January 31, 2010

A Day for Stockpiling for the Future

We were greeted this morning by bitter cold temperatures and sunny skies here at Cedar Knoll Farm - the perfect weather for cutting down trees and splitting wood. Terry, friend Joe and his wife Tina, their son and a few neighbors all gathered around to drop some of the biggest trees on the property (five in all), then split it and put it in a pile. We will stack it at some point to season it for next winter's fuel.

Later we had friends Patty and Dale stop by to share a bountiful roast chicken dinner with us. Good laughs, fun chat, excellent wine and a terrific pie baked by Patty left us feeling satisfied with the day.

What a blessing it is to have such good friends, good food, and the ability to warm ourselves by a good fire, when the temperature drops into the single digits!

January 30, 2010

Surprise Snow and Bitter Cold

Thursday brought a surprise to Connecticut - snow! Although it had been forcasted that we would have occasional snow "squalls", it fell throughout the day, and some areas were reported to have as much as four inches. We had about an inch here at the farm, but by the time the cold front came through, the temperatures dropped and the wind blew (at times up to 50 miles an hour), blowing the snow away. Friday saw temperatures drop to below freezing with the wind chill, and the horses stayed in the barn. In spite of the cold weather and wind today, they will go out to eat at their round bales. I am sure they will hit the ground running!

Photo: Top Danny and Dakota, after the skies cleared on Thursday afternoon.
Bottom: Ledger's first experience in the snow.

Elaine's New Article - Central Park Carriage Horses

Elaine has another article out, this time about Central Park Carriage Horses. Read the history of Central Park, how it was built, where the stables currently reside in Manhattan, and what it takes to operate a carriage business in New York City. Let us know what you think!

January 26, 2010

Elaine's Articles in MA Horse Magazine

I have two articles that have just been published in the Feb/Mar issue of MA Horse Magazine: a feature about Belgians and another about sleighing. Check them out by going to the link on their website! http://www.mahorse.com. Let me know what you think!

Keep an eye out for the February issue of Horsemen's Yankee Pedlar - the article about Central Park's carriage horses will be in it.

Hay Diary: Terry put two round bales out today. Horses have been on square bales since Friday night.

January 25, 2010

Recent Trip to the Harrisburg Sale

Although Terry finds himself in Pennsylvania on business every two weeks or so, I rarely get to travel with him. Huge responsibilities at home make it nearly impossible for me to share his experiences in the flesh (although his stories after each are prolific!). This trip, however, found me traveling along with him, and as we crossed from New Jersey into Pennsylvania on Monday night, we saw a falling star, all in flames, falling from the sky. It was so large and fiery we thought it was an airplane crashing! We chose to take it as an omen of good luck and happy times ahead. We stayed with our Menonite family the whole time, which is always joyful for me.

One reason for my eagerness to go this time was my quest for a Chihuahua puppy for my daughter. The other reason was the Harrisburg Draft Horse and Driving Horse Sale. This famous winter sale saw a huge collection of draft horses and harness horses under one roof, some of the biggest hitch horses, well broke farm teams, and finest, high stepping "drivers" you can imagine. We brought in two teams from the sale and took a team and a young stud colt out of there. All in all, there were about 500 horses at the sale. My biggest regret was that I didn't put aside enough money to leave the carriage business and enter the show world hobby, because there were some gorgeous hitch horses there to make even the most hardened horse farmer envious. My other fantasy was fueled by the spirited Dutch Harness Horse crosses that were there - I predict the Percheron/Dutch Harness Horse cross, both in harness and under saddle, will become the next Big Thing. Tall, up-headed, flashy, but not as "hot" as the pure Dutch, there was one black gelding with lots of chrome that made me want to swoon. For the most part, the horses went for a pretty good price, compared to sales that Terry regularly goes to. The highest selling draft went for $9000.00, according to our sources.

Another cross the Amish seem hot for is the Dutch/Saddlebred cross. We entered the driver sale just in time to watch a shiny black mare, trotting around the ring to a cart while the auctioneer did his thing, leap into the air like a deer, not once but four times, before tipping her cart and driver into the audience - a see of black coats and straw hats. Alas, she, her driver, and the sea of Amish men were unscathed, and the bid ran on until she sold for $3000.00. My guess is had she not danced so crazily, she would have brought more money.

