Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Snow, snow, snow

Sometime during the night, snow began to fall and it is still falling as I write at breakfast time. I’ve been to the barn for morning chores – slipped and fell on my right knee (same knee I fell on and cut open on December 4) - but was able to recover and continue to the 150 feet to barn, while carrying four filled feed buckets. Recently it has been in the mid to high 30s, so the earlier snowfall melted but the colder nights left icy patches, which is what sent me to my knees this morning. The snow is like powder – not good for snowballs, but it sure makes shoveling easy.

Of course, Lady and Buddy accompany me to the barn. In fact, it’s almost impossible to leave the house without them. As you see, I am dressed like Nanuk of the North, but I'm not bundled against the cold as much as against the wet, knee-deep snow. My outwear includes snowpants, snow boots, an insulated vest, Carhart barn jacket, gloves and Canadian beaver hat. I'm toasty warm! Buddy the poodle is quite a trooper when it comes to the winter weather. He bounds along where Lady has blazed a trail. When it’s subzero I monitor his shivers or how many paws he’s trying to hold off the ground and often put him back in the house before chores are finished. He is unhappy with that and barks his fool head off in protest!

Our six Pilgrim geese are not impressed with the snow at all. They overnight in the barn, but usually spend the day outside – not today. Dressed in goose down, they waddled as far as the pasture gate – about two feet – where they nestled in until I was done with the morning feed, then they went back inside the barn.

Barn cats Zeus and Tonic patiently waited for the breakfast. They are very good mousers and get a pigeon every once in a while, but they like their chow too. Both are two years old and, like our housecat Tiger, they’re neutered.

The chickens had the run of the barn, but I’ve closed them in their coop now (a large room built in the barn next to the horse stalls). It’s warmed by heat lamps, has a heated warm bowl and it is so much easier for me to find the eggs! The geese also enjoy the chicken scratch feed, so now the chickens don’t need to compete with their larger poultry cousins.

The horses that winter outdoors are fine. Just like a well insulated house, snow stacks up on their backs. Their winter coats channel off the snow melt without wetting their hides and getting them cold. Ingenious!

As soon as the snow stops – the prediction is around lunchtime – our snowplow guy will come and do his usual great job. We plan on having hay (round and square bales) delivered today too, and I expect that once we’re plowed out Steve will come with the bales.

In the meantime, the living room’s pellet stove and kitchen’s propane stove are doing a great job and we’re really cozy. Ian continues to work from home this week, so he is not caught up in today’s snowy commute.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

Today, Ian and I delivered half of route four’s mail. Ian drove while I put mail in boxes out the passenger-side window. It was more fun than doing it alone. Our delivering these boxes allowed the regular carrier to help on other routes, so that everyone could get home as soon as possible to begin their Christmas holiday. It took us about three hours. The day was sunny and the driving not too slippery, we listened to Christmas songs on the radio and talked. After we check back in with the outgoing mail, we went into Cambridge and had lunch at a Chinese food buffet.

On Monday, Ian installed the new propane heater in the kitchen and its working very well. He also rerouted water hoses that had frozen and now the washing machine fills very quickly (the water used to drizzle in) and its cut my laundry time from an hour to about 20 minutes.

Yesterday, Ian brought me a huge pink poinsettia, saying: "For my beautiful wife!" Can't beat that!

This afternoon, I’m making BBQ meatballs using red current jelly in the sauce. I'll put them in the slow cooker to marinate and they'll be yummy as a Christmas Day appetizer.

Our snow plow guy came this morning to clear our driveway and yard area again. This is the second plowing this week. Could be a very snowy season this year, but it's nice to have the moisture and if the spring is dry, then the farmers are able to get crops in the ground in April and that makes them happy!

Tomorrow, we’ll butterfly and bake Cornish game hens on a bed of fresh cranberries, sliced red onions and oranges, make roasted potatoes, grill green beans and asparagus for our Christmas dinner. It will be a quiet dinner with the two of us.

On Friday, Boxing Day, we plan to go shopping in Minneapolis after we finish morning chores. We’ll have lunch somewhere and will visit my Mother, who continues to convalesce at the Veteran’s Medical Center from right knee replacement surgery,

Happy, happy!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Today is the first day of winter and tonight is the longest night of the year. It’s sunny out today with an actual temp of -11 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind chill temperature (meaning when the wind blows this is what it feels like on the skin) of -30 degrees! I’ve already been out to the barn to feed the chickens, geese, barn cats and the four mares we overnight inside (Bentley, Windy, Kisses and Elly). I guess my acclimatization has already begun because I thought “this isn’t so cold,” as I walked to the barn at 6:30 a.m.

We’re cozy in the house’s main living area, but Ian’s going to spend today getting a different propane stove hooked up in the kitchen area. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we bought a propane stove and tank from a friend thinking when we installed it in the basement connecting its stack to the chimney it would kick out enough heat to warm that frigid space and the rising heat would make the kitchen area (still under major renovation) livable. Well, not so much. I’m not sure what the problem is, but the stove never functioned above a low flame and burned through a 100-gallon tank of propane in five days at that low setting. Yikes! So, we’ve moved to plan B. Ian bought a vent-free (propane) gas space heater that he is installing on the north kitchen wall where it connects to the outside tank. I’ll be glad when that baby is fired up.

Ian is also working on rerouting bathroom water pipes that have a habit of freezing. He’s about halfway through with this job. With those pipes redone and the new heater fired up, we should be great for the rest of the winter. I just keep thinking how lovely everything will be when it’s all finished!

Our snowplow guy, Chris, just arrived. He always does such a good job moving the snow from the driveway, the house door and in front of the barn so we have access to everywhere we need to go.

The horses are happily eating one of the 1600-pound round bales of hay we roll into the pasture. They also have warmed water to drink from two 100-gallon tanks. There’s also a deep, south-facing shelter that allows them all to get out of the wind. We place the hay bales on the south side of the barn so it acts as a wind break from the bitter north wind too.

Ian gets to work from home now until the first full week of January 2009, which saves a daily three-hour commute. I work tomorrow at the post office and on Saturday the 27th I will deliver mail as a substitute carrier on route 4, which is the route we live on. When I delivered this route on the 17th, it took me 10 hours, which is twice as long as it takes the route’s regular carrier. OK, so being a rural mail carrier is not one of my strengths. LOL


Robert Virgil Tiffany

Yesterday, in a snow storm, Ian drove slowly for an hour to Pine City for us to attend my beloved Uncle Bob’s memorial service at the Pokegama Town Hall; the site of Uncle Bob and Aunt Carol’s 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration six years ago. That’s right; they were married for 56 years! Uncle Bob refused to have a traditional funeral gathering, said that he hated those, but liked the gatherings afterward, so that’s what he chose. Uncle Bob was 80 years old and had suffered in recent years from emphysema, edema and an aortic aneurism. He died peacefully on Friday, December 12, surrounded by family.

Ian and I enjoyed the buffet and visiting with three (Brenda, Scott, Marease) of my five first cousins; the other two (Rachael, Michael) needed to return to their homes in Alabama and South Dakota, respectively. Aunt Carol (on the right) was holding up well and ever the perfect hostess saw to everyone’s needs. Her sister Martha, also recently widowed, was there too. I hadn’t seen her since I was a kid in the 1960s.

