Tuesday, April 24, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 52

November Hill is never more precious to me than when I leave it and come back again. I was gone for five days on writing retreat in Hertford, where the cottage on the Perquimans River feels like a second home. Two dear writing friends and I wrote and read out loud and made good meals and told stories that made us all laugh so hard we cried. It was a wonderful retreat.

I pulled out a new novel to work on this trip. Never Not Broken is done, but for a final read-through, so it needs to sit a few more weeks before I do that. The new novel, Arrow of Time, is one I wrote several years ago and it’s a very different kind of story for me. I realized when I got there with the printed pages that I would need to start from scratch with the opening, as the sequence in the first draft is off, but I managed to write the opening two chapters and outline the third, and on my way home figured out how to dictate notes to Siri on my phone for a tweak that I think will make the opening work even better.

As it turned out I didn’t drive directly to November Hill. Elf (the Beetle) popped on his exhaust system light about an hour from Hertford so I had to stop and determine if it was safe to drive the remainder of the way. It was, but we decided I would go straight to our VW mechanic’s shop and leave it there, and husband met me, switched my luggage to the other car, and we drove home from Durham.

I can’t believe how much everything grew while I was gone. We’ve entered the time of year where we can see nothing but trees out our windows. With the exception of the neighbors to our right, but next spring we’ll be reaping the benefits of the row of American hollies going in along the fence over there. From April to November we have near total privacy thanks to the trees and I love this season so much.

The pollinator garden plants are going wild, doubling their size since I left last week. One of my button bushes has started to leaf out. I’m doing a bit of weeding every day and mostly keeping on top of it. There’s one area where I haven’t planted yet and some grasses and other things are popping up there - I have a Dutch hoe that works really well getting that kind of thing out, so tomorrow after the rain stops I’ll do that while the soil is soft.

Husband picked up the two flowering dogwoods and ten inkberry hollies from the nursery and those will be going in the ground later this week.

The damaged fence is nearly repaired. These posts were put much deeper into the ground, and cemented securely. The no-climb is attached and the boards will go back up later this week.

We have a bluebird nest in the mailbox. Miniature Keil Bay has been temporarily displaced (I found him kicked out of the “run in” out onto the lane!) into the barn side until the eggs hatch out. I guess we didn’t get that bluebird house out soon enough for the bluebirds!

The dogwoods were stunning this year and are already leafing out. Yesterday we had a little rain and then sunshine and wind, and the white petals were blowing all over the farm. It’s a lush and beautiful time of year.

After the sun came out yesterday I worked in the back yard a bit, clearing four vegetable beds and orange-oiling three fire ant mounds that had popped up. The strawberry bed has berries, and the blueberry bushes are coming out well too. The fig tree is putting up new leaves at the base. It needs to be pruned and I hope to get to that next week.

Finally the garage door installer came by to double-check measurements. The new doors will go in soon and the entry door is set to be installed the end of this month. Once that work is done, the soon to be blooming rose bush is going to be trained up onto an arbor that will go above the garage doors and across the entire side of the house. And I’ll order a new light for the entry door and call that project DONE.

We have more rain today and everyone is enjoying their quiet barn time. By tomorrow they’ll be antsy but for now, it’s quiet and peaceful; the only sounds are the rain falling and a few hopeful birds singing. It was wonderful to be on retreat and it’s wonderful to be home again.

Monday, April 16, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 51

Last night we got 3.1 inches of rain in a matter of hours, and all that water rushing through the stream bed in the front pasture swept leaves from last fall against a section of the front fence and damaged it. The leaves used to simply go under the lowest strand of Horseguard tape but now that we have the no-climb with boards the leaves were trapped. Thankfully my farm helpers are both here tomorrow and they’ll get it fixed, but I was so upset this morning to see the mess and realize at least a day’s work will go to that instead of the steady progress we were making with the “list” items.

All the rain started the spring flowing again, too, and while it’s not enough to do serious damage, the water is flowing along a path that’s creating boggy areas along the driveway. I feel like we need to address that as well.

It’s been quite warm again but tonight we have a frost warning in effect. I’m past being ready for spring!

April is our birthday month - husband, daughter, Keil Bay, and the pony. 48, 21, 29, and 18. Of all those ages the most remarkable ones are daughter and pony. Best birthday wishes to them all!

I’ve ordered two flowering dogwoods and 10 inkberry hollies for planting. I’ll be picking up a few more pollinator plants for the beds, and if the weather ever settles down, need to get the vegetable garden going and also overseed the pastures. I have seed from the botanical garden, all native pollinators, and I have to get those started very soon.

Bee supplies are rolling in. I have to figure out exactly where the hives are going - have changed my mind three times already, but once you set them up, moving them can only be done in gradual increments so I have to find the best site and plan to leave them there if possible.

April is historically our busiest month but somehow I still feel like it should be March!

On Lying Fallow

A link to my essay just published on Streetlight Mag’s site:


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A sweet ride on the Big Bay

Yesterday afternoon I brought the horses in to relax in the barn with some hay and grooming, and with daughter’s help, got enough done to have time for a ride. Keil’s left hip felt tight to me, as did my own, and there’s nothing better than some walking to loosen things up.

It was nice to leisurely groom, tack up, note the horse hair literally covering the sleeves of my shirt, and get on with no fanfare. We have a new mounting block, one of the standard 3-step ones, in the barnyard. It’s taller of course than the 2-step blocks, but significantly shorter than my rigged up 2-step on two layers of concrete blocks that I have in the arena.

Most regular readers know I had a weak hip several years ago and became stressed about dismounting from the 16.2 Keil Bay straight to the ground. My nervousness transmitted to Keil and mounting was not always the most pleasant part of our ride. He’s sensible, so nothing bad was going on, but I felt my own confidence undermined our rides and I wanted to put a stop to it. The higher mounting block set-up made a huge difference in both mounting and dismounting. Keil quickly adjusted to my getting off at the mounting block and my only worry in the world was that the donkeys quickly formed a habit of waiting until I got on and then pushing the 2-step block off its concrete base. But for the most part the new arrangement saved the day and I no longer stood fidgeting with the mounting block getting it in the perfect position nor did I dread the end of the ride and the drop to the ground.

I’m not sure what prompted me in December to buy this 3-step block for the barnyard, but yesterday when it was time to hop on I had Keil line up to it and before I could second-guess myself, got on. I have this thing about not getting too dependent on having things one/the same way when it comes to riding or for that matter, horsekeeping in general. It’s good to be flexible and in my case it’s good to back down from needing to mount from the very high block. So I was very happy that I got on and off with this 3-step.

The ride was nice. Keil is very wide and it was definitely a stretch through the hips! My heels were not down when it felt like they were nearly perpendicular to the ground but by the end of the ride Keil was looser and so was I.

And in the barn aisle afterward I untacked him and he stood by the bench and I sat cleaning tack and we both had that sweet endorphin muscle release zen feeling going and I realized I hadn’t had even the slightest twinge in my right shoulder.

The Big Bay is good for the body, good for the soul. And he is now 29 years old! This is the year that I am exactly twice his age. But the joy he has brought and continues to bring is an infinite number. We’re a mathematical phenomenon.