Thursday, December 03, 2009

Happy December

We enjoyed our Thanksgiving Day in our new farmhouse together with my Mom, son Richard and our friends Marcia and Dan. Dan brought scalloped corn, which was so yummy. Marcia brought my favorite bagged salad from Costco. Ian did a magnificent job with the turkey and all the fixings.

The night before Richard and I made three pies - pumpkin, sweet potato and apple. He joined me in the kitchen and used his iPhone connection to find me a sweet potato pie recipe. We settled on a recipe by Food Network’s Alton Brown. It calls for yogurt and I used a one pound can of sweet potatoes packed in water versus all the extra work using raw ones. It is a crowd pleaser.

That iPhone is a cool thing. I love everything Apple, but I don’t like that its linked to AT&T. Of course, we just renewed a two year-contract with Verizon Wireless. Besides, Ian and I are rather old school using laptops for our Internet connection and cell phones for calling people. Ian never texts and it is rare when I send one. I don’t know that we would use an iPhone, its droid cousin or even a Blackberry as they’re intended.

The November weather was unseasonably mild and only today have temperatures dipped to near December normal. We don’t have snow yet, but I have been getting bids from locals who do residential snowplowing. Ian and I kicked around the idea of getting our own snowblower but these cost in the neighborhood of $1500 and having someone plow the driveway and area in front of the barn will cost $35 a time. Even if we have a winter with record snowfalls we won’t come near needing to be plowed out 40 times! Besides, it’s nice to have someone else out in the subzero temps moving the snow around.

I am determined that this winter season we are going to do some kind of winter sport! The candidates are cross country skiing or snowshoeing. We’ve got plenty of our own acreage to explore and as long as it’s not double digits below zero being outside in the Minnesota winter (properly dressed) can be exhilarating.

We continue to unpack and organize the house and while the weather cooperates we are able to complete major projects outdoors too. Having the Ritchie waterer up and working will be such a blessing. Ian spent last Saturday with a rented trenching machine digging a 100-yard long trench (for its electrical supply) from the house to the pasture where the Ritchie will be mounted. Yesterday, Don came first with a backhoe, followed by a dump truck load of sand and later a skidsteer to prepare the insulated water line and placement area. Once its concrete pad cures, the bright yellow and red waterer will be placed -- we're looking at this Saturday. The Ritchie is located on a fence line where horses in both pastures can drink from it, giving the herd 24/7 access to pasture, water and shelter.

The Christmas tree has been placed in the living room and when I locate the boxes of ornamants it will be decorated.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful on Wildwood Road

Where does the time go? I guess I have a bit of an excuse as Ian and I have been busy buying a new 80-acre farm, packing up the old one, turning over its keys and then moving lock, stock and barrel – all since I last posted!

Ian and I began moving ourselves from the 10-acre Stanchfield farm using a rented U-Haul truck and stock trailer on Friday morning, November 6. We handed over its keys on Saturday afternoon, November 14. The first night we spent here in the Wildwood farmhouse was November 7. We are still settling in trying to find the best place for all the bits of our stuff. The weather has been unseasonably warm, sunny and completely cooperative.

All of the animals moved very well. We only had a moment's nonsense from our Saddlebred mare and she was quickly apologetic. Even this year's foal crop of four loaded and traveled well. I wondered if we would survive loading the Pilgrim geese, but Ian's a clever lad and all four were on the trailer snuggled safely amongst things before they knew what hit them. They are very pleased with the new digs as Wildwood Road has a pond not far from the house and they spend more time floating than patrolling.

Ian has this week off from his consulting gig and we’re making the most of it. Yesterday, we went into Minneapolis to visit my 85-year-old Mom, who returned to a nursing home again as she copes with panic attacks, some disorientation and short term memory loss following her mid-October stroke. Mom is getting excellent nursing care and therapy while we wait to see how her circuits rewire. We all hope Mom’s fog will lift and that she will be able to return to life in her beloved 17th-floor apartment overlooking downtown Minneapolis. We children stand by to help Mom with decisions about where the safest living situation may be given whatever her circumstances dictate. Time will tell. Mom will spend Thanksgiving Day with us on the farm, along with my son Richard and two dear friends.

After our visit, we did our Thanksgiving Day grocery shopping, which filled the fridge to near capacity. We bought a 14-pound turkey that is defrosting slowing atop a shelf in the garage. I’m keeping an eye on it so that we don’t die of some dreaded disease. Martha Stewart says as long as it doesn’t thaw out to warmer than 40 degrees, we’re good. I had contemplated buying one of her birds, until I detected shock in Ian’s voice when I told him the smaller of the two offered was 'only' $69.99 plus $20 shipping & handling. Evidently, at that price point it was not a good thing. LOL Our young turkey from Wal-Mart as $9.36.

We came home to find our farmhouse and yard bathed in light coming from the dusk-to-dawn light the local electric company had installed on a pole. We had one of these in Stanchfield and ordered one for this farm as soon as we closed. Being away from city lights certainly is nice for stargazing, but it is no fun when doing evening chores!

Tomorrow, Don will come from Pine City to install a Ritchie Omni 2 in the pasture to provide warmed water to the horses year round. I am ecstatic at the thought of not having to lug a hose from the house to fill 100-gallon water tanks installed with electric heaters to keep the water from freezing. In fact, there will be no more tank filling at all -- just the occasional clean out. Woo-hoo! The Omni 2 has the capacity to water 40 horses and we will place it so that it will handle two pastures this winter. In the spring we will fence so that it waters four pastures.

Since I last posted we bought a 1997 Ford F-150 white/tan extended cab pick up truck. This sure makes hauling hay (and anything else) easy. We’re going for 30 square bales later today and its bed and load capacity works great for fetching one large round bale at a time for the herd pastured outdoors. I will admit this does get old and I expect we’ll buy our winter supply of large rounds soon.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print from the Auld Macdonald Farm.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wildwood Road in the snow!

These photographs were taken last winter. I don't want you to think we have snow in Minnesota yet!


Mom returns home!

