Monday, October 24, 2016

one of those little things that makes me happy: Mrs. Meyer's rhubarb hand soap

We've used goat milk-based bar soaps from our local farmer's market for years now but I encountered this at my office and became enthralled with the rhubarb scent. Now this is in 2 out of 3 of the bathrooms at home (her bluebell scent is in the 3rd one and I love that too). Every time I wash my hands I stand at the sink and smell the scent and it makes me happy.

The same way putting Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap in the wash bucket in the barn does when I'm de-webbing or wiping down dusty things.

Same as putting a few drops of lavender or peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil on the mop when I'm cleaning floors does. 

The power of scent is amazing! Just ask Keil Bay how much the smell of a peppermint in a pocket brightens his day. :)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fall Felines

This afternoon on the back deck there was a flurry of felines as fall blew back in to November Hill. I couldn't resist taking a few photos. This is our oldest kit-meow, Osage, aka Muffine, aka Muffine Eloise. She's one of the original three kittens who came to live with us after we moved in here. Her sister Keats died at age 7 and brother Dickens disappeared last fall. We suspect coyotes. But Mufffine is here and safe now that we've enclosed the back yard, front porch, and connected the two with the tunnel. She's 11 years old.

Here's Pixie, the youngest of our curiosity of cats. Pixie turns four this November. She made it through cytauxzoonosis and although the most petite in size of this crew, she is fierce. I call her Pixie Pie. Certain family members insist her name is Merry. 

Pixie's litter-mate brother Pippin is a lot bigger than she is but she has no problems stalking him and pouncing. The two of them have their sibling issues but they remain bonded and spend a lot of time together.

And here's Pippin. He's pretty huge and a total goofball. Sharpening his claws! 

Mystic made it through cytauxzoonosis AND congestive heart failure. He is 8 years old and the King of stealth. We're happy he's doing so well. 

It's hard to write about these four without mentioning Keats, Dickens, Moomintroll, and River. We miss them a lot and are so grateful for this clamor of cats who keep every day busy and bring so much joy. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 21

Although we've had a mini heat wave this week, with temperatures in the mid-80s, it looks like fall. The dogwoods are going red, leaves are falling, acorns drop regularly, and I'm seeing peeks of winter grass beginning to come in. 

Meanwhile the chores roll on. Last weekend my husband spent a chunk of time repairing the wall of the barn shelter, which suddenly had two large hoof-sized holes going all the way through it, and a spray of gray Hardiplank fragments out in the paddock. Thankfully Hardiplank is forgiving and has no sharp splinters. I suspect Keil Bay is the culprit, probably kicking the wall instead of kicking the pony, who was likely bugging Keil as he relaxed underneath the shelter.

Now I have to match the paint on the rest of the barn, which may be difficult. Thanks, Keil Bay. 

Meanwhile I completed the painting of the cat tunnel. Now I need to apply tung oil over the milk paint and that chore will be officially checked off my list. Then it's back to the last porch screens and that too will be done.

Sadly it has been too hot to ride, at least for me and for Keil Bay. A final bloom of flies is driving all of us half mad, and with winter coats well on the way to coming in, the horses have been miserable in this heat. I see relief coming tomorrow, and a low on the forecast of 38 for Saturday night. I can't wait to feel that chill in the air!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Time Traveling

On Thursday evening I went out to the barn to give hay and check on the herd. Keil Bay came trotting in from the field, down the paddock, whinnying, and as I walked through the barn aisle to the front gate, he popped his head over the back stall door (his stall, or the one he claims, anyway, since they are rarely ever in them at this point) and whinnied again. I cannot express how young he looked in that moment, like a 5-year old version of himself, and I thought for a moment how lucky I was to get to see it, since I hadn't met him yet when he was 5. 

As some of you know, Keil Bay is 27 years old now. He has always seemed far younger than his actual age, but I see white and silvery hairs in his mane and tail, and around his eyes, and this year have seen some changes that make it clear even through my wall of denial that he's aging. If I think about it too much I start crying. Just the idea of him not being here is heart-breaking. So seeing him trot in, hearing his gorgeous musical whinny, and seeing that white star and bright eyes pop into the back stall door was a huge and wonderful gift. I wish I could start all over again with him, from the moment we met all the way up to today.


In another time traveling moment, my husband and I went to the small town where I grew up and heard John Hiatt perform on Friday night. We got there early and parked behind the cultural center that used to be the elementary school I attended from first-sixth grades. My mother and father both went to high school there. The auditorium has been converted into space for shows and concerts. 