I told my Mom, who is recovering in the hospital from knee replacement surgery, about Uncle Bob’s death. There were only three Tiffany children and Mom, the eldest, is now the only one left. Mom’s comment was that Bob had done everything in his life that he wanted to do – being married to Carol and living on their 200-acre farm, raising their five children, and doting over the 11 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. Mom and Uncle Bob saw one another this spring when I drove Mom to the farm for lunch with Uncle Bob and Aunt Carol.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

First snowfall of the season

The last two days have been in the teens with a brisk wind that takes the temps to zero or dipping just below. We have two mares out of the herd of 10 that we feed and overnight in the barn – Windy and Bentley. The others are winter hearty with heavy, dense coats. They flourish on large, round hay bales and warmed water available to them 24/7 in the pasture. Windy and Bentley are low in the herd’s pecking order and get chased off the food, and have lost weight because of this.

Bentley, a 20+ year old Thoroughbred and former racehorse, has a terrible wind sucking (or cribbing) habit she picked up during her racing career. This habit is born when a high-energy animal athlete spends too many hours standing in a stall without other distractions. Bentley locks her mouth to an edge – usually a stall door or board – arches her neck to get a flexed stretch and then sucks in air. It is an odd sight and a habit that is almost impossible to break. The air fills her gut and leaves less room for food – she feels full, and she is, but with air versus nutritious food. To compensate, we feed her a high calorie feed designed for a senior (elderly) horse, in high volume, top dressed with corn oil as an easily digested fat, and now we are seeing the scales tip in a heavier more healthy direction.

Both Bentley and Windy are mellow, although Windy, being Arabian, is on the high strung end of the mellow continuum. In the late afternoon, she will pace the pasture gate, as if she has a watch wrapped to a front fetlock. Having been a racehorse, Bentley is accustomed to a lot of handling and not much rattles her. My coming late for chores or being slow with the feed ration sets her impatiently pawing the ground, but that’s about it. The other morning I discovered that our six geese cuddle together with Bentley in her stall at night. The geese have the run of the barn, yet they choose to feather in with the 17 hand tall Thoroughbred – who lies down to sleep in her 12 x 12 foot box stall! Would I love to get a picture of that nestling, but once the barn door opens in the wee hours the geese are up, wings and bills flapping ready to go out and Bentley finds her way deftly to all fours, leaning into her morning stretch – and if I’m too slow she begins pawing the stall floor.

As I mentioned, it’s been cold the past few days, so I elected to keep Windy and Bentley in all day rather than turning them out after breakfast. Regardless that my motive was to do something nice for them, this was not Windy’s idea of a fun time. She has a Plexiglas window in her stall – one where she can see the outside horses and visit (95% of horse communication is nonverbal) – which I found open to the air because she had kicked the heavy duty Plexiglas out of its frame, allowing Windy to put her head out or for the herd to visit (one head at a time) inside. No horses were injured, but now Windy has no view to the outside because her window is boarded up. Silly mare! The lesson I’m taking away is that she would rather be outside during the day, regardless of the weather. And, after all, she is dressed for it.

The post office is busy and I am working some days coming up to Christmas – I’m scheduled to deliver mail on the 17th and 27th, which should be fun.

This weekend, Ian’s installing a propane stove in the basement to help with heating the farmhouse. Our wood pellet stove does a good job in our living area and with the propane stove warming the basement; the entire house will be that much warmer. We bought this stove from a woman I work with at the post office, after I mentioned we were shopping for just the right thing - affordably priced - to heat the basement. Coincidentally, Julie was selling exactly what we wanted.

Today, the big flakes started to fall and it's accumulating. I'd say we have two inches on the ground now with more in the forecast. No green anything, other than pine trees, from now til April or May.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Meet Buddy

The newest addition to our family is Buddy, a purebred 18-month-old male miniature poodle. He’s apricot colored and about the same size, maybe even slightly smaller than our housecat, Tiger. I first saw Buddy on the day before Thanksgiving at the Cambridge Pet Salon. I stopped to learn the cost of having our Labrador mix, Lady, bathed. She had been smelling quite doggy and needed her nails trimmed.

I saw this sweet-looking poodle cuddled in one of the groomer’s cages. Groomer Becky explained that he was for sale and had come from a puppy mill some weeks earlier. She said Buddy hadn’t been socialized and had been very thin. I held him and he was a good weight for his size/breed, was quite snuggly and came fully vaccinated. I’ve never owned a true lap dog, although Lady likes to jump up on our laps sometimes, but at 80 pounds she is so NOT a lap dog. Buddy weighs about 12 pounds, less than Tiger who last weighed in at 14! I don’t know where it began, but I’ve always loved an apricot colored poodle – regardless of size. Now, miniature is not the smallest, which is toy (think: Chihuahua). Anyway, I asked Ian, who looked at me like I had truly lost it, but said, “Yes.” We picked up a freshly groomed Buddy that day after Thanksgiving. We also dropped Lady off for her doggy spa treatment. Both smell great now.

In coming weeks we’ll have Buddy fixed. Lady’s spay, so there’s no true rush. I want him completely settled in to a routine with us, before we add in surgical procedures.

Being a poodle, Buddy requires grooming once every six weeks and he eats small dog food versus the larger chunk stuff Lady chows down. The winter weather may also require getting him a jacket for poop/pee outings. I draw the line at boots and hats though. Since we clip our horses, we may well learn how to clip Buddy’s coat properly and be able to handle this ourselves eventually. It cannot be rocket science!

Buddy has also been introduced to the outdoors Macdonald menagerie – the chickens, barn cats, geese and the horses. He thinks the latter are the biggest dogs he’s ever seen! The horses find him quite curious and line up at the fence when he bounces down to the barn accompanying Lady and me to do chores.

The best blessing of all so far is that Buddy is not a yappy dog. It’s just not part of his nature, and this may have something to do with his time at the puppy mill. Whatever the cause, we appreciate him not being a small dog vocalist.


Back at USPS

On Wednesday, something happened to me that has never happened before – I was asked to not go through with my resignation, which as of the 20th I had already submitted. Let me back up and fill in some details. As I had mentioned in earlier posts, my 70-some-year-old postmaster, Helen, had been off work since the beginning of September. Helen takes the blood thinner Coumadin, which by some weird twist made veins in her left arm bleed and cause a painful bruised limb. Helen also has a blood clot pressing on a nerve in her upper left armpit that puts her hand to sleep. She was hospitalized Labor Day weekend in September for several days, then went on sick leave and I worked six-day weeks as her relief (my position title is Postmaster Relief - PMR) for the next eight weeks until Halloween week.

Against her doctor’s recommendation, Helen returned to work, which meant I worked only in the mornings helping to lift tubs and trays and with mail sorting; all of which she could not do. One of the many job requirements for all who work in a post office is that they can lift 70 pounds, which she’s not been able to do in recent years. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to work 2 or 3 hours was just not worth it to me. Also, Ian and I have been discussing going to our home in Spain and being there for long stretches of time. OK, then why am I working when I could be focusing on selling more horses, packing and getting ready to spend time in Spain? So, on November 10, I gave Helen my written resignation that would be affective December 20. I also began working the standard PMR shift, Monday and Saturday mornings only. I did tell Helen I would be available if she went on full-time leave again and for any days when she has doctor appointments or doesn’t feel well. Because Helen could not do the morning sorts, she asked Dan, a neighboring post office PMR, to work the few weekday hours.

