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


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 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. 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:

Mona will come to us in late September bred to a palomino-colored American Saddlebred stallion named Goldmount Royal Design 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 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!