Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holiday Stuffing

Ian dealing with some of our winter hay supply Nov 17, 2011

Welcome to the Brown Christmas Capital of the World. We had a proper snow storm near the end of November that left eight inches on the ground, but that all melted before our Thanksgiving Thursday, November 24, and we haven’t had much more than a dusting since. Ian and I were just saying how it looks more like spring than winter! It has been unseasonably warm with daytime temps in the 30s and 40s, but a northwesterly wind can be brutal so we do need to bundle up when doing morning and evening chores.

Christmas is behind us, and while it was wonderful and happy, I really didn’t get into the whole seasonal thing this year. Sure, I mailed greeting cards and enjoyed the cards we received, but I didn’t put one ornament on the pre-lit Christmas tree that Ian brought to the living room from storage. I did my part to stimulate the economy buying most gifts online at eBay and Amazon—it's wonderful to have gifts come to the house via UPS, FedEx or the postal service. The tree is back in storage, along with gift-wrapping paraphernalia. Good thing Christmas comes every year, so none of it goes to waste.
Mom on Friday, December 23

Christmas Day Stuffing
On Christmas Day we visited my mother at the Vets Home. She has good days and not-so-good days, but who doesn’t? Richard and I visited her on the 23rd and enjoyed a luncheon served on her floor. Wow, talk about portions. Whew! If people go hungry at the Vets Home it’s too bad because the food is tasty, looks better than you’d expect and is served up with plenty of care. We saw Mom yesterday too (December 27) and she was quite chipper and sharp.
Mom and me Christmas morning

Ian and me at Cosmos on Christmas Day

After visiting Mom on Christmas Day, Ian and I had reservations for lunch at Cosmos, in the Graves 601 Hotel in Minneapolis’s Warehouse District. It was pretty good—not fabulous, but pretty good. We liked our appetizers. Ian had Duck Confit and Winter Squash Risotto, Sage, Vincotto and I had Roasted Baby Beets, Yogurt Panna Cotta, Arugula, Pistachio, Orange. The entrees and desserts were another matter. Ian had the Pan Roasted Sea Bass, Winter Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Seasonal Mushrooms, which he enjoyed. I had a taste and it was very good. The fish was done perfectly. I ordered Roasted Au Bon Canard Duck, Herb Knodel (think: dressing or stuffing), Chestnut, Black Cabbage. The styling of the food on the plate was gorgeous, but I found the dressing unimaginative, a bit dry and my duck was overcooked. The chestnut slices looked kind of like big, dried toenails. I did enjoy the black cabbage. I ate two bites of the duck, one of the stuffing and that was it. I brought it home to the dogs.
Roasted beet appetizer

I like my duck cooked medium rare (saignant or à point in French) and this was clearly medium or well cooked. I’m not one to send back a meal. Admittedly I am fussy about duck and like to order things that I don’t cook at home, but upon reflection I probably should have gone with something else. I barely tasted my Passion Fruit Mousse Bombe with Kumquat Confit. It looked like a Hostess Snowball, only smaller and too, too, too sweet. Ian ordered the other choice, ChocoVic Chocolate Marquise with Pistachio Crémeux—a super cocoa chocolaty pyramid. He ate it all and enjoyed an espresso too. Our wine was a lovely Pinot Noir from Oregon. The service was stupendous and I love complimentary valet parking. I will surely visit again, but won’t order the duck.
Yummy pinot noir

Stuffing ourselves closer to home
In Pine City—six miles to our south—we like Wild Bamboo for Vietnamese food and recently discovered New China on Main Street one evening when Wild Bamboo was closed. It’s not a place you go to for the décor, but the food is fabulous! We shared an order of steamed potstickers and spicy orange chicken on a bed of steamed broccoli with white rice. Wow, it was so good. The caramelized sauce had slivers of orange rind too. The portion was so huge that Ian ate the leftovers for lunch two days in a row.

Mom’s Hometown Café is another Pine City favorite. We used to go there every Sunday for brunch, but we are treating ourselves better these days so we eat here maybe once a month now. LOL It’s hearty down-home cooking. I recommend its Eggs Benedict, but like many places I find the portions too huge to manage alone, so we often share or the dogs benefit. We like the Pizza Pub too and enjoyed a birthday/anniversary dinner there with our friends Jim and Cathy last month.
Jim, Cathy, me, Ian (L to R) November 5, 2011

Bowe’s Restaurant & Bar in downtown Mora (about 20 miles from home) served Ian a very good, perfectly cooked medium rare prime rib that he enjoyed a lot. Another Mora eatery favorite is Wild Things Pizzeria and Deli, owned by our pal Julie. The pizza is phenomenal and I’ve lost count of the taxidermy variety that adorns its walls.

