Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Scent of Spring

We had a very lovely week of spring-like weather last week.  It whet our appetites up here in the northwoods.  Those of us who garden are just itching

to get our hands into the soil!  And then there are the horsemen – quite a few in our area, actually, who are chomping at the bit to get back into riding, training, or gees, even just cleaning out the barn!


Here at Aspendale Farm we are finally pulling together our seed order!   Don’t ask why it’s taken until the end of February to get our order ready.  Usually we start somewhere around Christmas time and are so eager to get everything together.  Maybe we hadn’t renewed our “gardening gumption” by then because we spent such concentrated effort in the fall renovating the garden.


Whatever it was, we’ve finally gotten the order together.  And I’m genuinely surprised.  Seems like every year we start with a moderate list of flower and vegetable varieties we intend to put in… and then, and then… well, we go a little overboard and end up spending some ridiculous three-digit sum on just *seeds* for goodness sakes!  Well, not this year.  We managed, somehow, to really keep our list to exactly what we said we’d order, and actually, dropped a couple items off our lists.  I do know how it happened, but I still can’t quite grasp that I didn’t go overboard anyway.  Cecily even said she decided she has “other priorities” than starting and selling bedding plants this year.  I’ll fill you in if you can hang with me for a minute.


We are going to plant a lot more potatoes than we usually do, and earlier.  We will plant the potatoes five weeks before last frost, which puts us at the last week in April.  Our last frost is June 1.  Makes for quite a short growing season.  First frost is mid- to late- August.  I love to plant and harvest potatoes, and we certainly eat enough of them to merit it.


Enough about the garden for now.  In case you wondered, we get the bulk of our garden seeds from Johnny’s Selected seeds, with most of the remainder from Burpee.  Johnny’s has more short-season crops, and I believe, more variety in general, that suits us in our climate.


So instead of starting plants for sale, so saith Cecily, and instead of having a big garden, so saith Mama (that’s me), Cecily and I are both antsy to be back in the saddle, teaching our old dogs new tricks.  Okay, old horses.  Old dogs sounds better.  I am surely not the first farmer (and I am only what they call a “mini-farm” farmer) to struggle with balancing the demands that come when the weather eases and the warm season begins.


And the horses are calling.  There are already such limitations on our time that we’ve both decided to clear the schedule just enough to make sure we spend more time training.  Now if only our arena were some bigger, it would make things easier.  But we can’t have everything, now, can we?  I’ve just sold two extra saddles and put the money toward a nice, used basket stamped Big Horn pleasure saddle.  I think it would not matter what saddle I bought, except maybe Clinton Anderson’s muy, muy expensivo (but impressive) cross-over aussie/western saddle.  But then I’d forever regret spending that much money.  So you can’t win ’em all, I guess.  But these Big Horns I know are comfortable, and the one I have fits Saxton well.  But… I also realized rather late in the saddle shopping game, that his current saddle is a barrel saddle.  Wow.  So I can only wait and see if the length of the skirt on the new, bigger one is okay.  (He’s a bit on the short-backed side.)  I had really wanted to go with a lighter colored saddle.  This one is a very dark walnut, but it has 7 out of 8 of the other qualities I was looking for in a saddle, and I think that’s as close as I’m going to get.  So I will be happy with it.  I did find a dark oil futurity knot bridle with bling on it!  Just need to figure out what kind of reins I’m going to go with.  Haven’t made that decision yet.


So there you have it.  Spring is on its way.  This morning I just about shrieked in excitement to see Saxton and Lacy are starting to shed out their winter coats.  That is the surefire sign to a horse owner.  If they still needed those coats for too long, they’d hold on tight to ’em.  Of course, Squirt doesn’t need  fuzzy coat in June or August, but being a Miniature Horse, he keeps his coat for all but about 6-8 weeks during mid-summer.  Amazing. I’m going to try giving him a lot of Omega Horseshine (ground flax seed) and see if it helps him shed any earlier.


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Filed under Farm, Garden and Orchard, Horses

Horse Adventures and Spring Cleaning

It’s been a too-exciting week here at Aspendale Farm.  We were going to buy a pony-sized Morgan for Danny, and we listed Squirt (the mini) for sale.  This Morgan was really responsive and great under saddle, but wasn’t quite a gentleman with ground manners.  That is one things I adore about my Saxton.  He is impeccably a gentleman!  Nevertheless, he wasn’t so rude and pushy that I thought anything of it.

