Wednesday, May 23, 2012

home is where the heart is

Ever since the first day we drove into our driveway and saw the view above (without the fog though!), I have felt like November Hill, as we later named our little farm, is HOME.  As I just typed that line, movement outside my window pulled my attention to the front field and there was Keil Bay marching up the hill, followed by Apache Moon, followed by Cody. The three of them in a line, in full stride, at that moment, is the perfect example of why November Hill, on a daily basis, feels like a living, breathing presence in my life. The horses are the life's blood of November Hill. Things seem to connect here, and I feel like the entire farm is in sync with me.

Yesterday we woke up to Salina lying flat beneath the barn shelter, and it was obvious she had been struggling to get up. She was surrounded by her herd, who I think were protecting her at that point. She had created a sort of hole, in which she was tipped back a bit too far, and close enough to the wall of the barn that she couldn't roll over and get up the opposite way.

After a couple of tries to get her up we called the vet, who was contacting someone who has a small crane that can be used to help get a horse up. My husband decided to turn her to see if the change in angle might help.

Initially it didn't seem to. I wondered if we were looking at That Time. But then Redford brayed and Salina whinnied back, and her whinny was strong and clear and I felt like she just needed some help. I decided to go in the barn and start my normal morning routine - to do the things I do in the barn that one does in one's home. I turned on the fans, started gathering the feed tubs, and began to measure the various feedstuffs into the tubs.

Salina suddenly went into action and my brave husband stood behind her and supported her as she heaved up and got her footing. He continued supporting her until she was steady. And she walked through the open gate and into the barn aisle just like she does every morning. As smart as she is, she walked on through and into the barnyard, keeping moving, getting her legs back.

We did a few things we thought would help - had given her a dose of Banamine already, but offered her a handful of oats in water to get some fluid in, which she took. Then some wet hay. She ate a bit of that but preferred the grass in the barnyard, which was the right choice. She slowly walked around the entire perimeter of the barnyard, nibbling and stretching and moving.

Within a few minutes she had dropped manure, and within an hour, urinated. We slowly started seeing all the signs one wants to see after a horse has been down and is now back up again.

Throughout this ordeal, I was extremely stressed but mostly calm. What helps me in these moments is the sense of place that exists here, the feeling that the view of the farm, as above, represents not just a still photo of the place we sleep at night, but the face of a complex, living, breathing, full of life character who holds, as in the cupped palms of safe hands, all of us who live here.


Through the course of the year November Hill offers me many moments of discovery. On Monday I found an unfinished arrowhead in the dirt paddock. I suddenly felt a connection to someone who lived here many years ago, living a different kind of life but perhaps attached to the land and nature the same way I am.

Yesterday in the middle of the turmoil I looked up and saw a lone dove perched on the very top of the dead but still standing tulip poplar at the top of the front field. I had seen the dove on Monday when I found the arrowhead and wondered which one of the couple the dove was - male or female - and what had happened to the other one. It was a sad moment but then I wondered if it might be a young dove, not yet paired up, looking for his/her partner in life. An ending or a beginning - I had no way of knowing which.

When I saw the lone dove at the top of the tree, I immediately thought of Lonesome Dove, a favorite book, a saga, and somehow it felt comforting. We all live our own sagas. What was happening with Salina was one page in the bigger story, and that helped me know that we would get through it one way or another. An ending, or a beginning.

On my way to the feed store yesterday I felt some anxiety as I neared the end of our driveway. I didn't want to leave, but needed supplies. Just as I neared the road, a reddish-orange bird landed on the fence to my right. I slowed to get a closer look, thinking it was a cardinal, but it wasn't. It actually looked like a variation of a mini toucan. I've never seen such a bird before, but it felt special, like the bird had come from a distant land to give me a message. It felt hopeful, so I drove on.

I saw the bird again yesterday afternoon, in the back field, where it once again landed on the fence and watched me for a few moments before taking flight again.

The first day we visited November Hill and in fact made the offer to buy it, my children found an empty turtle shell in the back field. Last week I saw what is probably the grandchild of that turtle, making its way down to the fenceline, in no hurry at all. I picked it up and gazed into its copper eyes and the turtle gazed back. I put it down and off it went, continuing the journey.

