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.