Yesterday, after a 9-day stay at Benedictine Health Center, I returned Mom to her south Minneapolis apartment. She seems to have recovered nicely from her October 13 stroke and is well enough to return to living on her own once again. Her 17th floor apartment has a million dollar view of downtown Minneapolis and she really loves her life there.

Mom has dinner and visits with other residents in the building's dining room six nights a week and there are many services available to her should she need them. Mom has someone to clean her apartment and do her laundry weekly and thankfully my younger brother Matthew and his wife Connie live within five minutes drive.

This afternoon Mom has an appointment with her main care doctor and a follow up appointment scheduled with a neurologist next week. The hospital care at HCMC and the intensive physical and occupational therapy she received at Benedictine really helped Mom get back on track.

All good news.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wildwood Road

During the first weekend in November we will be moving from Stanchfield to our new home; a larger farm in Brook Park, Minnesota, which is 25 miles further to the northeast. Pictured is the 1918 two-story, 3-bedroom, remodeled farmhouse that sits on 55+ acres. There is a barn, a chicken coop, a large outdoor run-in shed and plenty of pasture for the horses.


Doctor JET

PICTURED: Connie, Mom holding Tucker, and Matthew.

My 85-year-old mother, Joyce E. Tiffany (known as Dr. JET to many), is in ICU at the Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), the regional trauma center. Mom was found unconscious on the floor lobby just outside of her 17th floor apartment in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. My brother Matthew, who lives in Minneapolis with his wife Connie, called me on Tuesday morning and they remained with Mom throughout the day.

I visited Mom at HCMC on Wednesday morning. She was not sedated and sleepily looked at me and then her eyes brightened with recognition. A breathing tube was in, so she could not speak. Mom is breathing on her own, the tube is just for fresh air and the plan is to have it taken out as soon as all the tests that requires her to be physically still are completed (hopefully today).

When I talked with Mom, squeezed her hand and patted her shoulder she nodded or shook her head in reply to my questions. She was not in any pain, she was warm and comfortable. How precious the words I love you are.

Yesterday’s MRI revealed that Mom has had two small strokes; one that triggered Tuesday’s events and one some time in the past.

Today, the docs have ordered a brain MRA scan, which is used to specifically evaluate the vessels of the brain for aneurysms, stroke and AVMs (vascular malformation)

Because Mom will not need to be sedated once the tube is out, she will be able to talk and we hope to learn more about how the strokes may have affected her. When I was there yesterday I saw none of the signs I usually associate with people who have had strokes.

I am going back to HCMC tomorrow (Friday). Matthew and his wife Connie visit Mom daily and the docs call Matthew with updates that he passes along to friends and family.

Mom is receiving excellent care. We are taking this day by day. It is scary and at times overwhelming – this is my mother – but I tend to click into my intellectual, problem solver mindset, which I am sure is the best way forward to help her. My brothers (Mark & Matthew) are ever loving and supportive, as are my husband, Ian, and son Richard.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August August

This is certainly one of my favorite months. In Minnesota, August is absolutely summer; warm, green, bountiful and established. July was the third coolest in Minnesota history, a month that saw no readings of 90 degrees or higher anywhere in the state, which lead to slowly ripening crops, but fewer mosquitoes and certainly better sleeping. True to itself, August has brought back the warmer temperatures, more rain and our need for the oscillating fan.

The foals are all growing well. I was surprised that Mara’s colt, Marrakech, born a chestnut like the others, is beginning to turn grey. There is an entire genetic science that I don’t confess to understand, devoted to equine coat colors. The following explanation comes from the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine site:

“The Gray gene causes progressive depigmentation of the hair, often resulting in a coat color that is almost completely white by the age of 6-8 years. Horses that inherit progressive Gray can be born any color, then begin gradually to show white hairs mixed with the colored throughout the body. Usually the first signs of gray hair can be found on the head, particularly around the eyes. Gray is dominant; therefore a single copy of this gene will cause a horse to turn gray."

Mara and her full sister Eve (both are grey colored) had Renoir colts this year, yet, Eve’s colt, Memphis, remains his sire’s deep chestnut. As I said, I don’t begin to understand, but I’m happy to have the diversity.

Something else I noticed is my “grey” versus “gray.” I am positive I grew up spelling this color with an ‘e’, but apparently, gray is a color and grey is a colour. Who knew? I’m chalking it up to osmosis, which like equine coat genetics I barely understand.

Ian and I share many passions; horses, love of travel, writing, and food! We eat well, and like many residents on this continent ways too much, but that is subject for a completely different blog. However, there are times when we get into foodie ruts; serving up salmon, shrimp, chicken, pasta, homemade pizza or salad in enough varieties to publish our own cookbook. Last week, we freed ourselves and made delicious wontons stuffed with a mixture of crabmeat, cream cheese, minced water chestnuts and Chinese chili sauce. Ian put together the mixture and handled the pan frying.

I did the wonton stuffing and folding, which took a few tries to find the correct amount that did not seep out the water-slicked edges or burst the delicate wonton pasta square when I folded it into a triangle pocket. I am glad the end product was tasty, because assembling them went from adventurous to tedious with amazing quickness. At one point, as Ian was patiently waiting for me, I remarked that I wouldn’t like to be trying this at speed with someone like Chef Gordon Ramsay of TV’s Hell’s Kitchen yelling at me. We tossed a salad and dipped these bronzed beauties in a mixture of sweet duck sauce and Chinese mustard. Delightful! For brunch, I spread the remaining mixture on open-faced hot dog buns and put them under the broiler. Nice, and much easier than stuffing wonton squares!


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Meet Macaroon

It turns out our prize Arabian broodmare, Khatalina Bey, is not pregnant. She had been confirmed pregnant last fall, but things can happen. So, only four foals this season.

As I mentioned in my last post, (VG Antazia) "Taza" was due on the 21st with her first foal. Well, she decided to give us a firecracker of a surprise by delivering on the morning of Fourth of July in the pasture! I was walking toward to barn to do morning chores when I noticed a tiny horse making its way around the pasture. I had turned Khat out with the herd, rather than sequestering her in the foaling stall, and I thought it was hers. Then I saw Khat eating in the back pasture and Taza came into view guarding her foal. I ran to the house, where Ian was still in bed with his morning coffee and hollered for his help. Ian joined me in the pasture in the same quizzical state of mind, “Taza?” I haltered Taza while Ian picked up the foal and we ushered both into the foaling stall.

