Thursday, May 05, 2016

the writing life and ideas that bloom

Yesterday I met a good writer friend for coffee and then lunch so we could catch up on what we're both working on. We'd intended to maybe do a little writing work while we were there but of course the conversation and catching up expanded itself and we didn't get to the work part.

One of the most valuable things a writer can do with other trusted writer friends, especially those who know your work, is to bounce ideas off them and do a little talking about the projects in process. Some people say that talking too much about a writing project drains the needed energy one has to have to actually WRITE it, and to a point I agree with this, but there is absolutely a place for casting the seeds of ideas out and letting your writer friends help you water them to see what sprouts.

I'm editing one of the Claire novels right now, and am on the third full pass through it, looking at structural issues and trying to sort out the best way to lay out the book.

[ As is the way of the writing life on November Hill, as I was typing this post the thunderstorm I've been watching rolled in quite suddenly and I had to leap up, shove my feet into muck boots, and dash to the barn to let the herd in. There's nothing like a quick stall-by-stall muck, bringing a bale of hay into the feed room to feed from during the rainy day ahead, topping off water buckets, and listening to whinnies from the shelter as the equines wait to be let in! All while the winds whip up and the thunder cracks and you know the rain is going to fall very soon. ]

But now I'm safe in the house again and back to thinking about writing and writer friends and ideas.

I'm also working on a special project for the Magical Pony School books. 

And I'm keeping my hand in with short pieces of fiction and nonfiction these days. As I was describing the piece I'm working on in an effort to entice a certain literary journal, my friend said something about that being the prelude to a novel. She said the words, I stopped and thought about them, and that little seed she cast out on the table between us got watered as we talked it over. By the time I left I had written it down, expanded on it, and did the same again when I got home. It definitely sprouted. 

The discourse, the banter, is what led to that sprouting. I highly recommend it. Whether you're a writer or a fine artist or a photographer or a horsewoman needing inspiration, make a lunch date with a like-minded friend and see what happens!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 4

Nature must never be anything else than an alliance.
-Henry Beston, Northern Farm

Rain. We've had multiple days of it, interspersed with high winds, hail, flashes of blue in the night sky, thunder both cracking and rolling.

November Hill is of course situated upon a hill. Wisely the barn is on the top spot and then the house is next, and while huge amounts of rainfall in a short time can create a wash of water into the barn shelter and a temporary pool in our driveway, for the most part the rain drains away quickly and we have come to love the seasonal stream that runs through the front field.

When we get huge rains several days in a row there are a few areas where the water will pool and sit, but it generally soaks in after an hour or two.

The thing about rain is that when we don't get it, we long for it, and when we get too much, we long for dry earth, solid underfoot. A reminder for me that what we all want and need is balance. But at the same time, we long for the extremes.

Yesterday I had muddy horses and muddier hooves, a messy barn strewn with hay and needing mucking several times. The stalls now need fresh shavings but it's too wet in the barnyard to drive the truck up to unload bags of extra fine pine.

Fortunately these rains have been punctuated with a few sunny hours each day and the horses and donkeys and the pony have been able to get out just enough to prevent total grumpiness.

Another result of the generous rainfall this spring is lush pasture and we've had to put one donkey in his grazing muzzle and it's likely the other one and the pony are soon to follow.

This morning I watched as the sun came up behind the thick screen of oak trees. The sunlight pierced through in places and reflected on the rain still sitting on the oak leaves. It looked like diamonds were growing in profusion right by the barn.

I enjoy walking the farm after a rainfall, cataloguing the paths the rain made and noting where there is work to be done. Planting our vegetable garden in the sunny side of our backyard has stopped the huge flow that used to come from the barnyard toward the house. French drains outside each barn door have helped avoid mucky messes there. A trench from back of barn to front field directs the water away from the barn and house. But there's one place on the grass paddock side of the house where the water flow needs to be diverted and another where the water from the 11-acre field next to us is now rushing down one side of our driveway, washing the gravel away. We'll work on these this spring and try to put things right.

Meanwhile I'll look for mushrooms and fly blooms and hope those tiny fly predators hatched out and lived to feast on fly larvae.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Equine dentals, done! (after my nightmare about castration)

This weekend all five of the November Hill equines had their dental exams and three were floated. Although we've never had bad experiences with dental work here, I have a long history of having bad dreams the night before my own dental cleanings and dental procedures. This year I had a nightmare before the HORSES' dental exams!

In the dream all five geldings were in fact NOT gelded. Somehow they had all lived to their current ages as stallions and jacks and the dental appointment transmuted in my dream into an appointment for five castrations.

"It will be bloody and dangerous," the vet said. "Be prepared."

I woke up in a state of horror.

Alas, the dentals were quiet and easy and I'm happy that I can check them off my list for this year!

The human mind is a powerful thing.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 3

One aspect of the machine world which has not had sufficient attention is the relation of the machine age to the mystery of human joy. If there is one thing clear about the centuries dominated by the factory and the wheel, it is that although the machine can make everything from a spoon to a landing-craft, a natural joy in earthly living is something it never has and never will be able to manufacture.

Part of the confused violence of our time represents, I think, the unconscious search of man for his own natural happiness. He cannot live by bread alone and particularly not by sawdust bread. To speak in paradox, a sense of some joy in living is one of the most serious things in all the world.
-Henry Beston, Northern Farm

What Henry Beston is getting at here, written in the 1930s, is I think as applicable today. Substitute technology for factory and device for machine and we as a species are increasingly distanced from nature, the cycles of the seasons, and direct experience.

I am typing this on an iPad and posting it on the Internet and I immerse myself in that world many times each day. But being out and about on November Hill is what grounds me and brings me the purest sense of joy. I feel a keen sense of need for balance, more so than ever before. The time I spend doing chores and caring for animals and being outside tips the scale and keeps me sane and happy. 

This week we've had good rain, huge wind, and some very warm temperatures. An unwelcome bloom of flies, lots of horse manure in the barn on the rainy days, and tree branches large, medium, and small littering the ground. As I walk the farm doing chores I find myself breaking things down into sections. Scooping manure, raking sticks, moving larger branches. Resisting the urge to pull buttercups up by their roots because I did that one year and wrecked my wrist and arm. I've learned we can mow and whack them and we can also let them run their course. They die out by June no matter what we do. Making my way from one area of the farm to another, I take time to stop and sit in my colorful Adirondack chairs, which invite me to pause and just sit. Those moments in the chairs refuel me the fastest. The only thing faster is riding.

Rain and sun in the right amounts means everything is growing fast right now: the grass, weeds, the gardens.

Our fig tree and a young volunteer tulip poplar both lost all their new leaves to a hard frost a few weeks back but they're now shooting out more, catching up, coping. It occurs to me we can all take a lesson from these trees.

Two neighbors had cats go missing in the span of a few weeks and this reminded me of Dickens and how much we miss him. I'm grateful for the cat enclosures we've added on. It's tempting to dwell on what used to be and all the years the cats had the larger territory of our farm to roam, but now, with coyotes and tick-borne diseases that are rapidly fatal we have to cope the same way the fig and tulip poplar did. We grow new ways of doing things. Adaptation.

It seems early to have peak produce happening but the combination of planting times and weather and care have been good to our lettuce and greens beds this year. We are eating big salads and cooking fresh greens every day right now. I consider all these greens a tonic, coming out of winter and early spring into the edges of bounty. 

I may have spotted the first squash blossom this morning and that too makes me happy.