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?