After the two day sale, Terry and I spent a day moving draft horses into NewHolland. Twenty-five horses in all. All Amish/menonite farm horses. The sale barn was loaded with mules for a special sale on Friday as well - nice looking animals. We also ran around to all our harness makers on this day, and have re-stocked our harness shop. Last, but not least, we made one final stop to our friend's cousin, who had some puppies. That was a fruitful stop, and as you may have read in my earlier blog, the puppy now named Ledger, rounded off a very good trip for me and Terry.

Photos: Top: Paul, our Menonite friend, was housing an ox headed for South Carolina - he was so tall, I couldn't reach his withers! Paul said he weighed in at better than 3400 pounds!
Second: The team of Belgians and Percherons we took to Harrisburg. Shown with Terry is our friend, Mary (head turned) and her daughters, Linda and Rachel.
Third: Terry waiting to get into the sale ring with the team of Percherons.
Last: One of 25 Amish farm horses we trucked into the sale on Thursday.

January 23, 2010

Ledger the Chihuahua-Pomeranian Puppy

Our quest for the perfect companion for our daughter, Maegan, turned fruitful on the last day of our trip to Pennsylvania this past week. Although she originally had her heart set on a tea-cup chihuahua, we found her a chihuahua-pomeranian mix, and Maegan couldn't be happier! She named him Ledger, after her favorite actor, Heath Ledger. The puppy came from a cousin of our Menonite friend, who breeds these crosses, purebred Yorkies, and thousands of ducks for the New York China Town market (the ducks, not the dogs!). After coming home from school on Friday and seeing Ledger for the first time, she immediately took him shopping for a hoody, a tiny collar and leash, chew toys and a little dog bed. Walmart authorities didn't catch on to the puppy in her purse until she was on her way out with her purchases.

Photos: Top: Nine week old Ledger in Terry's cowboy boots.
Bottom: Maegan with Ledger (contentedly tucked into her hand bag).

Hay Diary: By the time we returned from PA on Friday morning, the three greys were close to being finished with their round bale we set out before leaving on Monday. Dolly and the bays still have quite a bit left to theirs, and it should last till tomorrow night at least. Because of an impending storm Sunday night into Monday, we won't put out round bales again until next week.

January 16, 2010

Manhattan Trip

Wednesday Terry and I took the truck and trailer into Manhattan to pick up a vis-a-vis from one of the stables to offer it for sale here at our shop. A friend who boards at Shamrock Stables is moving his horses and carriages to another stable, as the city is closing Shamrock down. The building itself is owned by the city, and it is not renewing the lease.

There are a total of five carriage stables in New York City, all within about a twenty block radius in the area known as Hell's Kitchen (on the west side). Within those stables live 220 horses. I have a really interesting article coming out in the February issue of Horseman's Yankee Pedlar about the Central Park carriage horses. It should be out by the end of January, so check back and I will have a link to the on-line issue.

Photos: Top: Terry and I driving our friend Ariel's horse & carriage in Central Park, during an earlier trip into the city this year.
Bottom: Terry outside Shamrock Stables on 45th Street

January 13, 2010

Hay Diary January 12, 2010

New round bales went into both paddocks again tonight. It seems that Danny, Dakota and Dolly waste more than the four grays simply because the feeder in their paddock is a cheaper, less effective one. That is why, at this point, the two paddocks are on the same round bale schedule.

January 11, 2010

Harassing Cold

Winter and cold temperatures continue to harass us here (single digits at night), creating hardships. I think about our ancestors who farmed the land here in New England, and of the hours, days and weeks wasted, just trying to maintain and survive. Yesterday was such a day for us here. Saturday night Terry, believing the nine horses in the barn didn't have enough water throughout the day, went out to water again. In doing so, he forgot to shut off the valve that keeps our frost free hydrant from freezing. By Sunday morning, it was frozen solid, and hours with a torch (all day, really) didn't melt the ice in the pipe below the concrete. The water to the barn has thus been shut off for the winter, and a day in the near future will be spent with a jack hammer, breaking up the barn floor to see if the pipe below has burst. Meanwhile, we have added an extra length of hose to come from the house to water horses in and out of the barn - the good news there is that we have hot water from the house.

