Monday, May 09, 2022

My Beautiful Things micro-essay is up today

 You can read it HERE

Inspired by Salina and Keil Bay, the two amazing Hanoverian horses in my life, and of course by H, massage therapist extraordinaire. 

Sunday, May 01, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 152

 A busy week on November Hill. Clementine only has four days to go until her staples are removed. We have the routine down at this point, still keeping her separate from the Corgis to avoid the excited play that  she and Baloo do when together. She’s now taking walks on leash out on the larger farm again, and I’m starting to cut back on the calming meds to wean her off them. We’ve actually needed them more the past few days than initially, as her healing has progressed and her energy getting high again. But overall she’s doing very well and we’re so happy about that!

I got the veggies planted in the potager this week, and used my electric weed-eater to tidy up a bit. We also now have a blackberry trellis and vines planted, and I’m hoping to put in a blueberry bush soon. We have two blueberry bushes in the back yard that I’d transplant if they weren’t so large. The potager is a nice place to sit and relax in the mornings and late in the day. 

The pollinator beds and the bird haven area are all growing like mad. I did some tidying in the bird haven yesterday and last week removed more goldenrod and rattlesnake master to transplant to another area. The upper bed by the garage is much tidier now but I still have work to do. Our load of mulch was delivered and that’s the next chore to be done this week. I love this long view of the baptisia in the upper bed, with the layers of beds flowing out beyond. The upper bed, lower bed, then across the driveway to the front bed, the walkway strip, and if you look all the way to the birdhouse in the distance that’s the very front bed along this line. Over to the far left out of the photo is another line of developing beds - a naturalized area with paw-paw trees and other perennials, the shade bed, and then further down the driveway, the second shade bed. The long “wildflower” strip beyond that is remaining naturalized, though I did plant some turk’s hat lilies along the wooded edge - will see how they do. 

Poplar Folly needs a lot of work right now. Chickweed is taking over and while I know it will die back soon, if it isn’t pulled up it will just be worse next spring. So a big chore this week is to remove the chickweed in there and to remove any poison ivy that might be coming up. Thanks to my farm helper most of the poison ivy is removed on our farm, but every year it tries to come back. Getting it before it gets too entrenched is the key to keeping it away. A note about poison ivy though - it is an important native pollinator for bees! Apparently in the untouched forest, it grows high into the trees and blooms in early spring, and some say the big nectar flow here is actually poison ivy vs tulip poplar. I am not interested in removing it beyond the perimeter fencing on our property, but inside that we do remove it, as I have become very sensitive to it the past few years. 

In the apiary this week we have a new nuc. Because scout bees are intently checking out the empty Callisto hive box, we’re installing the new nuc into a new hive box which I’ve named Atalanta. So we’ll have Hegemone, Mnemosyne, Callisto, Atalanta, Echo, and Artemis after we install today. 

There’s no photo but our farm helper used a machete and weed-eater to clear the very fast-growing grass in Arcadia. Now that this initial cut is done, we’ll just maintain the area around each hive, keep the inkberry hollies clear of grass, and keep a perimeter path clear. But the remainder will be allowed to grow through the summer so all the wildflowers can come in and provide forage for the bees. We also needed to clear the area along the boundary fence not shown here so we can plant the crossvines there. 

Yesterday we had a very special celebration - my daughter’s birthday. She’s one of the joys of my life and we’ve created an annual lemur cake tradition to mark her special day.

Another joy is my mom, who at 88 and after a broken femur has recuperated so well. I hope I am as beautiful and happy as she is in another 30 years!

Today my husband is mouse-proofing Delphine, our camper. We’ve had some mice coming in and we’ve been humane trapping them and relocating until we could get the materials on hand to some closing up of entryways. I need to do a post on Delphine’s updates that were done last fall. She had the blackwater toilet and tank removed and now has an amazing composting toilet. This spring/early summer I’ll be working to replace the mini-blinds with curtains and getting new cushion covers to brighten her up a bit. I’d like to get to removing all or at least some of the upper bunk - was thinking remove entirely but then saw a video on a way to remove part and leave a shelf going around the wall, which means you don’t end up with the inevitable nail holes where it attaches. This will be a bigger project but it will make the lower bed so much more open and accessible. The projects never end. 