It occurs to me that November Hill is a place, and our home, but it's also the home for many other creatures. We feel safe here and we all exist together, all on our separate, but interconnected, journeys.

Salina is the heartbeat of November Hill. She keeps her eye on everything, much like I do, and with the two of us we don't miss much around here.

I've been thinking of a blanket of warm healing energy surrounding her, and thinking of heart, and fire, and the heart of a home, and the hearth of a home.

And the photo my husband left on my desktop recently and how it represents all of that and so much more.

I was going to take a break from the internet after Memorial Day weekend. I tend to need a few hiatuses a year from the online world to get myself centered and grounded in the real world.

I'm going to start the time off today, with this post, and focus for awhile on the earth and fire, the water and the fog, and the life blood of my home - the horses and the donkeys and the teenagers and the cats and Corgis and a brave husband who is willing to stand behind a 1200+ pound mare and hold her up with all his might.

If anything too wonderful for words comes up, I'll pop back in and post, but for now, until later this summer, I'm going to be out at the barn, or writing, or spending time with this November Hill crew. Keep an eye out for new titles from November Hill Press. There are two very close to publication right now.

Travel well, stay safe, until the next post!


Just had to pop in and add that yesterday one of the signature November Hill box turtles was discovered trying to get into our garage door, parked there like a little car. Husband brought it up to show me and it was tight inside its shell, but I asked him to come out and he opened his shell the tiniest crack and let me see his eyes, then as I talked more, he came all the way out - head, then neck, finally legs fully extended and then he went into fast walk mode in my hands! We relocated him to the back field hoping he had relayed his message and was ready to get on with his regular turtle travels.

Salina is doing well - turning out with the geldings for several hours each evening before coming back to her paddocks with the donkeys for the rest of the nights. Scrapes are healing, swelling is gone, and we are getting ready to extend her grass paddock to allow more room to graze. For now I'm not comfortable with her having access to the barn shelter in the early mornings - fortunately we have a number of options to explore to find what works well for her.

Monday, May 21, 2012

couple of PSAs for horse folk: HA gel and sink holes

The first one I meant to post about previously but it keeps slipping my mind... for anyone who uses or wants to use HA (hylaronic acid) for your horse as a joint supplement but feel the products one can find are too expensive, here is a very cost effective way to add this to your horse's diet.

My understanding about HA is that it is best absorbed in gel form. I buy pure, human-grade HA powder from My Best Horse (click above tab to get more info on this super online shop for horse supplements) and make my own.

You'll need a 30cc dosing syringe. The instructions for mixing up a dose for a 1000 or so lb. horse are as follows:  mix 1/4 tsp (about 350mg) of the HA powder with 20cc of water in the dosing syringe. Shake, refrigerate, and shake a few more times over the next hour or so. You'll see this turns to a beautiful clear gel which is ready to squirt into the mouth of your horse. This amount is two doses - I give half to Salina and half to Keil Bay so we make up a new syringe each day for the two of them.

I gave Salina a double loading dose for the first 3 days with good results.

A wonderful benefit to doing this... I mix my powder and water in a little glass before pouring into the syringe - and when I'm done I swipe out what is in the glass and rub it into my hands and face. Works just like the expensive face creams that use HA as a main ingredient. :)


The second thing: this morning I was walking around the front field. I tend to be out and about in our fields regularly as we muck and compost our manure. I was actually this morning bemoaning the fact that I took a break yesterday and no one else pitched in. Okay... I admit, bemoaning is not quite the right word for what was going through my mind!

But then as I jammed the muck rake through a pile of manure, I saw the giant, just bigger than hoof sized, knee-deep sink hole. It was one of those holes that you just almost have to sit down and catch your breath when you see one in your field. Did they see it and walk around it? Were equine angels taking care of them?

I don't know, but I am completely grateful that none of this herd managed to run through that area and hit that hole. It makes me shudder even now to think about it.

I collect any rocks I find in the fields and stack them by fence posts and by the bottoms of our trees. Sometimes they get pushed back out into the field area by busybody equines, sometimes we get a huge deluge of rain and they wash back out a bit, but it only takes a few minutes to stack them back and on a day like today, when there was a big, deep hole that needed to be addressed immediately, all I had to do was walk a few feet in any direction and find one of my rock stashes to fill it.

