Sunday, June 17, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 56

It’s been awhile since my last post because I have been traveling with dear daughter and am finally back home again! My very amazing husband kept the farm going while we were away and I think the only thing he didn’t manage to get to during my absence was weeding my pollinator beds. They were thankfully clear enough when I left that what was there when I returned was not too bad. I’m clearing those weeds out a couple of buckets a day and I think tomorrow morning I’ll have it back in order again.

The pollinator plants are gorgeous. I have to take the camera out and get photos. We had a couple of uncharacteristically cool days when I got home and then the heat revved into full gear. Today we’re at 92 with highs predicted at 95, 97, 99 the next few days. Our downstairs AC went out AGAIN after I got home and this time the compressor died, so we have a new system being installed this week. I sure don’t envy them working on the sunny side of the house in 95+ degree weather. Meanwhile I am keeping shades drawn and we’re using fans downstairs to keep things reasonably cool.

In other news, the hoof trimmer pointed out last week that the pony seems to be storing fat in not so great places and so he has gone into daily free lunging and walking on the lead line. I remain impressed with how much fun he is and how smart. One day when I took my turn working with him the donkeys decided they could not be parted from their pony pal, so all three marched into the arena and we had a pony/donkey exercise extravaganza.

Side note: someone on one of my nutrition email lists posted a month ago that she had blood work pulled on her donkey due to him just generally not looking good. She had balanced his diet just as she did her horses, which is what many of us have done on that particular list. Her donkey’s blood work was very odd in terms of mineral levels, so she took him off all the supplements to see what would happen. Low and behold he started looking good again. I immediately went into my own private panic mode, wondering if I had supplemented Rafer Johnson into overweight condition. I took both he and Redford (not overweight but a little heavier than I liked) off everything except a very small serving of soaked Ontario Dehy Timothy Balance Cubes AM and PM, loose salt, and literally a handful of hay each 4x a day. They can graze freely at all times but we do not have lush pasture so I wanted to see if this made any difference in Rafer’s weight.

He has lost weight and looks terrific! During the days they are in and out of their stalls but since I already separated the pony and donkeys from the horses anyway, I can easily control the hay the little ones get while still feeding the horses their normal amounts. At night they turn out together and graze. If the three very easy keepers continue to lose weight and do well we won’t have to resort to grazing masks.

Back to the original tale: after the pony/donkey work-out session, I hosed the pony and noticed that both Rafer and Redford were in their dust circle in the grass paddock. First one would roll, then the other, in what could only be called ‘synchronized donkey swimming.’ I didn’t have my camera to take the video, but it was the very best ending to a hot exercise session.

I can also report that we have FINALLY got the entire property dog-proofed. This weekend we started a new and very long-awaited routine. When the herd comes into the barn in the mornings we close the stalls and the Corgis get the run of the farm. I expected Bear and Baloo to run totally wild with this new freedom, but they have been amazingly controlled - doing perfect recalls from across the pastures, waiting at gates for me to open them instead of running through the fencing, responding perfectly to “this way” and “wait for me.” They are having a blast. It’s so nice being able to give them this freedom now. I hope once this part of the routine is established, we can move on to getting them used to being out with the herd doing their regular thing. (Meaning NOT CHASING the dogs.) I  don’t think the dogs have any desire to chase the herd! But I can’t say as much for the pony. Slow and steady and we’ll see if we can get to peaceful cohabitation.

Right now I’m in “finish up all the unfinished projects around here” before I dare come up with any new ones. It’s nice to slow down and focus on the basics - which this time of year are fly control, heat control, and weight control. Keeping the animals comfortable is a major focus.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 55

The garage painting job, including the stairway up to the main floor, is complete and it looks terrific. Next we will paint the interior doors down there and replace insulation in the large storage room. Yesterday I bought supplies to create a bee hive storage area in the smaller storage room. Which brings me to sad news.

The honeybee nucs I had ordered have been delayed twice already, and I got word this week that they have been delayed yet again. Delivery date is now June 16th. Unfortunately, the nectar flow in our area is completely over with at this point, and it’s the nectar flow that gives honeybees the energy to draw out new comb grow the colony. I would have to feed many gallons of sugar syrup at this point, and I really don’t want to start my beekeeping experience that way, so I have canceled the order. I will have to try again next spring.

However - I now have a beautiful bee hive that is going to be empty, so when I get back from Rochester I’ll set it up in a good location with some swarm lure and see if I can get a swarm to move in. It may or may not work but at least I’ll be doing some experimentation. More on that later.

My pollinator beds are going wild. Everything is growing like mad and the rattlesnake plants, the coneflowers, and the asters are getting ready to bloom. I’ve been able to keep up with the weeding, and with the rain we’ve had I haven’t had to spend time watering. It’s going to be stunning as we move into fall.

This was over a week ago - these plants have added a quarter of their size since then. I’ll do a pollinator bed post when I get back. I need to document everything in the beds so I can look back next year and monitor the longer-term growth.

