. “Water is likely [only to be found] deep, if and where you can find it,” karl noted.
Views: While the spectacular Sawtooth Mountains greet visitors soon after the turnoff from the highway, after about four miles the elevation tails off into barren cattle ranches. “If you’re going to live in New Mexico, why not have a great mountain view in all directions?” asked karl.
“The bottom line for me,” said karl, “is that life anywhere near the Continental Divide is (apart from being Horse Heaven) much superior to living in the flatlands; there are no really bad choices here. The goal is to optimize your choice to meet your needs to balance both aesthetics and practical considerations.”
the house until the electric service is completed. (For more about wells, see “Digging Deeper,” EQUUS 478.)
We also need to put up interior fencing for paddocks on our main tract of 53 acres as well as construct new perimeter fencing on our nearby properties (a 22-acre and a 15-acre tract) so we can rotate pastures and turn horses out in small groups to save wear and tear on the delicate native grama grass. Kenny has been collecting materials and welding tposts to prepare for this next phase.
We still have to decide what kind of horse facilities to build, as well as how we will store hay. By spending time on the land this summer, we should have a better sense of what will work best for our herd before winter sets in. The ongoing challenge of locating a reliable source of round bales is also underway. Most folks in New Mexico feed straight alfalfa, and grass hay can be hard to come by.
Clearly, we must accomplish a fair number of things before we can settle into our New Mexico property for good. Until then, we will likely continue accepting our neighbor Karl’s hospitality and “commuting” the half-mile from his place to ours every day.
So here we are . . . rounding the far turn and heading into the homestretch of our building adventure with a renewed sense of resolve. There is much work yet to be done both in Hondo and Pie Town, but our hope to is get our horses, cats and cattle dog moved and settled before another Texas summer sets in.
If we had any concerns about leaving our property for so long, Karl quelled them with this on-site update: “[My poodle] Joy and I took another tour of the main Weber estate this morning. No one has even driven up to the gate, and the elk have been merciful---all of your interior tape fencing is still up. The house interior was surprisingly temperate (good insulation at work), although the old refrigerator looks kind of forlorn sitting on the floor in front of the glorious Samsung. All the outbuildings are secure, and the wellpump installation is simply waiting for activation. Your heartstead is behaving like a child lonesome for her parents, calling, ‘Come home.’”
Editor’s note: In the “Starting From Scratch” series, longtime EQUUS writer and editor Bobbie Lieberman shares the excitement, uncertainties, challenges and joys of building a new ranch for her horses.
By spending time on the land this summer, we should have a better sense of what will work best for our herd before winter sets in.
HAZARD: This deep arroyo would be vulnerable to flash flooding after a thunderstorm.