Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Back in the house

Happy December! We relocated the trailer just after the Fourth of July weekend so that major renovation work could be done in the house. We moved back into the house Sunday. Almost six months! Mind you, the trailer has many creature comforts, and we function well in close quarters, but it is really nice to be back in our house. The corn stove is blazing away chasing the chill from the house. It’s 60 degrees and slowly climbing. The house is far from airtight, in fact depending on where you stand, it has its drafts, but we’re addressing these. Some things won’t get better until they’re replaced, like the windows and doors.

For the moment, the corn stove, which burns dried corn kernels called “pellets”, is our only source of heat. It costs is $6/day to heat the house and we buy our pellets from a local farmer. If we used propane, it would cost between $18 and $20/day. Later in the winter, we will supplement with propane, but the idea is to use corn for 90% of our winter heat needs. The Minnesota heating season runs from October through May, with December to March being the coldest of those months.

The new living room/dining room sub-floor is installed (including the in-floor heating system – although it’s not operational yet) and it’s very sturdy and level. In coming weeks, we’ll install a new staircase to upstairs, put cement board over the new sub-floor and then lay ceramic tile. Knowing that work still needs to be done, we’re only occupying the dining-room half of the house. Finishing the kitchen – tiling, installing appliances and drawers – is also on the To Do list. Ian does all this work himself!

The next time we expect to spend significant time in the trailer is when we go to Scottsdale, Arizona in February for the big Arabian horse show.

On Saturday afternoon, the first snow of the season fell, about five inches. For some reason, the snowplow guy we had for the last two seasons did not come and plow us out this year. Frustrating, because we didn’t have any prior warning. Thankfully, we have 4-wheel drive trucks and can get in and out of our driveway with relative ease. We do have a snow blade attachment for our brush mover and Ian plans to move the accumulated snow with that sometime soon. Three to five inches of snow is predicted for later today. We’ll find another plow person, as it’s important to keep our driveway and area outside the barn clear.

Now, the only stored boxes that are priority to get from the garage are the Christmas tree and its ornaments. We also bought a lighted horse yard ornament that will need to be set out soon too.

The animals are all well. It was fun to turn the weanlings out to the fresh snow – their first! They snorted suspiciously, stepped gingerly, then pranced, kicked, bucked and ran the length of their pasture – really pretty! The chicken stick to the barn area, the hens are still laying and the two roosters cock-a-doodle-do and square off once in a while, with the larger, more majestic brother winning most bouts. Tiger is the sole house cat now, with Tonic and Zeus living in the barn again. These two “auditioned” all summer to be house cats, crawling into the house through the open floorboards. Lady is happy – but what Lab-mix dog isn’t happy more often than not?


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hay ...

… is for horses! I’d say we are really close to being ready for winter this year, at least when it comes to having enough hay on hand. Seven horses come into the barn to eat flakes of hay bales morning and night, supplemented with grain that is suited to their age, weight and what they need nutritionally. The hay we feed inside is square bales, which weigh 45 lbs each. These are a mixture of high fiber timothy-grass, brome (described as a companion grass to timothy that is slightly higher in protein), and a smattering of alfalfa. I like to think of alfalfa as jet fuel for horses – unadulterated protein.

We bought about 500 square bales and then went looking for a round bale supplier. Summer 2007 was so dry and the fall so wet that hay is scarce. Luckily, we found a neighbor that has good, tightly-baled 1100-pound round bales that are a mix of timothy, brome and canary grass; the latter isn’t especially nutritious but it serves as the necessary forage horses guts need. We place these two at a time in the pasture so the horses have free access to feed as they choose, keeping themselves fed and warm during the winter weather. Our neighbor will deliver 50 round bales in total, six bales per trip (no extra charge), which should feed the horses through the end of April, when we can turn them out to pasture again. On average, they eat two round bales a week.

Once the hay bales are all here and we've moved back into the house, I'll be singing: "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

That hay input represents a lot of manure output – think ahead to your spring garden planting! It’s green gold and you can have all you can haul at no cost!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hakuna Matata!

Last night Ian took me out on a 'date' for my birthday, which was Nov 5, but the theater dates didn't coincide. We went to dinner in downtown Minneapolis at McCormick & Schmick’s on the corner of 9th & Nicollet and then to the Orpheum for The Lion King. I had NO IDEA and it was fun! Some years back, we'd tried to see The Lion King in London but there was a six month wait for tickets - so we went to see My Fair Lady at The Royal Theatre on Drury Lane.

Before dinner, we visited my mother at her apartment where she gifted me with two companion books, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and its journal. I look forward to enjoying these thoughtful gifts.

Last night, we had a great waiter - ordered a bottle of FRENCH wine from Haute Medoc in Bordeaux, since this country CANNOT seem to bottle a palatable red wine. I had deep-fried coconut shrimp as a starter with a spicy seafood jambalaya as the main course. Ian started with mahi-mahi cakes drizzled with Thai peanut sauce and his main course was catfish encrusted in pecans with jalapeno chutney. We shared a dessert sampling of apple pie a la mode, crème brulee, bread pudding served in ramekins. I finished with a dram of tawny port! I hadn't had port in years ... not something you want to get buzzed on though, WICKED headache! Ian had a glass of 10-year-old single all-malt whiskey, Laphroaig. To me, it smells like peat. I guess that’s because its barley is dried over a peat fire.

The Lion King was wonderful. We had aisle seats mid-house on the main floor. The music was familiar and, of course, we knew the story and its characters from the 1994 Disney movie. The singing, costumes, dancing, stage sets and changes were all superb. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. The entire Minneapolis evening was a great birthday gift and certainly worth the wait!


Thursday, November 08, 2007

November's Thanksgiving

Ian and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary on November 5th, which was my 52nd birthday. I worked that morning at the post office and then later that evening we went to see the George Clooney movie Michael Clayton. Ian is taking me for a birthday surprise date next week in downtown Minneapolis. Ian’s quite a romantic and I am certainly thankful for him! I'm also grateful for all the cards, calls and email greetings that came from so many different places.

It was cold enough overnight to freeze the hose that supplies water to our trailer. Because the trailer is warm, the water in its holding tanks is still liquid. We’ll have to look into insulating that hose until we can move back into the house. The barn hose is also frozen, but none of the horse stall buckets or 100-gallon tanks is frozen yet. We’ve got tank or bucket warmers, but when those get plugged in our electric bill really jumps. It will be nice to have an in-ground water system installed for year-round outdoor watering needs and an indoor heated watering system for the barn. Maybe we’ll be able to afford it before next winter. Meanwhile, Ian's working, working, working on getting the house ready for us to reinhabit.

Yesterday, Tina and I gave paste dewormer to every horse, but one – Whisper was not interested in whatever was going on in the barn and he became quite illusive by trotting off into the pasture darkness whenever he was approached. I’ll catch him later today – in fact, this morning he came over to the fence for a scratch behind the ears before I left for work. We measured each horse’s height, weight, what blanket size they wear and whether they need to see the farrier or not (most do, so I’ll be calling Dale soon).

I thought I’d explain about my Postmaster Relief (PMR) job at our local post office. The Stanchfield Post Office is a small place. We have four mail carrier routes that deliver mail to more than 1000 mailboxes six days a week. I work in the office helping to sort mail that’s delivered in the wee hours in big, wheeled cages that hold trays and tubs of all types of mail; magazines, newspapers, letters, parcels, packages and the junk mail that we all love. Of course, the post office makes plenty of money from the latter. I also work the service desk greeting customers, selling postage, handling certified and registered mail, fulfilling hold mail requests, changes of address, plus the daily administrative bookkeeping that must be communicated daily to the main office via its United States Postal Service (USPS) intranet. I like it and am considering training for a rural carrier route so that I can act as back up carrier when one of the four women takes vacation, has a routine medical/dental appointment or is sick. What I really would like to do is find a permanent position and become what the USPS classifies as a “career” employee (PMR is part-time/no benefits). I look at the postings on the intranet and talk with the postmaster Helen, who has worked for the USPS for 40 years and at this office as postmaster since 1999. Helen plans to retire in Spring 2008. I could apply for her position but I don’t know about the reality of hiring a non-career employee into a sought-after postmaster position. Of course, that won’t stop me applying.

Being November, we’re smack in the middle of deer hunting season. Whitetail Deer are plentiful in this area and live in records numbers around the state. The woods are filled with people – men and women – dressed in florescent orange hunting outfits so they don’t shoot one another. This is a popular family pastime in the US, especially here in Minnesota and in our neighboring states. We live in an area where the deer flourish so the limits for each hunter are quite high – as many as five deer per licensed hunter. There are many family-run meat processing plants that specialize in processing deer meat (venison) into steaks, roasts or salami. Of course we don’t hunt, but someone usually gives us large sticks of salami that we enjoy with cheese, crackers and wine.

The dirt road in front of our house has been widen and improved because a new neighbor to the west is building a new home on their wooded 30-acre lot. There has been a lot of noise and heavy machinery running up and down the road for the last week or so, but when it’s all done it will be really nice.

We celebrate my favorite American holiday, Thanksgiving, the last Thursday of November. We will join friends in Minneapolis for lunch at their home. There's usually quite a mix of people from varying backgrounds and everyone brings something to eat or drink and we enjoy each other’s company. Turkey is the traditional meat of the day. I’m making Red Thai curried mashed sweet potatoes drizzled with maple syrup as a side dish. I found the recipe in Martha Stewart’s magazine, Living. Would Martha steer me wrong?


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hunter's moon

We’ve been very industrious lately. On Wednesday, we weaned two foals – Clifford and Kisses. Clifford and Mona recently arrived from South Dakota. Cliffy is a Half Arabian, as his sire is a palomino-colored American Saddlebred [Mona is a purebred Arabian] and because of this Cliffy should get quite tall. Kisses and Cliffy were both born in May; her at the beginning of the month, him, Memorial Day weekend. Usually, weaning is done at four months of age; some even do it as early as three months. We’re a wee bit behind, but I wanted Kisses to have a pal to keep her company. Happily, she and Cliffy have bonded nicely.

