Monday, July 06, 2020

New equine product I love: Confidence EQ

In a recent horse supply order I received 6 sample packs of Confidence EQ, an equine pheromone that says: 

ConfidenceEQ is an exact copy of the equine appeasing pheromone that mares produce as they nurse their foals. The appeasing pheromone helps the foal feel safe and secure when encountering new situations and unknown environments.

I decided to try it on July 4th. 

I went through my usual July 4th routine, feeding wet dinner tubs earlier than usual to get that good wet meal into their guts, set them up at the barn with hay pillows and clean water buckets with Rescue Remedy mixed in, separated the two big guys from the pony and the donkeys into their respective sides of the barn and paddocks (which share a fence line so they could hang together if they wished), and closed off all the pastures.

My chair was close by where I could keep an eye on them without being in the middle of things, and just as I heard the first distant boom we applied the Confidence EQ gel to the outer edges of 10 nostrils.

The gel doesn’t have a strong odor at all, but it clearly meant something to them as we applied it. They were very interested in the smell, a couple of the herd weren’t thrilled, but for the most part it was an easy application that didn’t upset anyone. We didn’t use the full recommended dose on any of them.

The first hour was quiet and when the louder/closer fireworks got going I applied another partial dose to all. 

My herd don’t go totally crazy on July 4th, but there is always enough agitation that I end up moving them into the arena all together where they can run safely. Our barn, paddocks, and arena are in the center of our farm, so it’s the most interior space, the furthest from any close-by fireworks, and the arena gives them room to move without much risk.

I figured I’d end up doing this again this year, especially when our neighbors across the street started up.

As it played out, they all stood quietly munching hay from 8-11 p.m. The most serious reaction? A few soft snorts when there were louder booms or longer-lasting noises. This is a first for this herd - they’ve never been this quiet. They were also super responsive to me calling them over for peppermints, which I did about once each hour, which showed me they were relaxed and able to focus on me instead of the noise.

Fireworks still seem like a bizarre way to celebrate freedom to me. They sound like war, and what we’re celebrating (at least for me) is peace. The noise and toxic smoke have serious negative impacts on many humans, animals both domestic and wild, and the earth herself. 

But Confidence EQ made it much easier this year and I’ll absolutely keep this on hand from now on. 

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Happy 4th of July - annual PSA regarding fireworks!

Every year I “celebrate” July 4th sitting in my horse paddock with my herd, cell phone in hand, hoping that no one in our neighborhood or general vicinity opts to do a firework display in their back yard.

Last year our immediate next-door neighbors did. The horses were so agitated they would not graze but trotted in circles the entire time, the toxic smoke from the fireworks wafted and hung in our riding arena like a fog of poison that took hours to dissipate. Our dogs and cats were locked inside the house, as was my husband who has asthma. 

In years past I have had lit firecrackers fall into the pasture a few feet away from me. 

This is my experience of Independence Day. I don’t gather with friends and family, I don’t go to any community celebrations, I don’t enjoy the freedom of feeling safe with my animals on my own hard-earned property.

Meanwhile, combat veterans are triggered by the noise, which sounds like gunfire, wildlife and the environment is impacted by both the noise and the toxic fumes and litter, there is always a risk of fires being started, and domesticated animals including dogs and cats are often terrorized to the point of running away and getting lost.

I can understand the appeal of the way fireworks look, but is it worth infringing on the health and peace of mind of your neighbors, animals wild and domestic, and the earth itself for a few minutes of pleasure?

At least stop and consider before you set them off. 

This year, in addition to everything else, we are all living with COVID-19, a virus which attacks the lungs. Do any of us need to breathe in toxic smoke right now, in particular?

Thursday, July 02, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 103

This is a daily occurrence in the potager. Cucumbers are still going strong. To the point that I have been giving them away to neighbors this week. I have two kinds of zucchini and they get more shade than they need, so we’re NOT being overrun with them, which I feel is a good thing. A couple every few days is just fine.

Last night we had the first tomato, basil and Brie summer pasta of the season. It was delicious!

Otherwise, November Hill is nearing high summer with insects busily flying about, and more than I like are bothering the horses. So far only Cody is having issues - and this just started this week for him. He’s always been sensitive to insects and while I have tried to supplement him with things known to help, he’s starting to sport bumpy bug bites and a scabby spot on his midline. 

