December 21, 2011

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
to all our Friends and Family!

~ Elaine & Terry, Cedar Knoll Farm

For more information about our good friend and equine photographer, Tory MacDonald, or to order a copy of the above image "Sleigh Bells Ring", please visit her Facebook page!

November 22, 2011

Kicking off the Season Right

Just a few pictures from one of this week's parades, a Baraat, and a light festival in Hartford. 'Tis the Season, AGAIN!

November 15, 2011

Sioux Country and Back Again

Funny how life gets in the way of documenting Life. For example, it has been two weeks since Terry's trip to North Dakota, on his quest to bring back a small herd of PMU babies for Equine Angels Rescue and Ray of Light Farm. For those not familiar with the term, PMU's are the result of breeding "premarin mares" for their urine that is collected to make a drug for women in the menopausal stages of life. The babies, quite literally wild, are often adopted out for what is hoped to be a much more rewarding life than the dinner plate.

Good friend Joe was brave enough to take the five day trip into Sioux Country with my cowboy. Once there, they were greeted by a well seasoned rancher and his Sioux wife, who, it was learned, spoke very little English beyond, "Here! Cookies! You!" That is all Terry needed to hear for him to fall in love with her and her 90 year old smile. 

The babies, on the other hand, greeted them with less enthusiasm. Eight were destined for Ray of Light, but were not yet chosen out of the larger herd. Terry had the dubious task of sizing them all up, and choosing what he thought looked like the best put together animals. Herding them into the trailer wasn't that big a problem, but weeding out the ones that would later stay in North Dakota, was. Wild and frightened, the herd huddled together in the trailer, backs to their wranglers, literally trying to climb the walls when anyone came near. The rancher asked Terry if he knew how to rope, and Terry said, "A little". He went and got Terry a lasso, but it wasn't the best — likely figuring a guy from out east wouldn't know the difference between a rope and a lariat. Terry tried using it and complained of its quality, so the rancher went and got him a better one. One by one the herd was culled (not always gracefully, I might add), provisions were added to the cargo, and Terry, Joe and the PMUs were on their way across country again.

Photos: At Ray of Light Farm in East Haddam, CT, the arrival of the PMUs each year is an exciting occasion. At Ray of Light the babies will be gentled and later adopted out.

November 11, 2011

November in Pennsylvania

Terry teaching Jen how to drive a team of Percherons while raking corn shucks into windrows.

Jen's most important lesson was learning what "Whoa" means.

Five of Paul's 40 horses.

Horse power and fossil fuel power rule on this Menonite farm.
But mostly horse power.

On our way home, we witnessed a hot air balloon flying
over the Pennsylvania farmland.

We were in Pennsylvania for a few days this week, and took the opportunity to meet up with my cousin Pam, and her daughter, Jen from Virginia. Unlike most people, who plan a "vacation" around places to see and things to do that are usually found in a tourist guide, we took the two on a working adventure through Amish and Menonite farm land. By default, Jen learned a thing or two about farming with horses and what it would be like to live without TV, computers, and phones (OK, well, we weren't exactly without phones, but whatever).

The highlight for Jen was learning how to drive a team AND rake corn shucks into windrows for baling - all at the same time! Naturally, Jen would tell you that the REAL highlight of the week was shopping, and ordering heaping side dishes of bacon. But I regress.

Terry, Pam, Jen and I stayed with our friends, and spent our days and part of the evening hanging out with Paul. Paul and Terry, for those of you who may not know, are twin sons of different mothers. The only difference between the two is Terry's white cowboy hat and Paul's black Menonite hat. Still, they think the same, talk the same, laugh the same, and all too often smell the same. This is because of their constant handling of sweaty work horses and the occasional driver. "Driver" is the Amish/Menonite term for "buggy horse". Funny, but the word "team" is sometimes used to define a particularly quick moving, well conditioned family horse of racing lineage as well. It is why we use the phrase "Team Menonite" to describe the order of Menonite that does not use cars - not every Team Menonite drives a team of horses, but each one drives a Driver. A "car Menonite" drives, you guessed it, a "car".

