Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Night magic in the barn

Last night I was in the barn just after dark fell, cleaning stalls and putting in clean shavings while waiting for the rain to roll in. Keil Bay was at his back stall door, holding court beneath the shelter and knocking the door with his knee, more than ready to come in.

It was quiet, the only sounds were the soft snorts and occasional bang bang bang of Keil's knee. The stalls looked nice with fresh bedding and just as I started putting hay in the stalls I heard the first drops of rainfall.

I hurried and let them in. Rafer Johnson and Apache came in the near side with one stall (our other stall on the near side is full of hay!) and Redford, Cody, and Keil Bay took the three stalls on the far side with the shelter. Redford is always welcome to come over with Rafer and the pony but those two have become such good friends Redford often chooses to stay with the big boys. 

I cleaned and refilled all the water buckets and made sure the shelter was clean too. When we have rain the shelter becomes a much-used space - allowing the horses on that side to go in and out of stalls without getting wet, and offering space to hang out and watch the rain fall, which they do.

In January we're having the barn roof replaced and a matching shelter built for the near side, which will be so nice for whoever is spending time there. I was thinking last night how nice it will be to have a muck barrow on each side of the barn. 

There is something special and lovely about getting horses set up for a cold wet night. They seem to appreciate it, and in Keil's case he expects it and even demands it! Every time I do it I have the fleeting thought that the only thing better would be to get them all tucked in with hay and water and fresh shavings and climb into my own little bunk right in the middle of the barn aisle.

But then I would miss the walk to the house, with the horses munching hay behind me and the warm lights through the windows drawing me inside. Seeing the activity through the windows as I head through the gate and along the path to the back door is its own special magic, like I've been in one perfect little multiverse and am heading to another. The space between the two, the walk, feels like what I imagine an astronaut might feel floating alone in space. 

Saturday, December 03, 2016

All the good stuff and where it is

I was intrigued by this poster in my son's physics department lounge when we were there on Thanksgiving Day. I'm drawn to the idea, especially when I think about all the crazy and in some cases awful stuff going on in our world, that all the good stuff is out there still waiting to be found and studied and made sense of.

And then I stand in the front field with Keil Bay touching me with his nose as the sun sets on November Hill and I realize that all the good stuff is truly right here.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Circling at F

I wrote earlier about the big red oak at F in my dressage arena, and how it's the corner where monsters sometimes lurk, where Keil Bay might act a little spooky or try to cut the corner altogether. It's also where the acorns fall and on any given day in the autumn if given access the herd will gather and crunch what they consider treats. So it's a place where monsters and good things live, which is sort of like how life is when you think about it.

I write a lot about how great Keil Bay is, and part of that is true in the most basic ways: he's handsome, well trained, elegant, kind of heart, willing to tolerate my quirks and imbalances in the saddle, and generally easy to manage. He also has a fun personality. He'll nudge for peppermints, untie himself in the barn, bang when he wants his wet tubs, sing for his supper, splash in the big trough when he's hot. 

But there's another way in which Keil Bay is great and that is his offering up of opportunities to take what is happening with him, on the ground, in the saddle, and look for what those things mirror in my life away from the barn.

Circling at F has to do with approaching a scary corner and choosing to stay forward, to come back at it again if need be to move through whatever's creating fear or resistance. Stopping at F to find some treasure and appreciate it. Every time I ride Keil Bay into that shadowy corner of the arena it reminds me that sometimes, often, this is the answer when facing larger questions in life. 

Over the years I've learned that sitting tall and straight, balancing my weight evenly in the saddle, looking ahead and centering myself is the very best way to let Keil know things are okay, and, that by circling at F, we're affirming that it's a safe place to be. I use this every single day in other ways. That all of this takes place beneath the big red oak, a perfect manifestation of the Tree of Life symbol, makes it even better. 

Sometimes that corner is Shadow and monsters, in the summer it is shade and relief from the hot sun. It's the same corner but it takes on different meanings at different times. The answer is always to ride in deep, circle when needed, and stop to experience the treasures when we see them. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 23

The big red oak at F is just past its peak, starting now to turn the rich brown that matches Keil Bay's luscious winter coat. We're nearing the time of year when both Keil and Cody match the tree leaves, and against a gray sky like today's, the rich browns and reds are stunning.

