Monday, October 07, 2019

Autumn, and rain dancing

Finally, our temperatures have dropped to something more normal for this time of year, and it actually feels like autumn again. We’re seeing a little color but mostly falling dried leaves from the trees because we have been so dry for the past month - only a very light rain on a couple of occasions. 

They say drought makes fall colors more intense but this year I’m not seeing that yet. The dogwoods are turning and their red berries are lovely. I’m thinking about grass seed and young native plantings needing water, and the idea of rain dancing is also on my mind.

Everything needs a deep slow-falling drink. Meanwhile it’s dusty and dry and my very hardy native perennials are thriving without much water at all. Plant natives in the fall, make sure they get an inch of water a week for their first year, and you’ll be gifted with healthy, low-maintenance plantings that host your wildlife and allow you to put your energy into other things.

It’s hard for me to believe it’s already October. Time flies in general it seems, but this year the endless summer has exacerbated it. Last week we had a 100 degree day, and it felt like the middle of July.

Rain dancing: mostly consists of me standing and looking up, silently compelling the clouds to come, the rain to fall, and the plants and trees to drink their fill. There’s a possibility of rain tomorrow. Sending wet thoughts to all who need it!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

November Hill farm journal, 84

We’re moving into the fall season, now, in every way but temperatures, which are back in the low 90s here this week and not at all what I was hoping for. There has been no rain for several weeks now and things are getting dry and dusty. Even though the native pollinator beds and plantings that are well established do well in this weather, I had to water a few of the more recently planted, and opted to go ahead and water them all. It’s been awhile since I had to do that!

The goldenrod and tickweed are lovely, and the asters are just starting to bloom. It looks like the narrow-leaf mountain mint may be having a second bloom, which is wonderful since the bees (of all kinds) adore it. The garden is as busy as ever.

I’m noting the fig tree through the window as I type, which reminds me to say that it’s possibly the tallest it’s ever been, and it is covered with figs, but this tree seems to be stuck in its tendency to set fruit quite late in the summer, which often means there isn’t time for it to ripen before first frost. The only thing I know to try is to cover it during any frosts and see if that makes a difference. For the past few years we’ve had very hard freezes that turned it brown overnight, and the growth has resumed in the springs, but maybe the tree is having to put all its energy into regrowth and then the fruiting is pushed way back? I need to research this to get better answers than my own pondering.

Out the opposite window I see two sparrows climbing through the mesh onto the front porch and upon further inspection, I see they’re trying to drag a large leafed branch through the opening at the top of porch screen. I’m not sure why - surely it isn’t nest building time. There is always something going on here which catches me up in its mystery.

And, after sending a photo to our “fam chat” via text, husband says he put the branch there because Clementine had it and he was trying to keep it away from her. The sparrows must be trying to figure out what it’s doing there and are pulling at it. Sometimes the mysteries get solved quickly!

Clementine has become interested in pulling branches off the fig tree and blueberry bushes and bringing them inside to chew. Nothing interesting has fallen lately so she’s breaking them off herself!

This weekend the North Carolina Botanical Garden has their fall plant sale, and the first night is open to garden members only. I have my list written down - am getting some things to go in the new bed, a few things to fill in the existing beds, a few things to add to the still sparsely planted shade bed, and a few new things for Poplar Folly.

Thanks to the lack of rain my over-seeding pasture and putting in native seed mixes along the strip down our lane have had to be postponed - there is no way for me to water those areas and I’m going to have to wait for Mother Nature to get back in sync with me before sowing. However, the grass paddock, which was planted before this little drought, is doing quite well and recovering nicely. We’ll keep the equines off it well into fall.

A large section of stone over the stabilization grids has been put in outside the far barn door, creating a nice mud-free area and erosion control as well. I feel like someone should set up one of those monthly (or better, weekly) delivery things for various kinds of stone - I would sign on in a heartbeat! I need enough to complete a project that takes a day, and if it showed up each week it would all be done pretty quickly. But we’re moving along with it and plugging things in as best we can.

The animals are all doing well. I know every single one of them is going to be happy to get a break in the heat/insects as we cool down, when that finally happens. And I need things to cool down so they can be comfortably in the pastures during daytime hours when I have help to get the barn projects done.

However, all that said, when I sit down and just enjoy what already is, the to do list drops to the back burner and I know that what the list is, really, is the stuff of life, what fills the days with purpose, and the aim is not to finish the list but to treasure the doing of it.

It’s a quiet day and although it doesn’t quite feel like fall, it sure looks like it through the windows!

