Tuesday, August 30, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 17

This morning I spent an hour in the barn with a pocket full of peppermints, a medium-bristled grooming brush, and five handsome equines. 

They were in from night-time turnout, munching hay with the fans blowing. Apache Moon the painted pony and and his best friend and miniature donkey Rafer Johnson had two stalls on the far side of the barn but they were side by side with noses in the manger in one stall, sharing their hay. 

Keil Bay the big Hanoverian and Cody the big Quarter Horse were playing musical stalls between the three open to them, sometimes in one together, other times splitting up, sauntering the barn aisle, and little Redford donkey wandered in and out between them, happy to be with the big boys.

There was a little uproar as peppermints were unwrapped, but once they knew my pockets were empty they returned to eating.

I'm not sure there is anything better than being in the barn with busy munching horses and donkeys and pony. They were all fairly clean but appreciated the brushing. Summer coats are shedding and winter coats are growing in. I'm happy to see it. And to feel it, the cushiony thickness that wasn't there a couple of weeks ago. 

Keil Bay has not gotten enough attention lately and when I put the brush away and headed back to the house he followed me all the way to the gate, standing there waiting, as we have let them in to the back yard many times before but can't now because of the cat fencing. It was hard to leave him there, looking over the fence at me. 

Cool weather is coming, Big Bay, and when it does we'll have a ride. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Back to travelogue, the road to Santa Barbara

From Santa Cruz we headed down the Pacific Highway to Santa Barbara. I got a scant few photographs of this lovely drive, but you get the sense of it from the few I took.

Eventually we turned slightly inland and were able to see the many fruit and vegetable farms that in some cases lie very close to the sea. We drove through orange and lemon and grapefruit groves as well. It's amazing how much food is grown in this area.

We had a date with an Apple MacBook Pro in Santa Barbara and I took this shot to remind me where I'd parked. I felt like my brain was in lockdown by that time! It was a long day.

Finally a cocktail when we got to the hotel. 

We were happy to be in Santa Barbara and ready to explore the campus the next day. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

When your day off is busier than the days "on"

It's been a busy week and I've been looking forward to today, Friday, because it was the one day on which I had nothing scheduled. A treasure of a day, right here on November Hill.

So I woke up and had coffee and worked on painting porch screens (finally, a dry stretch of days!) even though it was 96 out and I was dripping with sweat. Then I went out and gave Keil Bay his lunch tub and did some mucking and scrubbed troughs and water buckets and made sure all the waters were fresh and clean and cool straight from the well. Keil and Cody really only needed hosing but I decided to give them baths since it was so hot. 

Back inside, showered, ate lunch, and round two on the front porch. Scraped and sanded and then painted the porch rail so the newly-painted screen can go back later tonight.

I'm not sure how my day off has gone by so quickly! 

I need another one so I can get on to the next section of porch. I am hoping to finish this weekend before the rain comes back but we'll see.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Whirling dervish trip to Asheville

Dear son is back from UCLA and his summer research and beginning his senior year of college today. I'm stopping by my favorite coffee shop before heading home to November Hill.

Feeling a mother's relief that he's back in driving range and the back to school stuff is now complete. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Listen to Janna Levin tell her story, Life On A Möbius Strip

It's also included in The Moth's print anthology of true stories. I want to read them all, but I promise you, this one is amazing. 


November Hill farm journal, 16

The air was cool this morning, in a sharpish way that speaks of autumn, and when Redford donkey came up to get a good scratch my fingers dug in deep to new winter fur already starting to grow in.

A few leaves are beginning to fall, early birds for what is still to come. 

The arena needs harrowing and I'm reminded that soon the weeds growing there will die back and the chores to keep the arena tidy will shift to acorn raking and then leaf removal.

We are in a week where the heat recedes and weather is clear, a good time for catching up on weed-eating and mucking fields and getting on with projects that require dry weather. 

The horses seem in good spirits. They know the season of sweat and flies is nearing its end. We'll all be happy to move into fall. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A call to slow down

This morning I read something that said the natural gait of a human walking clocks in at about 3 mph, and that the human thought process is in some way linked to this speed. Imagine what we're doing to ourselves as we race around: speed walking, running, driving, rushing.

What would happen if we all slowed down whether it be on foot or in a vehicle?

