November 30, 2010

Diane Smith's "A Connecticut Christmas"

Looking for a wonderful gift for the holiday season? Look no further than your local bookstore and consider Diane Smith's new book, "A Connecticut Christmas"! Read all about Connecticut's unique people, places and things that make the holidays a wondrous time in our state. Cedar Knoll Farm is featured on pages 78 and 79! Click on the title above to buy the book directly from the publisher!

November 26, 2010

Cedar Knoll at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Well, what can we say but "What a great time we had!" Weeks of hard work, including designing horse costumes, negotiating helpers and their costumes, a trip to New Jersey to fit the pole to the float, getting the proper permits for the horses, and the 24 hours of preparation before we even left the barn early Thanksgiving morning all paid off on Thanksgiving Day!

It was astonishing to see how many people lined the streets to watch the Macy's Day Parade in person. I couldn't even begin to guess at how many people were there to watch, but needless to say each side of the street, from 77th Street on down to 34th along the route was literally wall to wall. Everyone was screaming "Melissa! Joan! Melissa! Joan!", as our float unit, The Snow Queen, had Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers, and Melissa's young son, Cooper.

Although rain threatened, and in spite of the overcast skies, the weather cooperated. Our funny little costumes, blue overalls and fancy feathered hats, covered our many layers and none of us wranglers could complain of the cold at all. It was a different story for Melissa and Joan, however, who, in their own costumes and sitting quietly on Gillette and in the float, didn't move around much to keep warm. Melissa's son, a lovely young boy, chose Charlie, the biggest horse to ride, and had no issue with the chilly weather!

Our float was simply beautiful. Making it's debut this year by Macy's for Universal Studios, it was a mound of "snow" with an ornate sleigh on top, pulled by Duke & Diesel wearing silver sleigh bells and blue ostrich plumes.

We give our greatest thanks to our dearest friends and most trusted helpers that shared the day (and the hard work) with us for the parade: Sue & Karl Lado (wranglers on the float), Darlene Cunnane (wrangler and owner of Charlie, carrying Cooper), Darlene's daughter Nicole (crew), Wes & Linda Hopkins (who stayed with the truck), Linda & Ed Whitford, our barn crew while we were away during the day, and of course, my son Brandon Aviram, who mingled with the press and managed to stay with the parade for its entirety, taking what I imagine will be some extraordinary photos once he has them organized!

Photos: Top: The Snow Queen float
Second: Gillette & Charlie carrying Melissa Rivers and her son
Third: Blue and white everywhere... waiting to start the parade
Fourth: Brandon hanging with Gillette before the start of the parade
Bottom: Our parade wranglers: Darlene, Karl, Elaine, Sue and Terry

November 21, 2010

'Tis the Season (and All That Jazz)

OK, I don't know how it happened, but I woke up this morning and, voila! Christmas was on the agenda. I know, I know, Walmart is still selling Halloween candy (at 90% off), and Thanksgiving is almost here but still not quite. Yet Santa made his debut in town today, along with Mrs. Claus and the Snow Baby, in the back of our red sleigh.

So, in protest against the early disappearance of late afternoon sun and balmy breezes, I decided to ride Gillette and let Terry take the sleigh. Yes, I put a hefty strand of deafening brass sleigh bells around his neck, but any responsible horse person can justify them as a deterrent to Autumn hunters. For the sake of being a good example to youngsters everywhere, I wore my riding helmet proudly. Those youngsters, of course, quickly looked past me and my pure white steed to that jolly man in the back of the sleigh, crying, "Santa Claus! Santa Claus! Look at me!" Such travesty. And as I smiled and waved from atop my tall horse I realized what a futile attempt I had made to keep Autumn and forego Winter, for in the end, it was the big man in the red suit that everyone was really there for.

November 19, 2010

Funeral for a Friend

Duke and Diesel did the honors of a final farewell by horse and wagon for friend and fellow horseman, Charles "Al" Kingsley: b. Feb 5, 1931 - d. November 15, 2010. Burial with full military honors at Plains Cemetery in North Franklin, CT. We will remember you fondly, Al.

November 18, 2010

Late Autumn into Winter

It was a day for birds. Breezy and cool, my chickens felt obliged to viciously scratch through the fallen leaves, while blackbirds screamed at us from high branches. Dolly and the grey horse from New York are getting to know each other, for as long as the grey stays with us. Dolly, liking her food all to herself, prefers the solitary life, and watches to be sure the grey doesn't take her fair share. When he does, she screams at him like the blackbirds in the trees, until he moves away again.

November 16, 2010

It's a Dog's Life

Sometimes, it is the people and animals less celebrated publicly that bring us the most happiness. Sometimes, it is the quiet moments that give us a greater sense of contentment. Today, it is our dogs, laying quietly by our sides on a dark, rainy morning, that we would like to share with you.

Top: Ledger and Moses, cozy on the couch.
Bottom: Penny our Blue Tick with Terry, resting early this morning after a long night's sleep.

November 15, 2010

"A Connecticut Christmas" to Remember

November 14 was "A Connecticut Christmas" to remember. Or, should I say, a day to remember because of A Connecticut Christmas! Diane Smith's new book hit the shelves with a book launching and signing at RJ Julia's Booksellers on Main Street in Madison last night. Because we are profiled in her newest edition about the many ways of celebrating our favorite holiday in Connecticut, we were present with Lincoln and the sleigh on wheels, helping to bring good cheer and customers into the store! Children rushed to Lincoln's side for a pat and a picture. Many a Christmas card was likely made that evening as well. How often do you see a horse and sleigh on Main Street anymore? Diane Smith signed unlimited copies of the book and droves of people went away smiling, with personalized copies — many of which, I am sure, will be tucked away until opened again on Christmas Day. OK, everyone, take a deep breath: 'tis the season already!

