Neigh­borly ad­vice

EQUUS - - Starting From Scratch -

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.

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