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.