Tuesday, February 20, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 46, birthday edition

Today is Redford’s 10th birthday. I can hardly believe we now have a herd of equines in double digit ages! We started his party on Sunday, worked on it a little more yesterday, and today we’ll wrap up his celebration. Redford is a very sweet and also often shy donkey. He is bold with his herd and I believe he is happy, but he is not as snuggly as is Rafer Johnson. Redford reminds me to be still and to get quiet, and those are things I aim to do anyway, so having him here to help me remember is a blessing.

Today, on his birthday morning, November Hill is shrouded in fog. Even Redford, as he stands in between two of our beloved oak trees, who look in the photo as if they are guarding him.

I checked the garden beds this morning and found the first daffodil opening; I suspect it is in honor of a young donkey.

Not the best photograph but I was in a hurry to get to the pollinator beds! Slow down, whispers the birthday boy. They aren’t going anywhere.

The spotted horse mint is coming out, as are all the coneflowers. The rattlesnake plants too! As are a number of weeds which I hate to pull but I need all the space in these beds for the pollinators, so I’ll be clearing them out this week while the ground is nice and damp.

Although the main fencing is done, we’ve been slowed down getting the back corner in the way back done, mostly because of rain that appears on the day the guys can work. We still have several gates that need to be rehung, and the front gate to be dog-proofed. But the quiet days have been treasured and I feel like these little bits will be done soon enough.

The new hay tent is up and since we had the hay in the spare stall, I moved the mower and spreader into the tent, which means the back shelter is now totally clear for the pony and donkeys.

And Keil Bay has had his stall mats removed and his stall bedded deep in peat moss with shavings on top so he can lie down in total comfort. The chiropractor found his tail bone needed adjusting and he is no longer clamping his tail down when I try to groom it. As usual, he loved his adjustments and was so happy at the end when she did the extra special work to find what was going on with his tail. Before the chiropractor started I was telling her about him not lying down as much to sleep, and I got tearful. I wish there was footage of Keil Bay slowly turning his head around to look at me and then the vet, his clear message being, “My god, woman, you are embarrassing me to death here!”

Overall, we’re inching toward springtime on the hill and although as usual I am nowhere near where I hoped to be with the infamous “to do” list, I am perfectly caught up on enjoying the land, celebrating the trees, and finding joy with the herd.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Update on Duke Energy Progress cutting trees

On the advice of an attorney I filed a complaint with the NC Utilities Commission last Monday. They took down all the details of our situation and are doing research and investigation, and will be responding within 10 business days.

Meanwhile, the document that Duke Energy Progress says gives them the right to cut 20 full feet beyond their 25-foot right of way has not yet been delivered to me.

A friend who is a town council member asked me to share the details of this situation with our county commissioners. I did that on Thursday. I also shared all my information with our county beekeepers’ association.

For now, then, we’re in wait and see mode.

There is a plan for moving beyond this if necessary.


Thursday, February 08, 2018

Duke Energy wants to cut down our trees

About the time our fencing project winds down and we are doing the final stretch of field fencing plus tweaking a few things, we receive a certified letter from Duke Energy.

The letter says they have decided they need to remove all trees 20 feet BEYOND their already clear 25 feet right of way. This will, in our way back area, newly fenced and cleaned out by us, mean losing about half of our tulip poplars and a few other gorgeous, healthy, old growth trees. It will also decimate the privacy screen left by the timber crew who cut the Hundred Acre Wood.

When I opened and read the letter, I immediately called the name listed and asked for an in-person meeting to look at our property and clarify exactly what they wanted to cut. The young man who arrived was courteous and professional, did zero measurements, just eye-balled things and told us what they plan to do.

We have contacted several attorneys.

These trees are homes to squirrels, birds, and a host of beneficial insects. Tulip poplars are the PRIMARY FOOD for native and honey bees in our area in the spring. My bees will arrive in May, and half their food supply is slated to be cut down in six weeks.