Taza blessed us with a beautiful filly with no premature characteristics. She has face markings very similar to Renoir's and his same dark chestnut color and the four white socks must come from mommy. We have named her Macaroon.

Yesterday, we went to the annual Isanti County Rodeo. We watched bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding, tie down roping, saddle bronc riding, team roping and barrel racing. The working partnership between cowboy and horse is always amazing to see. There were cowboys from France and Australia on the circuit, as well as Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska, Mississippi and our five-state area; Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa. The rodeo emcee noted this tour began in Wyoming in June and his comedic foil, the rodeo clown, quipped, “No wonder, the rodeo and divorce go hand-in-hand.”


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy July

Happy Canada Day to our Canadian family and friends. Looking ahead to our own Independence holiday weekend, we will entertain guests with BBQs on July 3 and 4. The third is my mother’s 85th birthday and my brother Matthew and sister-in-law Connie will come from Minneapolis with Mom for the festivities.

My brother Mark, who lives in Maryland, visited the farm on June 22. We had a good visit and ate dinner together. Did I remember to take any pictures? No! Darn it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that our mare Khatalina Bey is not pregnant. Our breeding calculations had her due June 19, and she’s not delivered yet. Khat is a full-figure mare anyway, so her plumpness may just be her. That said, she looks pregnant, and we’ve watched for a variety of signs that she will deliver soon, but there are none. She was confirmed in foal last fall by our vet, but sometimes things happen. It’s not unheard of that a mare is two weeks or more overdue, but I think that window is closing. So, if Khat does not foal, we only have Taza due later this month, around the 21st.

Meanwhile, the other three colts are doing well. Only Memphis and Marrakech are pictured. Madrid would not cooperate - he just wanted to play hide-n-seek and my camera is not quick enough to catch him! They share a large paddock together with their mothers and spend the days playing with each other.

On the 23rd we took in Tucker, another miniature poodle. He came to us through our dog groomer, the same person we got Buddy from, and had been rescued after being abandoned inside a house for two weeks without food and water. Tucker was there with two larger dogs and several cats. The situation got so bad that when Animal Control entered the home, the cats had been eaten, and Tucker, found in the back of a closet, may have been next on the menu. He is 14 years old and moves much slower than our vibrant two-year-old poodle Buddy. He gets along well with both Buddy and Lady and there’s a kind of détente with Tiger the cat. As the days go by, Tucker’s feeling better and more assured that he’s landed in a good place.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Meet Memphis

This chestnut colt was born on June 6. He is a purebred Arabian, out of VG Evening Echo ("Eve"), an Aladdinn Echo mare and sired by Legacys Renoir. We also own Eve’s 2007 purebred foal, VG Pskye, sired by AE Psymbolic. Like Pskye, AMF Memphis is quite leggy and like his two Renoir brothers, AMF Madrid and AMF Marrakech, he’s also very friendly. The three colts and their mommies spend their days together in a large paddock, enjoying the sun, being outdoors and learning herd socialization.

We’ve got two more Renoir-sired foals coming yet this season. Khatalina Bey is due any time now. She bore a beautiful filly last year (AMF Renoirs Bey B) and we’re looking for a repeat performance. The last foal is due near the end of July to VG Antazia, “Taza”, a beautiful, 14-year-old, flea-bitten grey Tazaman daughter. This will be Taza’s first foal and we are really looking forward to the result.

On Monday, the vet was called to suture Madrid’s right eyebrow. He banged against something harder than his head and the skin burst into a 4-inch cut. The doc gave him some ‘happy juice’ intravenously and Ian held his woozy body steady, while I cradled Madrid’s head and neck as the vet worked. He also got an injection of Novocain at the suture site and then intravenous antibiotics. We give our foals a Tetanus vaccination the day they are born, so he didn’t need that. Madrid is healing nicely, the sutures will dissolve in a month and there won’t be any visible scarring.

Ian and I have been taking weekly riding lessons for a month now. He is learning Saddle Seat and I am learning Hunt Seat. Our instructor, Cathy, is a WSCA Judge and we really enjoy the way she teaches. We ride at her farm using two of her pinto Saddlebreds; Ian aboard Gypsy and me atop Profit. Because we are learning different disciplines we each have our own hour with Cathy.

In July, we will go to Sauk Centre, Minnesota again for the Great Arabian Get Together Horse Show. We will show Psyke (who is now a gelding) and Lookin For Trouble (2004 purebred, black bay, Sirius Trouble gelding). Both geldings will be shown in halter classes and we plan to have trainer Erik Haff show Trouble under saddle in a junior horse (5 years and younger) Hunt class too. Trouble and I have won many ribbons together. I love showing him and he’s matured into an even more beautiful horse.

The apple trees that blossomed so beautifully look to have lots of apples growing. I plan to collect bushels from both trees and will preserve ("can") multiple quart jars of sliced apples. The ones I put up two years ago into apple pie filling really tasted good in the depths of winter. I may make some applesauce too. I remember my mother and grandmother made this when I was a kid.

I’ve been weeding and watering our two garden areas; the hosta garden that encircles a Scotch pine and a raspberry patch that borders the mare & colt paddock. Both gardens are growing well. I like planting things, but I would not say I’m a gardener because I’m not big on regular weeding, although I’m working at getting better. Grandma used to walk the garden’s edge in the evenings and pick a handful or two of weeds each time, which kept the weeds from getting out of control. Now that I’ve spent time getting both areas weed free, it’s easier to employ her way-of-work.

We are really pleased to have Darrah working with us on weekends this summer. Her love and knowledge of riding and horses is wonderful and she's got some cool training tricks up her sleeve too. Darrah lives in Richfield and attends William Woods University equine program in Missouri during the school year.

