Sunday, October 29, 2006

Meet Jay & Missy

As if we don’t already have plenty of horses, we bought two more! First came Jay, a two-year-old purebred Arabian gelding. More than 15 hands tall at the withers, Jay is taller than Lookin For Trouble, who is three months older. There are 4 inches in each “hand” measurement and withers are shoulders. Jay joins the other two year olds Cairo and Whisper in the boys pasture. We are in the process of getting Jay his purebred papers, which means we will be able to show him at Arabian shows as we do with Trouble. Jay will be three years old in May and looks sturdy enough to begin under saddle. We plan to take him to a farm in Wisconsin in the coming weeks to have his readiness assessed. Jay’s sire is a beautiful stallion named Legacy of Fame ( and his pretty dam (mother), Sax Fifth Avenue, is also with us on the Auld Macdonald Farm. We are leasing Sax from her owner for two years and will breed her in the Spring 2007 to Famous Echo, an American Saddlebred bay pinto-colored stallion for a tall spotted National Show Horse foal similar to Kiss in early 2008.

Our second acquisition, Yukon Miss (“Missy”), is a 12-year-old registered Thoroughbred mare that we bought site unseen. Donna, who works the monthly horse auction near Pine City, Minnesota, saw her last Saturday afternoon and telephoned us while we were at the U.S. National Arabian horse show in Louisville. Missy had been bought by a killer buyer and was on her way to the glue factory. She is 17 hands tall and about 200 pounds underweight. Thoroughbreds are notorious for being hard to keep at optimum weight. I think this is because of the breed’s nervous nature coupled with the fact they are built on the lean side for speed and spend often too many hours in stalls as racing youngsters. Missy is a black bay with no white markings and like Sax she will be a perfect broodmare.

Another bonus, which is the way we choose to see it, is that Missy comes bred to a registered Thoroughbred stallion named Foolish Lover and should deliver her purebred foal in mid-May 2007. Lisa, the former owner’s contact info was included in Missy’s auction papers so I telephoned her and learned that this foal can also be registered, so Lisa is sending me the necessary forms to do this. She also told me that Missy’s racing career was ended when she did not recover fully after surgery to remove a bone chip in her left front kneecap and that she’s been a broodmare ever since. In fact, her last six foals have been with Foolish Lover and the first two foals are now racers. So in May 2007 we will have Windy’s purebred Arabian foal by RSA Troublesome (who is 3/4 brother to our Trouble) and Missy’s foal. Now won’t that be fun?!


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Ian and I went to Louisville, Kentucky to watch the final weekend of the U.S. National Arabian Horse Show. We pulled our living quarters trailer so we had somewhere comfy to stay. The drive from here is about 12-13 hours. Our trainer, Tony, had been in Louisville at the show with three other-client horses about 10 days before we arrived on Thursday. His wife Cindy and their two children, Katie and Scott, ages 4 and 8, respectively, rode with us as we drove through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and then crossed the Ohio River into Louisville, Kentucky. The kids are great and were entertained most of the way by watching their portable DVD player. Wished I’d have had that when my two were young. We actually left on Wednesday afternoon as soon as Scott got off the school bus. There was no school in Minnesota on Thursday and Friday due to statewide teachers meetings. We drove to Madison, Wisconsin Wednesday night and parked our truck and trailer on the street across from the Super 8 where Cindy and the kids slept. We were up at 5, Cindy and the kids came knocking at the door at 6, so we hit the road early and made Louisville at 4 that afternoon. We also gained an hour because Kentucky is in the Eastern Time Zone. Tony was happy to see his family and they checked in a nearby Super 8. Tony had been sleeping in his horse trailer’s tack room bundled in many layers of comforters! Kentucky is in The South, but not so far south that camping like that was comfy cozy.

We parked the trailer in the RV section of the Freedom Hall complex and hooked up to electricity for a whopping $45/night. The trailer has a furnace that runs on propane, the trailer carries its own two tanks. The temps in Louisville were in the 30s and 40s, which when the sun shines it not too bad, but at night its cold. The locals were complaining it was already winter. Ha! We’d left Minnesota in the 20s with drizzle and occasional flurries.

Freedom Hall is a huge convention center and for the horse show its exhibit halls had been converted into horse barns. They had taken in truckloads of clay dirt and spread it out over the concrete floor like rolling out cookie dough on a counter. Then with the cushioned dirt floor in place stalls were built with alleyways set up much like exhibitor areas only each square housed a horse. Then each competitor’s barn came in and dressed up their area of stalls with drapes and farm logos, some created living room areas complete with gardens, fountains, couches and televisions.

