Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Summer comes to a close

This weekend is Labor Day weekend and in the US this heralds the end of summer and back to school! The weather has been mild and we’ve also had some storms. Some counties have had tornadoes and softball-sized hail, but we’ve missed all that and are glad of it. Hopefully, I’ll get to mow the lawn tomorrow.

The contractors are getting ready to begin repairing the barn. Its north wall will be replaced (the wall that joins the one-story pole shed on its right side) because it rotted when some idiot previous owner, when adding the pole shed, did not put flashing at the adjoining roofline so rain ran down the original barn wall and rotted the wood. We will have that entire wall replaced, the proper flashing added and then we can build three more box stalls in the main barn before the snow flies. We are also having the big outer upper hayloft doors replaced with a solid wall where we will later install a row of five windows. We hope to renovate the 60 x 30 foot hayloft into a guest house/office sometime in 2007. We’re never short of projects around here.

Ian, neighbor Donna and I went to the Minnesota State Fair last Friday. We were there for six hours, walked through all the livestock barns, sampled various things to eat on a stick and spent quite a bit of time on machinery hill, where vendors have tractors and other farm implements on display. We also toured horse trailers – the luxury kind with living/cooking quarters for humans! Donna knows a neighbor who has one for sale and if we’re lucky we may be the proud new owners in a week or so.

Michael and Natalia are visiting from Barcelona. They are staying in Minneapolis at his father’s. Ian and I picked them up at the airport on Saturday. They are here until September 12. They will come to the farm next week for a daytrip. It’s a bit too rustic for overnight visitors. They’re doing well and it’s good to see them. On Saturday, September 9, Michael’s dad and I will host a U.S. wedding reception and BBQ at his home. Last week Ian and I purchased a wedding cake, decorations, party favors and mailed invites. It should be a nice get together. They celebrate their one-year anniversary September 30.

Our vegetable garden is in bloom and some plants are yielding a bounty. This evening Ian ate his first radish of the season while I enjoyed two cherry tomatoes. In bloom tomato plants themselves smell good enough to eat! Donna’s corn on the cob is wonderful and we’ve enjoyed that in the last week. I’ll plant some of that next year.

I picked crab apples from a tree in the pasture and Donna and I spent six hours making jelly. It’s good, and we have it preserved in pretty pint jars. As more stuff ripens, I plan to can more things.

The horses are fine. Kiss is getting bigger by the day. He is just three months and is quite full of himself. He has on an orange halter and leads reasonably well. He had his first vaccinations and was not happy about that in the least. He will be with us until late October when he is weaned and then he will go to the Genesis Training Center where Trouble boards/trains to begin his training to be shown as a halter horse at a big Arabian horse show in Scottsdale, Arizona in February 2007.

Ian and I are traveling to Des Moines, Iowa this weekend where I am showing Trouble at a horse show. We are helping Tony and his Genesis Training Center as they bring 14 horses to show this weekend. Ian and I help with feeding, stall cleaning, grooming. It should be lots of fun. Donna is going to feed and watch over the animals here while we’re away. If we get this living quarters horse trailer we can save money on hotel rooms, restaurant eating and we can take Lady the lab too.

Wish us luck! EIEIO

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Horsey summer

The Minnesota summer is flying by. Ian and I are enjoying the weather – lots of hot, humid, sunny days – but being in the country we are also very aware of the draught conditions. We drive by cornfields and look at the height and color of the stalks, we watch for the leaf curling, which indicates the plants need rain. We pray for rain and have gotten some recently. Of course, we don’t want just any rain, we need the slow moving systems that drench rather than flood. I mowed our lawn yesterday for the first time in several weeks. I don’t water the lawn, but do keep the flowerbeds and vegetable gardens well hydrated. Soon we will have tomatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, and three types of squash to enjoy. Next year we’ll plant a larger and better variety. Since our kitchen is not ready, it seems wasteful to bring in a huge bounty with no place to prepare it for eating and/or preserving for later enjoyment.

Speaking of the house … things are moving along. We continue to tackle the renovation ourselves and Ian’s made great strides with the kitchen. Its ready to have the ceramic tiles laid and the cabinets will be assembled (from IKEA) and installed, followed by the sink and appliances (double oven, refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher). The kitchen is completely wired and the canned lighting is installed and working. The decorative lights over the island and eat-in area will be installed later.

Once the kitchen is done I think the rest of the house will come together quickly. There is so much that goes into a kitchen and we started from bare walls with no insulation or drywall! The next area we’ll tackle is the upstairs, readying the new full bathroom and three bedrooms. Then we’ll relocate our bedroom and office upstairs (the latter is temporary) and replace and level the living room floor (like we did with the kitchen floor) and then install a new staircase. Somewhere along the line and before the snow flies we will install eight new casement windows, two sliding glass doors and two exterior doors.

The barn’s north wall also needs replacing and we’re hoping to have that done in the next several weeks. We’re not crazy enough to do that work ourselves. Once that’s done we will begin installing three new box stalls for the horses, which will give us a total of six in the main barn.

We are up to seven horses now. We have the two-year-old purebred Arabian geldings Cairo and Trouble, the eight-year-old Quarter horse mare Nutmeg, the purebred Arabian mare Windy (Cairo’s dam) and her National Show Horse foal Kiss, the two-year-old part-Arabian stud Whisper (he was born with only one testicle and needs a special castration operation at a vet hospital in October) and our latest acquisition Bentley, an 18-year-old registered Thoroughbred mare. We plan to breed Bentley and Nutmeg in February or March 2007 to purebred Arabians for foals in 2008. Windy is already bred to an Arabian and will deliver in May 2007.

Both Nutmeg and Trouble are at training centers. Nutmeg will return soon with new under-the-saddle manners. Trouble is on the Arabian horse show circuit in halter classes (Arabians are not ready to go under the saddle until they are three years of age). Both Trouble and I have taken lessons from Tony Steiner at his Genesis Training Center. We must have been pretty good students because on Saturday, August 5, we won a blue ribbon at a Class A Arabian horse show! The next day we won a Top 5 ribbon! Amazing! I haven’t shown horses since my teens and then it was always performance classes like Western Pleasure or over the fences in Hunter/Jumper classes. We’re going to a big horse show in late September at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and we may get in another show in Des Moines, Iowa in mid-September. The show season ends in November, but Ian and I want to take Trouble and Kiss to the big Arabian show in Scottsdale, Arizona February 16-25, 2007.

Once he is weaned Kiss will go to Tony’s this November for the express purpose of readying him to show in yearling halter classes beginning with Scottsdale. In November Trouble will be moved to a training center in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin so he can be started under the saddle. During his first 30 days there Trouble will be assessed to determine whether or not he should continue his under-the-saddle training to show as a performance horse in the 2007 show season or if he should continue only showing in halter classes because he may need to mature mentally for another year. Some horses just aren’t ready for the rigors of performance riding until they are four. We will know one way or the other before Christmas 2006. We expect Cairo will join Trouble and his half-brother Kiss at shows in 2007. Cairo has been in a growth spurt this season and looked quite gangly for most of the spring and summer. He’s beginning to pick up weight and may enter training at Tony’s in the spring. Cairo was on the show circuit as a yearling so he should come up to speed pretty quickly, plus now that Ian and I know more of the mechanics and we can begin refreshing his memory here on the Auld Macdonald Farm.