acreage living November 1999

ISU cooperative extension

In this issue: acreage living home page

 Coping With Country Living

Gary Gugeby Gary Guge, ISU Extension County Extension Education Director, Harrison County
Phone: 712-644-2105 - e-mail:

Editor's note:

Gary Guge, long-time County Extension Education Director, expressed a desire to share his thoughts on the transition to country living with you. Knowing Gary's background, I thought you might gain some valuable insight from his comments.  Gary asked that his article be treated as an editorial/opinion piece, rather than an informational article.  I hope you'll accept it as such. I have taken the liberty of interjecting my own observations about Gary's comments in italics.
- The Editor

You've purchased your country home and have great expectations for living in the country.  Living in the country is certainly different from life in the city.  What should you expect? The experience of moving from the city to the country will certainly be different for each individual and family. I would like to share my perspective as a person who has lived most of my life in a rural area working with farmers and rural communities.

You have purchased a home in a business zone. All around you is the business of producing food.  Growing crops and raising livestock is how your neighbors make their living.  They are used to occasional different odors coming from fields and buildings in the neighborhood.  What may stink to you is pretty well accepted as a way of life to your farmer neighbors. They know  smells from manure will be there if they expect to continue to make a living and they are worried!  They worry that someone who has moved from the city to the country is going to complain and file lawsuits that will prohibit them from continuing their way of life as food producers. Their grandparents produced livestock followed by their parents, and now they feel threatened by the changing countryside and the increasing non-farmer population.

I think Gary accurately identifies a major fear of farmers. They fear increased pressure from non-farmer neighbors will make it impossible for them to continue their business livelihood.  In fact, most nuisance law suits against farmers are filed by other farmers, not non-farmer neighbors, but the fear of litigation ending a way of life is very real in rural communities.

The farmers in your neighborhood are used to dusty roads and expect that a car or piece of slow moving equipment may be just over the crest of the next hill. Driving on rock roads that have just one set of wheel tracks down the center is an acquired skill. This creates a big safety issue, and there will be no winners if an accident occurs.

There are times of the year when farm equipment and drying bin fans are running around the clock.  I seldom hear these noises, as they are a part of my culture.  It took me a few months to get used to the sounds of trucks and trains when I first moved to town and you will get used to farm equipment noises within a short time.

The sounds of rural living are seasonal.  In some neighborhoods, spring and fall fieldwork may continue nearly 24 hours a day. Farmers are under intense pressure to cover as many acres as possible in a day's time, especially when  weather threatens to delay planting or harvest.  Delayed planting reduces the potential yield (and thus, income) from crops. Delayed harvest leaves crops subject to damage from wind that can leave grain on the ground where it  can't be harvested.  Even daily weather cycles can influence field work schedules. Morning dew  may move the window of harvesting opportunity to afternoon, evening and night time hours.

The fans Gary mentions force drying or cooling air through harvested grain.These fans may run for a few weeks following harvest.  If the sound causes you problems, talk to your neighbor. With help from your ISU Extension Ag Engineer, you and your neighbor may be able to improve the situation with a fairly simple sound barrier.

You will likely acclimate to some of the "country" sounds and cease to even hear them, as Gary has.  It may ease your frustration to know which ones are merely seasonal signs of a neighbor putting in some serious overtime for the family business.

You now have one or more acres of countryside to maintain.  Those thistles growing in your old barn lot may look pretty to you, but your farmer neighbor may see them as ugly sources of seed that will blow into fields causing problems next year. What about those corn shucks that blow from your neighbors' fields on to your lawn and against your house? Like tree leaves in town, they are just a part of country living!  Get the rakes out and hope the wind blows from a different direction next year.

Dust and plant materials blowing in the wind are an annoying part of crop production.  Unfortunately, there is little that farmers can do to prevent dust and leaves blowing in the wind.  When the time comes for working the soil or harvesting crops, producers cannot wait for still days.

Dust from gravel roads can be managed to some degree.  Contact your County Engineer's office early in the spring to learn about dust control options for county roads.

How can you make life better in the country? Get acquainted with your neighbors.  Stop by and introduce yourself and your family. Ask questions about things you don't understand.  Try not to be offended if they chuckle at some questions.  Just remember they would have lots to learn if they moved to the city!

Strive for a sense of community.  When your neighbor drives by or you meet on the road, give a friendly wave.  Become involved in your new community. Volunteer to help out at the next community celebration.  Volunteer to assist at school.  Attend local school sporting events.  These are "big deals" in rural communities and a good place to get acquainted. Join a service club in a near by town.  Enroll your youngsters in 4-H or Scouts and let their leaders know you are willing to give them assistance when you can.  Subscribe to your local newspaper so you can learn about what is going on in your community.  Shop in your local community as much as you can.  Get to know the sales clerks and owners of the stores.

Social interaction is, as Gary notes, a "big deal" in rural communities. It may be this sense of community identity and togetherness that enables small communities to survive against the odds.  If solitude is what you desire, your neighbors will likely learn to honor that need, but first they'll have to get to know you well enough to understand your wishes.

Welcome to country living!  We hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.