The Freedom Hall arena held the show classes. There was a separate exhibition arena that was set up just for what I’ll call cowboy-related specialties like reining, cutting and calf roping. We never got to that arena and more’s the pity because in Minnesota we rarely get to see Arabian horses working in these types of classes. Ian and I watched halter classes, which is what I have shown Trouble in this year, and performance classes, meaning a horse and rider versus halter when it is a horse and handler. We watched horses being ridden in Western Pleasure with saddles and bridles trimmed in silver and riders in sparkly shirts, vests with suede chaps, boots, hats and spurs. We enjoyed English Pleasure Park classes where the horses strut like drum majorettes. The most beautiful classes were native costume when the rider and horse are dressed as well-heeled Bedouins.

The Nationals have been held in Louisville for some 20 years and this was the last time. Of course this was our first Nationals, but I could see how it was very emotional for people who had competed in Freedom Hall year after year. Next year Nationals will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 2008 through 2011, Nationals will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Albuquerque will be a 20-hour haul, but Tulsa is just south on 35W about 12 hours. I am hoping we have horses to show in New Mexico next year. To get to Nationals, a horse must qualify by winning first or second in a class at Regionals, which in our case are held in Illinois in August. We didn’t begin showing Lookin For Trouble until August 2006, but he has already qualified to show at the regional show in 2007.

On Saturday morning we took a tour of Churchill Downs racetrack, where the Kentucky Derby is run annually on the first Saturday in May. This was a thrill for me as I’ve been watching the Derby and its Triple Crown sister races The Preakness Stakes and The Belmont since I was a teen. The racetrack was not open but was readying itself for the Breeder’s Cup that beginning running Saturday, November 4.

I took advantage of being in The South and we ate at a diner-type restaurant chain named Waffle House. I remember these fondly from the 1980s when I went on road trips to visit friends in Tennessee. Ian and I ordered my menu favorite of cheesy scrambled eggs served with grits, bacon and raisin toast with apple butter. And like most places in The South, when you order iced tea it comes already sweetened. Yum!

We packed up and began our drive home on Sunday morning and thanks to highway construction near Madison, Wisconsin we got home at 1 in the morning Monday. Lady had spent the long weekend at Donna’s playing with her two pups, which are now both taller than their mother. Sunday evening Donna put Lady inside our house so she was there to greet us when we dragged in.

It was good to go, but good to get home too.


Monday, October 09, 2006


Yesterday, we butchered all 13 geese and 14 chickens (12 cockerels, 2 hens). Our friend Marcia brought her three poultry-butchering cousins from South Dakota (Daryl, Carol, Linda) and we had a very busy day. Donna, who bought 50 of the 100 chicks we picked up from the feed mill on April 20, supplied tables, chairs, tunes and she and Linda did the final cleaning and double wrapping preparing the birds for the chest freezer. Daryl and Carol did the actual butchering – quickly, cleanly, mercifully with a very sharp knife. We did the geese first as they were larger and noisier.

You may remember we lost chickens -- some to puppies and then more during the summer to disease because they were not vaccinated at one day of age – so there were only 24 chickens total that remained alive to butcher and we chose to winter hens, as they are also brown egg layers. We’re relocating them to what was the goose pen in the barn, as it will be much warmer with the horses in the cold winter months. It should be easier to find eggs too.

On Saturday evening Ian and I collected all the chickens we could and put them in the coop. The best time to handle a live chicken is in the evening hours when they are roosting. Ian and I went around the property, flashlight in hand, collecting chickens and putting them in the coop. They had not been going into the coop for some weeks because we had been trying to deduce what and maybe even where was making them sick. Many were in the barn and were easy to relocate; others were in an oak tree and presented a challenge. It must have been funny to view from afar because you’d see the flashlight and then hear disturbed clucking, sometimes mixed with human profanity! Only two missed out and we caught them the next morning using Daryl’s home-fashioned chicken catcher.

Butchering is pretty straightforward – the heads are cut off and its body hangs for a bit to drain. The biggest job is taking off the feathers. Ian built a campfire in the driveway and boiled water in a 30 gallon galvanized trash can. Holding its feet, the freshly butchered bird is dipped in the soapy boiling water for about 60 seconds, just long enough to get the feathers to loosen. The goose feathers and down was tougher to come off and we said more than once we were glad we did them first. Chicken feathers came off in bunches and we did the 14 chickens in a quarter of the time it took us to do 13 geese.

Daryl handled the gutting and setting aside the giblets (e.g., liver, gizzards, neck, heart) from other uneatable things like intestines. Throughout the rainy fall day, Carol entertained us as we worked in the pole shed with her special brand of chicken dancing antics and rewrites of CD lyrics.

Lady and two of her puppies that belong to Donna (Agnes and Bernie), were seen happily gnawing on goose heads and I’m sure buried some for later enjoyment.