Ian has been working on the main floor. He’s got almost the entire 14 x 23 foot area framed with 2 x 10s lag bolted to the oak beams. He will install joist hangers and new joists soon. All of the old joists are now out. He and I removed that last four on Friday afternoon using a saws-all. That cuts through most anything like butter. Once the new joist grid is in place, Ian will put in a vapor barrier and some insulation between the basement, crawl space dirt and the new floor. There’s also an in-floor heating system to install. Then the sub-flooring gets screwed down and the cement board follows, making it ready for the ceramic tile. We expect to move back into the house as soon as the grout seal dries.

Donna burns wood in her fireplace and came with her chainsaw to whittle away at the huge ash tree we had dropped some 18 months ago. Its down to the main trunk now and I’m sure what she took will burn very well. She and I consulted together on how the two apple trees should be cut back and then she got to work. Branches from other trees were trimmed too. On Saturday morning, she and her father came and dropped three trees in the row of conifers that line our eastern border. Donna took wood from two and left the dead pine for me to cut up, using our new, yet-to-be-used electric chainsaw. I’m going to buy chain oil today so I can give it a go.

On Tuesday, the dirt road that passes in front of our house, running east to west, will be widened to double its size to allow for construction machines to get back to the property to our west where new neighbors are building a house in the woods. The new neighbors bought an easement from Donna, which she’s still grumbling about because it will change things that she’s accustomed to doing … like extending her pasture area by running electric fence across the road allowing the horses to feed on the long ditch grass. Ah, well, ‘change goin come.’ We’ll lose a stand of trees that shade our mailboxes and supposedly act as a snow break for our driveway, but there’s nothing we can do about it, as that stand is not ours. We’ll battle whatever snow drifts in by getting it plowed.

Yesterday, we hooked up the trailer and went to a friend’s home in Wisconsin to pick up an Arabian mare we’re leasing from her. Sometimes I feel turtle-like as we travel down the road, house on our back. I work at the post office Saturday mornings, so by the time we reached Kathy’s two hours later we were happy for her offer of lunch [yummy homemade chow mein, brown rice, chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies plus lemon meringue pie]. After a lovely visit, we loaded 12-year-old VG Antazia and headed home. Taza was well received into the herd. She will cross nicely with Legacys Renoir.

This last moon cycle has been extraordinary. It has been so large as it rises through the trees, lighting the fields of yet-to-be harvested corn, rising soft amber yellow at the horizon to a pearly white overhead. This is the first year I’ve heard the term ‘hunter’s moon.’ I’d always described these fat risings as harvest moons, but learned those come earlier in September. Indeed, it is the hunting season now – grouse, pheasant, deer – through November. Last night, Ian and I burned piles of limbs and stood together watching the fire and the moonrise.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Horse and house update

Yesterday, Ian and I went to southeastern South Dakota and picked up a mare and foal; MAF Last Dance (Mona) and “Clifford.” Mona is a 10-year-old purebred Arabian broodmare. Clifford is her 2007 Half Arabian foal born Memorial Day weekend. Both mama and baby are chestnut. His sire is palomino American Saddlebred stallion Goldmount Royal Design. Mona is bred back to “Roy” for a 2008 foal too. Clifford’s registered name will be Royals Red Ferrari. We bought these two from Bill & Tammy of Whispering Pines Arabians. Mona’s bloodlines are exceptional and she will cross well with Renoir.

Three-year-old geldings Whisper and Cairo are back from the trainer and are ready to ride. They are young and still need some kinks to be worked out but the more ride time they get the more comfortable they will be on the trail with a rider. Both are advertised for sale and I have someone who is interested in Whisper.

Ian is working in the living room and dining room floor. The area that is being replaced is 14 feet wide and 23 feet long. The floor in the northwest corner has settled a good three inches, so the floor replacement will bring that level. Right now it’s a combination dirt pit and chasm, but so was the kitchen when w replaced that floor Christmas 2005.

In the meantime we continue to live in our living quarters horse trailer. It’s cozy, with its own propane furnace. We’re parked next to the house and hook up to its electricity, water, Internet, satellite TV and phone and use the laundry, bathroom, etc. as needed. Sometimes I forget what is in which refrigerator, but after doing this for several months now those things don’t happen too often anymore.

This coming weekend cousin Brenda is coming up to help me plant two different kinds of tulip bulbs and some crocuses. She did this with me last fall using bulbs I’d brought back from Holland the previous fall – none of them came up, so I ordered fresh ones so we can have some color right away in the spring. I just love bulb plants.

Ian and I will be married for five years on November 5! Sometimes it seems like no time at all and other times it feels like we’ve been married for years and years – and I mean that in the kindest sense.

Tomorrow, I am going to begin three days of training to become a U.S. Post Office employee. Our Stanchfield Postmaster Helen asked me if I would be interested in being her relief person. So, after completely an application that was as thick as a small phonebook, I underwent a background check and drug test and after completing my training I will learn how the local post office works and will work at the counter on Saturday mornings and be Helen’s backup if she’s sick, has medical appointments or vacation. There are no benefits, it is part-time, but it’s a way to meet more of our neighbors and it should be fun. I suppose I will also be able to apply for other internally posted jobs should something strike my fancy. It will be interesting to see where this goes.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Happy October

Last night Ian came home from a 10-day business trip to Cupertino, California. It was good to see his smiling face and to kiss his lips! After nine days of meetings, on Thursday evening Ian met our dear friends Ronda & Claudio for dinner at Joe's Italian Diner in Gilroy, the garlic capitol of the world. Ian had already been shopping in Gilroy and brought home three jars of green olives stuffed with different goodies; haberno, jalapeno, whole garlic cloves.

On the way home last night – it’s an hour drive to the farm from the airport – we had dinner at Famous Dave’s BBQ. I had a shredded Georgia Pork sandwich with a side of coleslaw and Ian had ribs. All good! The best BBQ pork sandwiches Ian and I have ever enjoyed was on the Outer Banks of North Carolina at Pigman’s. That said, Famous Dave’s runs a close second.

While Ian was gone, Richard and I did various jobs around the farm. We tidied up different piles of this and that – everything from railroad ties to telephone poles – and tossed lots of junk into the rented 30-yard roll-off container. Richard sledgehammered concrete pavement that needed to be removed and took apart old cold-air return vents in the house. After removing 12 foot 2 x 10 inch floor joists, he and I both dug out and leveled the dirt floor that is the basement’s crawlspace. Now Ian can mark the spot for what will be the living room floor and mark it level and begin installing the new joist grid. He did this with the kitchen floor, which was so wavy it took a drunken sailor to navigate it correctly. This morning when Ian saw what Richard and I had accomplished he was mightily impressed.

Of course, it wasn’t all work, work and more work. Richard and I went to the Minnesota Arabian Horse Breeder’s Fall Fest show too. Legacys Renoir was there for four days and participated in the stallion parade. It was nice to see him in a show setting and also to hear appreciative comments from other horse owners and enthusiasts.

Our three-year-old geldings Whisper, Cairo and Trouble are now all in under saddle training. I try not to say “being broken to ride” because it’s not about breaking their spirit, as much as it is about teaching them a new skill. Whisper and Cairo started earlier this summer with a local woman, Heidi. She’s done a fine job with them. My Arabian show gelding Lookin For Trouble went to P & H Horse and Cattle Company in Almena, Wisconsin and is being trained by Hoyt & Pam Rose. I look forward to showing Trouble under saddle sometime in the 2008 show season.

On Thursday, I had the two barn cats, Tonic and Zeus, scheduled to be neutered and vaccinated. Tonic was easy to find on Thursday morning, but Zeus was nowhere to be found. I crated Tonic and took him to the vet. When I came home, who was sunning himself on the front step? Zeus! I called the vet and she said to bring him in. It took me two tries to get him in the crate, but I finally did and now they’re both ‘gentlemen’ rather than roaming, breeding tomcats.

Later this afternoon we’ve been invited to our neighbor’s to the south to attend their cattle auction. Chad and Cameo raise Charolais cattle and host an annual auction the first weekend in October. This is the first year we have been home to attend. It should be interesting. We’re not buying any – I draw the line at cloven-hoofed animals.

It’s unseasonably warm today, but there have been very fall-like days and nights – enough to turn the trees beautiful shades of reds and yellows. I heard a news report last night that explained it’s not really that the leaves turn as much as it is the green chlorophyll receding for the winter, which reveals the leaves other colors.

A family of blue jays has been quite busy picking up acorns and flying off to store them for winter. I watch them from the trailer window – such hard workers. And I thought the squirrel was the only one to harvest acorns.

Ian goes to Scottsdale, Arizona on business for two days next week (9 & 10). It will be nice when we’re both here and not traveling so that we can focus on getting the house ready for us to move back in. Of course if we get a call that we have a buyer for chalet 11 we'd happily travel to Spain for that! My hope is that we can cook Thanksgiving dinner (last Thursday in November) in our new kitchen and eat it at our own dining room table, with the corn stove and in floor heating keeping us warm!


Friday, September 21, 2007

Spain trip highlights

We’re back from our 10-day trip to Spain (September 7-17). I thought you’d like to read some of the trip highlights!

Sunday, September 9
The flights on Friday, September 7, were fine - no delays from Minneapolis or Newark, New Jersey. I did not sleep in the plane from Newark to Madrid, but I was busy reading “The Collectors” by David Baldacci and I watched the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie twice. We arrived in the Spanish capitol at 10 a.m. and it was sunny and warm. There was a momentary snag with a credit card not reading properly when getting our rental car, but it all worked out.

After that long flight, Ian drove the five hours from Madrid to Riumar, which is on the Mediterranean coast. We stopped for potty and leg-stretching breaks. I dozed off now and again, but the 2-door Volvo was not really car-nap comfy. It was nice to get to Riumar and our chalets. We bought groceries, made a light dinner, drank some Spanish wine and watched the BBC on the TV. By 8 p.m. local time we were SO tired we went to bed. We slept soundly until midnight, then got up, got dressed and went for a walk around the village. You'd be surprised how many of its small, family-run restaurants were still buzzing with people at that late hour. We came back after about 45 minutes, had another glass of wine and went back to bed. I slept until 8 a.m. local time (Spain is 7 hours ahead of U.S. Central time) and Ian got up when I brought him coffee at 9.