More favorite stuffings
Gandi Mahal in south Minneapolis near Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue (not too far from the Vets Home) has the best daily lunch buffet. Its North Indian curry made with mutter (peas) and paneer (cottage cheese) is my favorite.

Famous Dave’s is our choice for barbeque. Yep, it’s a chain, but it does it right, so if we’re feeling a bit peckish and we spot its big red sign, we’re likely to stop in. We usually split a half slab of ribs, which comes with two side dishes and a corn muffin.

After Christmas Stuffing
Yesterday, after visiting Mom, Ian and I went to Mall of America. It was packed, but we found parking right away, then just strolled and enjoyed being together. We stopped in the Apple Store to see and ask questions about the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro laptops. I prefer the Air in part because of its solid-state memory (no hard drive), which makes it lighter. I will be very glad to be back using Apple products soon.

We enjoyed some tasty delights at Tiger Sushi before heading home to the farm and evening chores. Going to Minneapolis is easy enough, as it’s all interstate driving, but it is 170 miles roundtrip.

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That’s the news from here. All of us at the Auld Macdonald Farm send you and yours happy & prosperous 2012 wishes.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

We had our first snow of the season on Saturday. As much as I dread the colder weather, I love the snow. There’s always so much to do to get ready for the winter months. The largest concern I have is water and that all the animals have ready access to fresh, clean water 24/7. Installing the three new heated Ritchie fountains really helped. The barn cats and geese know enough to stay hydrated using these. The labs use them too when they’re outside running from pillar to post.

We have added five Muscovy ducks to the Auld Macdonald Farm menagerie. I responded to a Freecycle ad and they were delivered by a dad and the son, who hand raised them. I put them in the chicken coop, which is heated for the winter, figuring there’s plenty of room on the floor, since chickens roost. These ducks fly and the next morning when I put them in the pen, they promptly flew the coop and landed 300 feet later on the now frozen pond. It was comical to see them glide-n-slide. Not so comical, was Ian with a flashlight after dark herding the ducks from the pasture pond back to the coop. Thankfully, they waddled more or less in the right direction and we were able to catch them all (they don’t hiss, snap or bite like geese) and put them in the coop. I think we have two males (the larger) and three females. I suppose sooner or later they’ll lay eggs and I’ll decide if I’ll use them in the house or let them hatch. With the snow and colder temps, I have the poultry sequestered in the coop for warmth and to familiarize the ducks that this is their new home and they should return to it at dusk. I’m hoping this works. Chickens return to their roost at night without any help–a lesson I learned at the Stanchfield farm. Evidently, I don’t know duck.

Ian used our Farmall M tractor to plow the driveway and an area by the barn. He pushed the snow with the bucket loader, but to do a better job he’ll attach the snowblade that came with the tractor for a more precision job. The temps are supposed to climb back to the 50s, so most of what we have on the ground should melt and we can continue to organize ourselves for the winter ahead.

The horses are all fuzzy and seem to enjoy this bug-free season. They have ample shelter, lots of hay and they keep the Ritchie fountains busy. Depending on its age, weight and weather conditions, a healthy horse drinks between 6-10 gallons daily.

Ian and I are putting our heads together for a business trip to France in 2012. We’re looking at combining a trip to Paris with a two-day Arabian horse show in Menton on the Côte d’Azur in mid June. In 1997 Ian lived in Grasse, the world’s capital of perfume, and he knows the Alpes-Maritimes area quite well. I would like to write and photograph other French Riviera favorites like Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice and Cap d’Ail (Garlic Cape) and the Menton show gives me an opportunity to combine two of my greatest passions; Arabian horses and travel writing. Here's a crazy, amateur-shot video from the 2011 Menton show.

I continue to enjoy my work as editor for BonjourParis. If you haven’t already and of course if you have an interest in travel and things Francophile, please sign up for the free weekly newsletter.

To learn more about the writing craft and various tricks of the freelance trade, I’ve taken two classes at The Loft in Minneapolis; Finding Your Way as a Writer and Writing Your Life, which is about memoir writing. Both were very good and got me thinking and writing. I signed up for a day-long Travel Writing class in December and will make the most of that too. There are other classes I’d like to take during the winter, and am waiting for the latest catalogue to be published.