Reah came up in the afternoon and visited as we put a wrap on the day. She’s off to London on Tuesday to rejoin her husband and their expatriate lifestyle and may not be back until after the New Year.

I thought it would bother me to butcher my geese, but I realized I bought all the birds with the idea they’d be food one day. Besides, as I said, this was handled mercifully.

Ian and I are not sure whether or not we’ll get more goslings and/or chicks to raise in the spring. I’m not sure whether or not Donna and I can live through the emotional trauma we did of having so many die from various mishaps. I guess we’ll see how we feel after enjoying them roasted, baked, boiled, fried and fricasseed. I’m planning on making cassoulet (a thick French country white bean, poultry, sausage soup) from the geese. I’ve got livers set aside for pâté and sauté.

If someone had told me a year ago I’d be butchering my own homegrown poultry I’d have said they have a screw loose. Never say never. EIEIO!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fall Fest horse show

Fall Fest St. Paul, Minnesota

Yesterday, Ian, Lady and I came home from another horse show. This one was the Medallion Stallion/Auction Stallion and Performance Futurities … its short version name is “Fall Fest.” It’s a big show and there’s lots of solid competition. We took our new horse trailer with living quarters – our Minnesota cabin on wheels – to the MN State Fairgrounds from Wednesday afternoon through Sunday. We fed horses and people too. Three days before the show our neighbor Donna helped me cook sloppy joes, BBQ meatballs and chicken wild rice soup and then can all of it into jars so that we had enough to feed about 80 people for three days in a row. We canned it because we had no way to keep the food cold enough while we were at the show. Canning was a brilliant idea and it worked like a charm. I brought empty, dirty jars back with us to run through the dishwasher so we’ll have jars to reuse when canning food in the future.

Much to my delight my 82-year-old mother came to watch me show Trouble in the halter class for 2-year-old colts/geldings. My son Richard, his friend Jen, my brother Matthew, childhood friend Reah, girlfriend Marcia, and Ralph, our trainer’s father (who is not in the best of health) all came to lend their support. I’m pleased to report that Trouble and I did not disappoint our fans. We won a Top 10 ribbon in a class of 19 horses. I didn’t know this beforehand, but apparently the results at Fall Fest are a strong indication of what happens at the national level shows. How wonderful! Of course we got in this business a bit late and have not qualified for Regionals, which in turn qualifies us to attend U.S. Nationals. The points we are accumulating now will help us in the upcoming show season.

Ian and I are debating whether or not we should drive to Louisville later this month to watch the U.S. Nationals. We have friends from the Genesis Training Center (GTC) that are showing and we’d like to support them. The next show that we will attend is the American Royal in Kansas City, Missouri Saturday and Sunday Thanksgiving weekend. Pulling a trailer it’s a 10-hour drive down 35W. That will be our last show of the season and we’ll turn our sights to the big Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show in Arizona February 16-25, 2007. No doubt I will be looking for a break from the snow and cold then! Depending on weather and driving conditions it takes between 22-24 hours to drive from here. Needless to say the horses are bundled up well for that trip. We plan on taking Trouble and Kiss to that show. Kiss will be 9-months-old by then and have been at GTC for three months..

Things are going well at the farm. One reason not to go to Louisville is to spend time working on renovating the house and putting more stalls in the barn where some of the rotten wall has been replaced. Oh, don’t get me started on that wall and the building contractor! What an idiot! The bid we accepted said he would replace the entire north wall of the barn, which had been water damaged because a former owner who had the pole barn added on did not put flashing at the joining roofline. Anyway, we accepted the bid, put down 50% and two weeks later (ugh) his team of “Burt & Ernie” got to work. Soon it became apparent that they were only replacing one story of the north wall and not the entire wall as the bid said. We went round and round with the contractor who said he never would have bid a job of that scale so low, blah, blah, blah and basically walked off the job. Burt & Ernie finished the clean up they were doing as the screaming match went on (I was livid) and then after Jimbo left and I went in the house, they came and shook Ian’s hand saying “there are good general contractors and there are bad ones” with their nonverbals communicating that Jim was not one of the good ones. So we got the bottom part of the wall replaced, paying only 50% of what we expected too, which is fine since we only got 50% of what we anticipated, and soon we can build in three more box stalls before the snow flies.

I think we will go to Louisville, maybe for the final weekend. Soon there will be no horse shows and we can catch up on the renovations then. LOL

This coming Sunday Marcia’s cousins are coming here to slaughter 11 of our 13 geese and who knows how many chickens – all expect the three rescue chickens that we promised not to slaughter. We’ll keep the 2 grey Toulouse geese from the original gosling batch that got eaten by puppies. I suppose we’ll lend a hand, although I may bow out to prepare lunch or something. You’re welcome to come and help! I’ll send you home with a chicken or a goose – your choice! EIEIO