How is this blog post about horses or HorseGirlTV? It’s about lifestyle and a massive part of my life and daily lifestyle is with horses and HorseGirlTV here at the farm.

It’s a personal long term goal to reach sustainability. This is not to say a lifestyle looking to end of times, armageddon, type routine but starting with simple things that are not so hard and piece by piece transform a disposable life into a renewable one. Yes, this is a tall order in todays Walmart, flash in the pan, now and me generation, fad world but I don’t believe it an impossible task and while the end result might not look like Little House on the Prairie, it will hopefully appeal to future generations and look good to the Earth.

This is something we can all do and the end result doesn’t have to be living off the grid but just little shifts in our daily lives and the way we function can help. EVERYONE can do SOMETHING no matter how small it’s a shift for the future.

How it started at the studio of HorseGirlTV about 2 years ago was very simple. We bought some land with an old tobacco drying barn, a farm house, and quite literally TONS of clean up work…

STEP ONE: Clean up the trash. Some people in the country tend to follow the regard that burning all trash is ok and when you sell a home I found it also just ok to leave about 10 bags of it everywhere. Rather than hiring a trash service, we painstakingly went through the trash separating metals, plastic, paper and anything else we could recycle. It wasn’t a pretty job but about 30% of that stuff was recyclable, some of the paper was burnable and the rest was sadly land fill city. Again, rather than hiring a monthly trash service we found a local drop off location for trash AND recycling. It’s very near the farm, they are incredibly friendly and one 32 gallon trash can costs a mere $1.50. After the initial drop off of the Seller’s abandoned trash the goal was filling only one 32 gallon trash can per month and even without changing our manners of purchase and ways of eating that was SIMPLE!

STEP TWO: Recycle TONS of metal!.. There was an awesome John Deere hay baler abandoned, among many other things, on the property and after detailed inspection of it’s restoration potential it was decided that sadly it was not salvageable. Instead of it being landfill material, I found a local metal recycling company that would pick it up for free and they also dropped off a large container that we proceeded, over the next month, to fill with all the discarded pieces of metal that were abandoned here as well. We FILLED the container, it was free and the metal was recycled!

STEP THREE: Horse safety. While barbed wire is an romantic notion illustrating the taming of the West, it’s neither safe for human, horse or most other animals and with the entire property strung with barbed wire loosely attached to rotting poles, that was the next order of business. The poles that were salvageable were re-used for a variety of projects, some were used for campfire, some were given away for other peoples projects and all the barbed wired was painfully rolled and sold to the metal recycling center at market value (about 4 miles from the farm) when our next load of metal had been amassed. The perimeter fence was built with the bulk of the post holes dug and set by hand approximately 20 feet apart and strung with the best quality/lifespan of electrified rope and tape combo we could find on the market.

STEP FOUR: While this step did not have the best carbon footprint possible it was the easiest step and looking at the lifetime of the structure does cost out to be a benefit. The J&N Structures Amish Built Modular barn was brilliant. The craftsmanship incomparable, the setup was in 3 hours and the friends up in PA I made are such lovely, lovely people!

STEP FIVE: Again not part of the sustainability path but a necessity for a dressage stable is a dressage court & 20 meter lunging circle. These were installed by the wonderful folks at Attwood Equestrian Surfaces and created near all-weather training abilities! The drainage is definitely in line with a happier earth as we installed EZ Flow drainage by Infiltrator Systems. EZ Flow displaces a significant amount of rock which, in turn, doesn’t require large machines to install and is made from recycled products. The plus side is it works better than any drainage I’ve heard of!

These initial steps were to clean the property and establish it as a dressage facility. With these major projects all completed, the focus could now be on steps towards sustainability. Here are a few of the simple steps that we all can do that have been taken:

