Friday, May 26, 2023

Stay At Home Writing Retreat

 I’ve had a great week of writing and digging in a little to a pandemic embroidery purchasing spree project. The hours in the garret doing creative work are great to balance out the psychotherapy work I do there (which is also creative, honestly), and last evening it was very cool, the wind was blowing, and there were many moments when it sounded like ocean surf outside. 

We all need this kind of time and I encourage people to take it, whether it is a week, a day, an afternoon, or even 15 minutes. Self care and creative time are things we need to flourish.

At the beginning of my week I pulled out printed copies of my TV/film projects - turns out I have 10, which is exciting. Of the 10, and nearing the end of my week,  I have 4 3/4 completed scripts and two pitch decks mostly done. While I’ve been focusing on writing for the screen this week I also noted that I have 6 novel mss that I have not done anything with in terms of getting them out into the world. I’ve been focusing a lot on short work the past few years and I’m not switching from one to the other, but I think it’s good to take inventory of my longer form material and bring one project at a time forward to get it fully finished and out the door. 

The projects:

The needle book project, perfect to practice different stitches and manageable enough to make good progress. Since the photo I have embellished the flowers quite a bit and will soon work on stems before continuing with the “book” structure. Please do not ask me how many kits I have stashed! 

When I go into something, I tend to go all the way, and without ever having done a single stitch, I purchased this magnifying lighted lamp thing that was “highly recommended.” And I can add my endorsement. It swivels to whatever position I need while I’m sitting comfortably in my chair and it takes the aging near-sighted woman to perfect vision land again. 

It’s nice to be learning a new thing and I’m really happy to have found the time this week to jump in the embroidery/stitching pool. If in doubt, there are wonderful YouTube videos on how to do the stitches. 

Today I’m spending time with my grandson and again tomorrow morning - tonight and tomorrow afternoon and on through Sunday I’ll be back to retreat time. Monday is back to client work and a very full schedule. For which I’ll be fresh and rejuvenated. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 183

 A few more photos from the farm this week. With everything blooming and growing, I can hardly keep up!

The volunteer elderberries, a wonderful native, have gone mad this year. This one has taken root in the compost behind the fallen tree that helps with run off after big rainfalls. I haven’t done a thing to this beauty. 

This one is in the middle of the upper pasture and the photo doesn’t capture how big it actually is. It looms above my head and you could easily climb inside and have room for several people to sit and talk. The birds love these shrubs.

This one has grown around the stump to an old oak that Salina became obsessed with - she chewed its bark and encouraged the rest of the herd to join her. They girdled it and it died. Since then we have wrapped the trees they have shown interest in chewing but I love that the elderberry chose this place to grow.

This is what I call the bluebird bed, due to the bluebird box that enjoys its proximity. I planted it here mostly because this corner is where an underground drain pipe comes out and the bed helps absorb the run off above ground on this slope. It’s a cheerful bed and I have some ideas about using the stone from the walkway to make it a little more visually interesting. 

The butterfly weed is looking really good this spring. I’m very happy to see it and am patiently waiting for the Monarchs to come. 

Many milkweed plants have popped up this year and this one is positioned by another patch of butterfly weed. I love these colors together - they’ll be even more striking when in full bloom. 

The first aster of the year blooms!

I love the purpling of the wild Columbine leaves, and find the layers of pale green to purple to tan so comforting to look at. I could see a sweater with these colors. If I ever manage my knitting goal, I will make one! 

The gardens are full of color combinations that make me want to take some courses in botanical illustration. 

This week I’m doing a stay at home writing retreat and spent many happy hours yesterday in my garret working on screenplay projects. What a joy to have that work punctuated by walks out to the horses, donkeys, pony, bees, and gardens. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 182

 I’ve taken a week off that started Thursday (my weekend is Thursday-Sunday) and runs until next Monday, so really 10 days total. So far I have just relaxed into the usual November Hill routine and we had a quiet, rainy day yesterday that was good for the earth and also good in its muted light because the weather shift triggered migraine symptoms. I will say that migraine on a quiet, rainy day with horses is better than a lot of other kinds of days in general, so I am not complaining. 

I have had a chance the past few days to get out and take a look at the farm. 

Some work needed to be done on this pollinator bed and since taking the photo, I cut back the goldenrod in the lower bed so the downy wood mint is more prominent, and my farm helper has removed the butterfly bush in the upper left bed. This is the last non-native that is in this bed and it definitely looks empty in that corner without it. Okay, I do have a cherry tree in the bed that isn’t native, but I’m excluding fruit trees I’ve planted! We have left the roots intact until I figure out what to plant there. Next I need to remove a lot of the goldenrod in the upper bed - possibly all of them - as this species is aggressive and best suited to its own larger space where the spread is a good thing. The plant itself is wonderful fall forage for pollinators and gorgeous too, so my removal of it from this small space isn’t a judgement on the plant but a correction of my own planting error. 