While on the subject of Team Menonites, Drivers, and cars (notice I have spelled "car" with a lower case "c" as it does not hold the same importance as a Team or Driver does, unless someone else is driving it for them, of course) — both Jen and Pam learned that in Lancaster County, Team Menonites drive black buggies and the Amish drive grey buggies. For those of you not fortunate enough to live or work amongst them, there is no such thing as a "team" or "car" Amish - because if you are Amish and you haven't been shunned from the community, you only drive a Driver.

Which brings me to the subject of an honest day's work. While waiting for Pam and Paul to get back from a short business trip in Pam's car (since it was faster than hooking up Paul's Driver), Terry commandeered the hay rake and a team (lower case - here it literally means more than one horse) and made Jennifer WORK. He stood with her on the forecart and taught her to drive the Percherons around in a giant square, then finally jumped off and said, "go to it!" Before Paul and Pam had a chance to get back from their galavanting in the car, the rows were raked and the hired baler (not horse drawn, sorry...) was already scarfing up the shucks and turning them into hard packed, huge bales. These bales were later picked up by Paul's son Wes with the skid steer. Wes, incidentally, is Jen's age and already knows more about working hard then Jen may ever know in her entire life time. Paul drove a new team on a hay wagon to carry the load back to the barn, where it will be used as bedding.

We did a whole lot of other stuff, like went to the auction, searched for a load of hay, shopped and ate. I tried to get Jen to go from the sale barn to the house in Wes's spring wagon, but she was too shy and didn't experience the unique excitement of driving a Driver of Standardbred/Dutch Harness lineage. I suppose she will have to settle for bragging rights with a team of Percherons.

October 31, 2011

Cold Climate Baraat

This freak snow storm has created a big mess here in Connecticut, nearly as bad as Hurricane Irene did. The utility companies say over 800,000 are without power. Luckily for us, UNLIKE with Hurricane Irene, our corner of the state wasn't hit as badly, and we never lost electricity. 

Sunday we went to do a Baraat in Plainville, and found the highways to be a gauntlet of obstacles to get past. The wedding venue was up and running — with generators. If it wasn't for his red and gold costume, Gillette would have blended right in with the landscape. All went well, however. It's hard to put a damper on such a special celebration, even when all the guests are accustomed to the heat of India!

Photos: Top: Gillette and Terry in front of a snow pile in the parking lot. Bottom: Statues and candles greet guests in the grand entrance way.

October 29, 2011, Connecticut!

Two days until that fabled holiday know as All Hallows Eve, and the State of Connecticut is feeling not the wrath of wicked ghosts and goblins, but of Mother Nature! A nor'easter is blowing through, bringing with it wet snow and power outages. Obviously, we haven't lost power — yet. The horses are all snug in the barn, the dogs are laying with us by the fire, and home-made chicken soup is bubbling on the stove. We are once again feeling pretty darned lucky to be living this good life!

October 28, 2011

Snow in October!

It's October 28th, Halloween is just around the corner, and our little corner of Connecticut looks like...Christmas??? That's right, it snowed here last night! We are looking forward to a nor'easter on Saturday, too, with the possibility of up to SIX INCHES of snow in the northwest hills. Wow. Can you say "sleigh rides", anyone?

October 26, 2011

Jessie Gets a Driving Lesson

The babies are coming up on high yearlings soon, and we are starting to involve ourselves in more intense training with them. Yesterday we put Jessie and Gillette together, to let Gillette drag her around a bit and teach her what it meant to "walk on", "whoa", "come gee", etc. Of course, Gillette was feeling particularly grumpy and so did not take too kindly to Jessie. He dragged her about the barnyard, chomping at the bit and pinning back his ears, as if to say, "damn fool kid, youth is wasted on the young". Poor Gillette. Truth is, Jessie did better for her first time "driving" then Gillette did as a seasoned old man. Well, we still love the ol' grump anyway.

