Friday, July 05, 2013

Summer 2013

Where do I begin? Clearly, I fell off the blog truck, but with many changes a foot, I'm committed to getting back in the driver's seat and continuing the journey. Hop in and join me, won’t you?

While 2012 was a good year on the farm, a lot of opportunities for change began coming down the pike. Big ones. Fun ones. Earth-shifting ones. In short, we've moved on from the latest version of Auld Macdonald Farm Arabians – the one on 60+ acres in bucolic northern Minnesota (a rent-to-own property), with our 30+ horses, an assortment of feathered friends, plus two cats and five dogs – to a one-bedroom apartment in Minneapolis. Wow. I know, right?!

A quick recap:
Between January and May Ian and I sold, rehomed or relocated 35 horses. Thank you to Alyssa of EquiChoices for making the bulk of those sale connections.

Thanks to connections made via CraigsList, we found new forever homes for our Black Labs Lady, who is living on a farm with a retired military couple and their chocolate Lab; littermates Jo-jo and Cleo, who went together to a small horse farm; cats Tiger and Tonic found homes with family friends. In early April, our cherished 17-year-old miniature poodle Tucker was put down after a very good life.

Buddy, our apricot miniature poodle, is still with us, adjusting to apartment life, being walked and “watched” as he does his business, which we scoop, of course! We've discovered the local dog parks where he can romp off leash and if we need to be gone all day or overnight he goes to the Pampered Pooch Playground.

We still own our US National Champion stallion, Legacys Renoir+. Since March, he has been living at the internationally-respected breeding facility Twin Creek Farms in Michigan. You can stay in touch with what he’s up to, read news about his foals, and which mares he's bred to, at

A big move like this is never done without help. Gerri Ann helped me organize my first-ever garage sale, neighbor Linda helped pack boxes, and toss things in the roll-off container. She was there on moving day too, along with Marcia & Cooper, and my son Richard, as Ian packed the U-Haul. Gerri Ann also gifted us with the final detail clean of the farmhouse. Thanks to Richard, his pal Michael, and my girl, Sandy, for being at the apartment end, getting us in and sorted. I also loved and as ways to connect with people who could use our good stuff that wasn't making the transition.

Now, I'm sure you're asking "why" we would make such a drastic change. Frankly, to take advantage of professional opportunities, and to begin another fascinating chapter in our lives. Remember, this blog was established as a way to map the road taken from Spain to Minnesota. 

Ian continues to do well as a consultant at a Microsoft technology company in Minneapolis. At the beginning of the year, he was offered more responsibilities that included heading up more cool projects, travel from headquarters to regional offices, and to see clients. We weighed the pros and cons, pondered a lot, prayed a lot, and decided we liked the idea of new places and faces. So, at the end of January, he hopped that rocket.

In March, I officially joined the travel & leisure industry as the executive producer for Rudy Maxa's World. I've known its host for decades, and was lucky enough to be top-of-mind when Rudy needed someone to step in to book guests and help him organize the weekly radio shows.

The biggest bonus from all the changes is certainly being nearer to friends and family; especially Richard, and my 89 year-old mother who lives at the Vets Home. Another is enjoying all the fun and conveniences afforded to city folk.

So, I'm officially back at the wheel. Buckle up, give me a follow, share this with friends, leave a comment, there's a lot more fun to come.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May in Minnesota

For Minnesota, this is the second wettest May on record and the wettest May since 1908, but it's also the warmest May in 24 years and the 5th warmest on record. We’re making the most of it and are looking for a warmer, drier June.

We began May showing horses at the Sahara Sands Spring Classic in St. Paul. We stalled with Angela and Kayla. It was lots of fun. Ian showed three horses in Halter: Renoir's yearling colt, V G Antazia (1995), AMF Xtreme Kiss (2006). Kiss was also shown in his first performance class with Angela. He didn't place, but he did well. Junior won his class, Taza and Kiss took thirds.

Sunday, May 13, was Mother's Day, Ian and I visited my 87-year-old Mom at the Vets Home in the morning. We went riding in the afternoon and rendezvoused with my son Richard in the early evening before we came home.

The dogs are fine. Tucker, the oldest, is not pictured, but all are full of energy and loving the days--wet or dry. The gardens still need trending, but I have gotten around to putting plants in pots and hanging baskets.

We spent Memorial Day Monday on a trail ride. Ian hadn't been on a trail ride for about eight years and he really enjoyed himself.