Tomorrow is the Summer Soltice. The weather has been so pleasant these last few days; sunshine, blue skies, temps in the 70s and 80s with mild breezes. We have fired up the grill a few times already. One time making Beer Butt Chicken, which is slow roasting a whole, BBQ sauce covered chicken as it sits perched atop a half can of beer (this can be done using a cola product too). It is so nice to be in Minnesota in the summer!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Meet Marrakech!

This morning I was greeted by another handsome Renoir colt. His dam, Mara (sired by Aladinn Echo out of AF Anticipation, a Gamaar daughter), had already cleaned (dropped her placenta), and was nuzzling the foal, which was already dry and folded comfortably on the stall floor. Like his sire, he is chestnut in color, and he has a prominent star and two rear socks. I telephone Ian, who was breakfasting in the house, and asked him to bring the Tetanus booster. We also cuddled the young fellow and swabbed his bellybutton with disinfectant.

We’ve named him Marrakech because his coat color reminds us of a Moroccan spice.

Proud mama Mara gently calls to him and brushes his butt with her nose as he nurses.

Older brother Madrid is doing well and enjoys his afternoons in the outdoor paddock with mommy Elly.

Our two apple trees are in full bloom and I thought I’d better snap some pics before they’re all gone. Enjoy!


Double The Fun results

Double The Fun is two regional Arabian Horse Association qualifying shows conducted at the same location over the same weekend. Ian and trainer Erik Haff showed our two-year-old colt, Pskye, in a series of halter classes. Here are the gratifying results:

North Dakota Arabian Horse Association Classic (Region 6)
Friday evening, May 15
Class 108 Arabian Colt 2 Year Old Breeding: First Place
Class 109 Arabian Colt Junior Champion & Reserve: Grand Champion
Class 113 Arabian Stallion Breeding All Ages AOTH: First Place

Northern Minnesota Arabian Horse Association (Region 10)
Sunday morning, May 17
Class 280 Arabian Colt 2 Year Old Breeding: First Place
Class 282 Arabian Colt Show Champion & Reserve: Reserve Champion
Class 283 Arabian Stallion Breeding All Ages AOTH: First Place

This was Pskye’s second trip to a horse show and he handled it very well. The scores from both judges were good and we’re pleased with the feedback that the new scoring system provides.

VG Pskye (“Sky”)
Foaled June 2007
AE Psymbolic x VG Evening Echo, an Aladdinn Echo daughter

Pskye is a well-bred horse with an excellent future, but it will not be as a breeding stallion. He is being gelded and we will show him again later in the season. Pskye will also begin learning skills laying the ground work to start him under saddle in 2010; his three-year-old year. He looks to be a fine Hunt prospect.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

"If I had a flower for each time I thought of My Mother, I could walk in my garden forever." –Unknown

I love you, Mom! I also love and adore my sons Michael and Richard.

On Friday morning when I arrived in the barn for morning chores, Elly, who had spent her first the night in our foaling stall, was nuzzling her foal. The colt was still a bit wet, but was up on reasonably steady legs, nursing. Elly had already dropped her placenta, so all had gone well and my help was not needed.

This colt is our stallion’s first son. We have named him Madrid. He is chestnut in color, like both his dam and sire. He has a Harry Potter-like lightening bolt on his forehead, that, and a right rear ankle-high sock.

Mara is the next mare to mommy. Her udder is filling with milk but I have not seen any of the telltale wax forming on the tips of her teats, which foretells birth. I will breathe a huge sign of relief when Mara’s foal arrives alive, safe, sound, and nurses.

Finally, Mother Goose, Gracie, and daddy gander George are escorting their gosling around the barnyard. After sitting on as many as 20 eggs for more than a month, this one gosling is the result of all that patience and devotion. Three other goslings hatched, but they did not last more than a few hours. I’m not sure why; whether there was something genetically wrong or they just got stepped on. This fuzzy gosling has a grey hue, which indicates a female Pilgrim goose.

2008 daughter Missy Goose still lays eggs and I’ve been raiding the nest making the most wonderful quiches and scrambled egg burritos. Cracking them against a bowl’s edge feels quite Flintstone, as they sound almost ceramic.

Ian and Erik will both show Pskye this Friday and Sunday in Sauk Centre, Minnesota at the Stearns County Fairgrounds at the Double The Fun Arabian Horse Show.

Yesterday, Ian and I visited Wildflower Farm near Pine City, Minnesota and met the owners Cathy & Jim. Both of us want to take riding lessons to gain skill, confidence and experience so that we can show our horses in performance (riding) classes. Cathy ia an accomplished show rider and judge. Ian and I will both take lessons from her beginning this week. Ian is going to learn Saddle Seat and I am going to begin with Western Pleasure and Hunt and when I'm more fit, I too will learn Saddle Seat.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Happy May Horse Shows

Things are greening and budding, I’ve got tulips poking through in the front yard garden and leaves on the raspberry bushes planted last fall.

We have two mares due this month; Elly and Mara are both due on the 16th. We lease both from our friend Kathy and both are in foal to Renoir. Elly is an easy going soul, Mara is kind but a bit spastic because she has not been handled a lot. She is very bonded to Eve, another mare we lease from Kathy, and gets very upset if they’re separated. I will keep working on developing our bond with hopes that Mara will turn her attention to being with her new foal. Eve is due in early June.

Eve’s 2007 colt, VG Pskye, made his horse show debut at the Sahara Sands show this past weekend. He showed on Sunday morning in three classes: Arabian Stallion Breeding 2-Year-Old (First Place), Arabian Breeding Amateur To Handle (Second Place) and the Arabian Stallion Breeding Championship (Fourth Place). His handlers were his trainer Erik Haff and Ian. Sometimes young horses can have meltdowns at their first show because of too many new things coming at them at once, but Pskye took everything in stride. He looked very pretty all clipped up and ready to show. I snapped some candid pictures and plan to buy professional shots from the equine show photographer once they’re posted online.

Marcia came to cheer us on and I always appreciate having someone to sit with while Ian shows the horses. He just loves showing halter and keeps getting better and better. We’re on the lookout for someone local that Ian can take riding lessons with to gain skill, experience and confidence to ride our horses under saddle at shows too.