Dan and I are friends outside of work and when I visited him Thursday morning the 20th, he said there was a new person at the Stanchfield Post Office and that Helen was going on leave again. Needless to say, I was confused and shocked. I called and spoke to Helen, who informed me that it was her last day for many weeks and she had brought in Linda as Officer In Charge (OIC) from neighboring post office Mora. I asked why she hadn’t called me and she said she thought I didn’t want to do it, blah, blah, blah. I decided why wait til December to resign and I offered to turn in my keys that day – she accepted. This is the tale I did not go into in the earlier post saying I’d left USPS.

My feelings were hurt. In September, I’d dropped everything to go to Helen’s aide. There had never been any issues with me being in charge – in fact, I’d gotten things accomplished (reports files, etc.) that Helen hadn’t because she didn’t understand how to do what was needed on the computer. Why hadn’t Helen called me? I have finally come to realize that it is not important. I enjoyed several days off with days infused with joy and hunger to regain habits I’d given up – like writing, visiting friends, attending performing arts, etc.

On Tuesday, the 25th, Linda called me. On the day I’d counted out my cash drawer and turned in my office keys, I’d told her that I would wind up any last needed details on the 28th when I collected my final check. Linda asked if I would consider staying on as PMR for at least the weeks she was there managing the office in Helen’s absence. When an OIC is installed there is no coming in part days, as Helen did when I was there. She is officially off until she is fully capable to return to her position. Very diplomatically, Linda said she thought what had happened with Helen not contacting me, my abrupt departure, etc. had been wrong. She was also very up front with the fact that she was in a pinch without adequate back up to run the office or with someone to deliver mail, as I am also a Rural Carrier Associate (RCA) if a carrier is sick or takes vacation. It was her frankness that led me to say yes. Linda quickly put the wheels in motion to find my resignation paperwork and rip it up. My keys and badge were returned to me on the 28th. I worked my usual Saturday shift and will work as fulltime PMR December 2-9, RCA on the 17th, PMR again 18-22.

I have not forgotten that joy infusion and am working to fold creative events back into my life so that I don’t have all of my outlet eggs in one basket.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Prairie Home Companion

We had a great time attending the live recording of A Prairie Home Companion at the Fitzgerald Theatre in downtown St. Paul. We rendezvoused with Marcia out front and then tucked into seats 8, 9 & 10 of Balcony 2 Right. The Fitzgerald uses its space well and while the row leg room is reminiscent of flying transatlantic coach, it wasn’t uncomfortable.

I knew the other friends we were meeting, Lisa and Frank, were somewhere in the auditorium, and via cell phones and roundhouse arm gestures, Lisa and I found each other during the short intermission.

The featured musical guest was Indy singer Kristin Andreassen. I had never heard of her, but over the years I’ve learned to trust APHC host Garrison Keillor’s eclectic, wide-ranging musical tastes. Andreassen’s “Crayola Doesn’t Make A Color to Draw My Love” is accompanied by a patty cake game, which you can listen on her My Space page.

Multitalented Gospel singing sisters Jevetta and Jearlyn Steele were also folded into the show’s various skits.

I marvel at Garrison Keillor’s huge talent; his capacity for memorization, spontaneity, and how generous he is with his guests, showcasing them in the best light.

Assembling in the lobby, we headed to Everest On Grand, a Nepali restaurant, which is one of Lisa and Frank’s favorites.

A 25-minute wait turned into 40 minutes, but it was well worth it. A new friend, Katherine, joined us for dinner. She had bought a last minute “rush” ticket and got a standing-room-only space on the rail. A page from the small world book, Marcia and Katherine knew one another from working at the University of Minnesota! Once the six of us were seated, we began with “Yak balls” appetizers, which are showcased on the restaurants homepage.

The wine and beer menu revealed a wonderful French surprise, a bottle of Cotes du Rhone (Rhone Hills) red wine by a tasty vintner, Monsieur Chapoutier, which we ordered tout de suite.

Ian ordered lamb curry and I got an Indian favorite, Palek Panner, which we shared. The dinner conversations were wide ranging, interesting and rapid, all done as we sampled each other's main courses. Sated, we headed to W. A. Frost & Company bar on Cathedral Hill at Selby & Western Avenues for a nightcap.

Ian, Lisa and Frank enjoyed Laphroaig (pronounced “la froig”), which is a single malt Scotch whisky. Katherine ordered port, Marcia a brandy Manhattan, I had a lovely dry sherry and four of us savored crème brulee.

Near the bewitching hour, Ian pointed our 1996 Chevy Lumina homeward and began the hour drive. Lady and Tiger were extra pleased to see us, as the pellet stove had gone out and the house temperature was around 40 degrees. I restarted the stove and turned on our electric mattress warmer while Ian closed up the barn. We had anticipated a late night and had done chores earlier in the afternoon. Windy and Bentley were brought into their stalls, fed and watered at 3 versus 6 p.m. and we left the barn door open so that the six geese would come in and settled in for the night. Ian noted they were cuddled in the barn aisle when he came to say good night.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday freedom!

This is the first Saturday in I can't remember how many when I am not working at the post office. I resigned and my last day was Thursday, the 20th. Actually, my last day was to be December 20, but things came together more quickly in a tale of events I won't go into here. I am happy and feel very blessed! I enjoyed my 13 months there, but have been feeling the need to move on for a while. I am not using my God-given talents and was really feeling the pressure of that. So, in releasing that obligation, we will see what God has planned for me ... His plans are always best!

Ian continues to work as a contractor with General Mills. He is working on revamping its entire online recipe division - this is a LONG TERM, well funded project and the Big G are happy to have Ian on the lead team.

This morning, Ian and I attended a U of MN sponsored horse program held in Cambridge at the local high school. There were a series of workshops on various topics, including the three we attended Winter Horse Care, Older Horse Care and what resources are available to people who own unwanted horses. I learned some and had info I already knew validated, so that was good.

This afternoon, we are meeting friends in St. Paul at the Fitzgerald Theatre to see Garrion Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion. The program begins at 4:45 CT and will be taped for broadcast later this evening and replayed again tomorrow. You can hear it on your local public radio station.

The program is 2 hours. Afterwards we are going to eat Tibetan food at a place on Grand Avenue. Should be fun!

Last night, Ian and I watched The Water Horse on DVD. What a great movie. I recommend it for kids of ALL ages.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Deaths in the family

On Monday, October 13, my 2nd husband, Niels van Everdinck, died from a brain stroke after being hospitalized for pneumonia. Niels was only 50 years old. He lived alone, save for three cats, estranged from his two wonderful sisters, in the same apartment he and I shared in The Hague, The Netherlands (Holland) in 2001. A neighbor had noticed that she had not seen Niels leave the apartment in as much as a week, and notified the police, who after bashing in his door, found Niels half conscious and sick with pneumonia. He was rushed to the hospital, but died the next day. One sister contacted me for a hint about who his friends were and luckily I could put her in touch with one, who was a link to the others. As you can imagine the news was quite a shock. I can't say I thought of Niels often, or maybe even thought of him at all, but this end was certainly a sad ending.

[The balance of this post was entered at a later date] The following Monday, the 20th, my stepfather, Ernie Pfannschmidt, died from a cerebral hemorrhage that resulted from a fall in his home on the 18th. Dad was 90 years old, still living and running his home in Anoka, MN.