Scroll down and enjoy the month in pictures.


AMF Renoirs Legacys (Junior)

Angie riding AMF Xtreme Kiss

Ian showing V G Antazia

Visiting Mom on Mother's Day

Son Richard on Mother's Day

Lady, Jo-jo, Cleo, Buddy

Kayla, Ian, Angie

Memorial Day Trail Ride

Angie on Kiss trail riding/texting



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring on the farm

Spring came early to the Auld Macdonald Farm. We enjoyed 70s at the end of March, which is just unheard of in these parts—trees began to leaf, grass greened and migrating birds returned weeks early, it has been quite pleasant. As I noted in my late December posting, the 2011/2012 winter was very brown. 

I had planned to take up cross-country skiing, but there was never enough snow! Whatever did fall melted within days, which negatively affected businesses that rely on outdoor winter activity income yet saved city, county and state coffers in snowplowing and road salt costs. Now the spring rains are here and soon our fruit trees will be in full bloom and I’ll be mowing the lawn soon enough.

I love this time of year. We don’t have any foals coming this year, but we will be breeding mares to Renoir, Goldmount Royal Design and two outside Arabian stallions, for babies next spring. We do have four fuzzy recently hatched Muscovy ducklings.

Our Muscovy hen with 4 ducklings

Earlier this year, Ian began a new job as a business analyst for a Minneapolis-based software developer. He really likes his colleagues, its many client companies, and the work. For the moment, he’s being kept busy in the Twin Cities area, but could be assigned to travel to client locations anywhere in North America. Exciting!

I will be doing my own traveling this summer consulting with Rudy Maxa’s World when its television production team goes to Paris! I don’t know dates or many details yet, but I’ll keep you in the loop. I am also doing more paid writing and should have print stories with my byline to share soon.

Ian and I will be returning to the show ring this year too. Ian will show the two yearlings, Junior and Windy, our 17-year-old purebred Arabian mare Taza and six-year-old Half Arabian Kiss in halter. I have lost 85 pounds since last May, am exercising regularly, eating well, and taking riding lessons twice a week with an eye to show Legacys Renoir+ under saddle at a show this fall and do a full campaign in 2013. Kiss and three-year-old Half Arabian mare Tango will be ridden in performance classes by their trainer Angela. She is also working with Renoir, keeping him supple, fit and going forward. I got to ride Renoir for the first time last Saturday. What a dreamboat. 

Riding Legacys Renoir+

Enjoying a ride on AMF Xtreme Kiss

Yearling purebred colt sired by Renoir, AMF Renoirs Legacy (Junior)
Yearling HA filly sired by Roy, AMF Royal Windsor (Windy)

Tango ridden by Angela

The lovely AMF Royals Gold Tango

I’m working at rebuilding my email contact list and transferring you to one of my two new email accounts. My yahoo account was hacked on March 9, and I was never able to recover ANY of my hundreds of contacts or thousands of emails. Seriously, what a pain! First time hacked and, poof, everything gone, for good. I had that account since the 1980s and was very attached to it.

But, that slight bump in the road aside, all is well.


Friday, March 09, 2012


Heard from me lately? Am I in London? Have I been mugged and need you to send me money urgently? If any of this sounds like a recent email from me, please ignore the pleas. Ian and I are safe and very much in Minnesota. My yahoo email account was hacked and the buggers have been sending crazy help emails out to my address book.

I’ll be posting again soon with updates from the farm. 

The most important news of the day is that it’s Ian’s 56th birthday today, so remember to send him some cyber cheer.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Stuffing

Ian dealing with some of our winter hay supply Nov 17, 2011

Welcome to the Brown Christmas Capital of the World. We had a proper snow storm near the end of November that left eight inches on the ground, but that all melted before our Thanksgiving Thursday, November 24, and we haven’t had much more than a dusting since. Ian and I were just saying how it looks more like spring than winter! It has been unseasonably warm with daytime temps in the 30s and 40s, but a northwesterly wind can be brutal so we do need to bundle up when doing morning and evening chores.

