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.

If you’re on Facebook, please "Like" our Auld Macdonald Farm page. Click here and follow the link. Thanks!

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