There are days when I wish for barn help, other days when I wish for the pasture equivalent of a RoomBa, days when I think I have just gone over the top thinking I can compost every piece of manure that falls on this farm. But when I see one of these holes I realize how good an idea it is to get out and walk the areas our horses live in. There are all sorts of things that can be noted and repaired while doing so, and the likelihood that anyone else would be so attentive... I'm not sure I could find anyone quite as OCD as I am about watching for these things!

Rafer and Redford - Donkeys Extraordinaire

Rafer Johnson and Redford started out 2012 as puffballs.

Rafer Johnson battled white line disease in both front hooves and won - thanks to a wonderful new trimmer his hooves have now grown out completely healthy again, and he is running around like his regular self.

When she was here last week he lined up to get his feet trimmed first just like always, which made me happy. His trust is something to treasure and maintain, and she has done that with him. He knows who helped him feel better!

Here he is more recently, without some of that winter coat:

And here is Redford donkey, who as you can see, has fully recovered from the slightly nightmare gelding experience and is back to his full of life, full of laughter self.

It's just one hilarious moment after another here on November Hill:

Friday, May 18, 2012

it's a Keil Bay day!

It's a Keil Bay day... it's a Keil Bay day-hay-hay-hay... it's Keil's day, he has it his way, it's Keil's day...

Insert musical notes above. This is one of the many nonsensical songs I sing to the Big Bay, and this morning when I woke up I knew in fact that it WAS going to be a Keil Bay day - just me and Keil doing what we wanted to do, with no time frame, no goals, just playing the song and the time by ear.

It's been awhile since I posted photos, so here are a few from this year. The first one is me and Keil Bay, all bundled up on a chilly winter afternoon, getting ready for a ride:

And eating hay:

Surveying his November Hill:

With his best buddy Cody:

This morning after breakfast I did a long grooming session while the Big Bay had his hay from the hay-barrow in the barn aisle. He had asked pretty loudly for some hay as daughter was serving it out, so I asked her to bring the hay-barrow right to him so he could eat while I worked on him. I brushed him from head to tail three times: first with hard brush and curry, then with medium brush and rubber mitt, and finally with a soft brush.

I did a tick check, brushed and combed out his mane and tail, and then trimmed his tail - it was nearly dragging the ground.

The Big Bay indicated that it was time for a sheath cleaning, so I used my fabulous electric kettle to heat up some water, made a bucket of warm water using that and some cold from the tap, and got out the ExCalibur.

After that I cleaned Keil's hooves out and dusted them with my own mix that approximates the ingredients of the product called No Thrush - we have used that over the past year or so and I like it, but it's terribly expensive, imo, so I made my own. I did substitute one major ingredient for one of theirs, based on what I know about antibacterial herbs. My version is vastly less in cost and it works great.

After all this leisurely grooming, I moved Keil to a dryer spot in the barn aisle and tacked him up. He was clearly ready for it - at one point the donkey boys had come into the barn aisle and pulled Keil's lead line out of its loop of twine - and he turned to the tack room and just waited for me, watching for me to bring out his saddle pad, the first step in tacking up.

With this too I went slowly - stopping at each step to watch and make sure he was still in agreement. I did the girth up one notch at a time, using the minutes in between to do another little task. When he was all set, we headed to the arena only to realize that I had forgotten my stirrups AND my riding boots, so back we went to the barn for those items. Keil stood quietly while I slid the leathers on to his saddle and got my boots on.

It's a gorgeous day today - pretty much perfect temp, with a cool breeze to keep the flies away. We did walking only. After a bit of warm up, and then a bit of me focusing hard (too hard) on every little detail of the ride, I decided to do one of my "what the hell" days and just forget all about dressage and all about riding lessons and theory and just sit on Keil Bay's magnificent back and let my body go to its own "happy place."

I looked down at Keil's mane as I reached forward to give him a big pat - and woohoo - there was a silver corkscrew "wild hair"!  They're coming out all over the place here on November Hill and we treasure each one and love what they represent for our aging, wiser, selves. :)

Lo and behold, everything got better. Things had been good before, but suddenly there was an ease of movement in both of us. We rode around in Keil Bay's huge rhythmic walk stride and as far as I was concerned in that moment we were just traveling together through the world.