Christmas is behind us, and while it was wonderful and happy, I really didn’t get into the whole seasonal thing this year. Sure, I mailed greeting cards and enjoyed the cards we received, but I didn’t put one ornament on the pre-lit Christmas tree that Ian brought to the living room from storage. I did my part to stimulate the economy buying most gifts online at eBay and Amazon—it's wonderful to have gifts come to the house via UPS, FedEx or the postal service. The tree is back in storage, along with gift-wrapping paraphernalia. Good thing Christmas comes every year, so none of it goes to waste.
Mom on Friday, December 23

Christmas Day Stuffing
On Christmas Day we visited my mother at the Vets Home. She has good days and not-so-good days, but who doesn’t? Richard and I visited her on the 23rd and enjoyed a luncheon served on her floor. Wow, talk about portions. Whew! If people go hungry at the Vets Home it’s too bad because the food is tasty, looks better than you’d expect and is served up with plenty of care. We saw Mom yesterday too (December 27) and she was quite chipper and sharp.
Mom and me Christmas morning

Ian and me at Cosmos on Christmas Day

After visiting Mom on Christmas Day, Ian and I had reservations for lunch at Cosmos, in the Graves 601 Hotel in Minneapolis’s Warehouse District. It was pretty good—not fabulous, but pretty good. We liked our appetizers. Ian had Duck Confit and Winter Squash Risotto, Sage, Vincotto and I had Roasted Baby Beets, Yogurt Panna Cotta, Arugula, Pistachio, Orange. The entrees and desserts were another matter. Ian had the Pan Roasted Sea Bass, Winter Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Seasonal Mushrooms, which he enjoyed. I had a taste and it was very good. The fish was done perfectly. I ordered Roasted Au Bon Canard Duck, Herb Knodel (think: dressing or stuffing), Chestnut, Black Cabbage. The styling of the food on the plate was gorgeous, but I found the dressing unimaginative, a bit dry and my duck was overcooked. The chestnut slices looked kind of like big, dried toenails. I did enjoy the black cabbage. I ate two bites of the duck, one of the stuffing and that was it. I brought it home to the dogs.
Roasted beet appetizer

I like my duck cooked medium rare (saignant or à point in French) and this was clearly medium or well cooked. I’m not one to send back a meal. Admittedly I am fussy about duck and like to order things that I don’t cook at home, but upon reflection I probably should have gone with something else. I barely tasted my Passion Fruit Mousse Bombe with Kumquat Confit. It looked like a Hostess Snowball, only smaller and too, too, too sweet. Ian ordered the other choice, ChocoVic Chocolate Marquise with Pistachio Crémeux—a super cocoa chocolaty pyramid. He ate it all and enjoyed an espresso too. Our wine was a lovely Pinot Noir from Oregon. The service was stupendous and I love complimentary valet parking. I will surely visit again, but won’t order the duck.
Yummy pinot noir

Stuffing ourselves closer to home
In Pine City—six miles to our south—we like Wild Bamboo for Vietnamese food and recently discovered New China on Main Street one evening when Wild Bamboo was closed. It’s not a place you go to for the décor, but the food is fabulous! We shared an order of steamed potstickers and spicy orange chicken on a bed of steamed broccoli with white rice. Wow, it was so good. The caramelized sauce had slivers of orange rind too. The portion was so huge that Ian ate the leftovers for lunch two days in a row.

Mom’s Hometown Café is another Pine City favorite. We used to go there every Sunday for brunch, but we are treating ourselves better these days so we eat here maybe once a month now. LOL It’s hearty down-home cooking. I recommend its Eggs Benedict, but like many places I find the portions too huge to manage alone, so we often share or the dogs benefit. We like the Pizza Pub too and enjoyed a birthday/anniversary dinner there with our friends Jim and Cathy last month.
Jim, Cathy, me, Ian (L to R) November 5, 2011

Bowe’s Restaurant & Bar in downtown Mora (about 20 miles from home) served Ian a very good, perfectly cooked medium rare prime rib that he enjoyed a lot. Another Mora eatery favorite is Wild Things Pizzeria and Deli, owned by our pal Julie. The pizza is phenomenal and I’ve lost count of the taxidermy variety that adorns its walls.

More favorite stuffings
Gandi Mahal in south Minneapolis near Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue (not too far from the Vets Home) has the best daily lunch buffet. Its North Indian curry made with mutter (peas) and paneer (cottage cheese) is my favorite.

Famous Dave’s is our choice for barbeque. Yep, it’s a chain, but it does it right, so if we’re feeling a bit peckish and we spot its big red sign, we’re likely to stop in. We usually split a half slab of ribs, which comes with two side dishes and a corn muffin.

