One would think that living in Upstate New York we wouldn’t struggle with hot summers. In fact, not only do we have harsh winters but we have harsh summers as well (relatively speaking). A couple factors make the situation worse, and for our animals, borderline dangerous.
Summers in Upstate New York often mean temperatures up in the 80’s but we often have heat waves of mid 90’s and even over 100°F. What can often catch us New Yorkers off-guard is the suddenness of the temperature changes. Weather in Upstate New York (and the northeast) changes rapidly and it takes our bodies some time to adapt.
The humidity raises the heat index further. The chart below is posted by the National Weather Service and can be very helpful in determining riding conditions (or any physical activity).
Just yesterday I went to feed the horses and hens. Though I used my ATV to carry the hay out I was completely soaked and sweat was rolling down my face in only 10 minutes. The temperature was 84°F but the humidity was 92% making the heat index 100°F. The past couple of weeks have been quite similar. If we do get to ride it’s early AM or later in the afternoon/evening just before sunset. With my schedule I haven’t had a lot of time to work the boys safely. All the same they live outside and I worry about their happiness and comfort.
As much as I love my setup and my little barn, it’s pretty primitive. I have no underground water lines or electricity out there and digging the 200 feet to do so is an undertaking we are not yet prepared to do. When freezing isn’t a concern we have 3 or 4 long hoses connected to extend to the barnyard, but they don’t make safe extension cords to extend 200ft.
On the hottest of days we will reluctantly put a fan on the chicken coop to help the ladies keep cool, but we are careful and hesitant to do so as this requires two extension cords to be connected in sequence (and that’s not safe).
The barn is great for the horses but during the summer the sun creeps in and it doesn’t offer as much cool shade as I was hoping for. The horses also struggle with bugs…particularly Nahe who is terribly allergic to the gnats.
My situation can be challenging and troublesome, so I am always searching for solutions to make it better. In time I have aspirations to place a couple solar panels on the roof…but that time is not now.
I hear wondrous things about livestock curtains. These curtains are placed up on barn entrances and block out sun offering better shade, a cooler barn, and less bugs. Livestock curtains often come in 36″ sections and overlap so the animals can come and go without much trouble. My trouble with them is the cost. CS Technologies sells Kool Kurtains that block 80% of the sun’s rays. I could purchase a 36″ (actually 35.5″) wide, 120″ (10′) long panel for a whopping $109.95.
Let’s do the math. My barn is 20 feet long with 6ft overhang. It also stands 14ft in the air. If I bought these they would only begin 4 ft from the ground, and I would need 11 Kool Kurtains. It hardly seems worth the $1209 is would cost before tax and shipping.
Chick’s Saddlery sells these Livestock Curtains. Normal price for a 10ft panel is $79.99 and the price today with their sale is $34.99. Even with the sale I would have to pay $385 for the 11 panels to complete the barn; a fraction of Kool Kurtains but still a price to bawk at.
With the incoming “dog days of summer” and heat waves in the forecast I dug a little harder. That’s when I found Winemana 90% back shade cloth. The sheets were available in 12ft lengths and 6ft sections for…ready for this?
It took five of these to mostly cover the barn and cost me $120.
With Zac’s help (I’m afraid of heights) we used safety cup hooks to hang the curtains around the front and side of the overhang. With farmer ingenuity we used baling twine (who said I had to be fancy shmancy?) to secure the top holes of the curtains so they wouldn’t flap around SO much. The safety cup hooks will hold the curtains in place by the grommets but offer easy removal of the curtains once the weather cools down. Next year we will only have to put the ladder up and put the curtains on the hooks again.
The sun was beginning to beat down on us as we finished hanging the last of the curtains. I stepped through the curtains and into the barn and immediately notices a slight dip in temperature.
**Proud bragging horse mom moment**
I should mention we did all of this while the horses were eating their breakfast 10 feet away; flapping curtains and a rattling 17ft Little Giant Ladder. Both boys were completely unphased by the shenanigans.
After the curtains were hung the boys immediately took shelter and started eating from the hay nets. That day there was a breeze and the curtains moved around a bit but the horses stayed put.
In fact, as I went outside to check on them and bathe them that afternoon Nahe stood with his head sticking out of the barn, curtains raped over his poll. It was too hot for his fly gear but he figured out how to keep himself comfortable and bug-free.
I wasn’t certain that five curtains would do the trick so I ordered 6. At $24 I really wasn’t worried about the cost. Since we had an extra the chickens got some extra shade over their coop. The coop itself shades a small portion of the run but the larger area is partially exposed to sunlight. The chickens are significantly happier with their shade.
What I like the most about these shade curtains is you can see through them quite well. The horses are protected from bugs and sun but they can still see out into their yard without much difficulty.
My complaint, however, is the inconsistent grommets. Since we were connecting the top holes we expected them to attach together relatively seamlessly. We found, however, that some sheets had 4 grommets….others had three….and others had 5. The spacing of the grommets were not consistent so the overall picture is far from perfect…but it still works so who am I to complain much?
Knowing that the cats and dog were comfortable in the air conditioning, the hens had a fan and shade, and the horses had a lovely new shady shed, Zac and I had a chance to enjoy the summer our own way.
Every year (almost) Zac’s coworkers host a “boat day.” We take a speed boat and a pontoon boat out to a sand bar, drop anchor, and enjoy the day. With COVID it was a concern, however, we are in a much better space in New York right now and we all work together at the same company. Our company has allowed most of us to work from home or quarantine properly. Our temperatures are check daily and we wear masks whenever we aren’t at our desks. Risk of exposure was low and we stayed away from the other people (A lot of people had the same idea). It was a wonderful day. We drank, laughed, threw the football, swam, and forgot about the challenges of our lives for a day.