Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Happy Birthday, Redford!!

Our youngest equine turns 12 today and that is making my brain hurt. How can it be?

Redford donkey came to us as a young donkey, weaned and ready to help keep Rafer Johnson company. We’d been waiting for Redford since the day he was born, but of course we had to let him grow up a bit. His arrival was delayed when Rafer broke his leg, but then advanced again when Salina went into an estrus cycle and abandoned poor Rafer to chase after Cody, breaking Keil Bay’s heart in the process. Of course, they were ALL geldings, but after weeks of sticking close by Rafer’s side as he healed, As The Hormones Turn became the theme of the day and the black mare left the barn.

Redford arrived in short order thanks to his people, Ken and Marty, who got him here in a jiffy. He settled in and became best buddies with Rafer, put Salina into a tailspin (the look on her face when she came to the barn and found not one but TWO little donkeys!), and of course stole our hearts.

Redford is a red sorrel whose white star has turned into a white blaze as the years have passed. He helped Rafer keep Salina safe during her final years. They were often seen standing one on either side of her, and near the end when she would lie down and be unable to get back up by herself, he and Rafer would bray for us to come out and help her.

Redford is a bit shy compared to Rafer’s boldness but he’s a sweetheart and he loves the “big boys” Keil and Cody. I just can’t believe he’s 12 years old. (And as I type this, in my garret, he just brayed)

We’ll celebrate with carrots and apples for all. Happy, happy birthday, Redbug! We love you so much!

*** I’m a terrible birthday portrait woman lately - and today is so yucky out, I’m not sure I could get a photo lovely enough of Redford’s handsome self. I’ll try to get some good shots of him when the sun returns!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020


A couple of months ago I was clearing the irises out of a garden bed to make room for pollinator plants, and unceremonious dumped the lot of them over the fence, thinking maybe the moles and voles would enjoy them.

There are daffodils in that same bed, and I’d decided to let them be, but wasn’t very careful in what I dug and what I left behind.

I planted two possumhaws in that space and called it a day.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I finally sat down at my desk in the garret after a full week of busyness here with no writing time folded in.

I glanced out the garret window from my seat and spied this:

It’s not a great photo, but if you look in the wood’s edge back there you’ll see what I saw in much more light and clarity: the daffodils I’d inadvertently tossed with the irises are in full bloom.

What a nice surprise! This view from my desk is not the best, what with the propane tank and Bob front and center, but now I have this little bit of serendipity to look at in the springtime. We’ll see if the irises make an appearance later in the year.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 91

I was away last week as a writer-in-residence at Weymouth Center, where I got to write all day and have meals and great conversation with two dear writer friends. In the evenings we read from our work and gave one another feedback, which is always a valued piece of working alongside other writers.

My project for the week was taking an entire novel down to a 12k word story. Not for the faint of heart, but a valuable exercise in understanding the arc and structure of your novel and how subplots function overall. The last full day of the week I got down to 11,994 words and called that a blazing success. This week, now back at home, I’ll be doing a final read/polish and submitting the piece to a journal.

November Hill got 6 inches of rain in only a few hours while I was away. The usual areas flooded, but the drainage projects we’ve done held and I think overall we’re moving in the right direction with the things we’re doing to help with run-off during these deluge events.

Now that I’m back from Weymouth and into February (daffodils are in full bloom!), it’s time to get to work on spring gardening projects:

-bring in more large stone to slow water flow in front of property
-complete terracing in Poplar Folly and plant native seed mixes
-complete 2 terracing projects in front pasture
-mulch all beds and plantings
-move bluebird houses to better locations
-set up honey bee hives in new locations
-create planting beds in Brown Bunny’s Potager and put in some summer veggies and flowers

This sounds like a lot, but some of these items won’t take much time at all, and the others simply require a concerted effort for a few hours with dear husband. I think we need a few weekends to knock this list out.