Pskye’s next time showing is in two weeks at Double The Fun in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. Ian and Erik will show him on Friday, the 15th and again on Sunday, the 17th. The show is called Double The Fun because it is actually two horse shows conducted at one site during one weekend. We’re working at collecting enough points to qualify Pskye to show at the Arabian Horse Association’s Region 10 show held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds the second weekend in June. Showing horses is fun and when they compete well potential buyers sitting in the stands take notice and have been known to follow the horse back to its stall. After all, we are also in the horse selling business.

No goslings yet and I am really wondering about egg viability. Mother Goose continues to keep them warm and warns off any intruder with an insistent hiss. The other goose made a nest adjacent to her mother and laid an egg, which I took and made a lovely scrambled egg breakfast. The yoke was golden and huge, compared with a chicken egg yoke. It tasted so good, I am watching for another. Ian suggested that I tip Mother Goose up and mark each egg so if she’s continuing to lay more eggs I can take the new ones. Good idea, but I’ll need his help because she’s serious about keeping people at bay and I’d rather not get pecked or should I say “goosed?”


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring Fever

Spring seems to have found us here in north central Minnesota with temps in the 50s, 60s or 70s during the days and no more dipping below freezing at night. The warmer weather makes doing chores easier, especially watering horses because I don’t have to carry the hose into the house at night to keep it from freezing. These blustery spring days are very enjoyable to the horses, not only do the temperatures suit them, there are no flies to bother them. We have not had any soaking rains that really bring on the green, but the herd splits their time between the provided round bales and nipping at the new growth in the pasture. The herd happily gallops their acreage, chasing and playing with one another, especially the two geldings, Trouble and Kiss.

Last week, I happened into the barn during one of the rare times when Mother Goose was off her nest. You’ll remember that I found her on five eggs March 16, now there are 14 eggs! What the heck will I do with more than a dozen goslings! I was charmed by the thought of four or five fuzzy little goose babies, who knew she’d just keep manufacturing eggs? If I had known I would have given the others to Dan, who paints eggs with the most beautiful Ukrainian patterns and could have sold them to his Easter egg admirers. Goose egg gestation is 28-30 days and we are a week passed that timeframe for the first eggs laid. I am wondering if all are viable, which certainly save me! I’ll keep you posted.

Local farmers are already in the fields – disking the dirt, mowing down corn that wasn’t harvested, spreading loads of manure to fertilize the fields, etc. Last year there were snowstorms in late April and the ground did not reach planting warmth until late May. Rain is predicted for the weekend, so hopefully this will keep farmers from hand wringing like little old ladies about a draught or poor growing season, which in my humble opinion only serves to drive up hay and feed prices unnecessarily. It’s just too soon to tell, and so far the weather is shaping up to be on the farmer’s side.

Recently, there was an ad in a local paper for a smelt fry at a restaurant in a neighboring town. I hadn’t been to one of these for decades and remembered the beer battered lovelies with great delight. We arrived at Pace’s for the all-you-can-eat buffet only to find the smelt were on the small side and were not hot enough. Like all deep-fried goodies, they’re best when finger dancing, volcanic hot. The side dishes of scalloped potatoes, baked beans and coleslaw were very good, but that’s not why we came. Ian commented that to him smelt tastes like Mackerel. Smelt only "run" in the spring, and in hopes of improving our experience, we may go to a fundraising smelt fry for firefighters in North Branch this Saturday.

A couple of weeks ago we visited a farm in western Wisconsin. It was a very nice day, so we brought the dogs, Lady and Buddy, and all four of us enjoyed the sunshine as we walked the property. The pasture has a section that is overrun with cockleburs, while these aren’t as hurtful as thistle, they easily stick to clothes and, as we learned, poodle coats.

Poor Buddy, who was really enjoying all the new sniffs, was just matted with cockleburs. I thought I might be able to comb them out, but ended up having to shave him using a pair of horse clippers. To say I am not a groomer is an understatement, but shaving Buddy did give him relief from the pulled hair and scratching cocklebur particles. I followed up the shearing with a bubble bath. Becky, our groomer, was solidly booked readying dogs for Easter, so Buddy wore his ragged haircut until she was able to even him out on Tuesday evening with a complete body shave, leaving his coat an apricot-colored crushed velvet.

Not far from the farm we decided to lunch at the Magnor Lake Restaurant near Clayton. Our waitress suggested the fish sandwich, which arrived hot from the deep fryer, slathered in mayonnaise, topped with a lettuce leaf, all on a super soft bun. We washed this down with iced tea and enjoyed the lake cabin décor and views of the lake. For dessert we shared a piece of cheesecake, after being warned off the posted cream pie selections. The restaurant shares its restrooms with a convenience store, housed in the building’s other half. I stood with my hand on the restroom door agog at the number of deer heads mounted throughout the store. I waved Ian over and we toured the store, walking along the drink cooler, noting the many different taxidermy styles. It was weird and amazing all at the same time.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Happy April

Winter is doing its best to hang on, but sooner or later it will give way to spring. Today there is sunshine, which is very welcome since we’ve had several grey days. March went out like a lion, as it dropped two inches of wet, heavy snow on the 31st. It snowed again yesterday, but it melted quickly, so quickly in fact, I could have just waited instead of immediately shoveling our back walkway. One nice thing about the colder weather is that our driveway and the area between our house and the barn is firm enough to drive on without worries of sinking into a muddy oblivion. Yesterday, our hay guy came, first, in his 4-wheel drive pick up truck with 40 square bales of a nice alfalfa mix hay, then an hour later with 10 enormous 5 x 5 foot round bales loaded on a flatbed trailer and pulled by a 1-ton dually truck. Neither vehicle had any problem negotiating the driveway.