I’m giving cross-country skiing a go this winter. I had planned to do this last year, but I was just too damned fat. Currently I'm wearing a women's size 16, down from a (dare I say it?) 22, and continue to head in a more healthy direction. Yesterday we went to the Vasaloppet in Mora to its ski swap and sale. We didn’t buy anything, but were pleasantly surprised to see all the outdoor enthusiasts in every age bracket. Once we have the proper gear, we can ski on the Vasaloppet’s 18 miles of groomed trails or in many of the nearby Minnesota State Parks. Banning State Park is just north of us on I-35 has 11 miles and St Croix State Park east of Hinckley has 13 miles. I’d like to do more outdoor things this winter and country-skiing looks like fun.

Ian and I are having Marcia, Dan and Carl over for Thanksgiving Dinner. Earlier in the month Carl had surgery and he’s recovering well. He’s not the best patient, and says he’d like to come back to work riding horses, but I’m encouraging him to rest, recoup and heal.

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All of us at the Auld Macdonald Farm send you and yours Happy Thanksgiving wishes.  That’s the news from here.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Auld Macdonald Farm Autumn

We are still enjoying mild weather for this time of year in Minnesota. The temps are in the 50s, but once in a while it creeps into the 60s and with sunshine it’s down right balmy. I admit to dragging out my winter coat for the frost-on-the-pumpkin mornings, but stripped it off by 10am because it was just too warm. A sure sign of the coming winter is that the horses are getting fuzzier and are busy packing on extra winter weight.

We have accomplished a lot this season. With Carl’s help we got five of the seven young horses started. The two 2008 Legacys Renoir+ daughters are left (Princess and Bey B) and I don’t know if we’ll get them going this year or not. I really wanted to show them (sell them) as 4-year-old Western Pleasure Junior horses in 2012, along with Half Arabian palomino mare Tango, who as you can see looks gorgeous under saddle, but there is only so much time, energy and money. Plus, not having an indoor arena to work in during the wet, cold winter months really puts things on hold. That said, we’re still counting our blessings. We did sell AMF Troublesomes Kiss (Kisses, pictured above), our 2007 bay purebred mare, to a teenage girl and her family from River Falls, Wisconsin. That was a very good match and this buyer came to us via Facebook. Hurray for social media.

This month we had three more Ritchie Omni Fountains installed and had a hydrant put in the barn. The Omnis are heated, automatic watering stations. We had one installed shortly after we moved to this farm in 2009, and its been very reliable. We got another one just like it (Omni 2) and two Omni 1 units that will serve each of the two new stallion paddocks that are built near the barn. These paddocks are fenced with six strands of high-tensile electric and each has its own shelter. The second installed Omni 2 will sit on the fence line that will segment the mares pasture. We will reconfigure the gelding/colt pasture so that the original Omni 2 will water another smaller catch paddock we plan to use for young horses (weanlings and yearlings) or horses that need extra feeding care.

The next big project will be scraping clean the barn’s dirt floor and building more box stalls, which can be completed during the winter months. We expect to only have one or two horses inside for the winter, which will give us room to build. Ian builds sturdy, attractive box stalls and I look forward to having a barn full.

Ian continues to work as a Senior Business Consultant. His latest gig is in the health insurance field and he likes it very much. I recently left VOA since my position was eliminated when one of the residents changed locations. I was the Thursday-Saturday overnight awake manager, but with the resident change the position became overnight asleep manager with a pay cut. Ian had been asking me to quit working weekend overnights for some months and this seemed an opportune time. I continue freelancing for the online France travel magazine BonjourParis as its Editor and have done since May. My work for BP has inspired me to take classes at a literary center in Minneapolis to explore how to build a career as a freelance writer; ideally writing/publishing more travel pieces and polishing my Arabian horse enthusiast writing.

With a little more time on my hands at home, I am going to take on the project of painting. Ian and I have selected jazzy yellow for the living room, dining room and kitchen walls. I have a green that I like for the bathroom and the upstairs bedrooms and office will be shades of cappuccino or mocha. We are also going to rip out the carpet. Who the heck puts an off-white carpet in a farmhouse? We’re installing laminate flooring in the (currently carpeted) living room and dining room and will eventually do the same for the three rooms upstairs (2 bedrooms, 1 office). The stairway will be stripped of its carpet too. We will stain the tread and riser wood then install a carpet runner with brass stair rods. I may also get around to replacing the kitchen cabinet door/drawer handles. We have the replacements, but Ian’s Honey Do List has been quite long this year.