My two younger brothers (Ernie's sons), Mark and Matthew, and other close family members were at Dad's hospital bedside when he died. It was very peaceful. His pastor was also at the hospital and conducted a wonderful bedside service. Dad's funeral was at his home church in St. Francis, MN on October 24. Mark played Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring on viola while wife Laura accompanied on piano. Later during the service, Laura accompanied Matthew as he sang, "I Need Thee Every Hour." I'm confident Dad is happy to join his 2nd wife Gladys, who preceded him in death in 1999.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fall update

I bought six Pilgrim geese at a local auction. There are 4 ganders (males) and 2 geese (females). The sex of both goslings and mature Pilgrim geese can be distinguished by color. This is known as auto-sexing. Males are white and females are grey. Bills and legs are orange in both sexes, while the eyes are blue in ganders and dark brown in geese. Only the mating pair came assigned with names; George & Gracie. The remaining geese are their offspring hatched in 2007. They spent the night in the barn aisle and their days in the horse pasture eating grass and drinking from puddles. I filled the wading pool I had some our first set of geese and they like to visit that too.

I continue to work part-time at the local post office. Lately, I’ve put in fulltime hours because the postmaster Helen is out on medical leave. Helen does come in a few hours a week, which is very helpful.

After not working since February, Ian began a consulting job just after Labor Day. He commutes an hour to the Cities and enjoys the work. It’s nice that gas prices are getting lower, as it makes the commute much more affordable.

The horses are all fine. They’re all situated in the pasture closest to the barn munching on two round bales of hay we bought last weekend. The three 2008 fillies are growing nicely. They’re stabled in the barn and learning halter training and being handled.

Renoir enjoys his big box stall and his outdoor paddock. In late September, we took him to the Minnesota Fall Fest at the MN State Fairgrounds for the Minnesota Arabian Horse Breeders Stallion Parade. Ian did an excellent job showing him off to the audience. Ian showed a 2 yr old stud colt for a friend of ours at that show too.

Weekends are spent getting the house ready for the MN winter. Ian’s installing thick insulation panels around the first floor of the house and sealing the window edges with foam. We’re planning to install a new main exterior door, which will help cut down on the draft. The in-floor heating system needs to be hooked up too, which along with the pellet stove, will keep us very warm.

The autumn colors are lovely – lots of oranges and yellows and the occasional red.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

All to happy homes

This afternoon we hauled Clifford, the Half Arabian gelding, to his new home - a full service boarding stable - near Nowthen, MN. His new owner Michelle will do a good job with him - they will teach one another.

Cliffy is the last of the three geldings (the other two are purebred Arabians) we sold in August and got off to new homes - all to female owners! We've still got more to sell, but having a few less mouths to feed always helps.

The weather feels like fall in the mornings and evenings; not cold, but decidedly cooler than the deep summer weeks. It's welcome as long as we don't plunge into winter too fast. We've got to winterize the outside of the house before the snow flies. As long as we keep that on the upper most part of our To Do List, we'll be fine.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Selling and weaning horses

Yesterday, I sold our four-year-old unregistered purebred Arabian gelding, Jay, to a family in Dundas, MN. He will be going to a good home where he will be ridden and well cared for.

On August 19, "Cairo" (Windstorm GTC), was sold to a lady in Sartell, MN. He will be boarded at a nice facility and be used as a trail horse. Like Jay, Cairo is also a purebred four-year-old Arabian gelding - but Cairo has registration papers. Cairo was the first horse we bought in December 2005, shortly after we bought the farm.

Our 2007 gelding, "Clifford" (AMF Royal Red Ferrari), who was sold earlier this month, will be going to a new home at a boarding facility that has a heated, indoor arena where he can be worked during the winter months. It is also closer to where his new owner lives in Elk River, MN.

All three horses we've sold this month were posted for sale on the Internet.

On Sunday evening, we weaned our three 2008 fillies. There's always lots of noise with any weaning, but things seem quieter today. The mommies are out in the back pasture with the rest of the herd. The fillies each have their own stall and will be handled more and more each day. We'll work on halter training them and socializing them to be handled by humans.


Monday, August 11, 2008

AMF Royal Red Ferrari

We sold our Goldmount Royal Design yearling gelding "Clifford" today to a couple from Elk River, MN. He is going to grow up to be an awesome performance horse and can begin his under saddle training this time next year.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Bye-bye baby Latte

Sadly and unexpectedly, our 2008 chestnut tobiano colt, Latte, died. He was born on June 3, sired by American Saddlebred stallion Famous Echo SCA and out of our Arabian Psyche mare, RJ Kissthe Wind. We had no clues as to why, so I suspect the cause was something he was born with. He will be missed, but we know he's galloping in God's greenest pastures ... where the bugs don't bite!


Friday, June 13, 2008

Renoir gets Region X Reserve Champion Stallion AOTH

Yesterday morning, Ian and Legacys Renoir took a Regional Top Five ribbon and the Reserve Champion (2nd place) in the Amateur Owner To Handle stallion halter class! Yippee! There were three horses in the class and the horse that won was a Magnum Psyche son trained by Mike Neal.

So, Renoir and Ian are now qualified to show at both Canadian Nationals (Regina, Saskatchewan in August) and US Nationals (Tulsa, Oklahoma in October) in the amateur and open stallion classes.

Our friends Steve and Terri came to cheer and take photos and I’ll share some highlights when I get copies. As you can imagine, we’re very happy!

It was nice to have our former trainer, Jerry Schall, to come up and say how wonderfully Renoir showed and how great he looks. We brought Renoir home from Shada in May and are handling all his care and training ourselves.

We opted for two days rest away from the show and came home just after noon yesterday. We will return Saturday afternoon to show in the evening stallion class that closes the Region 10 Championship Show.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Renoir's Region X Pre Show Results

This morning we showed our stallion, Legacys Renoir, at the Region X Pre Show in St. Paul, MN on our own. Ian showed in two classes; number 108 Arabian Stallion Breeding 2 Years Old & Over and number 110 Arabian Colt & Stallion Breeding Amateur To Handle.

In the first class, Ian was entry number 307 and took third following professional handlers Andy Sellman and Jeff Schall. There were four horses in that class. Then, two classes later, Ian and Renoir got a second place ribbon. There were three horses in that class. I didn't have time to find out who we were competing against - no use to psyche ourselves out beforehand. I'll look up online results after the show!

Now Renoir and Ian are qualified to show in the amateur owner to handle (AOTH) class number 301 at the Region 10 Championship Show that begins here tomorrow morning. We’re also going to show Renoir Saturday evening in class 416 Arabian Stallion Breeding 2 & Over class. Ian and Renoir will be entry number 901 for the Regional show.

I’m very proud of how Ian handled Renoir. They made a good team and looked good together. It's the third time Ian's ever shown and the first time he's shown in MN, the other times were in Scottsdale, AZ.

After tomorrow morning’s class we’re going to take Renoir home and we’ll return Saturday afternoon.

It was fun to bathe, groom and prep Renoir ourselves. We like being hands-on owners.

Right now we're with our dog Lady snuggled cozy in our trailer parked on site with rain coming down pretty steady. Thankfully, our classes were done before it began pouring. Renoir's bathed and happily munching hay in his stall.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Region 10 and a new foal!

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is the 2008 Arabian Horse Association Region 10 Championship Pre-Show. The pre-show is a qualifying show to compete at the regional level. There are other ways to qualify – going to other shows earlier in the season and placing 1st or 2nd in your class – but the pre-show is the last opportunity before the championship classes, which run Thursday through Sunday.