Friday, September 06, 2019

Weathering the storm

We had needed rain and minor winds from Hurricane Dorian here in central NC, but for whatever reason our power went out at 2 a.m. and we were without it until close to noon today. The power company did some needed trimming back of limbs along the lines, restored our service, and hopefully after a day of sawing and shredding we are now set for the rest of the hurricane season and beyond.

I had water in my storm jugs, tubs filled for flushing toilets, and while our hand pump for the well is not yet here, the knowledge that it’s on the way was a comfort. I filled troughs and water buckets at the barn and I have my water storage tank in the feed room as a back-up.

Meanwhile, there was a lot of porch sitting while monitoring the hurricane’s progress and today as we waited for power to come back. One of us made a very nice picture sitting in the porch chair.

I hope everyone is safe and would love especially to hear from Calm Forward Straight when she gets the chance! 

Monday, September 02, 2019

Remains of the day

A couple of nights ago I went on a later-than-usual romp with the Corgis and was reminded of what a lovely, sweet thing it is to experience the last bits of light and also the brightening of the light inside the house. For as long as I can remember, one of my favorite things to do is walk or drive in the evenings and see the lights on inside of homes; it represents for me the real meaning of the idea of home: a safe, warm place to be. Seeing glimpses of people moving about inside their houses has always felt like warmth, a hug, something safe and solid to hold on to.

So as I walked with the dogs I glanced back at the gate and loved its solid presence, then turned to the house and felt its warmth and love. I forget sometimes that November Hill is for me the culmination of a life-long dream. Living with family, horses, dogs, cats, wildlife, and the trees, gardens, insects. Whenever I saw warm lamplight in windows my mind careened forward to now, and in now’s moment I paused to say thank you to the universe and everything that has led to this home and this place.

We read about time travel and astral travel and all kinds of ways we go from one place in time to another. These moments when the past and the present curve together is the reality of those concepts, I think, especially if we stop and fully experience them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

November Hill farm journal, 83

The spotted horsemint, Monarda punctata, is in full, glorious bloom right now and it makes me happy every single time I look at it. The view yesterday:

The Arcadia hives are very busy right now, as the goldenrod is starting to come out and there are also a number of fall-blooming pollinators in our area. I enjoy the native bees too and it’s a busy time still in the garden beds.

We’re still cleaning up small branches and sticks from the deluge that happened a week ago, and have scheduled time to take down two very large dead trees, a red oak (it succumbed to a root ball fungus that I was told is rampant here now) and a tulip poplar that was taken out over the course of several years by my equine herd, who love to chew the bark in midwinter. We put a wrap around the trunk but it was too late to save it. I plan to put in some young tulip poplars to replace it, as it’s a majestic tree that provides shade and early nectar flow for bees. I may actually install fencing around these to keep the horses away!

We closed off most of the grass paddock so it can rest and recover. The first day the FOUR strands of Horseguard tape was up, two donkeys and a pony literally tore it down. One unfortunate fellow was caught in the act.

We purchased a new, stronger solar charger and the fence is back in place and certain marauders are being kept out. We overseeded and will let this area repair itself for the next few months.

I had the consult about stormwater management with native plantings and have a good plan for the strip of our farm that runs down the side of our lane. We’ll sow a mix of sun and shade native seed that includes wildflowers and grasses - no mowing needed, and all excellent forage for pollinators. Along with that we’ll put in native wild blueberry bushes every six feet or so. We’ll feed pollinators, the birds, and ourselves with those berries.

Down at our driveway where the water rushes through the culvert pipe we’ll be doing an area of live staking with elderberry, another native pollinator that will also give berries for wildlife and for us.

The two sections in the front pasture that need addressing will likely be fenced with wood to keep the equines out, in small oblong sections on each side where the stream bed is most in need of stabilizing.  We have a nice list of options for planting but I’ll be doing additional consults with some rain garden specialists to help with the geology of the areas.

Thankfully the local nursery we use can provide what we need for the strip very affordably and we’ll do that in early fall. The live stakes are done in December. The rain garden installations are going to be done in several phases after our gravel road repair is done.

In other news, I’ve been appointed to our county’s Food Council, and am excited about the opportunity to get involved with their work. And my daughter just won first and second prizes in a photography contest, the details of which can’t be shared yet, but I’m so proud of her. She’s a gifted young woman.

She and her service dog in training graduated from Basic Obedience class last night and are moving on to Canine Good Citizen in September.

They’re a super team and I’m happy to see them progressing together!

I’m very happy to be seeing signs of autumn all around. I’m so ready for this season to shift, though I’m enjoying the last month of summertime. It’s been hot and buggy and also beautiful, but I love the cycle of the seasons and fall is my most beloved.