Mom (87 in July) is doing fine. She had an infection of some kind last week that threw her for a loop, but the Veterans Home caregivers are really tippy top and got her on a cycle of antibiotics right away and she bounced right back.

Next week, Ian and I celebrate nine years of marriage. Wow! To celebrate, this Saturday, we’re going to the horse show extravaganza Cavalia, which soon wraps up its tour in Minneapolis.

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Saturday, September 03, 2011

It's already September!

August was the perfect month weatherwise. There was very little rain, the humidity was tolerable and the bugs weren’t vicious. In my opinion, August was our only true weeks of traditional Minnesota summer, as June and July were wet. I am looking forward to a nice autumn before the snow flies.

Ian and I made two kinds of crabapple jelly from trees in our yard. One has fruit the size of bing cherries and its jelly is a shimmery red, the other has golf ball-sized fruit and the jelly is more yellow. Both are quite tasty. I plan to collect more apples and do more batches. These make wonderful presents and keep darn near forever! I will be picking from our larger eating-apple tree too for canning applesauce and apple pie filling.

Horses continue to get started under saddle thanks to Carl. He has a good way with them, has a bag full of tricks, a good sense of humor and a solid work ethic. He’s whittled the list of seven to three and I suspect he’ll have all done by month’s end. There are many more miles and lessons to go before any horse is finished, but any of the ones he’s worked with are rider safe. All have been on long trail rides, been exposed to traffic, have gone out alone and with other horse/rider combinations. They have soft mouths and are joys to be around. I will be adding video to the for sale ads and see what kind of offers we get.

Soon we will wean Windy from mommy Mona. She was born at the end of April and she’s certainly old enough and eating well enough on her own to give up mother’s milk. Of course this is always traumatic. It’s time too for Mona to return to the herd, she’s fat and sassy and should reclaim her place in its hierarchy before the cold months settle in. All mommies know that it’s nice to have time with the babies, but there’s something to be said for hanging with the girls!

Windy is such a beautiful Half Arabian. She has the good characteristics of both parents. We’ll have her busy with learning new things and we plan to show her in halter classes in spring 2012.

Our other 2011 foal, Junior, Renoir colt out of our HK Beijing daughter, will be weaned at the beginning of October. His dam is confirmed in foal to Renoir again for a 2012 foal and we’re giddy about that! Both Junior and Windy are fine examples of our Auld Macdonald Farm breeding program.

Both Ian and I are well. Recently, we have both taken steps (professionally and personally) toward things that will bring long-term, positive changes to our lives. One of these steps was to join the Pine City Health & Fitness Center, which is available to its members 24/7. It’s less than a 10-minute drive from home and we like what they have to offer. Personally, I’m looking forward to its twice-weekly Zumba classes!

Mom is doing well too. She isn’t going to nearly as many doctor appts as she had been earlier in the year and that’s because she’s healed from all those various ailments. It’s wonderful to see her, which I try to swing once a week, and she also calls in between, so we’re in touch. Nice!


Friday, July 29, 2011

Lessons learned!

July continues to be a bit on the steamy side, but we love the sunshine. I wish we had more dry days, but there isn’t much anyone can do about that, other than take it as it comes.

It looks like we’ve found someone local who will work for us getting the young stock started under saddle. It took no time at all to hear from several horse-savvy adults expressing a sincere interest in my ad for a local horse trainer who will come here to work the animals. After meeting three, we settled on Carl, who is happy with our offered terms, and arrives in such a timely manner that I could set a watch by him. We are on the same page regarding what needs to be done with which horses and in what order. He started at the beginning of last week and has three of the seven we want started under saddle riding happily down our country roads.

The horses are being desensitized to traffic, to plastic bags (which are down right frightening), to barking dogs defending their driveways, and also to pastures filled with cattle, which are curious looking creatures to the uninitiated horse.

Carl, who is in his mid 50s, is a bit of a naturalist too. When he spots aluminum cans while riding, Carl stops to collect each one in a plastic bag he keeps looped over the saddle horn. Each dismount, remount and exposure to cans rattling in the plastic bag are lessons for the horse. By the time the three- or four-hour ride is done, the horse has learned many things, including what rattles and shakes is not going to hurt them; more exposure helps to build trust and reassurance. It is a wonderful thing to watch. At week’s end Carl trades his can collection in for cash.