This morning we're moving personal items from chalet 10 (the one that will be sold tomorrow) to next door at number 11. After waiting for three Irish ladies to leave (they've been our guests for nine days) Ian and I went over to ask what time they would be leaving. We spoke to one of them, who said they had a marvelous time. We like to hear that. They will be our last rental guests. We are hoping the remaining chalet (11) sells soon. Regardless, I don't think we'll rent it next season either. It's tough to do it long distance and if someone wants to buy most often (even if they're buying it as a rental property) they don't want it already rented.

We'll spend today taking stuff from one chalet to the other and then at 3:30 we'll meet my son Michael and his wife Natalia at the train station. They’re coming from Barcelona, which is 2 hours away and they'll spend the evening with us and go to the sale with us in the morning. I want Natalia along because I don't comprehend all the Spanish legalese that she does and if there are questions I want her there as a translator that we can trust to ensure all goes well. Besides, it will be nice to see them both. We saw them in MN last August when they visited for 10 days. We've not been together in Spain for 2 years. Ian and I came to their wedding in September 2005. It's wonderful to see them doing to well; personally and professionally.

I will be SO happy when the sale is done. It will be a tremendous relief and an answer to many prayers.

Thursday, September 13
The sale of chalet number 10 went through on Monday. I wish I could say it went without a hitch, HA, it was a nightmare. Thank goodness Michael and Natalia came along to the signing. Our agent, Chris the drama queen, was in true form; completely disorganized and did nothing to engender confidence. In the end it all went OK, but it was enough of a bad experience that we cannot imagine doing any business with Chris again!

After the sale, Michael and Natalia returned to Barcelona by train Monday and we came up by car on Tuesday. We stayed at a hotel that was supposed to have wireless Internet connection in every room, but our room did not have a signal and the front desk could not get it sorted out. We decided we would just stay one night and then come back to Riumar and stay in number 11.

September 11 is independence day in the province of Catalonia so the banks were closed. We visited with Michael and Natalia at their home and went out for both lunch and dinner together.

Earlier Tuesday morning before traveling to Barcelona, while we were still on the delta, we got into a small car accident. We were PARKED on a side street in the neighboring village of La Cava, sitting in our rented car, when a local guy driving a dump truck came by us and snapped off the driver's side mirror. Ian beeped the horn and screamed at the guy as he jumped out. The man stopped, got out and began explaining in rapid-fire Catalan, with big arm gestures that we were wrong to be parked where we were, blah, blah, blah. I called Natalia and asked her to send the local police. The guy had had a bit to drink - not sloppy, but certainly foggy. He was walking around the side street and out to the main street and we worried about him leaving the scene. Ian went to his truck and took the keys from the ignition. The police arrived and listened to his version and informed him quite quickly he was in the wrong. This guy's entire demeanor changed and he became even more contrite as the accident report was completed. The officer explained that because the accident was not serious and no one was hurt, he would not test the other driver for alcohol (how novel), but the officer did shake his finger at him and told him to go straight home. Ian was able to reassemble the mirror pieces so we do have a driver's side mirror, albeit a cracked one. The accident report with the other guy's insurance info and that we were not at fault should be plenty enough for Avis.

On Wednesday morning, after we deposited the sale check our Spanish bank account we visited our friends Caroline (a Canadian married to a Catalan) and Christine (German), who both live just outside Barcelona in Sant Cugat. Oh, it was SO good to see them. We met through the Barcelona Women's Network (BWN) when we were all members of this English-speaking women’s group. There were some emotional moments and tears as I remembered just how precious they are to me. I also spoke by telephone to Doreen and Patricia; more great BWN friends, but ones we would not get to see this trip.

We have been running errands since we returned to Riumar. This morning we met Martina, a German realtor who works for an agency that is just up the coast from Riumar. We had corresponded by email and it was nice to meet her face-to-face. Already she is miles ahead of Chris. Another bonus is that she is a horse person! She has Quarter horses and Arabians plus she is in the process of getting a license for her own horse riding stable. As you can imagine, she loved photos of our Arabian stallion Legacys Renoir.

We also have the chalet listed with the Inmodelta agency right here in Riumar. Between the Catalan/Spanish agency and Martina's German agency number 11 should sell! We also bought BIG signs that read "Se Vende" (For Sale) and I've put Natalia's cell phone number on these signs. Naturally, if we can sell the chalet without paying a 5% commission to an agency, all the better.

Today, we had lunch with British transplants Janette and Brian. Janette has been handling summer rental changeovers for number 11. We met her through Chris (one good thing she'd done), but this was my first time meeting them face-to-face. Ian met them when he was here a few weeks ago. They too have unbelievably nutty Chris stories. Unbeknownst to us, Chris has quite an unsavory reputation and has many debt judgments against her. Lovely! Anyway, Janette and Brian are wonderful people and ones we plan to stay in touch with.

Tomorrow (Friday), our last full day on the delta, there will be more running around and Ian will fix a leaky toilet hose and replace small, cracked tiles on the bathroom countertop.

Yes, we want to sell number 11 and focus on the Auld Macdonald Farm, but this trip has also reinforced that we want to return too. I just love it here and surely we could find a suitable place for us here that would allow us to have horses either with us or nearby. There's no rush, we're happy on the farm, but Spain or France are certainly in our future plans.

Saturday, September 15
Today we closed up the chalet and said goodbye to Riumar and I wept as we left and for a good way down the highway. For me, it’s a challenge because I don’t know when I’ll be back. I’m also torn because I do love it on our farm in Minnesota with our horses and other animals.

The drive to Madrid took five hours and we are spending the weekend with Cynthia and Claude, our dear Canadian friends who we've not seen since their wedding in Montreal. On Monday, we fly Madrid-Newark-Minneapolis.

We returned the Volvo to Avis at the Madrid airport. There was some discussion about the police accident form we presented, but it was quickly resolved at the returns desk. At least, I hope that is the end of it! I’m always nervous when a company has a Visa card number!

Cynthia and Claude have lived in Spain for 10 years. Claude collected us at the arrival area and we made a short drive to their home. I don’t know what section of Madrid they live in, but it is gorgeous and very safe. Apparently, it is fortress safe as a famous Spanish footballer (soccer star) had lived in one of the townhouse-type apartments and extra measures were put in place to keep his adoring fans at bay.

There are people in this world who are born as gracious hosts and Cynthia and Claude are certainly that. We just love to come to visit them, wherever they are. After we settle in our room, we four sat on their patio veranda and ate grilled shrimp and barbequed white fish with fresh oven-baked veggies and other local lovelies; delicious olives, course bread, bottles of well-researched Rioja! The conversation, as always, was stimulating and wide-ranging.

Sunday, September 16
We woke up to a sunny and comfortably warm day and we four went to the Hipodromo La Zarzuela (the horse racetrack) in Madrid. What a GREAT time. Before each of the races we viewed the horses in the paddocks, then places our bets and went to the stands to watch! We did pretty well for being somewhat unscientific. Really, we bet just to add some interest, not to retire!

Afterwards, we ate at a nice restaurant and had Spanish rise dishes, named paella and arroz negro and drank chilled rose.

Later, back at the house, we fought the siesta urge, and watched a movie and chatted.

Monday, September 17
This morning, Claude left for a business meeting in Poland a few hours before Cynthia took us to the airport for our flight home. Since I’d devoured a Baldacci novel earlier in the trip, Cynthia gave me a Jonathan Kellerman novel, “Rage”, which introduced me to protagonist Alex Delaware. With less than 100 pages left to read, I’m hooked and have reserved the Alex Delaware series to buy in publication-date order on my Amazon wish list.

Ian and I arrived home on the farm Monday night at 8:45 p.m. Minnesota time, which is 3:45 a.m. Spain time. As you can imagine, we were a bit tired, as we gotten up in Spain at 8 a.m. Our flight from Madrid went well and there was only a slight delay leaving Newark. We’d parked our truck at the airport.

When we arrived home, I went to the barn and patted all the indoor horses. Naturally, our barn helper Tina took such good care of all the animals! Tiger the cat greeted us and spent the night here in the trailer purring and loving us up. I picked up our dog Lady from the local kennel Tuesday morning and she was thrilled to see me.

Basically, we’re good. Sometimes the jet lag gets us, but that will be over in a few days.

Next week Tuesday, Ian is traveling on business to Cupertino in Northern California for 10 days. I’m staying home and going to a big horse show at the state fairgrounds. Renoir will be there and will be shown Saturday afternoon in the stallion parade before the futurity auction that happens in the evening.

My son Richard is going to come up and work on renovation projects and keep me company. It will be nice to have him here while Ian’s gone. He’s learning more and more about horses, which I think is good for a city kid!

Our next big push is to get things done in the house so we can move back in – winter’s a coming!


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Spain – buen viaje

Tomorrow, September 7, Ian and I are traveling to Spain. We have been waiting for the sale of chalet number 10, which has dragged on in fits and starts since Easter. Finally, we have a green light and an appointment to sign papers at a notary office on Monday, the tenth. A young Spanish couple is buying the chalet as their primary residence.

We will be in Spain until the 17th. We will visit friends and family in Barcelona and Madrid. Our flights are in/out of Madrid and we will drive to/from Riumar, which is a five-hour drive. It will be nice to see the Mediterranean again and all the changes since I last visited, which I think was two years ago this month when my son Michael married Natalia. Ian has been twice this year; at Christmastime for his visa and a business trip two weeks ago.

Tina is taking care of the farm and all of its animals, except for Lady, who will be boarded for the 10 days we’re gone.

We are listing the remaining chalet, number 11, with two additional local real estate agents in hopes it sells soon. We have enjoyed owning our Spanish properties, but its time to consolidate here in the U.S.

The money from the sale will allow us to restart renovation projects that have languished in recent months. We look forward to moving back into the house and enjoying our living quarters trailer on trips to horse shows.

Our stallion, Legacys Renoir, will be in a stallion parade Friday evening, September 28, in the Coliseum at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds during the Fall Fest Arabian horse show. After he struts his stuff, hopefully booking breedings for the 2008 season, Renoir will have a long break before he shows again – which will be in Scottsdale, Arizona in mid-February. We hope to be there with him from the 9th to the 25th.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

August tale and travel

It continues to be warm, humid and with little or no rain. The lawn grass crunches when we walk on it. The pasture is dry too and nothing but weeds are growing so we’ve been feeding hay to the outdoor horses for the last month. The corn and beans planted in area fields are looking quite thirsty.