Our cold spell ends today and we’re back to the mid-80s. The herd enjoyed the break from this early heat but thankfully their barn and their fans keep them comfortable on these hot days. Which reminds me of one more spring project we’d like to do. I’d like to install a shelf along the feed room upper wall so we can put the third large fan up there, facing toward the donkeys/pony stall. They get a breeze through the open stall doors usually but this will create a nice steady flow of air for them. 

I’m bringing this to a close before I come up with any more “things to do.” Time for some breakfast and then onward into the day. 

Monday, April 25, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 151

 Clementine made it through her mast cell tumor surgery just fine and all news is as good as it could be thus far. We’re now waiting for the cytology report and we’re also waiting for the end to the two weeks of recuperation as her incision site heals. We removed the cone, are using two Suitical sleeves that we alternate each day so one gets washed while the clean one goes on. Thankfully we’re able to supervise her closely and have not needed to use the donut collar yet. It’s a chore keeping the Corgis and Clem separate, but we have a good system and it’s working. The only time Clem has gotten super excited was last night when we hoped we could have all the dogs in the living room with Clem and Baloo on leash. She was so happy to be in the same room with no gate or crate between them we ended up having to regroup and separate again. Her staple removal is on May 5 and that will hopefully mark the end of her restrictions. 

In other news, the cedars were planted!

They have stretched out more since this photo and are settling into their new home nicely. Despite being dug up and having their root balls wrapped in burlap for over a month they have hundreds and hundreds of berries for the birds. I watered them religiously while they were here waiting to be put in the ground, and it worked. I didn’t take the photo I wanted to take, which is the view from the arena, riding down the long side toward this end of the property, but it’s that view that prompted me to want this screening all these years. Instead of seeing the neighbors’ sheds and the stuff they have piled behind the sheds, we’ll soon see this evergreen screen. I’m really happy. 

I’m happy to report that the honeybees are super busy harvesting the tulip poplar nectar flow. We’ve put medium supers on the three hives that came happily through winter, and we’re watching Mnemosyne closely. The swarm that moved into that empty hive box is bringing in pollen and seem to be enjoying their new home. 

Everything I planted last fall is coming up and doing well. All the beds are quickly moving from bare winter foliage to green. It’s very exciting. We ordered a load of mulch on Saturday and that will be the next big task. Over the weekend I did some weeding, gave away another large bag of goldenrod and rattlesnake master babies, and we got some veggies to plant in the potager. The only other outstanding plants are the five crossvine I purchased for a special project. 

The herd is enjoying spring. Right now we’re having mid-high 80 degree days and nicely cool nights, and they’re all happy to be in their barn with their fans during the heat of the days. 

In the midst of the chaos of the past two weeks I spotted a post on our semi-local equestrian network. It was an Equispirit 2-horse gooseneck with dressing room, ramp, and XL for warmbloods at a terrific price. We haven’t hauled horses in a good long while but if we needed to, this is the trailer I’d want to do it in. It will also be useful for picking up our monthly load of hay on rainy days. My husband took the ball I tossed to him and ran with it, and the trailer was delivered on Saturday. To make room for it we cleaned out the little horse trailer (I’d call it a pony trailer) and gave it to our farm helper. I am swearing this one will not end up being a storage shed!

Yesterday afternoon our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson came to visit. While my son got their dog settled into the camper, our daughter-in-law and grandson walked into the barn aisle to visit the herd. I happened to glance out the back window just as they did so, and it was such a joy to see a whole new generation discovering a love of equines. He’s a fun, spirited, curious little explorer and the fact that he is so interested in our beloved herd is like icing on the cake. 

It’s been a crazy spring but these moments of pure joy make me happy. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Send good thoughts to the Clementina Ballerina Ladybird today

 Clem’s vets managed to fit her into their surgical schedule today and her mast cell tumor will be removed.  We’re so grateful to them, and surrounding her with love and light today and onward. I appreciate any good thoughts you can send to her. There is strength in numbers! 

