I set my alarm for twenty to seven on the mornings that I go to work. Ben and Cloud have adjusted to this and, now that we have light in the mornings, I can see them from my bathroom window, waiting for me, standing one in each of the open stables, having come down from the back of the track.
This morning I was slow to get up and was lying in bed fighting waking and sleeping when I heard a thumping noise from outside. It sounded like the lid of our hay steamer. We use a sturdy fuel box with a lid that is hinged at the back. It holds a good twelve hours supply of hay and has been in use for months now. I have learned to be careful about that lid, as it can come bouncing down on my head as I reach for hay from the bottom. Looking out the window, there was Ben, his nose pushing open the lid, grabbing some hay and withdrawing in time to avoid the lid coming down. He repeated this and then Cloud joined him and they were both able to pull strands of hay from the closed box, making their own version of a slow feeder.
Admiration and laughter banished any lingering wisps of sleep and when I went outside what could I do but praise Ben for his cleverness?
The steamer exists thanks to the cleverness of my husband and has ended the horrible task of soaking hay in bins overnight. If the hay is not steamed, Cloud coughs. If steamed, he does not. It works.
This is how it is made:
A cheap wallpaper steamer from Argos is plugged into a timer in the shed-cum-tack room that is attached to the stables:
The pipe from this steamer passes through the wall of the shed and into the hay box:
The steamer head has been removed and plumber’s pipe is attached instead. Holes were drilled in this pipe at regular intervals. Drain holes were also drilled in the bottom of the box:
And that is it. We could possibly do with more of the plumber’s pipe (it has an official name which I don’t know) but it works. Cloud is proof of that.
I steam twice a day, for 90 minutes a time:
Here it is with hay inside, although I don’t leave the hay in slices, I shake the slices out as I put them into the steamer.