This is the first time we are showing Legacys Renoir ourselves, without a professional trainer/handler being involved. We believe that God wants us to do this horse stuff ourselves and not spend money on outside boarding and training. We have learned a lot since we began showing two years ago and now, with Renoir living on the farm with us, we’re going to put what we’ve learned into practice. We show twice tomorrow morning and once Thursday morning, then we’ll go home and return Saturday afternoon to show that evening.

Renoir is already qualified from his win here last year with a professional handler, but Ian wants to show Renoir in an Amateur Owner To Handle (AOTH) class at the regional level and they’re not qualified together for that. Our goal is to continue from regional level to show at the national level. We need 10 points from class A show placements or a Top 5 placement at a regional championship. Renoir and Ian showed AOTH in Scottsdale and have accumulated five of the 10 needed.

This season’s only colt was born in the wee hours of June 3. I came to the barn to feed breakfast and his little white nose poked through the stall door to greet me. Windy had handled everything herself and all went well. His registered name will be AMF Famous Latte Kiss and his barn name is “Latte.” He is a chestnut tobiano Half Arabian pinto, with lots of white, hence his name. His sire is the homozygous tobiano pinto Saddlebred stallion, Famous Echo SCA. I can see the characteristics he’s passed on, in addition to the pinto coloring, as Latte has long legs, a strong build and a beautifully arched neck.

Princess and her dam Elly are also at the Auld Macdonald Farm. All four foals that we bred last year have arrived and are growing very nicely! We’ve already begun breeding for 2009! All of our mares are being bred to Renoir.

Send us good wishes as we strike out on our own in the horse show business.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

AMF Renoirs Bey B

Our 1994 grey mare, Khatalina Bey, caught us off guard when she delivered a filly in the pasture Friday morning. Legacys Renoir sired this chestnut filly and she looks very much like him. Her barn name will be “Baby.” She was not due until June 1, but is coming along well.

We’ve got one more foal coming; this one will be a Half Arabian pinto out of our purebred Arabian mare RJ Kiss the Wind ("Windy"), sired by a homozygous pinto American Saddlebred stallion named Famous Echo (“homozygous pinto” means he always sires pinto babies). We own all of Windy’s babies – Windstorm GTC ("Cairo"), the 2004 purebred chestnut gelding sired by Desert Heat VF, the 2005 Half Arabian pinto gelding, AMF Xtreme Kiss ("Kiss"), sired by the homozygous pinto American Saddlebred stallion, TF Xtreme, and last year’s purebred bay filly, AMF Troublesomes Kiss ("Kisses"), sired by RSA Troublesome.

This morning, Windy is waxing (sticky droplets on the ends of the teats), so we're keeping her comfy in her box stall and expecting her to foal within the next 24-48 hours. According to the gestation calendar, she's not due until June 1, but ... frankly, it will be nice to have all of our 2008 babies born before the month of May ends.

Yesterday, we went to New Richmond, Wisconsin to our friends Kathy & Larry and to pick up two of their purebred grey Arabian mares, Mara and Eve, to breed to Renoir. Mara, is actually a re-breed. She bore a filly sired by Renoir earlier this month, but sadly it died during the birthing process. As you can imagine that was very sad for her owners. Once these two mares are confirmed in foal we will haul them home again.

Tomorrow morning, we return to Larry & Kathy's again to pick up purebred Arabian mare VG Elambra ("Elly") and her filly AMF Renoirs La Tiara, who was born on May 1. The filly's barn name is "Princess" and she’s so friendly. She likes to nibble on Larry's shirt tail and then scoot away when she's discovered. Last year, we leased Elly from Kathy & Larry because we felt her double Gamaar bloodlines would cross well with Renoir’s – we were right! Princess is ours and we will breed Elly to Renoir again.

Our Half Arabian palomino filly, AMF Royals Gold Tango, born May 4, is growing very well too. Tango likes to run, run, run when she and her mother are outside. She’s friendly too, which is the way we like to keep all of our horses.

Those are today's horse news updates!


Monday, May 05, 2008

AMF Royals Gold Tango

Our MaRoSh-bred chestnut Arabian mare, MAF Last Dance, had a huge, golden palomino filly yesterday. She was born around 9 p.m. and is colored much like her sire, palomino Saddlebred stallion Goldmount Royal Design. This Half Arabian filly is really pretty and already quite curious.

We will register as AMF Royals Gold Tango. Her barn name is Tango.

That's two fillies for us since May 1. Renoir's first foal out of a double Gamaar daughter was born Thursday.

We've still got 2 more mares foaling this month; one foal will be a Half Arabian pinto sired by Saddlebred stallion Famous Echo SCA, and the other purebred Arabian mare is in foal to Renoir.

It pays to 'think pink.'


Friday, May 02, 2008

AMF Renoirs La Tiara

Last night, the first foal sired by our stallion Legacys Renoir was born to VG Elambra (V G Elerros x HCF Ambruzia, a *Zbrucz daughter), a 1997 chestnut mare we leased from our friends Larry and Kathy Rappley of Valglynya Arabians. The filly is chestnut with four white socks and a thin strip blaze. She and mommy are doing well at home in New Richmond, Wisconsin.

We’ve decided that her registered name will be AMF Renoirs La Tiara. Her barn name will be “la princesa” (the princess).

Ian and I are going to see the pair later today.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

End of April 2008

I cannot believe it’s been so long since I’ve written an update! Springtime is trying to spring in Minnesota. We have had some nice sunny days, but things are still a bit cool and we did have a snowstorm just last week. This weekend’s weather prediction is highs in the 40s, so it’s still cold!

The winter was tough – weather-wise and financially – tough enough to consider packing it in and returning to live in Europe, where the Euro is strong and there’s no double-digit below zero temperatures! However, with some more time and reflection, kind of like the weather, we too are on an upswing. I continue to work part time at the post office and really enjoy the people and the work. Ian has been hauling horses around the country using our one-ton truck and the 3-horse, living-quarter trailer. He finds clients online and takes horses from sellers to their new homes. The longest trip to date was from the panhandle of Idaho to Illinois. He’s been hauling a lot between Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Michigan. He’s driven through all four seasons of weather these last weeks – snow in the Rockies, thunderstorms in Illinois, warm sunshine in Michigan and chilly Wisconsin mornings! It keeps us afloat and Ian’s seeing some beautiful parts of this country!

The animals are all fine. We’ve got three mares that are due to deliver during May. Two are Half Arabians sired by Saddlebred stallions – one of which will be a pinto, like our two-year-old gelding, Kiss. The other, a purebred, is sired by our stallion, Legacys Renoir.

Speaking of Renoir, we’re going to bring him home from the trainer. We have learned a lot about horse care in the two years we’ve had horses at home and we’ve learned another level of care and training during the time we’ve boarded and shown horses with trainers. We’re confident we can do it ourselves now.

Ian is building a lovely stall for Renoir and we’ll finish a nice outdoor paddock too, so he should be a very happy horse. He’s never lived anywhere that has an outdoor space. Of course, we’ll be using him to breed our mares and not have to pay the hefty “collection” fee charged by the trainer. We are also going to market him as a breeding stallion ourselves. Renoir is admired in the Arabian show world and even in this tough economy, his breedings should sell. We’re also looking forward to learn the quality of the babies he sired due in the coming weeks, as that will also help to sell breedings. It will be nice to work with Renoir on a daily basis.