I’ve got two new things on board - Ecovet fly spray and Zephyr’s Garden No Fly Zone salve. The Ecovet works. Well. But while nontoxic it is made using fatty acids which are heavy and cloying in the air, which means you have to spray it carefully. You don’t want it in eyes or breathed in. The smell is not bad, really, but just very very potent. I’ve been using it on the herd’s legs only, but today I sprayed Cody all over, carefully, to see if things improve for him. The good news with the Ecovet is that it’s very long-lasting. I’ve been putting it on every other day.

The salve is a dreamy concoction, herbal goodness that the horses love. Keil Bay tries to lick it. I put it in their ears, a small amount rubbed in to keep the gnats away, and on the mid lines, and in armpits. 

Redford donkey really doesn’t like fly spray but he will happily let me apply the salve to his legs and back and shoulders, armpits, and chest. I feel like it’s working for him so far, and it definitely helps with the ears and mid lines for all.

I have a nice almost unused fly sheet that I got for Cody several years ago. He wore it one time and within 30 minutes he was galloping about, managed to get it off himself halfway, and I was too paranoid to put it on him again. I have no idea if the fly sheet freaked him out, if a biting fly got trapped under it, or if he was just playing around and the fly sheet seemed like the culprit. I may have to revisit it if I can’t get a handle on what’s biting him.

Otherwise, the bees are good, the dogs and cats are good, the humans are as well as can be expected given COVID and the state of our country right now.

I’m reading good books, writing for my class and other markets, gardening, cleaning, grooming, feeding bees, avoiding cleaning, relaxing, sweating, rewatching Buffy and Downton Abbey, cooking, eating, enjoying glasses of wine, and basically wishing most days that I had more hours and more energy. 

In the small circle of my life, it’s good. In the larger view, it’s good in some ways and stressful overall. Suddenly my balancing dilemma is focused on the balance between staying informed and active with not letting myself get totally overwhelmed with anxiety. I know many of us are in this space and I send good thoughts out to all, in hopes that we find some peace, solutions, and a path forward that brings us to a new and improved way of being in the world. 

If anyone has tips to share for staying calm and also focused in today’s world, please share them!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 55: green head coneflower

This is an unusual coneflower that has a very prominent green head that eventually turns yellow and golden brown in the fall. I wanted something bright in the potager, native and upright and not attractive to deer but super attractive to pollinators, and this fit the bill nicely. Unlike many of the natives I’ve planted, these aren’t drought resistant, but since they’re in a space that will get regular watering anyway, I think they’ll do well in the potager.

I put in four of these this week and am hoping to see some blooms this season!

More info:

Rudbeckia laciniata 'Autumn Sun (sold out until 2021)'

Autumn Sun cut-leaf coneflower

Native to North America


FIRST IMPRESSIONS:  Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun is a selection of a native clump forming perennial with multiple upright stems.  The leaves are large, dark green and deeply lobed.  From summer until fall foliage is topped with clusters of showy daisy-like flower heads. Each head consists of a yellow-green globular cone surrounded by drooping yellow rays.  This rhizomatous species thrives in partly shaded sites with moist or wet fertile soils. 

HABITAT & HARDINESS:  Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun occurs in most of the southern Canadian provinces and in all the contiguous United States except for California, Nevada and Oregon.

Plants are indigenous to bottomland forests, moist meadows, borders and clearings of moist woods, shaded sloughs, shaded banks of rivers, creeks and ponds, calcareous seeps and wet to moist fields or pastures.

This species is hardy from USDA Zones 5-9.

PLANT DESCRIPTION:  Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun is an upright lanky perennial that branches in the top half. 

The stems are smooth, light green and clad in alternate drooping blades.  Basal leaves are up to 12” long and 12” across with narrowly winged petioles and 3-7 large toothed lobes.  As the stems rise, the leaves become progressively smaller and unlobed.  

For 1-2 months beginning in summer, stems terminate in clusters of daisy-like heads.  Each head is 2-3” across with a nubby globular cone wreathed by 6-12 clear yellow oblong ray florets. 

The young cones are green with unique widely spaced disc florets that impart a pincushion-like appearance.  The cones turn yellow as the disc florets mature and finally morph into golden brown seed heads as winter approaches.

Plants are 4-7’ tall with a 3-4’ spread.  This species often forms colonies from long underground rhizomes.

CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun thrives in part sun and moist soil.   Plants tolerate wet soils, seasonal flooding, heat and humidity.