My one inspiration is a man in Raleigh, John Kane, Jr., who has a willow tree that Duke Energy wants to cut down. He took Duke to court and won, and although Duke has counter-sued, the willow tree is still standing.

Are we up for this? I will do my best. The sad fact is that Duke Energy plans to go down this power cut for miles and miles and miles taking 20 more feet on either side. Most of the large native trees in this region are tulip poplar and red maple and both are critical forage for bees. I am beyond appalled at Duke’s total disregard for the environment.

Their reason for doing this? “In case a hurricane comes through.”

In my mind you repair any damage done if and when the hurricane comes. You don’t go in and decimate trees on the private property of citizens to save yourself some money in the event of extreme weather.

If anyone has tips, experience, or finds information pertaining to fighting a power company and winning, please leave it in the comments.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 45

A few shots of the new fencing, which is done, and magnificent in my eyes! I love it so much.

There are a few final things to be done, and thanks to the 2 inches of rain we got late last week we returned to Mudville and that set everything back yet again. But all the pasture is secure, the horses are thrilled to have the run of the place again, and very soon we’ll be moving on to new projects. 

Sadly the arena fencing now looks so awful next to the new and the old gates seem so rickety next to the new ones, I think we’re going to have to work on that next! I had a feeling early on this might be the case, but hadn’t planned on dealing with it yet. 

The weather is roller-coastering between warm for the time of year and colder than usual, and we barely, not completely dry out and then more rain falls and we go back to mud. Tomorrow morning there’s a chance of freezing rain (yuck) and I’m just ready for a warming trend and enough dry days in a row so we see a real end to mud for awhile. Keil Bay appears to be lying down, after all my stress about him not, because I’m finding him every mid-morning with huge flat areas of dried mud on his body in the places it would be were he to lie flat out. Which is good news and lots of grooming for me. 

Tonight I’m having some insomnia and have been on Pinterest perusing photos of arena fencing and that morphed into looking at barns that have stained wood doors and windows combined with painted walls and metal roofs. Suddenly I was looking at new Hardie Board and new barn doors with windows and I just had to pull the plug on my own brain with all the ideas and projects.

Today I was in the front field with the herd grooming and dried mud and hairs were flying and that’s where my head needs to be for awhile. The herd mind, not the Billie mind. :)

Monday, January 29, 2018

Riding the crazy horse-woman bus

For the past few weeks I’ve been fretting about Keil Bay. As some of you know, he’s a few months shy of 29 years old, is in amazing good health, and is still sound under saddle. No one who sees him thinks he’s anywhere near his age. He’s always been a horse who stretches. His downward dogs are amazing, his horse version of warrior pose lovely, and he is more in tune with his body than any horse I’ve personally known. He loves body work. His chiropractic vet comes regularly and he adores her. But lately I have seen him do the deepest downward dogs I’ve ever seen him do, and sometimes, when he’s in the field, it almost seems like he falls asleep, then wakes up and goes into a downward dog to “catch” himself. My daughter thinks I’m a little nuts, but she helpfully did some research and found that sometimes a horse will take on the role of keeping watch for the herd to the point of never lying down to sleep.

This sent me into a tizzy of worry. Keil rolls regularly but I can’t recall seeing him lying down in the sun this winter, not one time. Then it seemed like days passed and I never saw him with shavings on his fur either. I’ve been a little obsessed with checking him for shavings. It’s possible he is lying down when I’m not watching, and based on the mud on his body during all the rain and snow we’ve had, it’s obvious he is rolling and possibly also sleeping at a time of day I’m not awake to see. But in December we had dogs barking in our pasture several times, then the fencing began, and I was away for several weeks of days traveling. It’s been a stressful winter for the herd, though they’ve seemed happy enough and healthy. But maybe Keil became more vigilant and stopped lying down to sleep.

Or. Maybe he is having arthritic issues, stiffness, things that would be normal for his age, but would be a first for him. My brain took the ball and ran with it. I put him on all the oral nutraceuticals he wasn’t already on, and plan to talk with his chiropractic vet and the regular vet to see if there is anything more I should do.