It’s always nice to have a stockpile of fresh hay. The square bales are fed to the horses that come in at night; the rounds are rolled into the pasture, two at a time, for the horses that stay outside. As long as horses have free access to hay (or grass pasture), fresh water and shelter they are well equipped to live outside – even in the bitterest Minnesota winter. Actually, the coming spring weather of rain and wind is more problematic for a horse, as their coats drench through to the skin and they chill and can colic. We watch for shivering horses and bring them into the barn from the rain/cold to dry off and get their body temperatures up. Ideally, we’d have turnout blankets for all pastured horses, but between our monitoring and them using the dry outdoor shelter that’s provided, they’re OK. I will say it does bug me to look out the kitchen window during a rainstorm and see some of the herd standing with the noses near the ground and butts turned to the wind in the rain. It is their choice and I try to grin and bear it, but I have left a warm, dry house, trudged out to the pasture, often with Ian in tow, to bring rain-soaked horse after rain-soaked horse into the barn, cussing them every step. Maybe they find it amusing, who knows maybe they make bets with one another as to how long it will take until we come to “rescue” them.

Next month, foals begin to arrive. We have five mares that are in foal to our purebred Arabian stallion, Legacys Renoir. All the babies will be purebreds too. Naturally, we’re hoping for a repeat of 2008 when we had all fillies! Four of the five mares are leased from our dear friend Kathy, who lives in western Wisconsin. Two of the mares, Mara and Eve, were supposed to be foaled at her farm, but she’s been hospitalized for most of the winter and feels she won’t be strong enough to deal with foaling and dealing with the new babies. When you’ve got as many as we do, what’s two more?

The first mares to foal are 12-year-old Elly and Mara; both due on May 16. Elly’s first foal is Princess, sired by Renoir, and born last May at Kathy’s. Mara was in foal to Renoir in 2008 too, with her first foal, a filly, but it was born dead. Mara foaled at Kathy’s farm and we don’t know exactly what happened, but it was dead when Kathy arrived at the barn. Needless to say, we will be watching Mara extra closely this year. Princess is maturing beautifully and we plan to show her this season in some halter classes.

Eve is due on June 4. Her last foal is our two-year-old stallion, Pskye, who is in training at Lonesome Dove Training Center. Eve is 19 this year and has many beautiful foals.

The next mare, Khatalina Bey, is one of ours and is due June 19. She is 15 this year and is the mother of the second 2008 Renoir filly, Baby, who was born here on the farm at the end of May. Like Princess, Baby will be shown this year too.

The last of the five pregnant mares, another of Kathy’s, is Taza; 14 this year and pregnant with her first foal. Taza is due July 21, which correlates directly with her complete uncooperativeness during the 2008 breeding season. Regardless, we are excited to see what she and Renoir produce.

Foaling time is always exciting. There is a 10-day window on due dates. The equine gestation period is roughly 343 days. Nearer the 10-day window, I begin to stall all pregnant mares overnight and give them limited turn out in a segregated pasture. I watch for all the signs that delivery is imminent and the due date draws near I keep them stalled 24/7 and check them regularly – around the clock if needs be -- until the blessed event.

Here mares and foals pasture together to learn manners from their dams and their “auntie” broodmares and to bond with their siblings. I find that playmate bonding makes weaning time much easier. I like to wean all together at three months of age, which works well when they’re born within the same timeframe, but Taza’s foal will come almost two months later, so we may wean the three oldest together sometime in late August and the last two foals out of Khat and Taza together in early October. For us, there are no hard and fast rules, we monitor each on a case-by-case basis and do what each situation calls for.

As of last week, all of our horses’ hooves are trimmed. It is a nice feeling to have that done. Because hooves grow faster in the warmer months, we’ll begin another round of trimming in 4-6 weeks time.

The next things to tackle are vaccinations and deworming. We vaccinate our own horses and buy the vaccines from a vet supply company on the Internet, which sends the requested vaccines pre-measured in syringes with needles. This is generally less expensive than buying from the vet, having her give the injection and paying the $45 farm call. We vaccinate with Fluvac Innovator 5, which is an annual booster that protects against two types of Encephalomyelitis, Rinoneumonitis, Influenza and Tetanus. This year we will also protect against Rabies and Strangles. Rabies must be administered by a vet and while she’s here I will also have her do the Strangles, which is given intranasal; there’s a trick to getting the horse to inhale it.

Normally, the Fluvac Innovator 5 is more than enough protection, but because we are showing the three yearling fillies we must not only protect them when they leave home, we must protect the entire herd against whatever they may be exposed to at a horse show. You see, a horse going to a show is a lot like kids going to school – they can return home with new germs to spread and we need to vaccinate all the horses as if they had all been to the show. If a horse is not protected and they get any of the diseases mentioned, well, I heard a seasoned horse vet put it this way, “There’s not enough magic juice on the vet truck to save them.” When we’ve invested this much time, love, energy and money, why risk it?

Deworming is what it sounds like, separating worms from the horse. Horses pick up several varieties of worms from pasture grazing and poop; simply put horses are worm hosts and the idea is to keep the numbers and types of worms that live in their guts to a minimum. Primarily, this is done by giving each horse a tube of deworming paste once a month, which kills the worms and acts as a prophylactic against new ones.

Last month, we attended a seminar hosted by our horse vet, and learned that there is now a new deworming protocol, one which basically tosses out the long standing once-a-month method because research now shows that the old standard breeds worms that are dewormer resistant. The new method calls for each horse to have a sample of its feces tested, which determines how that given horse reacts to the dewormer and, most importantly, what type of worm shedder the horse is; low, moderate or high. If the horse is a low shedder, meaning the dewormer works very well on this horse and the fecal egg count is low, it only needs to be dewormed twice a year (spring/fall), while a high shedder, meaning the fecal egg count shows a high number of worm eggs still present, would be dewormed four times a year. So, using this new, more strategic protocol, no horse would be wormed 12 times a year, which has been the norm for decades. Four times $10/tube is always going to be less expensive than 12 times $10/tube. I still need to learn where I can send the horse “apples” for the Fecal Egg Count Reduction testing, but I am definitely for this new deworming protocol!


Friday, March 27, 2009

March Almost Gone!