There's a time and a place for goals and focus and all the things we think about when we try to do the right things in our riding. There's also a time and a place to let go of all that and just enjoy the moment. Sometimes I get too caught up in what I'm doing, if and how Keil Bay is doing what I'm asking, and I get very stuck in thinking I have the ability to control/cue things perfectly. I don't, and even if I did, I'm not the kind of rider who expects a horse to respond like a trained monkey. (I wouldn't even expect a MONKEY to respond like a trained monkey!)

For me, riding is always going to be a conversation, and I'm always going to allow the horse to have an opinion and some say about what happens in the process.

It almost always happens that when I let go of trying to do something very specific while riding, the good stuff happens on its own. So I let go, and did the Sally Swift soft eye thing, and just let my body sit in the saddle the way it felt most comfortable, and let Keil Bay take care of his own self and walk his normal walk, which is beautiful and bold and panther-like, and you know what? He was just born with that walk. No one has trained him to do it, and I don't have to do everything an exact way to get him to do it.

We had a lot of lovely, aimless, walking once I gave up on my overthinking. I gave up thinking at all.

After the ride, Keil Bay got two big handfuls of oats and stood completely connected to me while I untacked him, and even after I was done brushing him down again, he stood and kept me company in the door of the tack room while I oiled his saddle and bridle, my riding boots, and tidied things up a bit in there. This took at least half an hour, and the Big Bay stood relaxed, his big head and neck inside the tack room, calmly watching me and simply being there with me.

I had to convince him that it was okay to go in the open stall next door to have some hay and enjoy the fans.

He eventually ended up in the stall eating hay, with everyone in different stalls today - the pony right beside Keil Bay, Cody across the barn aisle in his own stall, and Salina and the donkey boys taking up two stalls that were open to the back paddock.

As I gathered my things to come inside, Keil walked out with me into the big barnyard, and then he went back and stood by Cody's stall door. So I opened it up - and after one last pat, Keil Bay and Cody walked off into the barnyard together, to graze.

It's a Keil Bay day - and when I let things go his way, when I listen to him and follow his lead, he never steers us wrong.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Corgi Fun

If the felines of November Hill are featured then you know what has to come next - Corgis!

We have 12-year old Kyra and almost-2-year old Bear. Bear came to live with us as a puppy, about nine months after we said goodbye to Kyra's litter mate brother Chase, who died of a cancerous tumor.

Chase was a loyal, sweet boy who loved to play fetch. Kyra had never lived without him, and she grieved for several months after his death. She also developed a severe skin allergy that took a lot of effort to figure out - and I feel certain part of it was her sadness over losing her constant companion.

The day Bear came home to November Hill, I took the crate he was in and set it down in front of Kyra. She needed to meet him first and I held my breath hoping that it would be a good thing that we had brought home a puppy. She took one sniff and her entire Corgi butt began to wag. Bear has been the best thing ever for Kyra - in a few minute's time she got her spirit back, and her spunk and the two of them have been best buddies ever since.

Bear was and is smart enough to know that Kyra is the Queen, but he was and is spunky enough to test her just the right amount to keep her on her toes.

Here they are doing yoga together:

And playing Corgi tag:

It's hard to believe that that cute little puppy is now all grown up:

The thing about Bear Corgi is that he is EVERYwhere:

Doing EVERYthing:

He's always coming to see what's going on:

Or digging someplace he's not supposed to be:

 Which is probably why he almost always has a slightly guilty expression on his face.

Kyra says there are more pictures of the Wild Nosy Banshee because she is a Corgi Who Minds Her Own Business.

But those who live with her know that she gets involved in EVERY conversation that goes on between Bear and the Five Aforementioned Felines.

There are good reasons behind the nicknames Ka-bear and Kyra Crotchet. :)

UVA Torturing Cats to Train Medical Students

I opened my email just now to find this:

You can cut/paste or just CLICK HERE to sign this petition.

Once again I am mortified and ashamed about what humans think is okay to do in the name of science.