After Christmas Stuffing
Yesterday, after visiting Mom, Ian and I went to Mall of America. It was packed, but we found parking right away, then just strolled and enjoyed being together. We stopped in the Apple Store to see and ask questions about the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro laptops. I prefer the Air in part because of its solid-state memory (no hard drive), which makes it lighter. I will be very glad to be back using Apple products soon.

We enjoyed some tasty delights at Tiger Sushi before heading home to the farm and evening chores. Going to Minneapolis is easy enough, as it’s all interstate driving, but it is 170 miles roundtrip.

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That’s the news from here. All of us at the Auld Macdonald Farm send you and yours happy & prosperous 2012 wishes.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

We had our first snow of the season on Saturday. As much as I dread the colder weather, I love the snow. There’s always so much to do to get ready for the winter months. The largest concern I have is water and that all the animals have ready access to fresh, clean water 24/7. Installing the three new heated Ritchie fountains really helped. The barn cats and geese know enough to stay hydrated using these. The labs use them too when they’re outside running from pillar to post.

We have added five Muscovy ducks to the Auld Macdonald Farm menagerie. I responded to a Freecycle ad and they were delivered by a dad and the son, who hand raised them. I put them in the chicken coop, which is heated for the winter, figuring there’s plenty of room on the floor, since chickens roost. These ducks fly and the next morning when I put them in the pen, they promptly flew the coop and landed 300 feet later on the now frozen pond. It was comical to see them glide-n-slide. Not so comical, was Ian with a flashlight after dark herding the ducks from the pasture pond back to the coop. Thankfully, they waddled more or less in the right direction and we were able to catch them all (they don’t hiss, snap or bite like geese) and put them in the coop. I think we have two males (the larger) and three females. I suppose sooner or later they’ll lay eggs and I’ll decide if I’ll use them in the house or let them hatch. With the snow and colder temps, I have the poultry sequestered in the coop for warmth and to familiarize the ducks that this is their new home and they should return to it at dusk. I’m hoping this works. Chickens return to their roost at night without any help–a lesson I learned at the Stanchfield farm. Evidently, I don’t know duck.

Ian used our Farmall M tractor to plow the driveway and an area by the barn. He pushed the snow with the bucket loader, but to do a better job he’ll attach the snowblade that came with the tractor for a more precision job. The temps are supposed to climb back to the 50s, so most of what we have on the ground should melt and we can continue to organize ourselves for the winter ahead.

The horses are all fuzzy and seem to enjoy this bug-free season. They have ample shelter, lots of hay and they keep the Ritchie fountains busy. Depending on its age, weight and weather conditions, a healthy horse drinks between 6-10 gallons daily.

Ian and I are putting our heads together for a business trip to France in 2012. We’re looking at combining a trip to Paris with a two-day Arabian horse show in Menton on the Côte d’Azur in mid June. In 1997 Ian lived in Grasse, the world’s capital of perfume, and he knows the Alpes-Maritimes area quite well. I would like to write and photograph other French Riviera favorites like Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice and Cap d’Ail (Garlic Cape) and the Menton show gives me an opportunity to combine two of my greatest passions; Arabian horses and travel writing. Here's a crazy, amateur-shot video from the 2011 Menton show.

I continue to enjoy my work as editor for BonjourParis. If you haven’t already and of course if you have an interest in travel and things Francophile, please sign up for the free weekly newsletter.

To learn more about the writing craft and various tricks of the freelance trade, I’ve taken two classes at The Loft in Minneapolis; Finding Your Way as a Writer and Writing Your Life, which is about memoir writing. Both were very good and got me thinking and writing. I signed up for a day-long Travel Writing class in December and will make the most of that too. There are other classes I’d like to take during the winter, and am waiting for the latest catalogue to be published.

I’m giving cross-country skiing a go this winter. I had planned to do this last year, but I was just too damned fat. Currently I'm wearing a women's size 16, down from a (dare I say it?) 22, and continue to head in a more healthy direction. Yesterday we went to the Vasaloppet in Mora to its ski swap and sale. We didn’t buy anything, but were pleasantly surprised to see all the outdoor enthusiasts in every age bracket. Once we have the proper gear, we can ski on the Vasaloppet’s 18 miles of groomed trails or in many of the nearby Minnesota State Parks. Banning State Park is just north of us on I-35 has 11 miles and St Croix State Park east of Hinckley has 13 miles. I’d like to do more outdoor things this winter and country-skiing looks like fun.