We sold two horses recently, Whisper, a four-year-old blue roan gelding and Nutmeg, a 10-year-old chestnut Quarter horse mare. Both are going to really special families. It’s interesting that they were sold during the same week, as we bought them two years ago together at the same horse auction. We still have six more that are actively for sale and the market is picking up. I say “actively” because every horse on the farm is technically for sale!

My show gelding, Lookin For Trouble, came home from the trainer in March. I’ve not ridden him yet, but he has been started under saddle. He’s enjoying just being a horse in the pasture right now. As soon as things dry out – the snow melt and spring rain has things quite soggy – I will saddle him up and see what he’s learned.

I’ll make an effort to keep in touch more regularly. The coming weeks should be very interesting and fruitful here on the farm.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Renoir's Class Results

Renoir’s class was this morning (Arabian Breeding/Halter 6 & 7 yr old Stallions) with our trainer Jerry Schall. It was a tough class and Renoir came in third behind two US National Champions (MPA Giovanni and Major Jamaal). He was awarded two Scottsdale Top Tens (the first with Ian), which is nothing to sneeze at. Scottsdale is an excellent indicator of how a horse will be able to compete nationally. Both Jerry and his brother Jeff said for us to keep in mind that this show is especially political – with back scratching and other conflict of interests sometimes adding to the competition. Regardless, we are pleased with the outcomes from both Renoir’s showings. Ian and I are very proud of our boy!

I’m hoping his 2008 show debut gets more people interested in breeding to him, which is where the money is really made in owning a stallion. Of course, his first foals begin arriving in April and it will be fun to see what he sires.

We met some nice horse people here, including the couple who bred Renoir. They were very pleased with his development and how we are bringing him along on the show circuit. That’s quite a compliment for us – we’ve only been doing this for two years and with Renoir, only since last summer.

We’re packing up the trailer to get it itched to the truck and will begin heading home this afternoon. It is bright sunshine, blue skies and 70+ degrees. We plan to drive as far as Albuquerque and then we’ll stop for the night. Ian expects – weather permitting – we’ll get home late Sunday/early Monday morning.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ian & Renoir

Yesterday was a LONG day waiting for Ian and Renoir to show. Ian was dressed in his suit and ready to show by 1 p.m. but because of the large classes that ran before, the pouring rain, unseasonable cold and eventual venue change, he didn't show until 5 p.m. We made ourselves comfortable at the Shada Arabian stalls, where we waited in its living room area. Finally, just after 4 p.m. classes were moved from the outdoor Wendell Arena to covered Arena 5a, and this patient duo showed in a class of nine. The two moved beautifully together and Ian always had him under control -- no small feat with a stallion. I was proud of both and so was our trainer Jerry. In fact, Jerry was SO sure Ian had nailed the first place that when the second place horse was named he said, "Come on, Janet, let's go and get his [Renoir's] ribbons so Ian can take him back in a show him in the Championship class." BUT as we walked to the arena gate another horse was named in first place. Renoir DID get a Scottsdale Top 10 ribbon and plaque - which is a great honor too.

Today, we will be able to review the judging cards and learn where each of the three judges placed Renoir in the final class standings.

All of the supportive, good wishes were really appreciated.

Now, Renoir shows with Jerry in a tough open stallion class on Saturday morning the 23rd! They will show before a different judging panel.

Sure, it would have great for Ian to win with Renoir in the AOTH class, but neither of us are disappointed with our efforts. Ian had FUN and that's a big part of why we are doing this.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day from Scottsdale

This morning on the radio, NPR's Morning Edition did a segment with one of my favorite chefs, Nigella Lawson! To listen to her talk with the host about chocolate was a treat in itself.

Listening to chefs inspires me, so for breakfast, I baked blueberry/cornbread muffins and made cheesy scrambled eggs using black pepper-laced cream cheese. We bought cards for one another – Ian’ a very good card-picker-outer. He also reminded me that our first Valentine's Day together (2002) was spent amongst boxes in our rooftop apartment on Padilla in Barcelona - we had moved in days earlier. This afternoon he brought me three delicious chocolate truffles, which I shared, and a bottle of Spanish cava, which is chilling for a Valentine's dinner toast.

Here in Scottsdale it’s a day of waiting. All of the barns and vendors have finished putting their storefronts together and are ready for tomorrow’s show opening. We’ve listened to saws, hammers and staple guns for several days as things come together in the stall areas. Now all the draped fronts with farm logos are up – kind of like booths at a trade show – and we’re ready to begin. We joined in by putting up a 48-inch high, twinkling lighted horse at the front of our living quarter’s trailer.

Lady, Ian and I have walked the West World grounds watching horses being exercised. We noted how many riders multitask talking to clients or staffs back at home while either atop steeds or standing point as a horse lunges around them.

Tomorrow the vendor areas will open! There are hundreds of square feet of everything equine related that you can imagine. I rarely buy, but it is fun to shop. These tents are also dog friendly, so Lady comes along on her leash.

I trimmed Ian’s hair and beard, so like Renoir, he’s “show clipped” and ready to perform. He’s decided to wear a charcoal grey suit with a pale pink shirt and a two-tone purple tie. His class is number 50 in Wendell Arena tomorrow afternoon. The afternoon sessions begin at noon, and since his is the tenth in it could be around 2 p.m. MT. If he and Renoir place first or second in class 50, they return immediately and compete for the championship in class 51, which is composed of first and second place winners from classes 50 (Arabian Breeding /Halter 5 year & older Stallions Amateur Owner To Handle) and 49, (Arabian Breeding /Halter 3 & 4 year old Stallions Amateur Owner To Handle). The winner of class 51 will be named Scottsdale Senior Champion Stallion AOTH (amateur owner to handle).

If you’re into watching some classes live, you can do this online at Arab Horse.

Legacys Renoir will also show in class number 386 on Saturday morning, February 26. The classes begin at 8 a.m. (Arizona is in Mountain Time) in Wendell Arena and Renoir shows with Jerry Schall in the second class of the morning. We will be packed and ready to head home soon after that class runs. It’s a long way home and I am scheduled to work Tuesday morning.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Scottsdale Roadtrip

Here’s the first installment from Scottsdale. We are here attending the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. Ian will be showing our six-year-old purebred Arabian breeding stallion, Legacys Renoir, in a halter class for amateur owners this Friday and Renoir will also show with our trainer Jerry Schall in the open stallion class on Saturday, February 23. We bought Renoir in December 2006, and have spent the last year getting him ready for this campaign of national-level shows. He will show here, in Las Vegas in April, at Canadian Nationals in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in August and, finally, in Tulsa, Oklahoma at US Nationals in October. As a yearling, Renoir blew everyone away here at Scottsdale when he unexpectedly won. Horse shows, like many other things in life, have their political aspects so an unknown horse and handler winning is really big and says a lot of the quality of the horse.

Now that you know why we’re here, let me tell you about our road trip from Minnesota to Arizona. We left as planned on Saturday morning, February 9, just after 10 when my shift ended at the post office. Ian and Lady picked me up in our one-ton Chevrolet dually pulling our living quarters trailer. (We have an RV spot reserved in Scottsdale on the West World exhibition lot.) It was snowing as we headed south. We decided to try an alternate route around the Cities and learned that highway 65 to highway 100 to 494 to 35W is NOT the way to go. It looks shorter, but it has its various forms of delays. Next time, we’ll just go 95 east to 35 and go south.