In my last post I wrote about two kitties I found to at roadside. I tried to nurse them using kitten milk replacement, but sadly they both died. Bless their little kitten hearts.

We have two apple trees on the property; both are laden with ripening apples. I’m going to collect some and will begin making applesauce, apple pie filling and maybe even some apple jelly in the next few days.

Ian is on his was to Barcelona. He left Minnesota yesterday but because the plane left so late the connection was missed in Newark, New Jersey. So, he’s booked on a flight today to arrive on Sunday morning in Barcelona. He’ll return on the 22nd.

We’re on a roller coaster when it comes to selling the properties in Spain. First, one is sold, then not, then there’s interest in the other and then nothing. I THINK we’re about to actually sell one, but until the papers are signed and money changes hands it’s all conversation.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Kitty, kitty

Saturday during our morning walk, Lady and I found 2 itsy-bitsy kittens meowing and dirty on the side of the dirt road. One is black and white, the other is all grey, and both are females. The black and white one has her eyes open and the other does not yet – so they are very young. I don’t know if someone dropped them off or if they were abandoned by the mother, but they are here now.

I researched what to do on the Internet and then bought an electric heating pad, a small feeding bottle with nipple and some kitten milk replacement formula. They’re to be fed every 2-3 hours around the clock. They do not have enough suck power to get milk from the bottle, so I am feeding them with a syringe. Frankly, they’re not too impressed with having their mouths pried open but they’re getting the hang of it.

Our housecat Tiger has not taken too kindly to them. I’m sure instinct tells him that if their mother is not around to protect them, they should be killed. I put the kitties, along with their towel and heating pad in the bathtub and closed the bathroom door.

In a week or so they can go longer stretches between feedings and before I know it they’ll be eating solid food and using a litter box. A girlfriend mentioned she would be cat shopping as soon as she moved into her new place. I called her yesterday and she was in the process of moving then. If she decides not to take them, they can always stay here. A farm can almost always use another (neutered) cat.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Depths of summer

Hello! It’s been WEEKS since I’ve written an update; so let me give you some highlights.

Our stallion Legacy’s Renoir went to his first horse show in two years and wowed the judges and the crowd. He showed in a stallion halter class in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday, June 13, and won a blue ribbon, which qualified him to compete in the Region 10 Championship show the next evening. We did not know it at the time, but in winning that blue ribbon Renoir beat out the Brazilian National Champion! On the 14th, Renoir was awarded a Top 5 Ribbon and then was judged Reserve Champion for all of Region 10 (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Upper Peninsula of Michigan) in the stallion class for ages two years and over. Of course, we’re thrilled. It was fun to see him do so well and Region 10 is one of the toughest regions in North America. His regional win qualifies him to show at U.S. and Canadian Nationals this year and next year.

Renoir’s next show will be in Des Moines, Iowa over Labor Day weekend (August 30-September 3). Then later in September (27-30) he will in St. Paul again at a big show we call “Fall Fest.” Each time he shows Renoir’s handlers will be professionals; either Jeff Schall or brother Jerry. We’re not doing amateur owner to handle (AOTH) this season. After Fall Fest, Renoir will probably have a long break and not show until February in Scottsdale, Arizona. Of course, he can be called upon to begin breeding mares in February 2008 too.

Renoir had two photo sessions with different professional equine photographers in late June. He also was videotaped and we’re watching to see the final DVD version. These are used in promoting the stallion. Renoir will have a full-page ad in the Arabian Horse Times in the August and September issues; both ads are related to the above-mentioned shows.

In mid-June we went to South Dakota, very near the Minnesota border, to see Mona (see “Spring Update” entry). She is a beauty and we fell in love with the chestnut colt at her side and he will come with her to the Auld Macdonald Farm this fall. We have dubbed him Clifford. He is a large, fiery red chestnut Half Arabian with three white socks and a white star and snip that travels down his forehead. When I picture any big, red animal the children’s storybook “Clifford the big red dog” comes to mind. I’m not sure what we’ll officially name him. His sire is the palomino American Saddlebred stallion Goldmount Royal Design. During our South Dakota daytrip, we met Royal along with another stunning stallion, purebred Arabian, Bey Shahzon.

Sax Fifth Avenue, the Arabian mare I mentioned in “Happy June” is back with us. She is confirmed bred to Sirius Trouble for an auction foal in 2008. Windy (Arabian) is bred to pinto American Saddlebred stallion Famous Echo SCA for an auction foal in 2008. Auction foals can compete in special purse-winning classes at specific shows. We also bred Khatalina Bey (Arabian) and Yukon Miss (Thoroughbred) to Renoir for foals in 2008. On Tuesday we will have these three mares confirmed in foal. The mare we’re leasing in Wisconsin, VG Elambra (see AMF Spring Update), is also in foal to Renoir, so that will be it for our breeding season. There’s only so much money in the world.

Our three-year-old geldings Cairo and Whisper will be going to nearby Rush City to be started under saddle (see “Happy June”). Our other gelding Jay is enjoying his time in Buffalo, Minnesota with his teenaged 4-H handler Darrah.

Ian set up a 60-foot round pen and we use it to work on our horses’ ground manners. Lately, it’s been blessed hot with high humidity and not a sniff of rain, so we’ve given the horses a training break. We do take the hose into the pasture to rinse them off – some like it, some are not really impressed, but it makes me feel better knowing they’ve been given a break from the heat.

Windy’s filly is growing up nicely (see “It’s a girl”). She’s got a nice personality and a lovely Arabian head and neck with a tail that stands flag straight. Kisses seems to have the finest attributes of both dam and sire. We’ll be working with her more and more and, if we have not sold her, we’ll look at showing her in the spring of 2008.

We’re (still) waiting to learn about the sale of one of our two chalets in Spain. Number 10 has been off the market since the end of May. You can imagine how frustrating it is to wait at this distance. I should know something definite next week.

Meanwhile, at least Ian will be going to Barcelona. HP has asked him to travel there and to Grenoble, France related to this latest consulting project. He’s to meet in Barcelona beginning Monday, August 13, and running through Thursday or Friday of that week.

I’ve seen the latest Harry Potter movie and this morning I finished the final book. I really enjoyed the series and I hope that J. K. Rowling doesn’t just sit back and spend her billions, but that she writes another adventure to share.

My son Richard came to visit earlier in the week. We tore off siding as high as we could reach without a ladder. Of course we did it on the two hottest days of the summer. A lot of water was drunk those days! Before residing and installing new windows and doors, we will put a house wrap on all exterior walls. The siding we’ve chosen resembles cedar shake, so with the doorways and windows trimmed in white it should look quite gingerbread-ish! LOL

We’ve also begun tearing out the living room/dining room floor. Why people want us to take up the boards carefully and try to re-use them is beyond me. They are old, dried up, warped and should go exactly where we took them – to the fire pit for a great bonfire. Once the floor is replaced, we will lay down the same ceramic tile we have on the kitchen floor. Ian’s also installing radiant heating, so with that, the house wrap and the corn stove we’ll be cozy this winter.

Meanwhile, we’ve moved into our living-quarters horse trailer. It has all the creature comforts and when we need to haul a horse, we just unplug the electricity and disconnect the water, load a horse or two, hook it up to the one-ton pick up truck and we’re off!

Yesterday, I took Mom to Pine City, Minnesota to visit her brother Bob and his wife Carol. They live just outside this small city on a 200-acre farm they’ve owned since just after WWII. Aunt Carol is a great cook and we had a simple, tasty lunch. The farm has been both a working dairy farm and a show horse business, but now its only animals are outdoor cats.

We’ve had friends and family come to visit and we are expecting more visitors in a few days.

Those are just some of the things going on since I last posted.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Summer rhythms

Summer officially begins on the 21st, but I feel that we’re already into a summertime rhythm. This time last year we hadn’t been to our first horse show yet. This year, we’re showing less as handlers and we’re focusing almost solely on Legacy’s Renoir and all the marketing needs of a breeding stallion. I like horse shows and could go to one every weekend, but this big picture/long term view has its appeal as well. The energy that comes from bouncing our ideas off others – renowned trainers/handlers, breeding specialists, and other stallion owners — is refreshing. There are measured steps to take in successful stallion marketing; conditioning, training, showing and doing well, which create what our trainer calls [marketing] “hot buttons”, the breeding, settling mares, which is horse industry speak for “impregnating”, the resulting foals, advertising at the right junctures; all take time.

Another added bonus to being Renoir’s owners is that when he was a yearling he created quite a stir at the Scottsdale show by winning when he was supposed to be “just another pretty horse in the ring” with a handler who was young, Latin American and had never shown in the U.S. Renoir and Gil won first place and reserve champion ribbons at that show in 2003 and people are still talking about it. Many are also excited to see Renoir in the show ring again.

So, being less frantic about going to shows, we have time to settle into the pace of farm life. Oh, a friend who is in agri-business explained that while this is Auld Macdonald Farm we are not “farmers” but ranchers. I suppose I can agree with that, as we don’t plant/harvest anything. When I think of “ranch” I think of wide expanses and words like hacienda and the “the back 40” come to mind.

Before our housecat Tiger came to live with us, he was an indoor/outdoor cat in the city. Now he likes to sleep all day and go out at night during the warm weather months. Who doesn’t? The sky takes on the right cat-about-town tint at 9 p.m. and he begins to display departure behavior. I open the door and he pads out. Providing there’s no inclement weather Tiger’s night out ends at 5 a.m. when he meows at the dining room window, which is adjacent to our bed. He and I have fallen into this wee hours dance that coincides with me going potty. He meows, I get up and let him in, make a pit stop and we all curl up in bed with sleeping Ian, who remains dreamily oblivious.

We have 11 hens that lay between six and eight eggs daily. I did find the rooster John Wayne dead in a hidden corner of the coop. Sad, because he did not look poorly – well, other than the fact he was stiff as a board! We have not had the sickness on the farm this year that we suffered last, when we had days when as many as three chickens died in a single day. With that behind us, having these chickens that have been with us through the winter is really special. They are quite friendly, although not the jump-up-in-your-lap kind of friendly. They do come when I call them and I scatter seeds, peelings, and fruit cores daily. The weather has been so nice lately that we often leave the back door open and we’ve had curious feathered guests – sometimes leaving their calling cards.