As the horses get more time under saddle, are safe to trail ride and less spooky, we will list them for sale on the various equine websites. Even in this economy, horses still bring decent prices and go to good homes. For us, a good home is the most important piece to the horse-for-sale puzzle.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Steamy July

The baby horses are growing up nicely. The mares and foals go out together in the round pen for some exercise and fresh air. Soon, we’ll have a proper mare/foal pasture for them, but any opportunity to socialize is a good one. Legacys Renoir's 2011 colt, "Junior", is picture with his dam, Not That Innocent. "Windy" is the Half Arabian chestnut filly sired by Goldmount Royal Design out of MAF Last Dance ("Mona").

Our barn is well stocked with square bales and we’ve got more stored at the farmer’s home who cuts it. We also laid claim to a good supply of 5 x 5 1000-pound round bales from another neighboring farmer. I always feel good when we’ve got our winter hay situation sorted out.

We have seven young horses that we want started under saddle this year so that we can sell them. We’re looking for a local horse trainer who is interested in doing the job at our farm at terms that we can afford. A 16-year-old daughter of a friend-of-a-friend looked to be a good prospect, until she didn’t show on day two or day four of week one. Consequently, there was no day five, which is too bad, because the horses responded well to her. The search continues with interviews of two local cowboy types. Ian and I know enough to know what we don’t want for our animals when it comes to training; which should help us to sift the wheat from the chaff. We do a lot with our animals, but we also know our limitations, as in we don’t bounce as well as we used to. LOL

The biggest news since the last post is that both of our stallions - Legacys Renoir and Goldmount Royal Design - are home on the farm. Roy has a paddock that is in the gelding pasture and Renoir has a box stall that Ian built in the barn. Roy has made friends with the outdoor boys and shares his grain with one of them. It’s nice to have them both here with us on the Auld Macdonald Farm.

It has been very steamy lately with warnings about the heat index. This is just another extreme example of Minnesota weather. I prefer this to the double-digit below temps.

Son Richard has relocated back to Minneapolis. While I miss his smiling face, I know that he is happier there able to more easily pursue his music career. So, it’s just Ian, me and the menagerie.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Joyous June

Finally, our 2011 Legacys Renoir foal has arrived. Not That Innocent (Inno) delivered her handsome, bay stud colt Saturday morning, June 4. Inno's due date was May 31, but I've been waiting since mid-May - actually, more like 11 months! He surely is worth the wait. This is Renoir's first bay-colored foal, the rest are either chestnut or grey. We haven't settled on a name yet. I will post photos of both the colt and Mona's late-April filly, Windy, in a week or so. The arrival of Inno's colt marks the end of our foaling season. Windy is coming along nicely – like her other Half Arabian siblings, she is tall and muscular.

The Minnesota weather has finally turned warmer with days of glorious sunshine. The spring has been cold, wet and windy, but if we get more days like today, in the 80s with a mild wind and low humidity, I will forgive Mother Nature. Soon the farmers will be cutting the first crop of hay and our stores will begin to refresh. The blooms have left the fruit trees and I'm curious to see what the apple tree provides. The row of lilac bushes that did not bloom last year are fragrant and abundant in dark purple, pale lilac and creamy white this year. I've filled vases several times with cuttings and love how the house is perfumed. The peonies and shrub roses are getting ready to bloom too. I will spend time weeding the gardens, which is fun to do, especially when I get so much love from the dogs, who enjoy having me down at their eye level!

This looks to be the year that we will actually fence in the back 30 acres and get the herd out on grass. It is so very lush and there is so much of it! We need to run a quarter mile of posts and high-tensile electric wire, and Ian's begun to mark off the east/west running line, so that's a start. Getting the herd on pasture allows us not only to segment more paddocks near the barn, but also to do effective pasture management; letting grass areas rest and replenish. Of course, we'll still need to buy hay regularly, but not for immediate consumption. We can be like the ant in Aesop's Fable and build up our winter stores.

There are other changes in the wind too and I'll write about those as they come to pass. Thank goodness, Ian and I know how to go with the flow, to be grateful for all that we have and trust that everything is part of the larger process and know that we are continually blessed.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

The merry, merry month of May

Our Minnesota winter was a long one with lots of snow, which made it fun for me. I figure if I’m going to live in a four season state I want to enjoy each season to its fullest. The spring was a long time coming, but I feel safe to write that it seems to have arrived.