The first thing I noticed was that the front steps that lead to the auditorium doors seemed very small. I remember that set of stairs seeming huge and almost ominous. We used to play games on them before and after school. We walked downtown for dinner taking the same path I used to take walking home from school, past the building that held the library, police station, courthouse, jail, and fire department. That little public library was one of my favorite places on the planet when I was growing up. One day after school in the first or second grade some friends and I snuck up the open to the street steps to the jail cells to try and catch a glimpse of "some prisoners." By the time I got home someone had called my mother at her office in Raleigh and she had called home to ask what I was doing sneaking up those stairs. That's the kind of little town it was back then. Everyone knew everyone. People watched out for children no matter whose they were. On Friday night I saw one person I knew and she is someone I've met in the past few years, someone who has moved there as an adult but didn't grow up there.

When we got back to the auditorium for the concert I recalled being there many times as a child, for school programs, pageants, performing with my baton-twirling troupe in shows, etc. I have a very distinct memory of what might have been the first time I sat in that auditorium as a first grader, for the Thanksgiving program, and singing Over The River And Through The Woods with the entire school. I remember the light and the stage and the way the floor felt under my little feet, and how big those wooden chairs seemed. 

John Hiatt was wonderful, as was the artist who played before him. I thought back to first grade and wondered: what would I have thought if someone told me that 50 years later I would sit in the same place listening to music, the mother of two amazing "children" ages 19 and 21, living on a farm called November Hill with my family and horses, donkeys, cats, and Corgis? It felt like somehow there was a direct link from me listening to John Hiatt to that little girl singing that song about family and foreshadowing November Hill.


Yesterday I painted a huge portion of the cat tunnel and as I painted, using the bristles of the brush to form a point that was able to do the edging without getting a drop on the side of the house, I recalled with equal vividness a time when I lived in Hollywood and my friend Ann and I painted ceramic angels. 

Ann taught me how to do verdigris coloring and we painted and talked and laughed. I suspect music was playing in the background, maybe it was June Tabor and the Oyster Band, and there may have been cocktails involved, Pernod and cranberry juice, or wine spritzers. The light around our apartments, mine upstairs, Ann's down, is pure and perfect in my mind's eye. We painted in the courtyard outside our back doors. My cats were up in the kitchen window and Ann's dog beside us on her leash. It seems unbelievable that was more than 25 years ago now. 


I'm convinced that as we age time travel becomes more and more possible. We can travel back and forth in the blink of an eye, recalling details that are so perfect and visceral we might as well be there in the flesh. While I sometimes bemoan the fact that time seems to fly, I'm enjoying these little trips to times and places I've been and lived and loved. And in the case of knowing Keil Bay as a 5-year old, dream of. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

ADD Friday on November Hill

With apologies to anyone for whom ADD is a serious issue. We're all subject to deficits in attention and focus and in some situations it's actually a strength.

Today I'm not sure what's going on with me, as I tend toward too much attention and I can get really bogged down in minutiae when going about my daily routine.

I got up this morning, did a little reading, did NOT do the review I was supposed to finish, had coffee, read a little more, then suddenly leaped up and mixed milk paint and grabbed a brush to sweep off the cat tunnel as I went.

My plan was to paint the cat tunnel roof in its entirety but once I got out there I ended up doing most of the tunnel along the side of the house before it "steps up" to the higher part that I'll need the big ladder to do.

I only took out the big brush so I ended up doing all but the detail work along the edge of the house. I kept going until I used up the paint I'd mixed.

Initially I thought YES - the 1:1 ratio of French gray to soft white is perfect. Then I wasn't sure. Maybe it was too blue. Then it seemed too white. But I told myself this is the color I'm going with for now and when I repaint in however long it takes to need that I can change the color if I want to. 

When the paint ran out I came in and did some laundry, made Keil's lunch, did a little vacuuming, stopped to clean the washable filter, did a little more vacuuming, stopped to go feed Keil, decided to muck in the field while he ate, then he finished but I was into mucking so I decided to keep going. Then decided to do some raking. Then more mucking. Then more raking. 

Happened to glance at the house and the cat tunnel and whoa! I think it IS perfect. Considered going to mix up more paint and finish it up.

You can see how this is going.

Now I'm in again after giving hay. I'm going to need to keep the laundry going but I'd also like to finish vacuuming. And there's that book review that needs finishing. And more reading. And what about editing?

Kyra Corgi just walked by and the idea popped in my head that she needs a bath.

And I was thinking of a ride. And there's a John Hiatt concert tonight. 

I started thinking with way too much attention on the fact that I'm so scattered. And told myself: just go with the flow. 

That feels right for today. Happy weekend! It's so nice to be getting dry again out there!