Ian is between contracts right now [a new one begins late June] and he’s grooving with the kitchen project. The drywall is all up and taped, the countertop bases are built and very soon he’ll be able to install the ceramic tile. Once that’s done, the kitchen drawers, dishwasher and sink are next on the list!

Tomorrow, we leave Tina in charge while we take Lady, truck and trailer to the fairgrounds to watch Renoir show Wednesday morning and Thursday evening. Then late Thursday we will head to South Dakota and plan to return to the farm late Friday or early Saturday.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Happy June

Kisses is one month old today. She enjoys running in large loops in the grassy pasture under her mother’s watchful eye. Windy is actually a rather laid back mommy. Ian and I get to handle Kisses quite a bit, as does Tina when she does barn chores.

Today, I noticed that the rooster John Wayne is no longer with us. I thought I’d missed him yesterday, but made a concerted effort to locate him today. No rooster. We’ve got 11 hens and that’s it. I began collecting eggs daily again. The hens have done me the favor of laying eggs in one nest in the coop, so I don’t have to hunt for other nests. My Mom and younger brother Matthew came to visit on Friday. I sent Mom home with two dozen. Friend Marcia is bringing me several dozen cartons from her dad’s place in South Dakota. I’m always running out of cartons.

Yesterday, Ian and I hauled 15-year-old mare, Sax Fifth Avenue, to a farm in Buffalo for her to be bred this month to Sirius Trouble for a purebred Arabian foal in May 2008. Sax belongs to a friend and we are leasing her for the purpose of the 2008 foal. We like Sax very much. In fact, we own her three-year-old son Jay, who is making a 14-year-old girl very happy this summer as her 4-H project horse.

I’ve found a local woman who starts horses under saddle and have scheduled both Cairo and Whisper to go and work with her in August. She has no slots before that time – a good sign. These two are not slated for the show ring, but we do want them for trail riding. Sooner or later we would like to sell them to good homes and to do that it’s important that they be broke to ride.
I am hoping that sometime this summer we will set up a round pen and begin working on developing better working relationships with the horses we have here. Ian and I still want to go to classes in California at Monty Robert’s Flag Is Up Farm, www.montyroberts.com but getting into the horse business has taken us on a bit of a detour. We’re also taking about hiring our own horse trainer in 2008 or 2009; someone who will train our horses here on the farm for show and come with a Rolodex of contacts that will help us to be successful in selling horses too.

The weather has been delightful here. There has been a nice balance of sunshine and rain. The lawn, gardens, pasture and fields are green and growing very well. Farmers are ready to cut their first hay crop. Knowing that we’d rather not run for hay as much as we did this past winter, we will be buying hay earlier and in more numbers (of bales) soon. Tina is cleaning out the hayloft so that we can use it for its intended purpose.

Our stallion Legacy’s Renoir will be showing at two shows held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul in mid-June. First, Renoir will show in an open halter class with a professional handler. If he does well in that class he will qualify to show at the regional championship show that follows the first show. The two shows run almost seamlessly. This is the first time Renoir has been shown since 2005, and we are curious to see how he does. We believe he will do very well.

There is other good news related to Renoir too. There are two mares that are in foal to him, due in April 2008. One of the mares, VG Elambra, we are leasing from her owner so the resulting purebred Arabian foal will be ours. We are planning to breed both of our Thoroughbred mares (Bentley and Missy) and a purebred Arabian mare Khatalina Bey to him in June for foals in May 2008.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Outdoor chores, Spain and Newsletter Lady

Yesterday afternoon the rain finally found us here on the farm. It did not arrive in angry bursts like in other areas of the State; instead we got about a inch of rain so needed by lawns and in the recently planted fields and gardens. Many farmers are planting corn again this year. I’m told the prices are very good. Must be due in part to corn stove buyers like us.

We’d spent yesterday morning in the back pasture, Ian pulling out T-posts and old barbed wire and me atop the John Deere riding mower laying low thistle, dandelion and cocklebur plants before they went to seed. It’s nice to see how the pasture has changed since we did mowing with the brush mower last year. The fact that I can mow with the John Deere versus the brush mower is testament to what last year’s sweat accomplished.

Soon all the old fencing will be removed and we can move on to replacing the perimeter fence, which will be a big job. The idea for the interior is to segment into large paddocks that we can shift horses to, allowing the others to rest and regroup.

The local news is reporting that right now the Minnesota mosquitoes (we joke that these are the State bird) are the largest they will be all year – about a size of a nickel (a shilling, a 20 cent Euro). Later in the season they get smaller and faster. I just despise these little witches! And, of course, it is the females that bite.

Today began with rain that ran through early afternoon. It was a steady pelt with occasional breaks. I had run electric fence around the front lawn, which is now well-fertilized and eaten golf-course short, so I decided to move the four geldings into a back pasture while I relocated the step-in posts to another area. I donned a rain poncho and began unthreading the white fence tape and then pulled a cart and collected step-in posts. I stepped off the new fence line with four of my own steps in between posts. It is a task that allows me to ponder other things. I just walk, place a stake, step it in, count to four, make sure my line is true, step in another post, and repeat. Surely you have something productive yet mindless like this … doing puzzles, needlepoint, knitting, cleaning stalls.

While I was re-fencing, Ian set fire to a large pile of wood limbs and other burnable scraps we’d piled in the pasture earlier in the spring. Bless his heart, it really got hot and has burned a five-foot x five-foot pile into nothing more than white ash. I really love that we can burn here without a permit, as long as we are responsible and are aware about the level of fire danger. We don’t burn our garbage, but its nice to be able to save the odd boards, fallen limbs, etc.

It’s possible that Ian and I will be traveling to Spain soon because a young Spanish couple wants to buy one of the chalets. The couple has been approved for a mortgage and now the property must pass an inspection. As soon as that’s done the date will be set to sign the papers and that’s when we’ll book tickets. This is the second time we’ve had interested buyers, so we’re trying not to get too excited! Our agent emailed me that a woman is coming this weekend to see the other chalet and she’s looking for a rental property. The young couple is buying their first home. I remember the year we lived in Riumar. It was lovely. I’m not sure how long we’ll be there, but probably 10 days to two weeks. We would be truly blessed if the sale of number 11 comes together during that time.

One thing we will be doing is packing the personal items we have left there and ready all for the overseas shipper. We also need to get our 1986 Porsche 944S over to the UK. It needs to have its fuel control system worked on and then we’ll store it somewhere in England; somewhere reasonably priced, and accessible so that we can use it when we travel to Europe rather than renting a car. We cannot import it to the US until its 25 years old.

Thankfully we have Tina who is more than up to the responsibility of taking care of the farm while we are overseas. She will come morning and night to handle horse-related chores, keep an eye on the property and see that Tiger and Lady are good too. We’d considered boarding Tiger and Lady, but thought that would be so boring for both, not to mention the expense.

As if there aren’t enough irons in the fire, I formally launched my company Newsletter Lady with a targeted postcard mailing to local businesses. You can read more about it at www.newsletterlady.com


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Country Life

There are definite advantages to living in the country. For instance, you can have horses eat your front yard lawn and fertilize at the same time! Yes, there are piles of poop, but the chickens like to scratch the piles to find treats and distribute them into the grass, so I don’t have to do that either. Not a bad deal.

It’s fun to look out our living room windows and see the one or all four of the geldings eating or trotting by. We have electric fence that allows this moveable feast for the horses. Every 10 days or so I move the electric fence posts – they’re called “step ins” because you place a post where you want it and step it into the ground - then I string white electric wire tape from post to post making a pasture fence loop that plus into a fencer that provide the jolt. This gives other grazing areas time to rest and regroup before I let the horses feed on them again. We have fenced off our front door so that we don’t have a curious horse come inside – they are that friendly!

Some weeks ago I discovered that we had a rooster in the hen house. Last fall, Trixie hatch a brood of chicks shortly after our last rooster died. Most of the chicks made it through the winter. They are black, like their mother, so I never thought about any being a rooster. Well, about three weeks ago when doing morning chores I heard a definite cock-a-doodle-do and sure enough there was a rooster in all his colorful glory! I’d been thinking about ordering some more chicks and then thought if we have a rooster sooner or later if I don’t collect eggs we’ll have chicks. Well, about seven dozen and about five different nest of eggs later – no chicks! So, I’m going to toss all the now abandoned eggs and start collecting them daily. Maybe the rooster needs to get a bit more lead in his pencil. At least he hasn’t taken to chasing me like the Honeymooner roosters Ralph and Ed. I think I’ll call him John Wayne, for the actor whose only Oscar came from his role as Rooster Cogburn in the movie True Grit.

Yesterday. Marcia came to visit. We had a wonderful time catching up and had an impromptu BBQ. She brought blue corn chips and homemade salsa and guacamole. The temperature was wonderful as we sat outside and chatted. Ian went back and forth from our conversation to working on his kitchen project – getting the countertops ready for ceramic tile. Later in the afternoon the wind turned cold and both Marcia and I went for our sweatshirts. Then we came inside to watch the Preakness Stakes, as the Kentucky Derby winner was beaten by a nose.

Today, the highs are in the 50s and we have overcast skies. If it would rain I wouldn’t mind, but being cold and overcast just seems so unproductive! Ian lit the corn stove this morning and it’s cozy in here.


Friday, May 18, 2007

AMF Spring Update

We continue to enjoy watching Windy’s third foal and first filly develop. Since the last posting, we've decided her registered name will be Troublesome Kisses, as her sire’s name is RSA Troublesome and Windy’s is RJ Kiss The Wind. We call her Kisses. Windy’s 2006 foal, AMF Xtreme Kiss, comes when called by his barn name “Kiss” and so far it’s not confusing. We own Windy’s first foal too, Windstorm GTC, whom we call Cairo.

As of yesterday afternoon all of our horses are vaccinated for the season. We own 14 now and 11 are here on the farm. Not so strange since we're an Arabian horse breeding farm.

The three that aren’t here are Jay, Legacy’s Renoir and MAF Last Dance. Our three-year-old Arabian gelding Jay is spending the summer at a friend’s farm with a teenaged girl as her 4-H project horse www.mn4hhorse.com. The girl’s parents may decide to buy Jay in the fall, so we’ll see where it goes. I’m pleased he’ll be well looked after, will learn some new skills and has helped to paste quite a large grin on the young lady’s face.