F is the corner of the arena that used to be the most sheltered by the 11-acre wood, and it has always been the coldest corner as well, often frozen on winter mornings. It's the place where Keil has most often seemed spooky, though this doesn't make much sense because when he's in the barnyard, the area behind this corner, a narrow strip between the arena and the border of our property, he often grazes there for acorns and other delights. It's such a treasured spot it's where we buried Salina, so when Keil snorts and blows going from F to A I remind him that there are no monsters. I often halt between F and C, or circle at F just to reinforce that for both of us.

This gray day is the prelude to promised rain, which our area and west in North Carolina sorely need. It's odd to have such dusty ground in late November. 

I'm getting used to seeing light and sky behind our property line. The 100-acre wood has always been so thickly forested there was nothing visible but the trees, even in winter. Now that it's been timbered the light and sky show through. It's sad but the new "normal" here, at least until younger trees grow up and fill these gaps.

Yesterday we started hoof trims after a play session with the Little Man, who trotted and cantered and went through his paces beautifully for me in the arena. Cody and Keil Bay got a little mini-session with my daughter and the donkeys kept us all in line. There's something about being in the barnyard and the arena in the late fall that makes me deeply happy. I think partly it's because it was the first month we lived here and the most potent realization of my lifelong dream to have my horses on my own little farm. Every November I am reminded of that again, and I love the feeling of boots on the earth, trees in fall color, and horses' winter coats thick and soft under my fingers.

The chores have shifted now. Mucking is a chore of all seasons, but now it includes managing leaves and layering. This morning as I took a barrow full of both to spread under an oak tree I noticed a flat area that was about the size of a donkey lying down. I layer leaves with manure for several reasons: to compost and to keep the leaves from flying around, but also to make thick soft places for horses to sleep. They each have their favorite spots to do this. I don't know why finding one of these flattened spots is so precious but it is.

I'm halfway done with applying tung oil to the cat tunnel, down to one porch screen to paint, and halfway through tung oiling the front porch steps. The rain this week will slow me down with all of these things but meanwhile we have put up the big tree on the front porch and a smaller tree in the living room. The white lights are cheerful and we'll start bringing up a bin at a time of decorations. We used to do them all in one big swoop but I've found that doing one bin at a time makes it more fun and taking them down that way makes it so much less of a chore at the end of the season.

The garden is done for the winter (I never did manage to put in some greens) but we planted a newly acquired Montmorency cherry tree this weekend. It's a tart cherry, good for pies and for making tart cherry juice being heralded for arthritis relief. I love sour cherries and look forward to picking them when the tree grows and bears fruit.

I also got my confirmation for beekeeping school this January - March and am so excited to be moving forward with learning about bees. Winter is the perfect time for it. 

I'm not sure why this time of year feels quieter to me - there are as many chores to do, and I'm as busy as ever, but the landscape itself seems to be still and thoughtful. A sense of winding down in some deep way. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Political action list for week of November 27, 2016/ GET INVOLVED!!

Week of November 27, 2016

Actions for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans of conscience

There are seven weeks until DJT takes office

This document's intention is to make clear suggestions for action backed with well-considered research. I learned a lesson last week in preparing the first What To Do This Week action checklist: Not everything you find on the internet is valid. In this week's document, I've been more discerning about petitions in particular.

Each statement has at least one practical action to take. At the end, you'll find some good news. While these topics have been well researched, recommendations are still subject to human error. Please do your own research!

I support equal rights for all Americans

Action: Oppose the Bannon appointment THIS Saturday (11/26) and Monday (11/28) by participating in a coordinated, nationwide postcard avalanche. You'll need a postcard and a stamp. Full instructions here:

click: https://www.facebook.com/events/235432800204102/

Action: Oppose the Bannon  appointment again (Jewish Voices for Peace petition)

Click: http://org.salsalabs.com/o/301/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=20679&tag=BannonNationButton

Action: Tell DJT to reject hatred and bigotry (Southern Poverty Law Center petition)

click: https://www.splcenter.org/tell-donald-trump-reject-hate-and-bigotry-0

Action: Tell DJT to reject hate acts in schools (Stand for Children petition)

click: http://action.stand.org/page/s/stand-up-to-hate

Action: Thank Senator John McCain (R-Az.) for speaking out in opposition to waterboarding and torture. Email contact form here.

fact check: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/john-mccain-trump-torture-waterboarding-231668

Action: In support of our Muslim neighbors, their civil rights, and their right to practice a religion, volunteer or donate money to CAIR at www.cair.com

fact check and fact check

I support fair, open elections

Read up on “audit vs recount” http://votingmachines.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000288

Action: Demand an audit of the presidential votes (change.org petition)

click: https://www.change.org/p/demand-an-audit-of-the-2016-presidential-election