Our apple trees are ready to burst into bloom. Two are crabapple, with plentiful pink blossoms. The third is some type of fist-sized apple tree. Last summer, Richard and I cut down a weed tree that had grown up next to it and was sucking the life out of it. This seems to have been a good thing because it too is in bloom, but with white flowers. I’m hoping it has tasty fruit. I love a good apple tree. At our Stanchfield farm I used to make pies and preserve the apples from the two trees there.

I would really like to plant two Honeycrisp (also Honey Crisp) trees here on the Brook Park farm. Honeycrisp are a large, sweet apple with crisp "to-die-for" texture. Believed to be an offspring of Macoun and Honeygold, Honeycrisp was introduced in 1991 by the University of Minnesota breeders at Excelsior, Minnesota. The best thing about a Honeycrisp is its crisp texture – in my opinion, no other apple matches its crispness.

The animals faired well through the winter too. The horses are still shedding heavy coats and are revealing shiny, sleek spring hair. Last fall we switched from buying Nutrena feed to having our own mixed at a local mill. This was a great budgetary move and we are pleased with the consistent quality and results. The mill is flexible when I want to change an ingredient and I appreciate their consultation. We got the idea to have our own mixed from our friends Cathy and Jim at Wildflower Farm. We began with their recipe and have adapted it to meet our herd needs.

We’ve down to six adult Pilgrim Geese – all ganders – so no goslings this year. While I love those fuzzy, peeping yellow fuzz balls, it is a lot of work to keep them fed, watered, exercised without being eaten and clean! One of the ganders got injured, possibly during gander play, so I put him in the chicken coop to recuperate. He just can’t keep up with his five brothers. I named this lone gander Manfred, and we’ve settled into a routine of going out from the coop pen in the morning and back in at sunset. Last week, I put a wading pool in the pen area, which Manfred really likes, but it can’t match the pasture pond populated with visiting Canada Geese. While his brothers are social, visiting him along the pen fence, Manfred either chooses not to or has been pushed out of the gaggle. I think they all know he can’t keep up and are satisfied to let things be as they are now. The chickens don’t seem to mind, as they roost on horizontal poles and Manfred nests in a cozy corner.

The five dogs are fine too. The black labs, 7 year old Lady, and yearlings Cleo and Jo-jo, are high energy canines that need plenty of outdoor time. The two miniature poodles, Buddy and Tucker, like their outside time, but prefer living room furniture, the master bedroom, a warm lap or a corner of carpet. Cleo and Jo-jo have their own kennels that are kept in the kitchen where they are secured at night, during human naptime or when we’re out running errands. They’ve been kenneled since puppyhood, so these are happy places.

We have one new foal so far this season. Our purebred Arabian, MAF Last Dance (Mona), had her seventh Half Arabian foal, this one a chestnut filly, sired by our American Saddlebred palomino stallion, Goldmount Royal Design. The filly is built strong with lots of leg. We call her Windy and will register her as AMF Royals Windsor, with a nod to her foaling date and the British Royal wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.

We are waiting for Not That Innocent (Inno), our bay purebred Arabian mare, to have her Legacys Renoir foal. Her due date is during Memorial Day Weekend, but I’ve seen signs that she could deliver sooner.

We bred four mares last year, but two slipped during the winter months. While it is sad and costly, as both mares were bred to outside stallions, Mother Nature knows best.

Soon, Goldmount Royal Design will come to live with us on the farm full time. Ian is building a secure paddock area and shelter for him. Roy will have a view of the herd and I’m sure this will keep him happy.

Legacys Renoir continues his performance training with Tom Theisen at Conway Arabians in southern Minnesota. He is learning to the Western Pleasure discipline. Together, he and Tom present a handsome silhouette. Our plan is for the two to compete in the 2012 show season.

My 86-year-old mother continues to live at the Minnesota Vets Home in Minneapolis. She gets excellent care and I make the 180-mile roundtrip to see her as often as I can, usually once a week. Her mood and spirit are usually clear, upbeat and happy, but like all of us, she has crummy days too. She’s allowed! She’ll be 87 July 3. I’ve learned to savor each hour, day, week and month that we share, being sure to tell her how precious she is and not wait to celebrate the years.

I continue to work with Volunteers of America managing a residence home for four vulnerable adults during three 10-hour weekend graveyard shifts. I am also doing more writing and website managing – volunteer and paid – which feeds my creative spirit and helps chip away at the bills.

Ian continues to work as a business analyst and project manager and remains in great demand. He is happy with this work outside the home, but would like to find a way to work 100% of the time making the Auld Macdonald Farm a profit center. If anyone can figure this out, and others certainly have, Ian can.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Hello March!