Yesterday it was raining all day and the horses and donkeys were in the barn. (Well, the pony was out standing in the rain, but that’s another blog post.) I stood at Keil’s stall door and looked for shavings. None. I’d piled them deep and tried to make lying down in the stall more appealing. But no.

He was incredibly sweet. Snuggly, nuzzling me, letting his eyes go googly, sharing breaths, all the things he does on a regular basis but generally not all at the same time. I asked him why he isn’t lying down, if there’s anything wrong, and ended up coming inside to cry because what if there IS something wrong? What if he’s simply just finally showing his age? That would be a relief but it will also be a hard thing for me to deal with. In my mind, and by the way he acts, he should live forever.

So, all that aside, it rained all night and it rained most of today. I went out to muck stalls and give hay and found that somehow they had opened the gate and the pony was on Keil’s side and Cody had come to the donkeys’ side, so I left them that way and closed the gate back up.

At lunchtime I went out again with a bowl of carrots and apples. I handed them out but they were all extremely greedy so I gave half and put the rest in the feed room. I was mucking again when I heard hoof beats pounding. The donkeys ran in the barn and looked at me - now that Salina is gone I’m the boss mare - MAKE HIM STOP. Cody was galloping around the very muddy barnyard, tossing his head and whirling on a dime. It is so muddy out there right now, and the hay tent literally blew apart in last week’s wind, and while generally this herd is sensible, Cody was acting a little too wild to be safe in that area with the hay tent in pieces. I immediately thought - oh no, what if he’s colicking?

He kept galloping around, so I went to the arena gate and opened it, figuring he would be safer to gallop in the arena. He galloped in and proceeded to go to the middle and roll.

Oh dear, I thought. Now, in the back of my mind a little voice was saying, look, it’s been raining for 36 hours. They’ve been cooped up, he’s just having some fun. And it’s true, he was tossing his head and not sweating (though he was wet from rain, so that was a little hard to assess) and truly, he looked pretty darned magnificent out there, but I kept an eye on him and kept mucking.

The pony went to the arena fence and the two of them played their pretend bite game. I decided to let Keil move over to the donkeys’ side and hang out with them. He was happy to go and I figured that was that. Cody would play himself out and I’d let him back in the paddock with the pony.

I kept mucking. Suddenly I heard many hoofbeats. Cody was galloping around the arena, the pony was galloping up and down the paddock, and Keil Bay blasted through the barn aisle at a full gallop. The donkeys literally got in the stall with me to get out of his way.

Did I mention how slippery both barnyards are?

This went on for about 15 minutes. Keil galloping through the barn aisle from one side of the barn to the other, then doing power trot in big circles, then galloping through again. I admit - it went through my head that we might be having a group colic. Then I notched myself down and decided they were just burning energy, reacting to the cold front blowing in, and ramping each other up. But I couldn’t get any of them to stop and the donkeys and I were, for a while, trapped in the stall because it was dangerous to step out with a 16.2, 1450 pound Hanoverian galloping through.

Eventually things calmed down. I closed up the stalls and went to let Cody out of the arena on the far side, that leads to the back field, hoping he would quietly head around to the pony. But the instant I opened the back arena gate the pony galloped around and went in the arena with Cody, which set off a whole new episode of galloping, rearing, bucking, and general craziness. Which set off Keil again, who proceeded to start back up galloping back and forth through the barn aisle. Thankfully the donkeys were out of the way.

This went on another 20 minutes or so. I decided maybe they’d all gone crazy but in any case their hooves were now as clean as whistles, which I could see clearly because of all the air time they were getting.

I decided to turn them all out into the entire pasture - front and back - and let them take their chances in the mud. I tied open the back arena gate, went around to let Keil Bay out of the barnyard area and into the paddock, and noticed as he walked through: he has shavings from last night embedded in his wet fur.

Well, okay, then! I guess if all the galloping and power trotting didn’t reveal he’s doing pretty well, at least I know he’s lying down to sleep.

They’re all turned out now, mud be damned, and I’m getting off the crazy bus for today.