The weather turned a bit scary south of Lakeville when the sun that shone in the Cities was blocked by fog and blowing snow. The drifts in the ditches were high and allowed the accumulated wind blown snow to snake across 35’s blacktop. We drove slowly, following the center line, as the roadway edges were blurred. Why people do not understand that this is a time to slow their speed and put more space between vehicles is beyond me. I knew sooner or later we’d see cars in the ditch and sure enough the numbers began to mount near Owatonna. In fact, we sat stopped just past there and waited for 30 minutes as a bad accident was cleared. A one-ton truck hauling a six-horse trailer was nearly involved in that pile up, but rather than hit a car, this driver had made the good sense move toward the snow-filled ditch rather than hit his brakes, possibly jackknifing or tipping the load. The truck and trailer were buried in snow midway up the door, but all were safe an unharmed. We saw the driver patiently reading the paper waiting for his turn to be pulled out. The going was slow from there pretty much to the Iowa border where the weather improved.

That first day we drove the 700+ miles to Wichita, Kansas, arriving at 1 a.m., where we spent the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Ian fired up the generator, turned on the furnace and the bed’s electric blanket so we were quite cozy.

We were up just before 6, and after a McDonald’s breakfast, were on the road by 6:30. Here we left I-35 and took US 54, heading southwest. We saw green grass beginning to grow and saw the occasional oil derricks with their rocking hammerheads kissing the ground. Ian tells me that in the UK they’re called nodding donkeys. There was not a lot of snow, which left the palette mostly shades of brown, yellow and dirt white. The prairie stretched out before us and it was rare to see a mailbox, let alone a town. Here, I think route inspection must be done with crop duster using binoculars to spot mailboxes rather than by car!

At 8:30, we passed through Greensburg, Kansas, which was leveled by a killer tornado in May of this year. The devastation was almost complete, with its post office, and maybe two other businesses, looking untouched or maybe they were rebuilt already. What had been mature trees were nothing more than twisted, dead and dying trunks. It was very sad – a true testament to the power of such storms.

We crossed onto the Oklahoma panhandle at 10:30, where the air coated everything with a layer of frost, and a red clay color was added to the winter weary landscape. When we did pass through small towns I saw food chains I thought were long dead, like Long John Silver’s. The stretches of road were so long between towns and houses that a sign reading, “USPS rural carrier roadside stop,” just past Hooker, Oklahoma, seemed very appropriate. Surely, one must need a break from all that driving.

For many miles our road ran adjacent to a busy train track. All were running opposite us, headed northeast, all filled, often with more than two engines, but none with a caboose. I can’t remember the last time I saw train with a caboose.

At 11:30, we entered what is surely the most uninteresting part of the great State of Texas. That said, just outside of Dalheart Ian and I saw what must have been nearly 100 acres of penned beef cattle. There must have been thousands in large lots on both sides of the road. It was feeding time and grain was being delivered using a 12-ton dump truck, the same type used to haul gravel! Each pen had jet sprayers mounted at the corners and I think they’re to either cool the cattle or keep the bugs at bay – maybe both?

At 1:15, on Sunday, we crossed into New Mexico and lost an hour as we went to Mountain Time. From here it was 52 miles to Tucumcari, where we would join I-40 west. The weather was warmer and we stopped at a wide spot in the road called Nasa Visa, which is about the same size as Stanchfield, where we stood in the sunshine and ate cold, baked Cornish game hens we’d packed, while Lady sniffed and stretched her legs. The nicest building in this otherwise ghost town was its brick-red post office.

The warmer sun found us as we headed west along I-40. The prairie gave way to red rock outcropping and billboards touting jewelry, pottery and other goods made by Ute and Navajo. It was still on the coolish side and some snow was still evident at the higher elevations. We climbed to Albuquerque and stopped for dinner at the Route 66 Casino, just as the sun set. After dinner I dozed in the front seat and Ian woke me as we crossed into Arizona at 10 p.m. (CT). I took heart thinking our trip was near its end – HA! It was another six hours until we arrived in Scottsdale.

We left I-40 at Holbrook and took what amounts to the back roads. The decent from 6000 feet went well, but it was tiring as we slowed to 30 mph every time we came to a steep grade that lasted for several miles at a time. Last year, we’d gone to Flagstaff before descending into the Phoenix Valley, and that was harrowing with cars zipping around us at breakneck speeds while our truck and trailer with a combined (empty) weight of 26,000 pounds needed to be kept under some degree of control.

When the mountain road emptied into a sleeping Scottsdale, Ian pointed us across the city and found West World and our designated RV parking spot easily. Not wishing to wake our neighbors, we whispered directions to one another as the trailer was parked and we settled in for what was left of the night.

Yesterday, after a few hours needed sleep, we arose later to sunshine and temperatures that climbed into the 70s. A nice remedy for the weary.

The truck and trailer were both caked in salt and other winter road dirt. We found a Laundromat for our own wash, which was conveniently located next to a coin-operated car wash. I pumped quarters into a slot while Ian manned the high pressure spray gun and soap wand that eventually revealed the truck’s true color.

We ran other errands around the city with our windows down and we dressed short sleeved shirts and packed our winter wear in the trailer for return trip use.

Also on Monday we rendezvoused with Jerry Schall and Ian had a lesson with Renoir. Renoir has been here in Scottsdale since the end of January and seems to really enjoy his sun-filled stall and the warmer temps. Ian and Renoir looked very good together and we’re looking for a very good result on Friday. Wish us luck.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Happy February!

Tomorrow, in the United States and Canada, it’s Groundhog Day. In weather lore, if a groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, marmot or ground squirrel, emerges from its burrow on this day and fails to see its shadow because the weather is cloudy, winter will soon end. If the groundhog sees its shadow, it will return into its burrow, and the winter will continue for six more weeks. Well, it’s cloudy today in Minnesota, but regardless of what the furry rodent sees or doesn’t see, there will be another six weeks of winter here! Maybe even another 10!

The weather in January was really deep freeze cold with actual temperatures at 10 and 20 below zero and with wind chills that dipped and stayed at -30. The corn stove did the best it could, but there were days it was just miserable and even being indoors was best spent bundled in layers, which sometimes included ski pants, gloves and winter hat. Today, we are at 10 degrees Fahrenheit and with no wind it feels quite nice when doing chores outside.

Ian fixed three burst pipes in the crawlspace area of the basement. These old copper pipes were not insulated and of course the basement itself is not heated. Ian replaced the lengths of pipe with a plastic pipe product called Pex. He’s also placed an electric space heater facing into the crawlspace and this has done the trick to keep our water from freezing. Ian also built a hutch around the water pump in the basement because its switches, which are mounted on an outside, un-insulated wall, kept freezing open and stopping the flow of water into the tank, which meant we didn’t have water then either – in the house or the barn. This hutch is also warmed with a small heater, and we have had no problems in recent days. I can’t imagine what a plumber’s bill would have been!

For the last two full weeks in January, I worked at the post office for
Helen while she was in Mexico on vacation. It was fun and I learned a
lot. Now I am back to my usual Saturday and Monday morning shift. I am called in once in a while when Helen has an appointment or just wants a day off. She’s been working with the postal service for decades – four, I think – so she’s got plenty of vacation time she can use.