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 Winter Horse Care

Peggy Millerby Peggy Miller, Ph.D., Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University
Phone: 515-294-5260 e-mail:

Cold weather is here. Horses have special needs during the cold weather to assure they will stay healthy and in good condition. A few basic guidelines follow:

1. Fresh water should be available at all times. Mature horses will drink approximately ten gallons of water per day. By preference, horses prefer a water temperature of 40 degrees F. Maintaining water at this temperature should encourage normal intake. If you are using buckets, the water should be replaced at least two times per day. If you use float heaters, automatic waterers, or heated water buckets, be sure to check them to insure the heater is not shorting out and shocking the water. Do not depend on horses eating enough snow to meet their water needs.

2. Every horse should be fed as an individual. For each 10 degree decrease in temperature below 30 degrees F, the horse requires approximately 15-20 percent more feed. In the winter, we are primarily concerned with keeping the horse warm and in good condition. During the cold weather it is best to increase the amount of hay, not corn. Hay is digested in the cecum and colon which results in heat production by bacterial fermentation. On the other hand, corn is primarily digested in the small intestine in a short amount of time and does not produce much heat. Never change the horse's ration suddenly. Allow a minimum of two weeks for any adjustment. All horses should have access to a trace mineralized salt block.

3. Losing pasture time increases boredom in horses. Stemmy, non-moldy hay of less quality can give the horse something to pass the time with. Small amounts fed often is best.

4. Shelter should be available for the horse. Horses do not necessarily need an enclosed barn, but they should have access to a three-sided shelter with a roof. Show horses with short hair coats should not be turned outside in bitter cold weather unless they have the protection of a blanket and windbreak.

5. Maintain a good dental program and parasite control program. Teeth should be checked for wear and floated if needed. Sharp edges can cut the tongue and prevent proper chewing which results in wasted feed and poor feed utilization.

6. Legs should be kept clean. Mud and snow will accumulate on long hair (feathers) of the fetlock and cannon. Keep them trimmed and remove caked mud, snow, and manure. Soreness and ulceration can develop if cleanliness is not maintained.

7. Shoes should be pulled unless you plan to ride on rough surfaces.

If you work your horse during cold weather, the horse should be properly cooled off. Never put a horse up when it is still hot to the touch or breathing hard. Improper cooling could cause the horse to founder. Feel the horse between its forelegs, if it is "hot," the skin will feel hot to your hand. In winter weather, the horse should be cooled out slowly by rubbing down and walking. A horse may need to be walked for up to 45 minutes after an intense workout. After the horse has worked, remove the tack. Place a halter on the horse and tie or cross-tie the horse to the stall wall. Dip a sponge in a bucket of warm water and wring out until damp. Sponge off the head, saddle area, girth area, and legs. Never put cold water on the back or hindquarters of a hot horse because this could cause the horse to tie-up. While walking the horse, place a heavy woolen cooler on the horse. If windy, place a surcingle around the cooler to prevent drafts. During the cooling down period, do not allow the horse to drink water too fast. The horse should be allowed a few gulps if it is not blowing or breathing hard.


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 Controlling Snow Drifts

Greg Brennemanby Greg Brenneman, ISU Extension Field Specialist/Ag Engineering, Johnson County
Phone: 319-337-2145 - e-mail:

With winter just around the corner, snow fences are going up in anticipation of the snow that will surely come. To make sure they do the job right without creating more problems, they must be properly placed. Snow fences are just one of the ways to control drifting snow.

Most snow blows through a good snow fence. Downwind of the fence, the wind slows and drops the snow. The better the snow fence, the more snow it takes from the blizzard. Research shows that the best snow fences are about half solid and half openings. We say that's 50 percent porous, it lets the blizzard through, but still slows the wind.

Wyoming research shows that fences with 50 percent openings form drift lengths up to 25 to 30 times the fence height. If the distance between the fence and road to be protected is less than 30 times the fence height, then the snow drift may reach the road. That can make a drift problem worse, instead of eliminating it. Fences with less open area will have shorter drifts (10-15 times the fence height) but will also store less snow. For best results, keep a 4 ft. snow fence back at least 75 ft. and preferably 120 ft. from the road or driveway you want to protect.

figure 1. Approximate maximum dimensions for snow drifts from porous snow fences

A long-time favorite, wooden slat snow fence is 40-50 percent porous, and sells for around one dollar per foot from farm and garden supply stores. Plastic mesh snow fence in black or orange waffle patterns is also around 50 percent porous, and sells for around sixty cents per foot. The plastic version is lighter weight and takes up less room when rolled for storage.

Some longer term solutions to drifting snow include building up roads and driveways so snow is blown across rather than drifting on to them. Also, living snow fences of evergreens and shrubs can be planted to provide a windbreak. Make sure they are planted back from the areas they are to protect. A good rule of thumb for Iowa is to allow 100-150 feet for trapping of snow between the living snow fence and the area to be protected.

Keep grass and weeds alongside roadways mowed down in the fall. This vegetation can act as a mini snow fence dumping snow right on the roadway. Leaving cornstalk stubble undisturbed will trap a great deal of snow out in the field and minimize the amount of snow that can drift onto a roadway.

Anywhere there is an obstruction, snow will drift. By strategically placing or removing these barriers, we can minimize problems from drifting snow.


Acreage Living is published monthly. For more information, contact your local county ISU Extension Office.
Editor: Shawn Shouse, ISU Extension FS/Ag Engineering, SW Area Extension, 53020 Hitchcock Avenue, Lewis, Iowa, 51544, Ph: 712/769-2600
Layout & Design: Paulette Cambridge, Office Assistant, SW Area Extension, 53020 Hitchcock Avenue, Lewis, Iowa 51544, Ph: 712/769-2600

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