Legacy’s Renoir is our five-year-old Arabian breeding stallion. At the end of April we made a business decision to move him to a new training center named Shada Inc. www.shadainc.com located in Elk River, MN. This is Renoir’s first year as a breeding stallion. A veterinarian comes to Shada three times a week to collect his semen, which is then cooled and made ready for shipping to whatever mare owner in the continental U.S. has paid to be bred to him. We plan to breed five mares to Renoir ourselves for foals in May and June 2008. Renoir will also be trained and shown in halter classes by Jerry Schall. Ian may show him too in some amateur owner to handle (AOTH) classes. As soon as Renoir has professional photos and video done he will be listed on the Shada site and we will begin an advertising campaign within the Arabian horse community.

MAF Last Dance (“Mona”) is a beautiful chestnut-colored Arabian mare that we are buying from Whispering Pines Arabians in South Dakota. She is pictured at this link: www.whisperingpinesarabians.com/mares.htm

Mona will come to us in late September bred to a palomino-colored American Saddlebred stallion named Goldmount Royal Design www.arabiansbydesign.com/Stallion.htm. Mona has had four Half Arabian foals by Royal and they are all eye-catching!

We’re also leasing a mare from a friend in western Wisconsin. VG Elambra is a 10-year-old chestnut-colored Arabian mare. She has awesome bloodlines and should cross nicely with Renoir. We will know on May 29 if she is pregnant by Renoir. Provided she is in foal, Elly will stay with her owner in Wisconsin and carry her foal to term there. The foal will come to us when it is weaned at four months.

In April, Ian traveled to Illinois to pick up Khatalina Bey, a mare we bought from Salem Ranch www.salemranch.com/horseprogram.htm. She is 13 years old and what we call a flea bitten grey mare. We will breed her to Renoir too. Ian’s trip to Salem was uneventful, but on his way back the two right rear tires of our 1-ton dually sheered off on the interstate as he was pulling the trailer loaded with the mare! He got to the side of the road, called me, I called the Illinois State Troopers and they got Ian, the mare, truck and trailer to a truck stop mechanic that was able to get everything fixed and/or replaced in three hour’s time … and for $1300! Neither Ian or Khatalina Bey was hurt nor did she need to be unloaded during any of the repairs. She stood happily in her trailer stall eating hay while surely wondering what was going on!

We had some unexpected news yesterday when our vet Dr. Jennifer visited. Missy, the black bay Thoroughbred mare we bought sight unseen off a slaughter truck in October, absorbed the foal she was carrying sometime between November, when she was confirmed in foal by Dr. Jennifer, and yesterday. When we got Missy she was underweight and in general poor health. We put her on a good feeding regime, treated her arthritis and brought her into a stall every night. Sometimes Mother Nature steps in when things aren’t going well, and this is the case with Missy. Now she is strong, the correct weight with a coat that glistens in the sun has a good attitude and should be ready to breed and carry a foal to term for us. We will breed her to Renoir next month.

Earlier in the month Dr. Jennifer operated on Whisper, our three-year-old cryptorchid stallion. A cryptorchid means that one or both of its testicles have not dropped and to geld them ("fixing" them so they cannot breed) means abdominal surgery under anesthesia to search and remove the undeveloped testis. We bought Whisper last year at an auction for $75. We learned a week later when the vet came to geld him one of the reasons why he was so cheap. He has always been a delightful horse, easy to handle and handsome as he gained weight with good feed and care. Once started under saddle, which will happen this year, he will make someone a great trail horse.

Recently we said good-bye to Heide, who cleaned stalls for us during the winter months. We hired Tina as our part-time barn manager in early May. Tina comes with two years experience working for a horse vet, likes to organize, owns her own Arabian horses, including a breeding stallion, and can come every other day to attend to whatever needs doing in and around the barn.

Our farrier comes on Monday morning to trim hooves and put shoes on tenderfoot 19-year-old Bentley so that I can ride her this season. She’s a lovely, well-behaved ride.

Last weekend a girlfriend came to the farm for the first time. After we walked the pastures meeting the horses and toured the house to see its renovation progress, we sat outside snacking on goodies she’d brought and Lisa commented how reading this blog makes her tired. As I look at what’s written, knowing what I edited or did not include, I can see why!


Thursday, May 03, 2007

It's a girl!

Well, actually, it’s a filly! This morning, our purebred Arabian mare Windy (RJ Kiss the Wind) had her third foal and first filly just before 7. I’d gone to the barn to feed breakfast and she was pacing her stall and lying down. I ushered out the two Thoroughbred mares from neighboring box stalls into the pasture and Ian came and put all the horses in a pasture that is one further away from the barn. Our Quarter horse mare Nutmeg likes to pick up the sliding barn door with her nose and slam it, indicating I’m not fast enough with her food. No mother about to give birth wants to hear that noise!

Windy got up and laid down three different times and then she went down once again in a contraction and rolled over on her back with her four hooves in the air and pushed her daughter into the world. I’ve never seen a mare give birth quite like that before! While this was going on I sat outside the stall on a turned over bucket, the barn cats and Lady near me watching this miracle. Ian, coffee cup in hand, and I watched for the next hour as the filly stood, wobbled, found the right faucet and began to nurse.

We’re going to register her as AMF Troublesome’s Kiss and call her “Kisses.” We own all three of Windy’s foals, Cairo, Kiss and now Kisses.The filly’s sire is the handsome purebred Arabian stallion RSA Troublesome, owned by our friend Gerri Ann. I called her when I came into the house to get Ian … before the foal was born! We’ve talked several times already today. Friends in Iowa had a mare bred to Troublesome too and they had a filly this morning as well! In fact, a few weeks ago, Windy’s dam (mother), also in foal to Troublesome, had a filly too!

We have another foal due this month too by our Thoroughbred mare Missy (Yukon Miss). She’s in foal to a Thoroughbred stallion named Foolish Lover. This is her sixth by this stallion. We bought Missy last October and she was already in foal. That one should be very long-legged, as Missy is a giant at 16 hands (4 inches per “hand”) at her withers (shoulders) and her head is held much higher.

Fun, fun, fun!


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Spring unsprung

Not too many weeks ago we were enjoying 70 and 80-degree weather here on the farm. Today, April 5, it is minus 2 degrees below zero Fahrenheit with the wind chill with actual temps in the teens. The wind has been briskly blowing from the north most of this week. The weather report predicts this spring deep freeze will continue through Easter Sunday.

Yesterday, was the coldest April 4th in Minnesota in 86 years! I feel sorry for the robins that recently returned from their winter holidays. Last week they were happily pecking for worms and this week the red-breasted ones, who eat bugs, earthworms and berries, are trying to figure out the birdseed feeders. This is the second day in a row that it’s too cold for the horses that spend the night in stalls to go out. We’re supposed to have even colder temps tomorrow!

We’re into our second year here on the farm. Ian’s had some interesting things happen with clients, he’s added a stockbrokerage firm to the mix and is helping them to build an on-line system to train brokers. I’m getting ready to launch Newsletter Lady, which I’ve created to meet the needs of small or medium-sized businesses that have little or no staff to design newsletters and websites.

Recently, the fourth anniversary of the start of the current Iraq war passed. We remember watching the initial salvos from an apartment in Fort Collins, Colorado. At the time we were away from home in Spain for six-weeks worth of HP meetings. I remember how all of the various network expert commentators consumed our television-watching hours. When the U.S. attacked Iraq under the first President Bush, my sons and I stood with many others looking at a wall of televisions in a local Target store. That U.S. and European-armed forces are still there and are even more mired is frustrating. One interview I read while we were in Colorado was entitled, “Iraq: the 51st State.” Its author contended that if we attacked Iraq and overthrew Hussein, we would be so involved in that country for so long that it would feel (and cost) as if it were added to the union.

The local horse show season begins for us at the end of the month with a show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Ian will be showing more this year than I will. In fact, on Sunday, Trouble and Kiss came home from the training center. They are going to just be horses for a while. They will run in the pasture, see blue sky, eat grass, and socialize with others finding their place in the herd’s pecking order. Kiss is for sale and there are interested buyers in the UK and Canada’s British Columbia.

This show season Ian will be showing our most recent horse purchase, a five-year-old purebred Arabian breeding stallion named Legacy’s Renoir. Renoir lives at the Genesis Training Center where Kiss and Trouble were for a good portion of last year. He is a handsome chestnut with flaxen mane and tail. Renoir will also begin breeding mares this year, albeit via artificial insemination. His foals will begin arriving in April next year. Both Ian and our trainer Tony will show Renoir in halter classes. Renoir is not broke to ride, but we hope to show him under saddle next season.

We are expecting two foals to be born here on the farm early next month. Windy is carrying a purebred Arabian and Missy a purebred Thoroughbred. Ian and I have never “foaled out” any mares, but both are seasoned broodmares and should not have any complications.

In May and June we will be breeding as many as eight mares for babies in April and May 2008. Some will be bred to Renoir; others will be bred to stallions whose breeding we bought via different programs to promote the Arabian breed. Windy will be bred to a pinto American Saddlebred named Famous Echo SCA and we’ll see if we can get another fabulous foal like Kiss.

Meanwhile we await the warmer weather so we can continue to work on various projects inside and out.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Accident-prone horse

As part of doing morning chores on March 7, I looked at all of the outdoor horses in their paddocks. I saw that Cairo, our now 3 year old purebred Arabian chestnut gelding had gouged his back right leg on its front side and it was open and red. Cairo is the first horse we bought, so he’s very close to my heart. I got Ian from the house, rounded up the First Aid kit, some of which was frozen in the barn, and brought Cairo into the barn. I could see it hurt him to stand on it. He was not too happy with me cleaning it out either. I had a small bucket of warm water that I soaked a square of cotton dressing in, and then I cleaned out the cut by first pouring peroxide on it followed by betadine (brown antiseptic stuff) and rinsing clean with warm water. I got it cleaned as best I could and with a two-step dancing horse it ain’t easy. When clean it looked like a deep scrape and did not require the vet visit.

Last year Ian and I became quite adept at dressing leg wounds when Whisper cut himself on a metal gate panel, so this looked like something we could handle. I slathered the cleaned wound with triple antibiotic ointment and wrapped it with cotton dressing cut to fit his lower-leg size and then wrapped it with red-colored vet wrap. Cairo was able to walk on the leg, although it looked sore. We gave him some herbal painkiller paste orally, which he wasn’t too happy about either, but in the scale of unhappy it was on the low end. I put him in the extra fourth stall to promote rest and healing that he wouldn’t get being turn back outside with his two buddies Jay and Whisper.