Ah, the last Friday in March. I will not be sorry to see this month end; other than friends’ and family member birthdays and being teased with spring-like weather, it’s the lousiest month of the 12! The sun has reappeared today, but we’re back to below freezing overnight temps that have not only iced over outdoor water tanks and barn buckets, now the once softened mud is Grand Canyon hard and undoubtedly as treacherous! Believe me, I bear an inch-long scar on my right kneecap from a fall on the frozen December pasture when a granite-hard horse apple rolled one way and sent me crashing hard on all fours. Ouch! Recalling it now I rub my knee.

Last weekend, a young Charolais bull squeezed through the common south-facing fence line into our pasture. He didn’t show any bullish manners, in fact, within minutes of his great escape he realized the error of his ways and really wanted to rejoin his buddies, all of whom were lined up like birds on a wire watching him. Our horses often entertain themselves watching Chad and Cameo’s cattle – we call this cow TV – but this doesn’t mean they wanted one of the stars in their living room! As the horse herd leadership snorted, stamped and arched necks in the direction of the offender, Ian spotted the visitor. A quick call to our neighbors to the south informed us that Chad was away on business, but Cameo called for proper bull wrangler reinforcements. While we waited, Cameo unpocketed a neighborly jar of jam for our trouble. This jar was as pretty as I’ve seen, with its two layered fabric hat finished off with a satin ribbon. This dressed up neighborly kindness inspired my inner Martha Stewart and I vowed to tailor and bejewel my entire stock of jammin’ gifts-on-a-shelf.

The wrangler arrived, located the widened spot in the fence, noting the electric was not flowing, and as Cameo and I stood visiting in our assigned portion of the pasture with arms outstretched, ready to waggle, Ian and said wrangler guided the big boy home.

A nest watch update – the count is five eggs (up from the earlier reported two) underneath the goose, which is giving them lots of warm, feathered breast time. Goose egg gestation is 28-30 days, so our goslings should hatch sometime in mid-April.

As my Facebook friends know, earlier in the week our six Pilgrim geese went on walkabout and were gone overnight. The geese routinely spend the night in the barn, whether I shoo them in or they situate themselves around dusk. This independence concerned me, as they can fall prey to out-of-season hunters, coyotes, vehicles; a mother worries! I was more than miffed with Gracie Goose for leaving her eggs unattended. Neighbor Chad stopped by one his 4-wheeler to chat bull and when I mentioned the missing geese he suggested I take a gander at our neighbor’s farm to the east. Chad was sure he’d heard pond frolics uncharacteristically coming from that direction in the early morning hours.

I must have looked confused, as those neighbors have dogs that the geese would surely choose to avoid. Chad said ‘not so’, that the dogs and family had vacated their 10-acre farm for whereabouts unknown. I was so shocked -- not that they didn’t say good-bye, we were nodding acquaintances and their two horses tended to get out and “visit” for days at a time until Ian and I would catch them and walk them the quarter mile home -- it was more that this is the second neighbor on our little dead-end road that has been drastically affected by the economy (the first returned their home to the bank at the beginning of the winter months). Six homes share this mile-long dirt road – the father of the neighbors who just left once owned much of the surrounding acreage with our farmhouse as its homestead – and now two houses are vacant with two families paths changed. I'm hoping wherever each path leads, that it is to a less stressful and much happier destination.

Ian and I strode east to the neighbor’s to find the six happily swimming amongst trees in a snow-melt lake and when they saw us they swam away from its edge; not a guilty, ashamed beak in the gaggle! Ian outsmarted them – not just a handsome pretty boy, this Brit – and got them turned to home, where I sequestered them in the chicken coop. Now reacquainted with her nest, Gracie and group seem to have put aside their wanderlust.


Dave Barry's Colonoscopy Journal

The following is a really hilarious take on a procedure that everyone should have done at sometime in their lives depending on your risk factors – as nasty as it sounds.

A Colonoscopy Journal
By Dave Barry
Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist for the Miami Herald.

I called my friend Andy Sable, a gastroenterologist, to make an appointment for a colonoscopy.

A few days later, in his office, Andy showed me a color diagram of the colon, a lengthy organ that appears to go all over the place, at one point passing briefly through Minneapolis.

Then Andy explained the colonoscopy procedure to me in a thorough, reassuring and patient manner.

I nodded thoughtfully, but I didn't really hear anything he said, because my brain was shrieking, quote, 'HE'S GOING TO STICK A TUBE 17,000 FEET UP YOUR BEHIND!'

I left Andy's office with some written instructions, and a prescription for a product called 'MoviPrep,' which comes in a box large enough to hold a microwave oven.

I will discuss MoviPrep in detail later; for now suffice it to say that we must never allow it to fall into the hands of America's enemies.

I spent the next several days productively sitting around being nervous.

Then, on the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation.

In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavor.

Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-liter plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a liter is about 32 gallons). Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humor, state that after you drink it, 'a loose, watery bowel movement may result.'

This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof, you may experience contact with the ground.

MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another liter of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.

After an action-packed evening, I finally got to sleep.

The next morning my wife drove me to the clinic. I was very nervous. Not only was I worried about the procedure, but I had been experiencing occasional return bouts of MoviPrep spurtage. I was thinking, 'What if I spurt on Andy?' How do you apologize to a friend for something like that? Flowers would not be enough.

At the clinic I had to sign many forms acknowledging that I understood and totally agreed with whatever the heck the forms said. Then they led me to a room full of other colonoscopy people, where I went inside a little curtained space and took off my clothes and put on one of those hospital garments designed by sadist perverts, the kind that, when you put it on, makes you feel even more naked than when you are actually naked.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep.

At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.

When everything was ready, Eddie wheeled me into the procedure room, where Andy was waiting with a nurse and an anesthesiologist. I did not see the 17,000-foot tube, but I knew Andy had it hidden around there somewhere. I was seriously nervous at this point.

Andy had me roll over on my left side, and the anesthesiologist began hooking something up to the needle in my hand.

There was music playing in the room, and I realized that the song was 'Dancing Queen' by ABBA. I remarked to Andy that, of all the songs that could be playing during this particular procedure, 'Dancing Queen' had to be the least appropriate.

'You want me to turn it up?' said Andy, from somewhere behind me.