As I reflect, it seems that February’s only redeeming features were Groundhog's Day, Valentine's Day, the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show (enjoyed from afar this year) and The Oscars. The rest was lousy. Here on the farm, we enjoyed a couple of days of 40 degree mid-winter thaw, only to have the normal Minnesota winter temps leave an acre's worth of glare ice between the barn and pastures, making it treacherous for horse, human and truck. After getting the Ford F-150 stuck on three different occasions, Ian finally traded in his brawn, shovel and 4-letter-word vocabulary and gave its 4-wheel drive the much needed bite of tire chains, which allowed us to once again easily maneuver 1000-pound round hay bales to the horse pastures without hazard or delay. I like winter well enough (aka our bug-free season), and I admit to having really enjoyed this one with all of its snow, but this Minnesota girl is beginning to show seasonal wear-n-tear and I'm looking for some spring!

March, which has come in like a lamb, can be as torturous as February bringing its own lion's tumult of storms. Its saving grace is the return to daylight saving time (the 13th) and April, when I finally trade my insulated Sorels for rubber, knee-high wellies to navigate the season of boot-sucking mud.

March is also when Ian catches me in age (the 9th). What a darling man and I continue to love him to pieces.

So, for a bit of catch up … Mom scared the dickens out of us a week or so ago when her kidney function went from so-so to crummy, with what looked like a downward trend. Brother Mark and his family put their Maryland life on hold and flew to Minnesota. I put Mom's preferred funeral home on speed dial. Yes, it was presented as that serious with dialysis not being her wish at age 86.

In 2005, Mom called her three children and a treasured cousin together for a family meeting to outline her wishes in To Do lists and notarized legal documents. Each attendee received a 3-ring binder as summary. I have paged through it tear-stressed trying to marshal some intellectual fortitude leaning on my many years of public relations expertise, knowing how 'events' are best when well ordered. For the moment, there is no other way for me to consider my mother’s death and funeral.

During one visit, updating Mom on what I knew of her kidney function, she listened, synthesizing the info through her post-two-ischemic-stroke mind, then looked at me, 'Are you afraid I'm going to die?' Yes. She mulled this over, and then assured me she was not in any pain (a comfort). 'Mom, I want to do what you want me to do.' She looked at me and took my hand adding, 'That is why I gave you the job you have (as her power of attorney), because you will do what I want and what is right.' My double-edged sword.

The silver lining in this emotional thunderstorm shone itself during a visit to the renal specialist on the 23rd. The doc reviewed Mom's records, her meds, chatted with both of us and relayed her suspicions that we were dealing with an allergy versus a true kidney function shutdown. What? – a rollercoaster of a month, this February. We will know more in two weeks time after med adjustments, output testing and monitoring of vitals. A big exhaled relief of 'not yet', as I put the umbrella away, stow the binder and feel the sunny warmth of mommy's love on my skin. Another of February's redeemers.

Through this, unbridled joy reveals itself in licks and wags as the now 10-month old puppies continue to grow into their giant Labrador paws. The first snow was unsettling until they figured out it was water. Jo-jo and Cleo run, romp, roll and revel no matter the temperature. Littermates, their personalities are more defined, as is their size; Jo-jo outweighs her sister by a good 10 pounds, but Cleo remains her formidable playmate. The miniature poodles are the Martha Stewarts of house etiquette – regardless of age or breed, one does not bound in the house with endless energy, running over human and hound alike. One wags its tail, pants and does as one is told, channeling energy into dog toys rather than furniture legs or carpet fibers – behavior deemed unacceptable warrants a series of sharp barks with a bite to the nose putting the larger loveable into a submissive, belly up position. This is the funniest thing to watch. And what is it with Labs and cats? They just love the felines, wanting to lick them and cuddle at every citing. Two of our three housecats have succumb, the third is tolerant to a point, but will go Wolverine if pressed. The barn cats scale the walls to watch unconvinced and un-wooed from the rafters.

Son Richard, who continues to live on the farm and work at the local casino, bought a Flip camera, and we may incorporate video clips in future postings. Won't that be fun?!

Visit our Auld Macdonald Farm website too.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

2011 Auld Macdonald Farm Foals

We are expecting four foals this year; two purebred Arabians, one Half Arabian and one purebred American Saddlebred.

