Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finally a Truck Purchase

My old Ford truck failed me and I was grounded for a couple of months while Mr. OnceUpon and I considered repair/replacement options and test drove several used trucks.

We chose to replace the old Ford F250 diesel with a new 2010 GMC Sierra 2500 HD SLE Z71 4x4 with the 6.0L gas engine. (If that isn't gibberish to you, then you know trucks and I'm impressed.)

I've never had such a difficult time narrowing down a vehicle choice. Ford, Dodge, Chevy, GMC...then there are the different engine options and trim levels and this and that. It was becoming overwhelming so one Saturday we decided to get in the old Ford, drive to a dealership, and "Get 'er Done!" Eight long hours later, we drove home in the GMC.

We went back and forth about gas vs. diesel and everyone we talked to had a strong opinion one way or the other. We decided on the gasoline engine for a couple of reasons.
  1. The diesel engine is a $7,000.00 option. Ouch.

  2. A diesel engine is overkill for the amount of towing I do, which is less than 2,000 miles a year (3,219 km).

This new truck has the power to haul two horses anywhere I want to go. Sure, it will be less fuel efficient hauling a trailer up a mountain pass, but I can buy a lot of gasoline for many years to come before I'd reach the break-even point on a diesel purchase.

The new truck is a pleasure to drive and it is nice to have a positive occurrence after the recent string of truck & horse issues.

LESSON LEARNED: Get the facts - the Carfax (or AutoCheck report) when you buy a used vehicle.

When someone wants to make their problem your problem...buyer beware! (That goes for horses too.) We got ripped off on the old Ford which we bought based on the seller's word and a pre-purchase check at a local diesel specialty shop; both of which turned out to be a bit unreliable.

We spent a lot of money repairing that truck, but kept finding more and more problems. It was time to be rid of it. We received a clean title when we purchased it, but when we went to trade it in, we discovered it had been salvaged early in its existence. It originally came from Canada (the tire pressure info on the inside of the driver's door was in French). Apparently it was wrecked at 15,000 miles, rebuilt, sold, and the title got washed as it passed through several states in the U.S. If we'd pulled a Carfax or AutoCheck, we would have known better because all the details showed up in the report. We didn't get much in trade at the dealership because of the salvage history. As they say, "Live and learn."

In the meantime, I'm finally getting out & about with Misty; taking riding lessons and getting training help.

Misty is faring well as a lonely-only, but I do want her to have another stablemate one of these days.

I heard from Marley's owner that "he is happy and doing well."

I'm shopping for a 2nd horse now and I wish I could pull a Horsefax on prospective ponies. I hope I can be smart about this next purchase. I'll be sharing some thoughts on that in an upcoming post.

Horse shopping is even more portentous than truck shopping!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Littlest Swallow

It's very nerve-racking when children begin to exercise their independence.

We have our first family of Swallows nesting in our barn.

This was taken a couple of weeks ago:

I love how the parents decorated with equine tail hairs.

Just this past Monday evening when I went into the barn to feed Misty, I discovered the babies had left the nest - all five of them. Three were on the floor and two were precariously perched on a board about 10 feet up the wall.

I shut the stall doors so Misty couldn't come in and step on anyone. She would have to spend the night outside, but that's ok; she's an outdoorsy kind of girl.

One of the babies on the floor flew upward and tried to land on the top of the inner stall wall, but it couldn't find a perch and quickly disappeared as it fell behind the wall, down to the bottom and became trapped between the inner stall wall and the outside wall of the barn.


I couldn't bear to think of the poor little guy stuck back there. He wouldn't be able to get out unless he could fly straight up, like a helicopter, for about 8 feet. So I called my husband down to the barn and we went over the options.

1. Let life (or death in this case) takes its course.
2. Rescue the little guy....but how?

We opted for option 2. We knew the barn builder did a good job when he constructed our barn. We were about to find out just how good a job he really did. We wish our home was built as solidly as this barn.

First, Mr. OnceUpon removed the trim so he could get to the boards.

Then he began prying the edge of the bottom board loose a little bit, working the nail heads out enough to get the hammer claw around them and pull them all the way out. This turned out to be quite difficult, as the nails were about 6 inches long and strongly embedded.

With a lot of struggle and grunting, Mr. OnceUpon pulled the last nail out, but alas, the board wouldn't budge. That's when we noticed that the two bottom boards had additional tacks in the center of each board. Those two boards weren't going to come out at all. So Mr. OnceUpon repeated the process of prying and removing the nails from the 3rd board up. Again, a difficult and time consuming task...and not how he had planned to spend his evening.

The third board was finally loose, but there was no way to dislodge it completely. It was wedged tightly in place by the boards on the corner wall. And from what we were discovering about our barn, the boards are probably nailed in on that end too.

We scratched our heads, wondering what to do next. We couldn't pull the board out far enough to reach the baby swallow. Should we get destructive and cut the board? Oh, why not. We've already been at this for a couple of hours and we're so close.

Mr. OnceUpon asked me if I had a block of wood he could use to hold the board out far enough so he could cut it with a saw.

Hmm? A block of wood? I looked all around the barn. No blocks of wood, but I do have this collection of cow bones I've found on our property.

Mr. OnceUpon fired up his power saw and started cutting. And here's why those two bottom boards were too secure to pry loose. They are tacked to this extra support piece. The baby was to the right of this support board.

And here's the reason for all this trouble (click the picture to get a good look at that face):

I tried to reach down to scoop the baby up in a dust mask, but my arms weren't long enough. Fortunately, Mr OnceUpon has longer arms than me and the baby swallow was finally freed. Hurray!

It was getting late, but the lights were on in the barn and the little trouble maker started flying around, looking for a place to perch. He managed to make his way up to the board where two of his siblings were perched. The three of them huddled together and spent the night on this board.

During all this drama, one of the other two had managed to fly back up to the nest, leaving the youngest sibling on the floor, looking very pitiful. This baby, the littlest swallow, must have been the last egg to hatch and was not ready to leave the nest this day. It reminded me of something my dad used to say when I was a kid, "If all your friends jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, would you jump too?" In the case of the littlest swallow, the answer is yes. I placed some hay around him so he'd have something like a nest to surround him.

It was 11pm by this time. All the birds, including the parents, were in the barn and seemingly safe for the moment. Mr. OnceUpon quickly glued the board back together and secured it in place with long screws and we called it a night.

What a nice man I married. He never got angry or cranky once; not even when he bonked his head on the stall door while prying those long nails out of the wall.

About 5:30 the next morning, Mr. OnceUpon put the trim back in place while Misty supervised. She's still banned from the barn so she enjoyed her breakfast outside.

The babies all survived the night in their various sleeping spots. Before I left for work I was surprised to find the parents and the four older kids all sitting on the pasture fence just outside the barn.

But what of the littlest swallow?
Thank goodness I emptied the automatic waterers the previous day!

He looked pretty safe in there and while I was snapping this picture one of the parents flew into the barn to check on him.

When I came home from work that evening, I found the four older siblings all back in the nest and the littlest swallow was on the ground in Misty's paddock. He flew a little bit and managed to perch on the pasture fence where he was joined by his parents. They fed him dinner and then went to the barn and called for him. He eventually made it back into Misty's stall, but he couldn't gain more than about 4 feet in altitude and was stuck on the floor of the stall again while his siblings cuddled together in the nest above. I put a 2-foot tall wire shelf in the stall and he flew up onto it and settled down for the night. He was still perched on the shelf this morning. I left for work wondering how they would fare today and hoping the littlest swallow would find his wings soon.

I'm happy to report this evening that all the kids, including the littlest swallow, have found their way into the nest for the night.