On a happy note: Terry's trip to Pennsylvania yielded yet more chickens! New banty hens for the condo. I just love these little banties! They bring a smile to my day.

Hay Diary: We put up 200 bales into the loft yesterday, with the help of friends Posie & Red. This is from the load Terry bought in PA, some of which remains in storage at our friend's barn down there. The round bales outside are dwindling fast, and we anticipate needing new round bales within a couple of days if not sooner. Even with the horses in the barn at night, they are eating tremendous amounts to keep themselves warm. In spite of some of the hardships we have, I am grateful for our resources, our friends, and the continued good health of the lovely horses we work so hard for.

January 8, 2010

Naughty Pony

Why is it that the bay horses in our barn are the ones that cause the most mischief?! I went outside today to let horses out only to find Sweet Pea the pony waiting for me by the door! All around her were up-ended manure buckets, brushes, shovels, and manure where it didn't belong. Somehow she found a way to get herself untied from the tie stall - or was it Gillette that reached over and helped her escape? Now that would not be a surprise...anyone want to buy a pony?

Just a dusting of snow this morning, enough to make the barnyard look pretty, and slippery underfoot. Terry has been in Pennsylvania for a few days already, and today he is at the special sale. Of the 33 horses he took in, all but two (a black team) sold. We'll see what comes home with him tomorrow.

January 7, 2010

Sleigh Rides

The snow and cold weather consistently brings us calls for sleigh rides. While the temperatures are reasonable during the week, the weekends seem cursed with lower temps and, most importantly, gusty winds that take the breath right out of your chest! The wind on Blue Hill blows like a demon over the 200 acre corn field, and it is enough to drive a sane person mad until the horses enter into the protection of the woods. Tonight there is a prediction of more snow, not much, perhaps 1-2 inches. Horses are snug in the barn, their round bales covered in tarps outside to keep them dry until morning.

January 5, 2010

Winter's Work

Hay Diary - Because Terry couldn't get the International started this morning (the round bales are currently being stored in the trailer they came home in), we did not get the round bales out into the two paddocks until after dark tonight. Although the temperature is still rather cold, there is very little wind, the skies should remain rather clear, and the horses are blanketed - so, horses will stay out tonight, munching away on those colossal mounds of hay. (The ponies, of course, were brought inside).

I just spent the better part of the afternoon and evening gathering more photos for one of three articles I've recently completed - this one on Central Park Carriage Horses. It will be a feature article in the February issue of Horseman's Yankee Pedlar, so be sure to look for it! Other articles, one about Belgians and another about sleighing will appear in the February issue of MA Horse.

January 2, 2010

2010 Predictions?

If you are at all superstitious, 2010 should be a busy year for carriage rides, and a snowy winter, too! New Years Day we were at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown, a venue we have been doing for many, many years now. Unlike years past, which have offered a steady stream of visitors, this year there were torrents of people! The traffic up the long driveway and in the parking lots created conditions much like New York City's Broadway and 42nd Street (I don't exaggerate too much — I did live in the city for 8 years, after all). The lines were long, and people waited hours to get on the carriages. None seemed disappointed, however, and we went an hour into overtime to accommodate everyone. Another one of our favorite jobs, I hope it is an indication for a very busy, happy year of carriage rides!

Meanwhile, back at the farm, it is snowing like mad again today. We left horses out last night thinking the snow wouldn't start until noon today, but were surprised to wake up to at least two inches of snow. Out in the paddocks were Danny & Dakota, playing with their feed buckets. Yesterday, we discovered Dakota playing with Danny's halter! It is definitely Dakota who has the smarts to unbuckle buckles — those giant lips of his are surprisingly agile!

We hope to be booking sleigh rides for the coming week, as the snow conditions are just perfect right now. Give us a call if you would like to take a ride!

Photos: Top: Danny & Dakota playing with their buckets in today's early morning snow.
Middle: Wadsworth Mansion Carriage Rides, New Years Day
Bottom: Dakota, with Danny's halter underfoot. Before snapping this picture, he was mauling the halter like a dog would, flopping it up and down!