Sunday, April 17, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 150

 April has been an odd spring month, with a lot of warm weather punctuated with some much cooler days and some very cold nights sprinkled in. Despite that, the trees are green, the pastures are green, and everything is growing like mad in the native beds. We’ve got pollen and we’ve got tulip poplar blooms, which means the bees are extremely busy right now. 

Gardening: I had the second annual goldenrod giveaway which effectively cleared all the goldenrod out of my lower pollinator bed where once again they had completely taken over. With bee balm and mountain mint on one end and threadleaf bluestar, coreopsis, some asters, and swamp sunflower on the other, there was a wide expanse in between that needed filling in. So I moved some spotted horsemint from another bed, added curlyheads, downy wood mint and New England aster, and I’ll fill in a little with something else in the next week or so. This bed also has the single remaining butterfly bush at one end and the buttonbush and beautyberry at the other. We removed the smaller butterfly bush a month ago and severely cut the larger one back for this season. I am still undecided as to what I’ll replace it with, but that will happen in the fall and all the butterfly bushes will then be gone. They attract a lot of insects but they are a dead end for butterflies, whose larvae don’t have anything to eat when they hatch out, so I want to put a nice host plant there instead. The other beds are all doing well. The fall plantings are coming up nicely. I added some turtleheads to the shade bed and planted African blue basil in the potager, as well as created a blackberry trellis. Will be adding the summer veggies soon.

Bees: The three colonies that made it through winter are Hegemone 2 (now simply Hegemone since Hegemone 1 swarmed or absconded), Echo, and Artemis. We cleaned out Mnemosyne’s hive box two months ago and last week I rechecked it and sprayed some Swarm Commander inside. On Friday it was surrounded by scout bees who were eagerly investigating it. Ditto for the hive box left by Hegemone 1, newly named Callisto. We’ll see if any of these scouts bring a swarm to these two empty boxes! I have a nuc coming sometime this spring and I have an extra bee hive ready for it if these two get taken by swarms. I haven’t come up with a name for the new box yet if I end up needing it, but that will be a fun task if it comes to that. 

Horses: The stress this week was that on Thursday my farm helper saw Keil Bay fall to the ground. He was standing with the herd in the dirt paddock, relaxing, and just suddenly dropped to the ground. It sounded like he possibly fell asleep. He got up with a little scrambling, but had no signs of injury, and since then he’s seemed fine. But of course it scares me, and it makes me wonder if we’re nearing the very difficult place where I have to make a hard decision. For now he’s happy. He has hoof trims and his monthly vet appointment this week, so we’ll see how things look for those. Otherwise, they are all good and enjoying springtime. 

Dogs: Another stress this week is that Clementine was diagnosed with a mast cell tumor on her leg. We’re awaiting the surgery to remove it and hoping for the best outcome possible. Bear Corgi has been getting a lot of grooming and trimming of his very fluffy and thick coat, and Baloo is as watchful as ever. 

Cats: They’re all good and all a handful! 

We have a nest of swallows in the barn and both bluebird boxes are occupied, though one is occupied by sparrows and not bluebirds. I put up a new bird box in the potager and hope it offers a nice nesting place for any of the many birds we have here on the farm. 

The cedars are set to be planted this week. We’re still having minor repairs done in the barn on these days when the horses are still out, and we’ll wind that down when they switch to night-time turnout. I ordered new coated steel barn windows so when those come we’ll figure out how to get them installed without disturbing the herd, and I’m hoping we can at least get a couple more repairs done in the barn before we move to night-time turnout, but if not, that will resume in the fall when they switch back again!

Meanwhile the garage ceiling has had repairs done to a troublesome area, and when my laundry room beadboard ceiling is painted, I’ll be able to wrap that room’s work up and move on to something else. We’ll work around Clem’s surgery and treatment plan to keep things quiet and peaceful for her recuperation. Send her some good healing thoughts, please! 

Writing: I have a flash nonfiction piece coming out in May, and a poem coming out sometime this spring/summer, plus a number of things in progress in terms of being considered for publication. I’m working on the new novel again, though not as much as I’d like since March and April and all the things happening that have needed my energy and attention. 

My mantra right now is that life is good, but life is also hard. That seems to be the theme for 2022 so far.