Plants are pest resistant and foliage is unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.

This species is not very drought tolerant.  It may survive in sunny well drained sites but leaves are usually wilted with brown edges. 

In good growing situations with plenty of moisture, plants may spread aggressively from rhizomes.

LANDSCAPE USES:  Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun is a dramatic Accent for a Wildlife Garden or moist Meadow. Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting.   This wildflower offers Showy Blooms and provides Erosion Control.  It is useful in Stormwater Management and Rain Gardens. It can be used in Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders or Shade Gardens.

COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS:  Try pairing Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun with Aster novi-belgii, Deschampsia caespitosa, Eupatorium perfoliatum, Lobelia cardinalis, Penstemon calycosus, Carex amphibola, Panicum virgatum or Sorghastrum nutans.

Rudbeckia laciniata is a possible substitute for sunny rain gardens and stormwater management projects.

TRIVIA:  Blossoms attract a variety of bees, pollinating flies, beneficial wasps, butterflies, skippers and moths.  Caterpillars of Silvery Checkerspot Butterflies forage on the foliage and seeds are sometimes eaten by goldfinches.  Foliage is not particularly palatable to deer and other herbivores.

Rudbeckia laciniata Autumn Sun can be differentiated from related species due to their nubby green to yellow cones.  Most other Rudbeckia spp. have brown, black or gray cones.  Foliage of this species has 3-7 deep lobes while most other Rudbeckia spp. have fewer or no lobes.


4-7 ft


3-4 ft


18 Inches

USDA Hardiness Zone:


Bloom Color:


Rudbeckia laciniata 'Autumn Sun (sold out until 2021)' Characteristics

Attracts Wildlife

  • Butterflies
  • Pollinators


  • East-Coast Native
  • Cut Flower
  • Rain Garden
  • Coastal
  • Clay Soil
  • Bog
  • Naturalizing
  • Long Blooming


  • Full Sun to Partial Shade

Deer Resistant

  • Deer Resistant

Flowering Months

  • September
  • August
  • July

Foliage Color

  • Green

Growth Rate

  • Medium

Juglans nigra Tolerance (Black Walnut)

  • Yes

Salt Tolerance

  • Low

Soil Moisture Preference

  • Moist to Wet

Monday, June 29, 2020

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 54: pitcher plant, Scarlet Belle

The space between the yellow pitcher plants and the ailing woodland stonecrop was empty and thus offering prime space for weed invasion, so I wanted to put something there that would add some variety as well as take up that space.

My daughter loves pitcher plants so I chose this native hybrid from one of our local native plant nurseries. It’s absolutely stunning! 

The nursery is sold out of woodland stonecrop but in the fall I’m going to do a new planting in this spot and give it one more chance to grow there. If it fails again, I’ll need to look for something different. Meanwhile I will let the pitcher plants do their thing and spread out if they will to become an even larger spot of interest and beauty.

More info:

Sarracenia 'Scarlet Belle' is a popular and brightly colored pitcher plant with a low-growing habit. Plants look stunning throughout the growing season. 

  • Compact habit
  • Intensely colored pitchers, especially in the fall
  • Very unusual shaped leaves


  •  7 to 10 in. tall 
  • Grows to 12 in. wide over 3 to 5 years 
  • Clump-forming habit 
  • Hardy in USDA hardiness zones 6, 7, 8, and 9

Flowering period

In central North Carolina, flowers open in late April before the new pitchers emerge.

How to grow

  • Full sun 
  • Plant in a peat-based growing medium
  • Keep wet by growing plants with their containers sitting in a tray of water
  • Don't fertilize, they catch their own
  • Only water with rain, distilled, or reverse osmosis water

Care and maintenance

After a hard frost, the tips of the pitchers may turn brown. Trim off the dead parts of the leaf to keep plants looking attractive.

Where to plant

Large tubs and bogs.

When to plant

Scarlet Belle can be planted any time throughout the growing season.

When will my plant flower?

Plants are flowering size and will bloom their first year if purchased before April.

Native habitat and range

The parents of this hybrid grow in bogs and savannas in the southeastern United States.

Source and origin

A hybrid between S. leucophylla and S.psittacina created by the late Bob Hanrahan in 1985 and registered in 2002.

On the International Carnivorous Plant Society website, Bob informs us how he developed and named this beautiful pitcher plant hybrid.