Cairo was well on the way to being healed and back to freedom when he cut himself again on a different leg on the 21st. Maybe he doesn’t like Wednesdays! I went out as usual to feed breakfast to the horses in the barn – all was well – but when I returned 45 minutes later to turn them out (Cairo was able to go into his own paddock during the day) there stood Cairo with his right front leg drenched in blood! This cut looked bad and I once again got Ian so we could assess the situation together.

I turned out the three mares from their stalls and with my bucket of warm water, cotton dressing, betadine, etc. began cleaning the cut. I was rinsing it out when it began to spray blood like pinprick holes in a garden hose. Freaked me OUT! Ian told me to put the wet cotton dressing on the wound; he’d hold it while I wrapped it with vet wrap as a compress. Good idea and Cairo was cooperative! I did that and then bolted for the house and the phone. I called the vet and she arrived about 45 minutes later.

Unusually, Heide and her youngest son Pierce (4) were also on hand that morning. Pierce got to see the horse’s owie. Heide usually comes on Tuesday and Fridays to clean the barn, but it was lovely to have her on hand just in case.

The vet gave Cairo some happy juice, put five stitches in the cut above his right knee, gave him a tetanus shot and after complementing me on the leg wrapped dressing on his rear right leg suggested I dress the new one too with a bandage that extended over his knee joint to help restrict movement. I did this and for two days Cairo walked the stall like a peg-leg pirate. I felt so bad for him because his leg was swollen up into his shoulder. We dosed him twice daily with the herbal painkiller paste, fed him lots of hay, a handful of grain when the others were fed and all the water he could drink.

Yesterday, I took Cairo out for a little walk. He’s feeling pretty good and decided he’d try crowding me a little and added in a bit of rearing for good measure. I gave a couple of good yanks to jolt him back to reality where that behavior is not acceptable and then the time out of his stall was pleasant for all involved. He’s on stall rest until Thursday and we’ll see how the wounds look before he can be turned back outside.

Putting on our Crime Scene Investigator hats and following the blood spatter that was at human eye-level, Cairo must have gotten impatient after breakfast and reared up in his stall where his right leg reached out over the top of the panel and caught the edge of the metal light switch cover (a good six inches away) and after cutting himself he then traveled along the top of the stall, sliding until he could get his legs down again. What a nutball. He is now in a stall that has wooden planks form floor to ceiling. Its window to the horse pasture keeps him occupied and connected as each horse in turn comes up to greet him sometime during the day.

It’s never dull on the Auld Macdonald Farm.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Home Sweet Home

We were welcomed home by our very own Frosty the snowman built next to our door by one of Heide’s boys. Ian and I both slept well. Tiger nestled in between us, as he usually does, and Lady found her spot of run next to the bed and stretched out. After all the sleeping she did in the truck it was a wonder that she was quiet all night.

This morning, thanks to Heide doing the morning chores, Ian and I could move slowly to find our rhythm. I finished the laundry this morning and have sorted through a big box of mail – you can’t believe how much was junk!

As I was filling the Mr. Coffee and pondered what to make for breakfast I thought about how different living in the trailer had been and how I really liked its conveniences. Usually, when one goes camping, it’s home that has all the easy stuff and ones makes due in a trailer. Not so for us. Living in the trailer I cook/bake with a stove/oven that uses propane, which I prefer to home’s electric. The bathroom is not our only source of water (in fact, it’s our third) and I wash dishes in the kitchen sink, rather than the bathtub. We ate on real versus paper plates at a kitchenette table versus balancing meals on our laps or at our desk. Thankfully, like home the wireless broadband service we subscribed to from Sprint worked very well and this allowed us to work and generally stay in touch!

Lady has been reunited with her pups, Agnes and Bernie, who are Donna’s dogs. I do think she prefers to be with her people, leash or not, but now that we’re all home it’s clear that Lady enjoys running around our end of the road under her own steam to being on a leash everywhere she goes. We appreciate her flexibility and love to see joy in a way that only a dog can express.

The weatherman says we’re looking at six new inches of snow overnight and as much as another 14 inches by Saturday. That will lie atop the 16 inches that fell here last week. The wind will kick up so there will be drifts to deal with too. This is exactly why we hire a guy to plow our driveway and parking areas. He brings a skid loader and gets a 1000 square foot area cleared in less than 15 minutes. We’ll go to the grocery store sometime this afternoon to stock up and ready ourselves for the coming storms. Getting somewhere is not a problem since both our trucks are 4-wheel drive.

The horses and chickens are all fine and the barn is as tidy as it’s ever been. Thanks to Heide … she even took time to tidy the house, so we could just relax in our home sweet home.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Heading Home

Later today (Monday) we will secure things in the trailer, hook it up to the one-ton truck and begin our 35+ hour trek home to Minnesota. We’re traveling northeastward between two snow systems; one that dumped 12 inches of the white stuff on Auld Macdonald Farm, then blew it into three-foot drifts, and another that promises more snow on Wednesday. We plan to caravan with our trainer Tony and his co-driver. Ian has a co-driver too, but she has yet to be pressed into service. LOL We should arrive home Tuesday evening.

We have really enjoyed ours 2+ weeks in much-warmer-than-Minnesota, more-sunny-than-not Arizona. Our two horses taking Top10 ribbons two times each was an honor at such a large and competitive show. Scottsdale kicks off the 2007 show season for us. It's also nice to know that Ian will be showing horses in halter classes as well. I'm SO proud of him. We’re going to a horse show in Las Vegas in late April and may go to one local Minnesota show in late March, as a tune up before Nevada.

March and April will have us busy breeding mares; we have five we’d like to get in foal for babies in 2008. Our mares Thoroughbred Missy and Arabian Windy are each due to deliver purebred foals in May.

We like to travel, but we also like to return home to the farm! It’s never boring.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Winning at Scottsdale

This morning I showed Trouble in the three- and four-year-old gelding AOTH class. Trouble is three this year. It was a sunny but cool morning and the stands were beginning to with weekend spectators. It was a fun morning watching Trouble as he was groomed. I almost never wear make up or decorative jewelry, but I get glammed up for the horse shows. When the announcer called for our class to begin assembling outside the gate, a small posse of GTC friends walked over to the Wendell Arena. Tony reminded me of the things I should do to get the best performance out of Trouble. He’s very positive as a coach and I’m always glad he follows me around the arena in case anything goes wrong – like a halter breaks – and also giving me guidance from the sidelines … all of which is legal and very helpful!

One of the many things I’ve needed to concentrate on is slowing down the process of showing Trouble. I tend to jump right in and forget that the horse and I are partners and that to be successful I must have him on board with how we are going to proceed.

Trouble was really ready to show today and he likes it. When we came in the ring he was high stepping, snorting, tossing his head and generally strutting his stuff. The crowd liked it. As we went to the middle to stand for the 3-judge panel I tried to be slower and set him up as well as I could. I think we did OK and again as we stood along the rail for final judging things seemed to come together. Later, as we walked back to the stalls, Tony said I looked competitive out there today as an amateur handler and that was nice to hear.

Trouble and I won a Top 10 ribbon and plaque. Ian videotaped my entire session and snapped one photo of me being awarded my ribbon. Nice! Winning at any horse show is very nice, but winning at Scottsdale is extra special because the competition is very tough. I am proud of all I've learned since I started taking handler lessons in June and I am even more proud of how Trouble has developed. Now that Ian debuted as a handler at Scottsdale both he and I can look forward to a fun showing season this year.

Tomorrow afternoon, the last day of the show, two-year-old gelding Fire Hawk TL shows again. We wish him well. After that class we can begin packing up the trailers and thinking about the long drive home. Tomorrow night we'll relax and watch the Oscars and we will begin our 32+-hour trek home to Minnesota on Monday. It has been a wonderful experience and one I hope that we can do annually.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Top 10 again for Kiss

This morning under a blazing Arizona sun Ian made his debut as an amateur horse handler. Ian showed our seven-month-old gelding, AMF Xtreme Kiss, in the Half Arabian/Anglo Arabian In Hand Stock/Hunter Type Yearling & 2-Year-Old Geldings Amateur Owner To Handle class. There were 11 horses entered and I was surprised how many of them are pintos. Of course, the two-year-olds were bigger and more mature in look and behavior. This type of class pushes the judges to judge each horse on its merits rather than against its contemporaries.

Kiss’s sire is TF Xtreme and he is a purebred American Saddlebred tri-color pinto. Xtreme is a homozygous tobiano pinto, which means all his foals will be pinto patterned. Kiss’s dam is our purebred Arabian mare Windy, who is pregnant and due to deliver in May. The AMF in Kiss’s name stands for Auld Macdonald Farm.

Ian and Kiss entered in age order, so he was near the end of the 11 entries. They came in well, although Kiss was a bit resistant when Ian asked him to trot in a large circle to show off for the judges. Ah, well, that small hiccup behind the two trotted off again down the rail to fans screaming with glee. As I said the sun was blazing and there is no shade in that arena. Ian kept Kiss calm and the judging progress and that helped to retain some energy for showing. The two did a good job posing on the rail and again in the middle surrounded by three judges. Then we waited as the judges submitted their scores and the Top 10 numbers began being called, which they do in numerical order. Who would go? The announcer read “2153” and we cheered. I was so excited I pressed the video camera to begin recording again and didn’t remove the lens cover right away. LOL

Our trainer Tony said he’s never had a student win a Top 10 at Scottsdale on their first time showing!

Tomorrow and Friday I will school with Trouble. We show in the AOTH class on Saturday morning … pressure!


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Trouble comes to Scottsdale

Yesterday afternoon it began raining. It came in everything from cats-n-dogs to sheets and drizzles, but it never let up. West World, where the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show is held, has several covered arenas, but the halter classes are conducted in Wendell Arena, which is out in the open. The Arizona desert sand turned to a red sandy soup. The seating in the outdoor arenas left butts and backs with imprints, even those who tried gingerly balancing on chair edges got wet. Gone along with the sunshine were the warm temps. It dipped into the 40s last night, which is just as warm as it is in Minnesota today! The local weatherman said it would stop raining around midnight, but at 3 a.m. it was still tapping the trailer roof.