Action: Contribute to expenses for Jill Stein's three-state recount effort. It is not likely to change the outcome of election results, but may reveal useful information.

click: https://jillstein.nationbuilder.com/recount

fact check: https://medium.com/@marceelias/listening-and-responding-to-calls-for-an-audit-and-recount-2a904717ea39#.tu4770l8k

Action: Petition for a presidential election recount in Florida (change.org petition)

click: https://www.change.org/p/florida-secretary-of-state-ken-detzner-we-call-on-florida-secretary-of-state-ken-detzner-to-hold-an-immediate-2016-recount

Action: Thank Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for supporting an investigation into election and DNC hacking.

click: https://www.lgraham.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-form

fact check: http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/trailguide/la-na-trailguide-updates-gop-sen-lindsey-graham-wants-congress-1479254194-htmlstory.html

fact checks

I support integrity, and reject corruption

Action: Support a new bill to counter DJT's major conflicts of interest.

Phone: Call your congressman/woman; Look up by ZIP code here. Bonus points for calling their in-state office.

Script: “Hi, my name is ___ and I am a constituent who lives in __. I'm calling to let you know I support Rep. Katherine Clark's Presidential Accountability Act. It is important to me that we hold the president-elect and vice-president-elect accountable. I support laws that separate their business affairs from political leadership. Thank you.”

fact check: http://katherineclark.house.gov/index.cfm/2016/11/clark-introduces-bill-to-ensure-president-elect-addresses-conflicts-of-interest

fact check: http://fortune.com/2016/11/15/donald-trump-conflicts-interest-ethics/

I support a healthy environment

Action: Tell DOJ to investigate and demilitarize police responses to nonviolent water protectors. (ACLU petition)

Click: https://action.aclu.org/secure/Standing-Rock

Action: Petition to remove Ebell and replace with a qualified scientist to head the EPA (Sierra Club petition)

Click: https://sierra.secure.force.com/actions/National?actionId=AR0060378&id=70131000001iOuIAAU

I support safety and shelter for refugees

Action: Donate to the Neediest Cases Fund for refugees

click: http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/11/14/in-the-holiday-season-supporting-the-vilified/?module=BlogPost-Title&version=Blog%20Main&action=Click&pgtype=Blogs&region=Body&_r=0

I support constitutional freedoms

Action: Sign a petition to prohibit government hacking into electronic devices without a warrant. Keep your personal data private. This link has been shared several times by Oregon Senator, Ron Wyden. Sign by November 30!

click: https://standtallforamerica.com/petition/stop-mass-hacking/a/

This week's reading list

From the Department of NOT NORMAL

This is not a normal president-elect. #notnormal

It is NOT NORMAL for a presidential candidate to send a family member on his behalf anywhere, much less to strategize with Russia. A normal president would use diplomatic channels after being elected and sworn in.

Fact check: http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-jr-held-talks-on-syria-with-russia-supporters-1479920753

It is NOT NORMAL for a president elect to visit a foreign country (with yet another family member) and announce a business venture there three days later. A normal president would understand that business dealings while in office are corruption and avoid even the suspicion of a conflict of interest.

Fact check: http://money.cnn.com/2016/11/22/news/economy/trump-argentina/

It is NOT NORMAL for a president's philanthropy to use its tax-free donations for personal use. A normal president would honor the charity's purpose and use donations for their stated purpose.

Fact check: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-foundation-apparently-admits-to-violating-ban-on-self-dealing-new-filing-to-irs-shows/2016/11/22/893f6508-b0a9-11e6-8616-52b15787add0_story.html

It is NOT NORMAL for a president-elect to literally threaten a business for having a difference of viewpoint. A normal president doesn't resort to intimidation to silence critics. A normal president values economic growth and free speech.

Fact check: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanmac/2016/11/10/why-did-jeff-bezos-make-nice-with-trump-amazon-depends-on-it/#2524f25a334a

It is NOT NORMAL for a president-elect to choose a cabinet so out of touch with the will and values of the majority of Americans. A normal president would choose cabinet members who can build consensus, are free of conflicts of interest, and work for the good of all Americans.

Fact check: www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/politics/donald-trump-administration.html?_r=0

Fact check: http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/307449-trumps-cabinet-begins-to-take-shape

Keep reminding yourself this presidency and its cabinet are not normal. Complacency and confusion may grow over time, so keep connecting with people who can remind you this is not normal.

Good news



Final action: Please share any or all content in this message today (no attribution needed). We're stronger together.