'Ha ha,' I said. And then it was time, the moment I had been dreading for more than a decade. If you are squeamish, prepare yourself, because I am going to tell you, in explicit detail, exactly what it was like.

I have no idea. Really. I slept through it. One moment, ABBA was yelling 'Dancing Queen, feel the beat of the tambourine,' and the next moment, I was back in the other room, waking up in a very mellow mood.

Andy was looking down at me and asking me how I felt. I felt excellent. I felt even more excellent when Andy told me that it was all over, and that my colon had passed with flying colors. I have never been prouder of an internal organ.

Monday, March 16, 2009

March Mudness

Minnesotans are usually happy to see winter’s end, but March Mudness can try one’s patience. Spring temperatures in the 50s and 60s have arrived and most of our property has turned into boot-sucking mud.

On Saturday, Tina came to haul a trailer load of hay that she stored in our barn and got stuck in the mushy driveway. Our neighbor Chad came with his skid loader and helped to pull her truck from the muck then lifted and turned her sunken trailer pointing it in the right direction for later hauling. The night temps still dip low enough to harden the ground making for easier navigating and Tina wisely chose to return early Sunday morning when the ground had firmed up to pull her trailer home. This morning, as he left for work, Ian sent mud splattering as he gunned his way to the road. In the coming weeks, I look forward to having a few dump truck loads of class 5 driveway mix dirt hauled in and spread on our U-shaped driveway, which should go a long way to lessening future mudness.

Our weekend was spent racking up plenty of horse-related mileage. On Saturday, we drove the 130 miles northward to Pequot Lakes to see Renoir and Pskye. Ian and I both worked with Pskye; jogging with him and setting him in a halter stance. He’s doing well. Erik introduced Pskye to the clippers, trimming his mane and muzzle whiskers. I can’t wait until he has his ear hair trimmed readying him for show grooming! Luckily, Erik’s very patient and Pskye trusts him.

During our Saturday visit to Lonesome Dove Training Center, we made a big decision regarding Renoir -- we’re not going to show him at all this show season. He is doing better and better under saddle and until he is solid in the performance arena, we don’t want anything to confuse the new skills he’s learning. As I said in the last post, we plan to debut him under saddle at the Scottsdale (Arizona) show in February 2010. This decision is both easy and difficult; easy because it makes sense to stay focused, difficult because he is such a stunning, champion halter stallion that is hard to beat! That said we have two yearling fillies sired by Renoir that we can show. In the end, having his get (foals) winning in the show ring makes Renoir a champion sire, not just a handsome ribbon-winning stallion. So, with that decision made, Ian will show Pskye in stallion classes this season. We’re still deciding when the Renoir daughters, Princess and Baby, and the Half Arabian yearling palomino filly, Tango, will make their show debuts.

On Sunday, we traveled 70 miles to New Richmond, Wisconsin to help load purebred Arabian mares Mara and Eve for trailering to our farm. Their owner, Kathy, has had a long hospital stay and will not be strong enough to foal them out at home. Both grey mares are in foal to Renoir and are due in May. Eve and Mara are inseparable and watching them in the pasture, it looks like it will be while until they integrate into our herd. They were here for two months last summer for breeding.

This morning on the way to do morning chores I watched as a noisy Sandhill Crane flew overhead. These 4-foot tall birds with 6-foot wing spans -- the largest species of bird in Minnesota -- are odd looking and even stranger sounding. Small groups of them migrate here to nest in surrounding pastures. Their offspring are called colts!

I also found two goose eggs laid by one of our two female geese. These are huge – maybe five inches from top to bottom. We’ll try not to disturb the nest and see if we get goslings.

Last Sunday, March 8, Marcia and Dan came over for lunch. Thanks for the tulips, Marcia! Dan has a new dog, 8-year-old Shepherd mix, neutered male, Buddy. Our groomer Becky called on Saturday asking if Ian and I could foster home a dog while she found him a home. When I saw this Buddy I knew he and Dan, whose Labrador Sid died last year, would be perfect for one another.

March can be a frustrating month. While I am truly hoping spring has sprung, it could also freeze and snow again before month’s end. Heck, it can even snow in April, but I’m keeping flower-filled thoughts!


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Happy March

In Minnesota, March has come in like a lamb, albeit a cold one. This morning it’s just below zero but without any wind, for which we are thankful. The skies are clear and blue. I have learned that winter days that look like a picture postcard means it is probably bitter cold. March 20 marks the vernal equinox, the first day of spring, although it almost never feels springlike at the end of March here. It can be Minnesota’s snowiest month and sometimes, if the jet stream allows the Artic Canadian cold to dip below the border, March temperatures plummet leaving even the most ardent winter fan truly disgusted. The thing about March is that no matter what weather is thrown our way, it eventually gives way to April.

Yesterday, Ian and I drove the 2+ hours to Pequot Lakes, Minnesota to see our two stallions, Legacys Renoir (2002) and VG Pskye (2007). Trainer Erik Haff is progressing well with Renoir under saddle. Since there is no rush to get Renoir in the performance ring, our timeline to debut him is February at the 2010 Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show n Arizona. Ian will show Renoir this year in halter classes, which remains a good way to market a breeding stallion and keeping him “show ready.”

Pskye is beautiful and growing so tall. He must be close to 15hh (4 inches per hand measured to the withers) with 60 pounds of new muscle from his workouts. He remains a bit skittish, but he does not have a mean bone in his body. It’s important to remember that while Pskye looks grown, at two, he is still quite the baby horse. Once he gets it all going in the right direction, including agreeing to all the show grooming, and having 100% confidence in his handler, Pskye will be a force to be reckoned with in the show ring. The plan right now is to debut him at the Sahara Sands horse show at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds during the first weekend in May. Renoir will show then too and both will have classes on Sunday morning, May 3.

As I wrote in my last post, our three yearling fillies home from Erik’s on Valentine’s Day. Erik did a very good job starting them in show halter training. All three were born in May 2008, Tango, pictured here, is a Half Arabian and is the tallest of all three. We plan to show the fillies this season too, although we’re not sure when they will debut.

Ian’s birthday is March 9; he’ll finally catch up with me by turning 53.