The horses we have here at the farm did very well during the cold
weather. They are quite fuzzy and well nourished. They have places to
get in out of the wind and they have access to 800 pound round bales of
hay and warmed 100-gallon tanks of water. With their shelter, food and
water needs being met, they’re quite hearty creatures.

Our stallion Legacys Renoir is in the southwestern United States in Scottsdale, Arizona acclimatizing to the warmer, drier weather that he will show in on the 15 and 23 of this month. Ian will show Renoir on the 15th in an amateur-owner-to-handle class (AOTH) and one week later our trainer Jerry Schall will show Renoir in the senior stallions open class. Ian, Lady and I are leaving for Scottsdale on Saturday, February 9. It’s 30+ hours of driving and we’ll stay on the show grounds in our trailer. Tina will take care of the horses, barn cats and chickens while we’re away. We will board our housecat Tiger at a local kennel. We plan to begin heading back to Minnesota on Sunday morning.

We’re starting to hear percolations of interest from real estate agents
in Spain regarding chalet number 11. For the English version, click on "English" in the top right-hand corner of the page, then click on the second hand listings and scrolled through to page 9 to Chalet Riofaro. We continue to pray this gets sold soon at its asking price.

I’d love to be going to Europe soon! We’ll see what the future holds!


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy 2008!

I guess it’s time to catch up, since I’ve not posted since the beginning of December. Ian and I had a nice Christmas get together at my Mom’s place in Minneapolis on Saturday, December 22. My son Richard, his 10-year-old brother Trysten, and my younger brother Matthew joined Mom for a lovely turkey meal. We exchanged presents and had a nice visit. This year we had a much snowier December than in 2006. I really love the White Christmas we had this year, last year’s brown Christmas was quite dreary. This season, we got a new snowplow guy that lives nearby and he’s done a good job with the two snowfalls to date. I prefer snow to the subzero temps were “enjoying” today. It is nice being back in the house but our only source of heat, our beloved corn stove, is acting up. It puts itself out, doesn’t burn as hot as last year (which was like a blast furnace). Ian’s on the phone with the company’s tech guy in Alberta, Canada; at least he’s talking to someone who knows about cold! I’m confident it will get resolved and we’ll be warm again soon.

The horses are fine in this weather. They have shelter, free access to hay and warmed water. As long as they are not wet, their thick, fuzzy winter coat keeps them dry and quite toasty. In fact, they often take baths by rolling in the snow over and over, standing up and giving themselves a good shake. There are four adult horses (two of our three pregnant mares) and the three 2007 foals that come into the barn every night. They benefit from the routine almost more than the shelter. Some horses are like that.

I put up the tree and it’s very pretty. The cats just love it – think it’s the best cat toy ever! Thankfully, most of the bulbs are not breakable and they’ve not taken to climbing it. I plan to take the tree down and pack it away just after Epiphany.

We’ve been attending a local Lutheran church that is about four miles from the farm. It’s nice to meet and worship with our neighbors. Ian says the Lutheran church liturgy and hymns remind him very much of the Church of England. The children’s Christmas pageant on Sunday the 16th was so precious. Of course, they told the familiar Christmas story with angels, shepherds, sheep, the Holy Family and wise men. Some children who were cast as sheep had woolly hats complete with pink ears on their heads that tied under their chins. When it came time for the shepherds and their flocks to visit Bethlehem, the sheep children crawled on all fours down the center aisle of the church making sheep noises as parents, grandparents, and proud Sunday school teachers snapped photos and wiped tears … we all wiped tears, they were so committed and sweet. We also attended Christmas Eve candlelight service and sang carols on the evening of the 24th.

On Christmas Day, Ian called both sisters for a chat. He spoke to his Mum, who was visiting Anne and Steve in Essex, but we did not catch up with Ken and Margaret in Scotland. Other than that, we just worked on the farm – in fact, the babies had knocked down their pasture fence and Ian erected a new area for them by disassembling the round pen (which we don’t use in winter anyway) and making an outdoor paddock for the three mischief makers. I baked Cornish game hens for our dinner and we enjoyed a nice bottle of French wine.

Tina still comes like clockwork three days a week to clean stalls and do other barn managing duties. What a gem she is! Tina lives to the northeast of the farm and her job is just west of us, so things work out nicely for all. Ian and I feel very confident that she’ll have everything under control while we’re in Scottsdale, Arizona next month. Weather permitting, we’ll begin driving the 32-hour trip on the 8th and begin the return trip on the 25th.

I’m still working part-time at the local post office. I will be filling in for Helen the postmaster when she leaves for 2 weeks Mexico vacation on January 12. I’ve been nursing a sore lower back since New Year’s Eve morning. I picked up a tub of letters wrong and – zing – I felt a pinch. I thought it was just a twinge, but by the time I was finished doing the morning sort, I was stiffening up. Not a recommended way to ring in the New Year, but rest and some over-the-counter analgesics are doing the trick. I’ll be fit as a fiddle for Saturday’s shift.

The corn stove is burning away and Ian’s just gone to get some wood pellets. The corn stove company technician thinks we’ve got a bent klinker box (where the corn pellets fall into and burn) and that is the cause of our problems. Alberta is sending a new klinker box overnight and the techie recommended we burn wood pellets in this dual-purpose stove until it arrives, something to do with airflow and whatnot. Hey, in subzero temps, whatever keeps it burning works for me!

The seed catalogs are beginning to arrive and I’ve got my eye on some beautiful flowering plants. Of course, I’m looking forward to the tulips and crocus I planted in the fall, but I really want some lilies and some plants that will attract hummingbirds. I also enjoy bringing fresh cut flowers into the house.

The hatchery catalog has also come and I’m contemplating buying a few chicks and some goslings. I really love watching our 10 chickens travel around the property, scratching, pecking and clucking. I’d like to get just a few more. I also miss my geese and would like to get about six babies. They are the best watchdogs – as nothing or no one comes in our yard without them sounding the alarm. They provide reliable notice when we’re out working in the pasture or are glued to our computers working on a project. I won’t slaughter this bunch, as geese are hearty enough to weather Minnesota winters with the barn providing enough shelter.

Ian’s been having lessons at Shada with our stallion Legacys Renoir. Our trainer Jerry says the two look good together. Ian will show Renoir in Scottsdale on Friday, February 15,in an amateur owner to handle (AOTH) class for senior stallions six years and older. Renoir is six this year. Jerry will show Renoir in the very competitive Open senior stallions class the following Saturday, February 23. You’ll recall Ian debuted as an amateur handler at last year’s Scottsdale show and won a Top 10 ribbon showing our pinto Half Arabian AMF Xtreme Kiss. (See blog entry: Top 10 Again for Kiss, 02/21/07) Showing a breeding stallion is not for the faint of heart, but Ian and Renoir should do very well.

We're not big New Year's Eve revelers, so we stayed home and went to bed early. Besides, that's when the temperatures began to dip subzero. On New Year's Day, we were invited to my maternal aunt and uncle's farm near Pine City, MN for lunch. We feasted on mayo-laden ham salad sandwiches, hot chocolate with whipped cream, frosted Christmas cookies and dense, tasty pumpkin pie. I think that covers all the food groups, right?

The stove is burning the suggested wood pellets and the house is warming up again. Tomorrow begins a warming trend that should get us into the 20s and 30s Fahrenheit. That’s the local warming trend … I’ll be glad to see 70s or warmer in Arizona!