Photos: Top: The cover of the book (click on the title of this blog to order the book on-line from the publisher).
Middle: Janet Pecknpaugh, Diane Smith, and friend pose with Lincoln in front of the book store.
Bottom: It didn't feel like winter: unusually warm weather brought out the dragon flies for one last hurrah!

November 8, 2010

Leila and Jessie

How impossible is it to take a picture of Leila and Jessie, both looking forward at the same time? Their stars are nearly identical but I never seem to be able to snap the picture fast enough before one of them moves. So like children! We are marveling at how big they are getting. And at how quiet the two are. They will make lovely team mates!

Photos: Top and 2nd: Catching Leila laying down in her stall, Terry decides he'll train her to ride.
Middle: Leila and Jessie don't stand still together long enough to get a "formal" picture of their two faces!
Bottom: As Tanto leaves to go to his new home, the fillies wish him a fond farewell.

Quality of Light and Life

This morning, we awoke to the sound of sleet and the sight of snow on the ground. Shortly thereafter, the first accident of the season happened in front of our house when a rather substantial pick-up truck hit a utility pole, toppling it. Our little corner of the world is a magnet for a) speeders that don't know any better and b)accidents waiting to happen to speeders who don't know any better. Six hours later and there is a new utility pole standing, and someone's lovely black crew cab is in a diesel garage somehwere.

If we lived like our forefathers, without newscasters and weathermen, last night would not have given us any indication that we would awake to February weather. The sunset was beyond spectacular — the light quality on the receiving side of the woods took my breath away, and reminded me that it is a long time coming for grabbing the pastels or oils and doing some plein air painting. Phone calls, paperwork, barn chores, visitors, getting carriages ready for the holiday rides which, by the way, all start next weekend, and I find there is so little time to be doing what I was once known for — painting. Something has to give here. When the quality of light is so intense on our little farm, my spirit soars and I make quiet resolutions to myself. Here is hoping that by the New Year, the quality of light will give back some Quality of Life.

Photos:Top: My little jumping bean, Ledger, really knows how to express happiness: bounce!
Middle: The quality of light as the sun sets behind us can be nothing short of magnificent.
Bottom: Lincoln and team mates against the backdrop of a cool-weather sunset.

November 4, 2010

Tales of Topeka

Terry got home this morning after a 16 hour drive from the Topeka sales. He and friend Roger took off together in the wee hours of Monday morning, driving straight through. The auction, according to Terry, was a "good time", with many fancy horses and quiet work teams, very large pulling teams, great bargains on some nice carriages and unbelievably high prices on the toys.

The first day was spent trying to buy carriages, only to decide that there simply wasn't room in Roger's trailer to bring back horses AND carriages. A commercial hearse came up on the block, and sold for a price too embarrassingly low to even mention here. Terry, almost throwing up his hand, decided at the last minute that he didn't want to have to come all the way back to Topeka to pick it up with the tractor trailer. Roger, on the other hand, found the horse of his dreams - made of wood! Into the trailer Woody went.

The next morning the pulling teams were pulled for all to see their abilities. Then into the ring they went for the auctioneer to rattle over. The very first pulling team, Belgians weighing in at better than 5700 lbs and standing nearly 20 HH (yes, I said TWENTY HANDS HIGH), heard the gavel slam down at $52,000.00 (yes, that's FIFTY TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS). Unreal. They were the top selling team all week.

Terry and Roger bid on incidentals and purchased sundries from the many vendors that set up shop at most horse auctions. Things like boxes of horse shoe nails, winter stable blankets, and other items that just can't be found at decent prices here in Connecticut were stored in the truck. Teams were bid on, and lost to the inability to justify their prices. Horses were looked at, and lost to ridiculously low prices because they didn't react fast enough. Amish were there, Menonites, wealthy show folks, common horse farmers. And kill buyers. Terry's at auction every other week, somewhere, and easily recognizes them. This time, it was the Japanese. Such a blister on the heart to think of the fate of some of the nicest looking horses there.

With the rocking horse and other items loaded into the trailer, Terry and Roger took off for Connecticut on Wednesday night. Driving straight through yet again, they arrived home this morning, exhausted, but happy to have spent "a good time" together.

Photos:Top: The line-up of Pulling Teams.
Second: Just the right size, and such an easy keeper, too: Woody, the wooden rocking horse.
Third: A nice looking Percheron stud.
Bottom: Some of the hand-made models went for two and three times what many REAL horses sold for.

November 1, 2010

A Halloween Wedding

What else would you expect at a wedding held the day before Halloween, but a delightful couple with wonderfully eccentric tastes? Saturday's bride and groom, Karla & Frank, rode in a horse and carriage while their wedding party followed them to the reception in a HUMMER limo, easily 38 feet long or more. This limo, from a company in New York City, holds 24 passengers in it's opulent interior. As always, this wedding procession caused quite the stir with locals and passersby!

Photos: Top: The wedding ceremony took place at a church that looks like a castle. Middle: Our bride and groom looked gorgeous! Many of their guests did, too ~ some arrived in costume, including full Medieval body armor! Bottom: Duke and Diesel seem to be magnets for custom built HUMMERS!