This has pushed me over the edge this afternoon - I just cannot believe this.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

the November Hill Pride

Husband left a huge folder of photographs on my desktop earlier this evening and suddenly I have a treasure chest to explore!

Here are some updated photos of some of the November Hill crew that are not equine - although Dickens E. Wickens was surely a horse in a previous life.

Here's Osage, aka Muffine Eloise, resident princess:

She knows how to live the life of feline leisure, venturing out to the back deck to take a bit of sun before napping:

Here is Dickens E. Wickens, resident cowboy. He patrols the fence lines, herds horses and donkeys, does a little bit of equine training on the side, sits by campfires and thinks about women and glasses of beer, and takes care of the day to day running of the farm. He was convinced to pose for this somewhat formal portrait:

Here he is in a more normal pose - stretching on one of his favorite look-outs - on the side of the horse trailer in the big barnyard:

And here we have the handsome, mysterious, stealth-cat, Mystic:

 His domain tends to be the front porch, the front field and the driveway, and my daughter's room. He finds all kinds of sneaky ways to get in, which he has to do because of a certain Bear Corgi who can't resist chasing a cat that runs. And Mystic almost ALWAYS runs!

This is Apollo Moon, most affectionately known as Moomintroll. He has had a rough year but was just diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and is on a month-long homeopathic treatment. We'll recheck bloodwork and see if it's helped. If not, we'll proceed with the medication usually given to cats to help with this issue. Moomin sleeps by my head nearly every night. He snuggles up on my shoulder while I read and purrs in my ear. We don't know exactly how old he is because he arrived one day at the barn as thin as a rail and has been here ever since. We think he is somewhere in the 15-17 year old range. He's polydactyl, has no front claws, and packs a powerful smack with his big mittens. He's a sweetheart with spunk.

 Moomin goes on the front porch periodically and occasionally goes out into the front or back yard. Once in a very blue moon he goes out to the barn - but from the moment he arrived here he wanted to come into the house and that is where he mostly stays. Speaking of moons - he has a perfect white moon on his belly that makes rare appearances when he stretches out and lets his belly show - hence his name, Apollo Moon. Here he is on his favorite chair. He is often draped across my husband's chest as he sits here working on his laptop.

And finally, our black cat Keats, aka Weets-Anne.  She is a huntress and very sweet. She is also HUGE and could possibly stand a few weeks in a kit-meow weight-loss spa. She can be found anywhere on November Hill, although occasionally she gets chased by her brother Dickens who has been known to make both his sisters scream.

Keats in the arena, where she sometimes visits and watches the action:

And that's it! All the fabulous felines who keep us company here on the hill.

Monday, May 14, 2012

living with seniors: tight hips and ticks (and today a great ride)

Keil Bay and I got back into a morning ride routine last week and on Friday I was dealing with a tight left hip that he helped me straighten out by the end of our ride. It was enlightening to feel how his walk opened up and extended as my hip muscles began to release.

The start of the ride though was not a pretty sight - I had put my old stirrup leathers on thinking (correctly) that the length of the new ones would be too long for my tight hips. Turned out even the old ones needed shortening and my left hip was so tight I was nervous about adjusting from the saddle. Nor did I want to dismount so I begged dear daughter to get off Cody and come to my rescue. She did, and as the ride proceeded with shorter stirrups, the motion in the walk slowly worked the tension out of my lower body.

Thank you, Keil Bay!  (and dear daughter!)

On Saturday as I went into Keil's stall to get him out for grooming, he turned his rear to me. I don't remember him ever doing that, and although it was not a mean-spirited turning away, it did seem to say very clearly "no."

I walked to the door of his stall and waited to see if he would come join me. He didn't, but when I turned to look at him again, he had turned his head and neck to me and I went to meet him. He put his head in the halter, and we went into the barn aisle where he immediately seemed to stretch his hind legs out as though he needed to go to the bathroom. I groomed for a few minutes and watched him and he seemed a little antsy - so I put him back in the stall to see if he needed to go. He'd eaten half his breakfast - I'd reserved the other half for after our ride - and often he does go either right before or right after - but this time he didn't. I waited and did a few tack room chores and when he didn't use the bathroom I brought him back out again.