At the barn, I’m aiming to:

-remove aging exterior stall doors and move the top halves down (leaving no windows), replacing hinges and wood siding. I’d like to recycle the upper halves and when they eventually need replacing I’ll look at commercial options. These Dutch doors were hand-made by previous owners and while serviceable they have some design flaws.
-raise the barn aisle flooring using stone screenings and put matting wall-to-wall, with wood “jambs” at either end to keep everything in place
-new stall bases in 4 stalls
-new base in both shelters
-spruce up interior stall doors and stall fronts

I’m tempted to move on to another batch of projects but am stopping myself with these two lists! These are the things that need to be done before summer rolls in. If we get all this done, it’s not difficult to come up with additional projects.

Everyone is doing well. The horses and pony and donkeys are happy and healthy. Dogs and cats as well. Humans too! One thing on my mind lately is the aging of Bear Corgi, who is 10 and starting to experience arthritis. In my mind he is an eternal puppy, such a bundle of joy and energy. It’s hard to even think of him as aging and harder still to see him having pain. He’s getting chiropractic adjustment, Adequan injections, fish oil for EPA + DHA, and may go onto a pain med soon. It’s tough when a beloved friend and family member gets old.

Inside, I’ve got two rooms to finishing painting and a plan for nearly every room in the house. It’s endless, but I’m going one room at a time and making myself enjoy the transformation instead of focusing on the end result only, i.e. getting them all done. I tend to want to knock out the list and then move on to yet another list (see above) - but isn’t the joy of life, at least in part, in the doing of the tasks? Especially if you’re doing it yourself. This is my overall project for 2020. Embrace the lists but  embrace the doing of the stuff more than checking it off.

Yesterday I took great pleasure in some deep cleaning in the master bedroom and bathroom. All it took was a shift in how I thought about it as I did it. Today I’m pausing to notice the results and appreciate them.

February! I love this month and am happy to have so many good things happening.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

New essay up at the gorgeous Longridge Review

Yesterday my essay, Places I Went With My Dad, was published in the lovely Longridge Review. This piece means a lot to me and I invite you to go and read it:

Places I Went With My Dad at Longridge Review

There are other beautiful essays in this issue as well as stunning art. I hope you’ll go and check it out. If you like what you see, you can sign up for their ongoing editions. It’s a well-curated journal and I’m truly honored to have work there.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Happy Birthday, Clementine and Baloo!

This was a birthday week on November Hill. Baloo Corgi turned 3 years old and Clementine, the lovely, turned 1. Our birthday celebrations for 2019 were very low key, but there are some important birthday years coming up in 2020 so we decided to start in January and celebrate our way through, month by month, in the style we have enjoyed in past years.

I’m going to confess that we had high aspirations for birthday photos. I actually thought we would get a great birthday video of all three canines sitting at the dining table with party hats, awaiting the birthday treats. It would likely have been possible had we done many takes over several hours, but no one wanted to put the dogs through that kind of frustration, so here’s what we got:

You’re going to have to take my word for it that at one point all three dogs did in fact have the party hats on their heads and the boys looked as adorable as does Clem. But golden retrievers are just much more willing to be dressed up than are Corgis, at least in this household, and the point was to celebrate, not torture, so we moved on to the serving of the birthday cookies. 

I will say that it astounds all of us that Bear Corgi, whose birthday is in June, is a senior dog at this point. For so many years he was the young wild one to Kyra’s aging self, but now he is slowing down some and the wild ones are Baloo and Clem.

Life with dogs seems particularly poignant, as their life spans are so much shorter than ours and in dog-loving homes it feels like decades are marked by how old the dogs are, how insane it seems that they could be growing old, and the new young pups that move in to ease the transitions and take over the household. 

Since I got married and had children we have lived with and loved Ron the retired racing greyhound, Chase the loving and loyal Corgi, his sister Kyra who spoiled us with 18 amazing years of bossy Corgi girl love, and now Bear the Corgi fluff-budget, Baloo the Cardigan jumper extraordinaire, and Clementine the ladybird beauty. I can’t think of a better way to mark a lifetime than by the dogs we share it with.

Happy birthday, Baloo! Happy birthday, Clem! We love you and hope for many more parties to come.