Photos: Although I have them improperly sequenced here, the pictures from bottom to top shows you how the training advances: Jessie being harnessed and paired with Gillette at the hitching rail. We have already gone through the process of acclimating her to harness, blinders and snaffle bit, so that is of little concern to her. We start off with three people - a driver, and a handler to each horse. Once the filly is accustomed to keeping up with Gillette, the handlers back away and the driver keeps them walking in circles and figure eights. Gillette, of course, says he would rather be hang gliding than trying to teach THAT kid the ropes. Grump.

October 24, 2011

Rockwell's Annual Breakfast Ride

For a few years now, our good friends Diane & Jim Rockwell have organized a most enjoyable "Breakfast Wagon Train". This year, ten teams and numerous outriders took to the streets (most of which are dirt roads through state forest) for a 10 mile drive through Hope Valley, RI. Before the ride, we all partake in some of the most scrumptious food you can imagine at the Rockwell's farm, only to return hours later to a pot-luck dinner. As can be imagined, this wagon train makes quite the spectacle in Hope Valley's neighborhoods. And as can be imagined, it is a grand time!

October 19, 2011

Autumn Under Way

Haven't had much chance to write anything here. We are in the midst of our busiest seasons (Autumn through winter Holidays) and things won't slow down now till after the New Year. Orchard rides, weddings, fall festivals, you name it. Soon the holiday strolls, light parades, and merchant festivals will start. Horse logging starts in a couple of weeks, too, and there a few fields to plow under. So don't get discouraged and think we have dropped off the planet or anything. We are just doing what we do best - living the draft horse way!

Photo: A recent wedding in Pomfret, with Danny & Dakota on the surrey-top wagonette.

October 12, 2011

Grey Day in Autumn

The day started off sunny and bright, but the clouds have rolled in and our bones say rain is coming. We took Diesel, Gillette and Dolly down to the back pasture and put the two fillies in an electric fenced paddock for the first time. A zap to two curious muzzles taught them that the single white rope means too much of a tingle to bother with it. Yesterday, the girls had an exercise in being loaded into the horse trailer and going on a "trip" - to Walmart, to be exact. They will be going through more and more training from the ground to prepare them for more intensive training in early spring.

Our newest addition, Trigger, is becoming acquainted with Buttercup. Trigger will be going into training over the next few weeks, in harness. He is already a superlative riding pony. 

The landscape around here is changing, and no matter how much we are in denial of it, winter is on its way. Blame it on Hurricane Irene, but the leaves in our pretty neck of New England woods aren't particularly spectacular this year. My pond garden is dying back in some areas, blooming in others. The goldfish are quite visible and the frogs still hang out. For now.

The carriage rides, weddings, and orchard hay rides are coming at us fast and furious. Winter contracts are coming in like a fast moving snow storm. This is all good, and every able horse on this property is working like a busy bee to store away provisions for the winter. Of course, some of you less poetic readers can interpret that as doing their share to "put up hay and corn" along side us stewards. I love this time of year — when there is hardly a moment to sit idle, when the world shares its technicolor beauty, and the earth smells of the preparations for winter.

Photos: Top: Dolly, Diesel and Gillette sharing the back pasture.
Second: Jessie and Leila are learning to respect the electric fence.
Third: Trigger and Buttercup — looking forward to a fine pony pair!
Fourth: A view of the pond garden.
Last: Bumble bees are plentiful here at Cedar Knoll Farm.

October 9, 2011

We Have an App for That!

Do you enjoy keeping up with Cedar Knoll Farm, here on our blog? Want to see what we have been doing, where we've been going? What we have for sale? Well, we now have an app for that! Simply copy/paste this url into the browser of your iPhone, Blackberry, Droid or other smartphone, download the app, and keep up!

October 5, 2011


"Death is very likely the best invention of life. All pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important."
- Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011

October 4, 2011

The Orchards

Just a few pictures from the Orchard rides in Deep River and Glastonbury we do every weekend, including a couple of shots of some cute "hitch hikers"!