Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stall Stripping

So yesterday I stripped Dixie's stall and let me just say it is not something I plan to do again any time soon.

The whole motivation for the stripping was to switch her over from straw to shavings. We've been told by a number of people (mainly horse owners) that shavings are better than straw and when I was out at Hillside the other week picking up feed, I saw that they sold shavings pre-bagged. One of the reasons I had been hesitant to make the switch originally was that I thought we had to buy the shavings loose which would have required the use of the pick-up truck and ever since Marty put a lift kit on it and giant wheels I have a hard time driving it. But pre-bagged shavings? Problem solved.

I drove out to Hillside yesterday morning and they loaded up the Blazer with 6 bags of shavings. The thought was that it would take 4 - maybe 4-1/2 bags to cover the stall (which at 180 square feet is bigger than some NYC apartments) and we would have some extra. Not that I mind the drive to Hillside all that much - but I'd like to start maintaining some inventory of supplies because I feel like I am running to one farm supply store or another every week.

The other thing I needed to get was lime. Hydrated lime specifically. You sprinkle this over the ground once the stall has been stripped and it helps absorb the ammonia odors that build up in the ground. Hillside doesn't sell hydrated lime so I also had to stop at the hardware store to pick some up. Now let me just say that it never occurred to me that hydrated lime was anything...bad.

I get to the hardware store and ask where I might find hydrated lime. It was in a garden aisle and came in a 5-lb. resealable yellow bag with pretty pictures of healthy lawns and flowers. Applications and uses included balancing PH levels in soil and yes - helping control odors in animal stalls. The directions were "to apply liberally" so I wasn't sure exactly how much lime I might need but I didn't think that 5 pounds was enough. My choice was to get 2 5-lb. bags for $8 or a 50-lb. bag for $10. I figured I'd go with the bargain. Of course, the 50-lb bags were in the back in the warehouse and the bag I bought was loaded directly into my car so I didn't see the actual product until I got home.

Anyways, the first project was to strip the stall i.e. empty it of every piece of existing straw and waste. That took about an hour. Then it came time to sprinkle the hydrated lime. I dragged the 50-lb bag (rather than plastic and resealable this bag was paper and not resealable) into the stall, opened it up (white lime dust starting to fly everywhere) and took a shovel and started sprinkling it over the dirt. It only took a few sprinkles and more flying white lime dust before I started to cough and have difficulty breathing. I stuck my head outside the stall to breathe some clean air and as I came back in, it was then that I noticed the red writing one the white bag of lime. Words like hazardous. Toxic. May be harmful. Irritation. Do not breathe dust fumes. Wear protective clothing to cover your skin.

Ok - so who thinks that lime is toxic? I certainly didn't and I felt so STUPID. Did my best to finish spreading the lime and then came back into the house and made 3 frantic phone calls to people who might know for sure if lime was indeed toxic and harmful to animals. I even called to guys at Hillside who said don't leave the bag out where the animals can eat it but a little on the ground was not a big deal. Reports on the Internet seemed to indicate otherwise but it was too late. The lime was down.

I let it sit for a few hours (what had been recommended to me and at this point, if I was going to follow 1 recommendation, shouldn't I follow them all?)and later in the afternoon, returned to finish the change-out. This time armed with a mask over my face, I mixed the lime into the dirt and wound up spreading all 6 bags of shavings (so much for inventory) to ensure maximum coverage of the potentially toxic ground underneath.

The stripping completed, I led Dixie in for her first feeding in her new stall. The first thing she did was to start to eat the shavings which lead me to a whole new round of neuroses but I'll save that for another post.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...