So yesterday we hitched up the trailer (no small task in the melting slush out there) and hauled down to Lupton to pick up the gelding.  He wouldn’t load into the trailer.  I took it as an opportunity to teach him, rather than just bullying him in there.  After all, if he was to be ours, I wanted from the outset to handle him consistent with the way we do things around here.  So I went through quite a long process of approach and retreat with the trailer, and eventually began lunging him alongside the trailer, then would let him rest when he had one or two hooves inside the trailer.  I could see as I was lunging him that he was getting pushy – warning lights!!!  But since you don’t need every detail to imagine what happened, he finally decided he’d had enough lunging.  He reared up at me, kicked with his hind legs, and ran over top of me.  I landed on my back, and seeing hooves heading for delicate, easily destroyed parts of my body, I placed the bottoms of my boots on his belly, (remember, I’m on my back in the mud, though this all took no more than a few fleet seconds) and hoisted him over me.  Bottom line, I sprained my back.  So I’m at home, minus the gelding, with ice packs on my back.  My gracious chiropractor squeezed me in right away in spite of other plans on her part.  Nothing messed up or out of whack.  No broken ribs.  Just a sprained back.  God is so good!

To be fair, I had asked God to please keep us from making a mistake and bringing home a horse that would be a bad match or unsuitable in any way.  Next time I’ll try to be a little more specific about refraining from using injuries to prove such a thing.  But I am dense, I know, and sometimes the Lord has to hurt me to get me to listen.  LOL!

So with the gorgeous warm weather we’ve had this week, I’ve been cleaning out the tack room (such as it is, sans walls over the stud-framing).  I’ve put two saddles and two bridles up for sale.  I’m hoping to get around $300 out of the sale, and I’d like to get myself a nice leather saddle.  Now, this is a bit of a quandry about getting a new saddle.  Part of me feels like I’m spoiled rotten to want a new saddle.  After all, by Big Horn cordura saddle is really quite comfortable.  And I’ve ridden in enough saddles to know that comfort is paramount!  It was a relatively inexpensive saddle to buy used – I think I paid $250 for it.  And it’s so nice and lightweight!  There’s nothing like hoisting a twenty-five pound saddle shoulder height onto the back of my horse.  But this cordura saddle has synthetic fenders and skirt, making it much lighter at roughly 16 lbs.

My black Big Horn cordura saddle is a great little saddle in a lot of ways!

So why on earth would I want to even consider replacing it, right?  Uh, well, (she shuffles her feet) … it’s not that pretty.  First, it’s black.  I don’t hate black – in fact, in fashion and home design, just the right touch of black is really classy.  But I like the look of a medium oil saddle a whole lot.  Second, the cordura tends to look dirty all the time because dirt works its way into the fibers, and, well, there’s something gorgeous about the right leather saddle.  They look and feel so great.  I’ve wanted a saddle with basket-weave tooling on it.  Who knows why, and I don’t think I’ll find basket weaving on a Billy Cook, Crates, or Big Horn saddle, and those are the brands I’ve been looking at.  I hear they are all comfortable.  So … what’s a girl to do.

I'm looking for something pretty, and *comfy*!!! Check out the basketweave pattern on this one!

My big dilemma comes largely with the weight.  Oh, I do dislike toting a heavy leather saddle around.  But you can’t get a lightweight, all-leather saddle, so far as I know.  I asked a saddler about it, and he vehemently said there’s no such thing as a good quality, all leather saddle that isn’t heavy.  Okay.

Sooooo… as long as I’m confined to couch rest and ice packs, I guess I’ve got plenty of time to look anyhow!


Filed under Horses

Happy From-the-Heart Day!

Heart shaped chocolate chip pancakes!  What a fun way to start the day!  The kids passed out homemade valentines to each other and to us.  Daddy put small boxes of chocolates at each place.  We opened packages and cards that had arrived in the mail over the past few days.  Each of us has our own way of showing we love each other.  I like to make something homemade for my brood on this from-the-heart day.  Some years it’s giant, heart-shaped cookies, I’ve done heart-shaped finger jello, pink berry crepes… this year I opted for chocolate chip pancakes.  A friend also suggested heart-shaped pizzas, but this was the winner this year.  We discovered this incredible pancake recipe sometime over the course of the last year, and we just *had* to try it, because our dog is named Benson.  And he’s pretty good.  So if a pancake recipe bears his name, it must be worth trying.  It actually calls for blueberries, which are really, really good in it.  But we’ve also made it with pecans, and now, chocolate chips.  Any way you dress them up, they’re irresistible.  And I don’t even like pancakes.

Benson’s Pancakes

3 T. butter, melted

1 T. vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 T. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 T sugar

1 1/4 c. milk

1 egg yolk, beaten

2 egg whites

blueberries, chocolate chips, or pecan pieces (1-2 cups)

Garnish: butter, maple syrup, whipped cream

Combine all ingredients except egg whites, blueberries/pecans/chocolate chips, and garnish in a large bowl.  With an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg whites until stiff.  Gently fold into batter.  Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto a hot greased griddle, or place a heart-shaped cookie cutter on the hot, buttered griddle, and pour 1/3 c. into mold.  Put a small handful of berries/pecan pieces/chocolate chips over top of just-poured batter and allow underside to cook until bubble appear at the edges.  Turn and continue cooking an additional 2-3 minutes or so, until golden on both sides.  Serve hot and garnish as desired.  Makes about a dozen.

Benson, our tri-color English Setter. He's just a good ol' boy.

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Filed under Home, The Country Kitchen