Today began chilly and overcast, and we rendezvoused at the horse stalls in fleece jackets and hooded sweatshirts. Tony and the Siddell family from Iowa, who also show during the year under the GTC banner, had already seen to breakfast and were beginning to groom the two geldings showing this morning; two-year-old Fire Hawk GR, owned by our friends at The Lake Arabians in northwest Iowa and our three-year-old, Lookin For Trouble. Tony was showing both in back-to-back classes, so both horses needed to be groomed and then ferried up to/back from the Wendell Arena. Ian and I were very pleased and thankful the Siddell family was happy to pitch in, as this left us to enjoy the classes as spectators.

Hawk and Tony joined 19 other horses in “Lake Wendell”, renamed for its newly formed puddles and swampy edges. Both handlers and horses tiptoed in to find footing in the less wet area before starting up their entrance trots. As you can imagine shoes were caked with mud and suit pants and horse legs were splattered up to the knees.

Hawk’s class was tough. To me, he looked great and he and Tony worked well as a unit. But, I’m not one of the three judges and sadly Hawk did not win a Top 10 as all of us working the GTC stables had wished.

As the sun broke through and warmed the stands Trouble and Tony came in the arena first in a field of 11 and that gelding of ours looked so handsome on his first pass that he brought tears to my eyes. I just love this horse! As I watched the class I wondered which one of all the good-looking horses would be eliminated? I tried to honestly assess each one with what I know about conformation and working attitude and I could not find fault with any, but Top 10 means 10 and only 10, one was going to go home empty handed. Would it be Trouble? I kept watching Tony and Trouble and I could not see how that well-oiled machine working so well together could be left standing without a ribbon.

As the class proceeded I stood at rail’s edge chatting with a man I’d recognized from shows in Minnesota. He agreed it was a tough class and that all 11 were worthy of a Top 10. As we gazed together trying to second-guess the judges he said, “Well, it could be that small black bay over there with Tony Steiner.” WHAT? I thought, my Trouble? I smiled and said, “I hope not.” That was when he realized we were looking at my horse. He smiled apologetically and said it could well be his horse, a dancing black beauty being shown by his wife because he wasn’t really in the best condition. Nice of him, but he’d spoken his mind and I took his comments in stride, after all, he’s not one of the three judges either!

In the end, the judges gave both of our horses and eight more Top 10 honors. Naturally, we’re thrilled and proud. When I gave Tony the conversation highlights as we walked back to the stalls he said that it’s hard for the judges to eliminate Trouble because there’s nothing wrong with him [conformation-wise] and when given the right cues by his handler Trouble does his job well. Then Tony patted me on the back, smiled and added, “You’ve got your work cut out for you in the amateur class on Saturday,” which is when I show Trouble in the amateur owner to handle (AOTH) class.

Tomorrow morning Ian shows seven-month-old Kiss in an AOTH class. Kiss and Tony won Top 10 honors last Saturday in the Half Arabian In Hand Stock/Hunter Type Yearling Geldings class. Kiss was also marked in first place on one of the three judging cards, which is a thrill to learn. Judging cards are posted for review so people can learn where their horses scored relative to others in the class. It will be interesting to see what Trouble’s marks were.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thursday in Scottsdale

Today is sunny and in the 60s. It is cool enough to where a sweater or light jacket. I’m sure as the sun rises further it will be a lovely day. Lady and I have been for a walk and it is so much fun to see all the various work areas full of horses, trainers, riders and handlers. It’s also nice to hear birdsong and not to have to dress in layer after layer before going outside. Lady is enjoying sitting outside the trailer on our square of green indoor-outdoor carpet.

Ian is meeting with a potential client this morning, so he’s all dolled up. I cut his hair and trimmed his beard on Tuesday. He’s such a handsome fellow. Yesterday for Valentine’s Day we exchanged cards and cooked a very nice dinner of BBQ salmon filet with spinach & bacon salad. We had some pinot noir and finished everything with cheesecake. When we were at the grocery store we saw that Philadelphia Cream Cheese now makes a ready-to-eat cheesecake filling and decided to pick up a graham cracker crust and give it a try. It was OK, not to die for, but OK. LOL No great cheesecake comes easily.

The show begins tomorrow with youth classes. One GTC horse is a beautiful mare named Teyna Turner. She will be shown tomorrow by a teenaged Jen who is flying with her parents this afternoon. Our Half Arabian yearling Kiss will be shown by Tony on Friday. Ian shows Kiss on Wednesday morning. Tony shows Trouble on Tuesday and I show him on Saturday the 24th. There is another gelding, Fire Hawk, a tall, leggy chestnut, that is stabled with us and he shows this week too, although I don’t know which day yet.

We’ve found the local grocery store, dry cleaners, Lowe's and Target, and today after Ian return we will find the local Laundromat. I suppose we have one load, but it’s an important bunch of dirty clothes!

We went to Lowe's and picked up some flowers and potting soil to dress up the GTC stall area. Tony had already purchased wood chips and now it's dressed up. Some stable areas are quite exotic and beautiful. As the week goes on I'll send photos of some of our favorites.

Last night local TV was dumb so Ian and I watched some The West Wing final season episodes. When we lived in Spain this series didn’t air so we bought the DVD sets from Amazon when they became available. It’s so nice to watch the program without commercial breaks.

This morning just before I was completely awake I distinctly heard Bentley our Thoroughbred mare whinny. Sure, considering where we are it could have been another horse, but it really sounded like her. I like to travel but I miss being home too. It’s another week before we begin our trek home and I plan to enjoy every day.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Today more people and horses arrived. The air was filled with the sounds of trucks working hard at pulling trailers, horses whinnying at new neighbors and dogs barking as they figure out new territory lines. The sun was out today with temps in the low 70s. That’s 70+ degrees improvement from last week in Minnesota!

Kiss was body clipped getting him ready for the show. This means his winter coat was shaved. His chestnut brown looks a few tones lighter and he should be quite eye-catching to the judges. Tony says Kiss will mature a lot from this show experience. He’s kind of thrown in at the deep end of the pool and expected to swim; the travel time is long, he is stabled away from home for two weeks, he is schooled in new surroundings and shown twice and each time with a different handler. That’s a lot for a young horse.

Ian and Tony built the frame that holds the Genesis Training Center logo canvas that marks the stall areas. Tony took all four horses for a stroll around the compound. Tomorrow each will be exercised in an effort to keep them limber. Kiss debuts with Tony on Saturday.

One of the other many pleasures of being the trailer is being able to easily do things like prepare a meal and clean up afterward in the kitchen! Usually when folks “go camping” it’s the other way around – you kind of rough it on the road … not us, living in the trailer is a luxury! It’s at home where I wash dishes in the bathtub and cook in a makeshift area. Ah, well, soon we’ll have the farmhouse renovated and will enjoy luxury at home and on the road.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Coming to Scottsdale

We began our trip at 9 a.m. on Friday and arrived on the show grounds in Scottsdale, Arizona at 11 p.m. Saturday. A childhood friend, Reah, wanted to caravan with us for part of the way so that she could ferry her Honda CRV to Austin, Texas. We met Reah south of the Twin Cities and pointed south along I-35. After a few hours Reah asked me to spell her driving. Her CRV drove quite nice and we talked nonstop from Missouri until 1:30 a.m. in Oklahoma City where we bid Reah farewell. She got a hotel rom and I rejoined Ian and Lady in the truck and we headed west on I-40. At 4 in the morning at a truck stop in Clinton, Oklahoma we stopped for a sleep break. Actually, I had crawled into the backseat some hours earlier, allowing Lady to ride shotgun. At 6 a.m. Ian started the engine again and off we went. I popped back up front at our breakfast and gas fill-up stop. The Texas panhandle was foggy but the temps were finally bearable after the subzero of home.

In sunnier New Mexico the scenery reminded me of a John Wayne movie set with its sagebrush, straw-colored grass and thick green trees dotting the rolling landscape. The rock outcroppings got more and more interesting, as did the billboards touting dinosaur bone parks, and various Indian tribe-made pottery and jewelry. We climbed into Albuquerque and treated ourselves to a cheeseburger and fries lunch at a Route 66 diner on the far side of town.

We continued across New Mexico and as the sun set we gassed up for the umpteenth time since leaving home at a Hopi Indian-run truck stop. I didn’t note the time that we crossed into Arizona, but I did telephoned our trainer Tony who was about four hours ahead of us on the road. Tony hauled the four horses that Genesis Training Center will be showing here. We hauled hay and feed in our trailer. We brought our own supplies for a couple of good reasons; buying either at a horse show is really expensive, and it’s best for horses to maintain their regular diet to help minimize gastrointestinal problems.

The descent from Flagstaff to Phoenix is substantial under any conditions; pulling a 36-foot trailer makes it very interesting. Ian wasn’t familiar with the road and after 30+ driving hours was working hard at getting us safely through that last little bit. After a couple of wrong turns we arrived at Westworld in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale and easily found our rented RV spot. Ian backed the trailer into its slot and we three climbed into bed and slept. Ian commented that he hadn’t driven that many hours straight since his days driving tours from London to Nairobi.

This morning we rendezvoused with Tony and saw the horses. All looked good as we fed them breakfast and topped up water buckets. This is our yearling gelding’s first show and road trip and Kiss looks none the worse for wear. He will be body clipped tomorrow, as Tony shows him on Saturday. He’s had his face shaved but hasn’t had his entire body done. I’ve never seen it done, so I’m interested to see how it goes. Today is a rest day for all of us. The show starts on Thursday, and we came early so the horses and people have time to recover from the trip.

Today the weather was overcast and it did rain this afternoon, but earlier we were running errands in shirtsleeves, calling people at home in the Midwest saying how nice it was! I spoke with Donna earlier who told me it was 10 degrees, which must feel balmy after many days in the deep freeze. During our walk around the grounds we saw a hummingbird hovering near an acacia tree.

After getting clothes, food and other supplies put away, I baked a pan of brownies (I had to test the oven LOL) and have a loaf of oatmeal bread baking in the bread machine. We’re having broiled steak and salad for dinner with a glass of wine.

Ian’s hooked up the wireless broadband so his laptop has Internet access and we can stay in touch with clients (and you, of course).