He stood more normally but there still seemed to be something wrong. I continued grooming and then found the culprit - a tick dug in deep way up in his groin. He stretched his legs out so I could remove the tick. Aha - that's what that was about!

I decided though that there was still something not quite right and I wanted to let him know that I was not only noticing but listening to what he was saying to me. After a thorough grooming and a very complete tick check, we went in the arena on halter and lead line and just walked together.

I expected sluggishness but Keil Bay was alert and attuned to my movement. We walked and walked and turned and walked some more. He was overtracking immediately, which was good. At one point I walked with very big steps and he offered a nice collected trot, so we alternated some walking and big trotting and he was great. No head bobbing, and a nice even stride.

We backed, we did turns on the forehand and haunches, and we did some poll flexions and neck stretches. All looked good.

I spent a lot of time just listening to his footfalls beside me. The rhythm was good, everything sounded balanced and rhythmic.

I'm not sure what the message in the stall was about - except that it was later in the morning than I had meant to ride, and the sun was fully in the arena, and I do know that Keil prefers a much earlier ride time - so perhaps he was stating his displeasure in my taking too long to get to the barn.

However - my body got a work-out as we walked and trotted, I was able to ensure that he was moving normally, and to be honest, it was nice to be "with" him with his eye just beside mine, and his head at my shoulder. Our connection was strong and maybe that's exactly what we needed.

This morning, the sun is out and it's raining at the same time. My grandma used to say that meant the devil was having a fight with his wife. I'm taking it to mean the weather is trying to appease me - we had a big rain last night and I really want things to dry out a bit before we get more!

PM addendum: I went out to get Keil Bay today for a ride and was very curious as to what he might say to me. He turned his head, then literally backed himself across the barnyard to put his head in the halter.

I put my stirrups up one notch and our ride went very well. He was alert and moving in big beautiful strides right from the start. We had some torquing at one specific corner that I figured out was me doing a funky thing with my shoulder. Later today at the chiropractor I discovered my sacrum was rotated, which I suspected. No wonder Keil Bay has not wanted to carry me around. Talk about crooked!

Anyway, this morning we did get some very nice trot work in and rode on through some rainfall. The trotting felt great to my back and my hips, and by the end of the ride my legs had stretched out nicely.
Keil Bay was happy as could be and so proud and nonchalant about his work. Love this horse, as if anyone doesn't know that by now!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Coming soon from November Hill Press!

 My newest book! 

I love the cover - the King of Zen himself in what I call the Tree of Life Bay photo, taken by dear husband who has done so many gorgeous portraits of Keil. 

What you don't see are that his hooves send down roots to the center of the earth, grounding me, and his energy soars right up to the sky and takes mine with it.

Which is what this book is all about!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

a little sprucing up in the barn

Now that I'm out at the barn in the earlier hours of the day, before the heat really sets in, I've had renewed energy to do some cleaning chores beyond the basic daily routine.

This week I'm wiping down the wire stall dividers one a day. I may be crazy, but in the earlier morning hours, mug of coffee in hand, it is easier for me to look at these chores and get excited about doing them. I have a cobalt blue bucket that I use for this kind of thing. I squirt in some Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap, spray in some water, get a clean rag and my stepladder, and away I go. It's been good to stop before I get too tired to enjoy the result - no webs, no dust, tidy and clean. Even when the spiders re-build overnight, they'll never catch up to where they were because in 6 days I'll be back around to that one to clean it off again!

Today I did my one wipe-down and was so enthused I went on to do a little tack room cleaning. I took off all the saddle covers and while they were in the washing machine, I wiped down saddles, replaced the changeable gullet in the Wintec dressage saddle with Cody's XW, put the sheepskin cover on to give it a slightly cushier ride, and dusted down the wall behind the saddle racks.

I wiped down the whip rack and dusted the whips.

I washed the lids of a couple of bins so they would be white again.

Daughter picked up a saddle pad on the rack to tack up Cody and a mouse ran out! This gave me the energy to get all the saddle pads in for washing and to re-organize things a bit so we won't be providing easy housing for rodents. (reminder to Dickens E. Wickens: you might be carrying the lounging cowboy thing too far! get in the barn and help us out!)