Ian and I are having Marcia, Dan and Carl over for Thanksgiving Dinner. Earlier in the month Carl had surgery and he’s recovering well. He’s not the best patient, and says he’d like to come back to work riding horses, but I’m encouraging him to rest, recoup and heal.

If you’re on Facebook, please "Like" our Auld Macdonald Farm page. Click here and follow the link. Thanks!

All of us at the Auld Macdonald Farm send you and yours Happy Thanksgiving wishes.  That’s the news from here.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Auld Macdonald Farm Autumn

We are still enjoying mild weather for this time of year in Minnesota. The temps are in the 50s, but once in a while it creeps into the 60s and with sunshine it’s down right balmy. I admit to dragging out my winter coat for the frost-on-the-pumpkin mornings, but stripped it off by 10am because it was just too warm. A sure sign of the coming winter is that the horses are getting fuzzier and are busy packing on extra winter weight.

We have accomplished a lot this season. With Carl’s help we got five of the seven young horses started. The two 2008 Legacys Renoir+ daughters are left (Princess and Bey B) and I don’t know if we’ll get them going this year or not. I really wanted to show them (sell them) as 4-year-old Western Pleasure Junior horses in 2012, along with Half Arabian palomino mare Tango, who as you can see looks gorgeous under saddle, but there is only so much time, energy and money. Plus, not having an indoor arena to work in during the wet, cold winter months really puts things on hold. That said, we’re still counting our blessings. We did sell AMF Troublesomes Kiss (Kisses, pictured above), our 2007 bay purebred mare, to a teenage girl and her family from River Falls, Wisconsin. That was a very good match and this buyer came to us via Facebook. Hurray for social media.

This month we had three more Ritchie Omni Fountains installed and had a hydrant put in the barn. The Omnis are heated, automatic watering stations. We had one installed shortly after we moved to this farm in 2009, and its been very reliable. We got another one just like it (Omni 2) and two Omni 1 units that will serve each of the two new stallion paddocks that are built near the barn. These paddocks are fenced with six strands of high-tensile electric and each has its own shelter. The second installed Omni 2 will sit on the fence line that will segment the mares pasture. We will reconfigure the gelding/colt pasture so that the original Omni 2 will water another smaller catch paddock we plan to use for young horses (weanlings and yearlings) or horses that need extra feeding care.

The next big project will be scraping clean the barn’s dirt floor and building more box stalls, which can be completed during the winter months. We expect to only have one or two horses inside for the winter, which will give us room to build. Ian builds sturdy, attractive box stalls and I look forward to having a barn full.

Ian continues to work as a Senior Business Consultant. His latest gig is in the health insurance field and he likes it very much. I recently left VOA since my position was eliminated when one of the residents changed locations. I was the Thursday-Saturday overnight awake manager, but with the resident change the position became overnight asleep manager with a pay cut. Ian had been asking me to quit working weekend overnights for some months and this seemed an opportune time. I continue freelancing for the online France travel magazine BonjourParis as its Editor and have done since May. My work for BP has inspired me to take classes at a literary center in Minneapolis to explore how to build a career as a freelance writer; ideally writing/publishing more travel pieces and polishing my Arabian horse enthusiast writing.

With a little more time on my hands at home, I am going to take on the project of painting. Ian and I have selected jazzy yellow for the living room, dining room and kitchen walls. I have a green that I like for the bathroom and the upstairs bedrooms and office will be shades of cappuccino or mocha. We are also going to rip out the carpet. Who the heck puts an off-white carpet in a farmhouse? We’re installing laminate flooring in the (currently carpeted) living room and dining room and will eventually do the same for the three rooms upstairs (2 bedrooms, 1 office). The stairway will be stripped of its carpet too. We will stain the tread and riser wood then install a carpet runner with brass stair rods. I may also get around to replacing the kitchen cabinet door/drawer handles. We have the replacements, but Ian’s Honey Do List has been quite long this year.

Mom (87 in July) is doing fine. She had an infection of some kind last week that threw her for a loop, but the Veterans Home caregivers are really tippy top and got her on a cycle of antibiotics right away and she bounced right back.

Next week, Ian and I celebrate nine years of marriage. Wow! To celebrate, this Saturday, we’re going to the horse show extravaganza Cavalia, which soon wraps up its tour in Minneapolis.

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