  1. All metal is saved until we have enough to justify a short trip to the drop off center. They pay market price for scrap metal. The last trip took about 45 minutes to complete the loading, off loading and payout of $33.00.
  2. All plastic, glass and paper is recycled when I take our monthly 32 gallon trash can to the dump for $1.50. Recycling is free of course.
  3. The manure compost has been steeping, turned over and is ready for the garden and other mulching this spring.
  4. The kitchen was remodel. I single handed did it all with the focus on updating the look using as much of what we had by re-using, selling the old appliances, and buying new, more energy efficient ones.
  5. While it still seems small, a larger step to sustainability was taken with 6 hens and a rooster. Even in the dead of winter we now average a yield 3 eggs per day and it only takes an extra 3 minutes with AM stable feeding to walk back to the coop, drop feed and retrieve eggs.
  6. What do I use in the stable? Equine Pine bedding is the most eco-friendly and easiest to work with bedding I’ve ever found. Absorbine is doing the best job in the horse health industry to update it’s delivery systems using less material and enviro-friendly options plus the bottles and bags are recyclable. We buy the best quality manufactured products affordable. If they last longer there is less waste. Horse polos that need to be retired can be gifted to your pony club as they can use them on smaller horses for standing wraps over quilted pads. Recycled stable mats from Royal Mats are the best on the market made from recycled tires and this Canadian based company is smart to utilize the brilliant tax benefits the country offers to recyclers! A sponge that might need to be retired from it’s horse shampooing days can be a great sponge for bucket cleaning. Replace your old school light bulbs in the stable with compact fluorescent bulbs, they burn less and last longer. Employ 12 volt converted solar power wherever possible. If you have an electric fence charger or gate opener, consider switching to a solar when the update is necessary. Groom your arena when needed not just on a regular schedule. It does look pretty all groomed and perfect but don’t waste the diesel if the footing doesn’t need it.

What does the future hold for these and more? The focus in Q1 is determining how to reduce. One of the easiest ways is to re-define eating habits and making purchases around less packaging, more fruits, vegis and grain (all of which the scraps can be fed to the chickens thus reducing the need for buying scratch). Less packaging equals less trash and less recycling. Bulk grains, bags of dried instead of cans of beans and vegetables that don’t come in frozen packages or packaging in general. Seriously how hard is it to clean your fresh vegis, chop and bag them yourself for freezer time at home and ask yourself when at the market, ‘Do I really need to have these apples in a plastic bag?’ because the answer is, you do not. Another focus is on buying local whenever possible. This means NEVER going to Walmart of course. 😉 Buying local isn’t easy in all places but you’re supporting your local economy and cutting down the carbon footprint.

I mentioned earlier the manure is ripe for use as fertilizer and this is not the case with all manure. If you’re using shavings you likely have a significant amount of it in your manure and this does not degrade easily. As I mentioned, we use pelleted bedding which in and of itself is a smart eco-choice. Equine Pine is shipped in 40 pound bags and 1 bag equals about 2 bags of shavings. Do the math?.. Smaller packaging, larger yield means compact shipments doing more and decreasing the carbon footprint for the transport. It’s brilliant for any size stable but for stables with limited storage space it’s ideal as you could store your entire years supply of bedding across 3 tall stacked pallets! Now back to manure… Since we use the Equine Pine and the Shake’n Fork cleaning tool we have little to no waste of bedding and therefore a very pure manure pile. This pile is adjacent to the future garden area and will be spread this winter and tilled in to begin it’s steps to becoming a spring/summer garden.

So the chickens are great and have a fabulous coop but that could be improved as well. With raccoons and fox common in the area it’s best to protect them so we’ll look to the future of a chicken tractor where they have plenty of free range space but simultaneously be protected from predators and can be moved around the property to scratch and peck for bugs, etc which coupled with them getting table scraps will almost eliminate the need to purchase outside grain.

From there the flat topped roof farm house can employ the use of solar panels to turn sun into energy and a long term goal of harnessing the amazing wind we have here near the coast will also turn the breeze into power. The farmhouse, circa mid 80s is drafty so it’s on the list to seal gaps with a no-voc caulk saving. The $ spend on the caulk will be returned in the savings in heating and cooling bills. Another item on the list is putting up low-emissivity films on the windows. This will also aid in heat and cool escaping through the glass.

This list could go on and on but essentially I’m putting together a list for 2011 and com-parting it out by quarters so what might seem like daunting tasks can be turned into realistic and fun weekend projects throughout the year.

So a very long story short. There is no Egg-cuse for not doing something to reduce, reuse, and recycle or to seek options of sustainability. Even if you’re in a college dorm or a loft in SoHo, you have options. While the end result doesn’t need to be my long term goal of getting off the grid, there’s the option to do something positive for the future of quality of life on the planet. Now how is this blog post about horses? It’s looking to the larger picture of quality of life that will trickle down into all aspects of our life including our outdoor lifestyle with horses. Do it for yourself, your horses and for future riders everywhere.

I’m always looking for suggestions. Please if you have one send feedback thru the HorseGirlTV Contact form online!