By the time I'd done all this, Keil Bay was ready for breakfast. After he ate, I brought him into the barn aisle for grooming and put his clean Summer Whinnies back on. Easy as pie with a plastic bag on the hoof so the socks slide right on. And Keil Bay knows exactly what to do - he holds his hooves up and pushes slightly away from the socks to help me get them on quick and easy.

I have to say, watching him walk out of the barn with those four white socks made my morning. Daughter has given him a new name.

Mr. Fancy Pants.


Sunday, May 06, 2012

two new hanoverians on november hill!

Sorry - I could not resist that title!

The two new Hanoverians are Keil Bay and Salina but wearing their bright white summer whinnies really does make it look like we have new horses out there. Four white stockings each adds some flash and of course the real purpose for the whinnies is that they are super at keeping flies off the legs.

I went into full scale battle this weekend, hanging more sticky strips, putting out a trap with attractant, and also gratefully getting the latest batch of fly predators in the mail. This is when I wish I could hire a huge crew of frogs to come in and feast for a long weekend, effectively wiping out the entire adult fly population on November Hill. I would pay them well!

We had a huge rain yesterday afternoon and things cooled down quite a bit. This was writing weekend, so I've been editing like crazy and enjoying the company of D. It was an all-writing, no-marketing weekend and just what we both needed right now. Sitting on the front porch while the rain pelted down was like a tonic - and this morning we had gray skies and a nice cool breeze which extended the effects of the rain and cooling trend.

I was thinking tonight that I might get my version of the geldings' "sport cut."  I'm feeling like short hair, at least for a season, might be a good thing. More on that if I actually go through with it!

I was going to say that I hope all are staying cool - but all are not yet dealing with the heat ... so ... hope all are happy, healthy, and enjoying May.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

another week on November Hill

Last weekend we finished the last of the April birthday celebrations - April is our biggest birthday month here, and we have ages ranging from pre-teen to forty-something as a result! Lots of good food and green grass has been consumed.

I started this week with an early morning chiro and massage appointment - a rarity as I almost never schedule anything in the mornings that requires me to leave the farm. It's just too hard to get out of the driveway before afternoon. But this was all the massage therapist had so I took it, and once I got in the car and set out, I enjoyed being out in the world and on my way to something useful and nice all at the same time.

I've been struggling with changing my daily routine around, and this early appointment helped kick-start that process a bit.

On Tuesday Moomintroll (fanciful polydactyl feline) went to the vet and we discovered he is suffering from hyperthyroidism. We're relieved to know what's going on (ravenous appetite, weight loss) and will be starting treatment soon.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I did my last day of barn chores in the mid-day time slot. At two p.m. I was in the bottom of the front field, it was 90 degrees out, and I had a moment where I wondered if I could even make it up the hill to walk through the barn aisle and into the house.

Today I started the summer season routine: get up an hour earlier, get dressed, and have coffee in the barn. I did barn chores with the herd around me in the still shady barnyard. By the time the heat set in they had eaten, were munching hay in clean stalls they picked for themselves, with fans on, clean water in their buckets, and doors open so they could find the cool spots as the day progressed.

I've been hanging water bags in the barn openings this week, an experiment to see if they help with barn flies, which we seem to have more of than usual. I have double+ the amount of fly predators coming every three weeks and although we don't have the black clouds of flies I've seen in some barns by any means, we have more than our usual share.

I'm not sure yet if the bags are helping - of course I muddied the water by hanging sticky strips up too! But I did get lots of assistance as I perched precariously on the stepladder with string and bag and the need to hold on to something and only two hands. The handsome and helpful Cody came and stood by me so I could feel his neck against my hip. He helpfully nudged each bag to make sure it was secure after I hung it. And he gave his seal of approval to all so that no one seemed the least bit concerned by bags of water hanging every foot or so along the back shelter.

I was in by noon today, feeling quite chipper and eager to get the a.m. riding piece in place so I can start the day with one of my favorite things. 

Which brings me to this question: has anyone used the Cool Medic vests? I'm thinking about getting one and would love to know if they stay cool - as opposed to feeling warm and soggy after the first few minutes. If you know, please share!

how not to ride: Matthias Rath on Totilas