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!