The first baby, due April 28, is our American Saddlebred sired by Famous Echo SCA out of Amber's Mayday. Because Famous Echo is homozygous for pinto the foal will have a tobiano pinto pattern.

Our Half Arabian is due a week later on May 5th. The Arabian mare, MAF Last Dance ("Mona"), has had six foals all sired by now our palomino American Saddlebred stallion Goldmount Royal Design. This one is number seven and the third that we've owned.

May 10, or there about, "Addie" (NR Adieu) will have her purebred foal sired by Conway Arabians' stallion, Noble Way.

We gave ourselves a bit of a breather before welcoming Renoir's foal out of Not That Innocent ("Inno"), pictured below, due Memorial Day Weekend.


Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year's Day 2011

•°*”˜˜”*°•.¸☆ ★ ☆¸.•°*”˜˜”*°•.¸☆
╔╗╔╦══╦═╦═╦╗╔╗ ★ ★ ★
║╚╝║══║═║═║╚╝║ ☆¸.•°*”˜˜”*°•.¸☆
║╔╗║╔╗║╔╣╔╩╗╔╝ ★ NEW YEAR ☆ 2011
╚╝╚╩╝╚╩╝╚╝═╚╝ to EVERYONE!! ♥ ¥☆★☆★☆

It's always interesting to wonder what the New Year has in store, and yet as I reflect on 2010, I don't know that I would have told you last January 1 that 2010 had two US National titles in store for Legacys Renoir; one of which would be a US National Championship with Ian. I would have absolutely said that competing at both Regina and Tulsa for a National Top Ten title was certainly in our horse business plans. Ian says he thought the reverse would happen; that we would get a national championship at Canadian Nationals rather than at the more competitive US Nationals in Tulsa. Even though we came home empty handed from Regina, our competitive spirit and belief in our stallion were not dampened. That Renoir won two US National titles in a 48-hour period is amazing and speaks to what a fantastic animal he is. And we readily share our joy knowing that we could not have reached those dizzying heights without help from friends who have embraced us and believed in us, especially our fairy godmother (you know who you are).

Icing on that tasty cake, having Renoir in training at Conway Arabians, wasn't even a possibility this time last year! Admittedly, as early as July, Ian and I had talked about what a dream it would be to have Renoir there with our friends Peter and Lori Conway and training under Tom Theisen. Say it, believe it, and, voila, after his wins at Tulsa, Renoir made his new training home in Chatfield. What an excellent examples of bringing dreams to reality.

Having my mother, Joyce Tiffany, live with us on the farm in January and February is a more personal reflection and these are memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. That she had a second ischemic stroke and yet another hip replacement in her 2010, as she transitioned further from living on her own in the fall of 2009, to round-the-clock care at the Minnesota Vets Home in March, is testament to how sometimes it's better to take the future as it comes and do it in small, manageable bites. Her strength and zest for life sets a wonderful example to all who know and love her. Of course, Joyce is mother to three, and I remain thankful for the support and love of my brothers, Mark and Matthew.

Having my youngest son Richard, a true city kid, come to live with us in September has proven a win-win for all. He left an unproductive living environment and a job he hated, got a job he wanted at the local casino, which adds interesting characters to his life, funds his music recording pursuits, and the milieu of the Auld Macdonald Farm affords this lyricist precious time, space and peace to write.

Having Ian's freshly-graduated daughter, Alexandra, visit during the first weeks of summer was wonderful. She continues to amaze us with her talents, pose, humor and dreams.

Last year continued as the fifth year running where our attract magnet for well-bred horses remained in full affect. Thankfully, along with that 'talent' came three neighborhood farmers who literally knocked on our door with fabulous, fair-priced hay for sale. It's nice when those blessings come together. And thank you also to another friend for the generous use of her hay-hauling trailer.

Goldmount Royal Design, our palomino American Saddlebred stallion, was another dream come true. We already had owned two of his foals, had admired many of his get and loved his owners as both fine people and amazing horse breeders. To be able to bring him to live and train at Wildflower Farm with another amazing horse-people couple, Jim and Cathy Finnerty marked another dream talked into reality. Unbeknownst to him, as he enjoys his paddock with gelding friends at the fence line, 2011 will be a busy year for Roy.

2011 is the year when our Auld Macdonald Farm horse sales take flight and soar. We laid the groundwork in 2010 to aide this new cash influx component with our professional photo session and beautifully designed Auld Macdonald Farm website both done by Christina Rousseau. We thank her too for her multiple talents, guidance and ongoing friendship.

Hello 2011, welcome.