Our tree plantings are also doing well. The little dogwoods are happy, as are the paw-paws and the inkberry hollies. The two volunteers that are now about 12 feet tall have turned out to be peaches. They are loaded with fruit! I’m not sure how well they can do where they are. There’s a red maple to their left that is blocking the sunlight and I may be willing to take that down. It’s not huge and since it’s not great for horses anyway, I don’t mind not having it there. Will think on it and decide in the next few weeks.

Several times over the past week I’ve come upon our resident black racer snake who is living in the barn. Zero mouse poop! I never have my phone with me when I see him/her but eventually I’ll get a photo. 

A few nights ago husband spotted this on the path to the barn.

What a handsome creature!

This morning I spied hummingbirds around the front porch. The bird song continues to be a near-constant soundtrack to the days and even the nights. 

Except for the ticks, it’s a gorgeous time of year. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 54

I need to check the rain gauge after three days of considerable rainfall here, but I seem to be otherwise occupied and keep forgetting.

Tuesday we had drywall repair done in the garage and then painting. I didn’t expect to be tempted into more projects in that space other than getting things cleared, cleaned, and repaired/painted, but alas, the painting of the stairwell from main floor down to garage looks so spiffy I am now itching to have stair treads/risers finished out. A new light fixture is on the list, and a new smoke alarm as well. Every project seems to, instead of simply being crossed off, start the dominoes falling as I madly add new things to the list.

But I have stopped today to appreciate the walls and the clean space and I’m going to move on with putting things back where they belong down there and wait for the new garage door installation before I leap into new work.

I’ve set up my bee supply area and will be painting the hive tomorrow. I’m very excited.

We are now officially moving into summer jungle mode here. It’s been nice not needing to water anything and I feel like the earth needed a big, deep drink, but I think we can stop now!

Tuesday was painting and a trip to the dentist with my mom, Wednesday was equine dental visit (all are well, three out of five were floated, I am relieved to have that off the agenda), and Thursday and Friday I had a 2-day live webinar to finish off my CEUs for this year. With all the rain it was a good time to be glued to the iPad screen. Thankfully I had a CEU buddy to keep me company, though I’m not sure he passed the post-test!

I have about 274 things to do and while I’m feeling the pressure of them a bit, I’m also enjoying the fact that the bluebirds fledged this week, the birdsong on the farm is symphonic, and the greening of the landscape is a sign of resilience and vigor. That I will never manage to keep up with it all means the land and the world rolls onward. And glancing up at the photo of Baloo, maybe a belly-up nap on a rainy day is something we all need to aspire to.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Susan Henderson/ The Flicker of Old Dreams

The Flicker of Old DreamsThe Flicker of Old Dreams by Susan  Henderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

About halfway through this gorgeous book my Corgi Baloo got on the dining room table and took it away. I came home to, curiously, a book without its cover, with a few chunks out of the pages, but unbelievably, still able to be read. It was a good excuse to give myself a few days to savor the story and decide whether to order a new copy. I ordered the new copy but resumed reading before it arrived.

This book has it all: exquisitely-drawn characters, mystery, wisdom, and sentences that are perfectly rendered. Henderson is a master of tone and each sentence reveals deep insights into her characters, making them real, leaving the reader with the sense that these people live somewhere in our own past.

It’s the story of a small town holding a grudge even as the town itself is dying. The protagonist, a female mortician, curates the death of the town even as she takes care of its dying people. Through her eyes we witness the beginning and the end.

This is a beautiful book. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Planet Wise garbage can liners - an alternative to plastic

For years we used leftover grocery bags for trash can liners, then switched to one plastic bag for kitchen and none in the recycling or bathroom cans. It was an ongoing chore to wash the cans, but in my opinion better than lining them with plastic. 

When Baloo Corgi came to live with us we experienced a new level of Corgi energy (after living with Corgis for 20 years!) and I bought gorgeous new trash cans from Simple Human that are all closed up and very user-friendly. They came with their own supply of plastic liners. The pure luxury of not having to clean trash cans was wonderful but each time I put in a new liner I felt increasingly guilty. If you’re never seen the documentary about the swirling trash dump in the Pacific Ocean go to Netflix and find it. It’s sobering.

There are so many things we use in today’s world that are disposable and will impact the planet for many years to come. I’m trying, again, to look at how I can reduce my footprint that way.

I googled widely and found a gorgeous alternative.

These cloth, waterproof liners are absolutely beautiful, well-made, and machine washable! They come in a large variety of colors and fun prints. I ordered a large one and a small one first to see if they fit our cans and seemed durable, and they are perfect. So I ordered two for each trash can. 

We take our own garbage to the trash/recycling center so we can empty directly into the compactor and into the recycling bins. This means no need for plastic bags at all! 

Who could resist narwhals and killer whales? Highly recommend.