This is a view of the other side of the driveway. I’m pretty happy with this bed overall, and with the strip on the other side of the walkway I worked on last year. Everything seems happy and the only big things to do are transplant the non-native daffodils to an area I’m allowing them to be, on either side of the barnyard gate. They are cheerful in spring and frame that gateway so nicely. 

I love all the plants in these two beds, but I will say that if you want to plant one thing for a big pollinator draw, the button bush, which in this bed looks like a small tree, is amazing. It has grown quickly and easily and when it blooms, it will be a magnet for bees and butterflies and moths and all kinds of pollinator insects. 

Moving to Poplar Folly, I am mightily impressed this year with the elderberries we planted in live stake form a couple of years ago. This group is in shade during spring/summer/fall and while they are not blooming as well as those that volunteered in the full sun of the front pasture, they are doing well and also doing a terrific job of slowing and absorbing rainwater run off on this back slope. The benefit of live stakes is their very inexpensive cost (so you can get a lot of them for almost nothing) and because planting them in that form in the fall of the year means they will put all their energy into root systems, which gives you immediate assistance in controlling run off and erosion. 

Over the fence looking at Arcadia, the apiary area, I became enchanted with the patterns the un-mown grass made after all the rain. It’s hard to see with all the green, but in the foreground is one of the inkberry hollies I planted several years back. They have done very well and are getting tall enough to offer some screening back there, as well as being great pollinator plants and also wildlife and bird forage with their inky black berries.

More of the grassy swirl and one of my bee hives that I’d cleaned out after its colony died out last winter. My plan was to put this hive box on top of Artemis colony as a super, but it was quickly moved into by a swarm and we’ll see if they can build up enough before next winter to make it through.

Yesterday I was leaning in to see this interesting “coiled stem” when I realized it was not a plant stem but a very elegant and lovely snake. Such a beautiful coloring and obviously well camouflaged.

A longer view of the apiary area. This year we have had an influx of volunteer buckeyes in Poplar Folly and Arcadia. I will leave some of them and remove some, as there are too many in close quarters. 

Back to the front with a long view of the walkway. I am going to remove the stones and use them to create some interesting groupings in several beds, and see if I can find rectangular gray stone to make a more uniform and safe walkway that is less work to maintain. 

It’s hard to see here but I have put in woodland phlox and foamflower into an empty spot on the right. The tiny woodland phlox plants I put in last year didn’t make it so this time I got larger, hardier plants and am hoping they’ll thrive.

There’s so much milkweed and butterfly weed coming in this year! I’m hoping we get a bumper crop of monarchs. 

The two possum haws I planted several years ago have really grown into lovely shrubs along the barnyard fence. 

They too are good native pollinators and the flowers are quite lovely. As the summer shifts to fall, the leaves will turn a brilliant red, so these have many season interest value. 

It’s been a treat to have time to be among the plantings here on November Hill, and in some ways sad, because we are starting to look for a new farm closer to the university where my daughter will start her PhD work in the fall, with our goal being to find a larger farm, reduce her commute time, and avoid the development that is beginning to gain momentum on this side of the county where we live. We aren’t in a big rush, and have time to look for just the right place, but every day when I notice a certain plant thriving or the goldfinches flying, or any of the many joys this farm brings me, I feel sad. 

Change is hard, and we will have a fair amount coming up with this plan to move, but there will be new adventures to be had. November Hill has been a joy and a labor of love, and we’ll leave it much better than we found it, though it was lovely from the very first day we set foot here. 

Thankfully we will not be listing it while we’re here, so I’ll continue enjoying it and tending it and improving it until the day we hand over the keys and the stewardship responsibilities to the next people who I trust will find it every bit as amazing as we do. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Moving On

 Yesterday went well for the Big Handsome Bay so last night I decided to let him turn out with his herd for the first time since last Sunday. We did not put any hay out but let them all graze, as he’s been getting grazing time all week and doing well with it. 

He was happy this morning but also hungry, and dear husband said he took a lead rope off its hook from instead his stall and tossed it into the barn aisle while waiting for his morning tub. 

When I went out to feed breakfast tubs to him and to everyone else, he took his halter off its hook and spun it around and around in the air building momentum and then let it fly. I’ve seen him do this before but it’s been awhile! I tried to get some video footage of him but he decided once was enough, I guess. 

I’m not sure the video has loaded properly, but I gave it a shot!

Trying to move on but also still monitoring his intake and output, and of course stressing any time frame without manure, which is not altogether reasonable. 

He’s happy for now and we’ll see how things go.