When we slow down we see things, like this, last weekend in Cades Cove. It took my breath away. It fed my soul. It is fueling my spirit a week later.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Elkmont, revisited: a tale of history and ruin

Last weekend I was able to revisit another of my favorite places, Elkmont, in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Elkmont was a resort town way back and the vacation cabins sit empty there still. Over the years since I first discovered this treasure spot, the Wonderland Hotel burned two times and was finally torn down. The remaining outbuilding was also finally torn down, and this trip was the first time I've been since. It was sad to see the hill where these majestic old buildings sat. The entire area feels empty of their memories.

I also love the old vacation cabins and have taken many photographs of them over the years. This visit I was very disheartened to see a number of them in total shambles. They likely won't be there by the time I get back to Elkmont. 

One of the cabins was such a magical place it figures in and forms, as does Elkmont, a central theme in my Claire Quartet novels. Elkmont represents the dream of what could have been for Bingham Wade, and later on, the place where the dream is realized, though differently than he envisioned it.

This cabin is sadly nearly gone at this point. Since my last visit the roof has fallen in along with several main walls. It was sad to see it but no matter how tattered it is, it still holds magic for me, as does Elkmont as a whole. If you ever end up in the park, make the time to go to Elkmont and walk through all the sections. What I show here is only a small portion of what's there. I've seen nothing else like it, even now that it's really starting to deteriorate.

The front door and porch to my favorite cabin are completely gone now, but the gorgeous stone fireplace still remains inside.

Another view.

The back of the cabin is more intact, and shows what the entire cabin looked like only a few years ago. When I first saw this cabin it was in good enough condition to be restored. This looks back to the Little River that runs behind this particular row of cabins.

And here is the little back area that Bingham imagines taking Claire to. It was in much better condition but although it's run down now it still feels magical to me. The foliage front and center is new - last time I was here the view to the rushing water was clear. 

The view from the other side shows just how much has fallen in.

It really breaks my heart that there hasn't been funding to restore these little gems and preserve this amazing glimpse into the past.

The most intact side:

Next door is another cabin. The path between the cabins still remains - it's clear the people who lived in them visited back and forth regularly. This one too is succumbing to the elements and time and neglect. The front side is the most intact.

I was shocked to walk around to the side and see this:

This room was very compelling. Something about the light and the way it's decaying kept me there for a long time.

I kept taking photos. Almost as if by documenting the state of ruin I could halt it. This looks to the other side of the cabin.

When I got to the back I saw this. The chains hanging down look ominous and spooky but I think they were actually part of an attempt to hold the structure of this cabin together. 

That hanging chain was eerie though.

The entire back of the cabin is open to the elements and the river rushing by.

A shot of the river.

Another cabin.

This gaping hole was also very ominous. These cabins used to make me feel the life that had lived in them; now the energy is darker.

This cabin is on the other side of the old lane, away from the riverfront. There's a creek that runs behind these cabins and a little stone bridge that the owners used to visit one another.

When I walked up on the porch and looked in, a giant rock was lying there, where it had been thrown through, still sitting in the glass it broke. This kind of violence makes me sad. The two windows through that doorway feel like the eye of the cabin to me. Old and sad.

On our way out, I had to find something uplifting after the ruin. This spot felt peaceful and eternal. A tree and a big boulder, both planted in the earth. Hopefully they will stand there a very long time.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sister Corita Kent's rules for students of life

I saw this today on Maria Popova's wonderful site Brainpickings. If you don't already get her weekly curated newsletters full of wonderful readings, go sign up now!

Today is the first day of class for many university students locally. I'm making it my first day of class too - working on my PhD as a student of "flow" and finding the time to do all the many things I want to do while also being in and celebrating the present moment. 

This list of rules will help. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Colleen Kelly steps up for Parzival

Last week I saw an article about Parzival and his Olympic rider, Netherland's Adelinde Cornelissen, and her decision to pull Parzival from Olympic competition. The story at that time was that he had suffered an insect bite, had experienced severe swelling and fever, and had then been cleared by veterinarians for competition. But AC decided at the beginning of the ride that he was just not quite right - so she pulled up.  I immediately shared the article and praised her for being a gold medal rider - for doing the right thing for her horse.

Sadly what appeared to be a loving rider and partner standing up for her horse wasn't the entire story. As the drama unfolded photographs from the warm-up just prior to that short Olympic ride began to appear. In the photos Parzival had spur marks, nose pulled into chest, a wild pained eye, and a mouth so foamy white it looked like someone had fed him soap.

I continued reading and learned that AC is the rider who has repeatedly ridden horses in competition with bloody mouths. Her use of rollkur is well established and documented. 

Yes, I still think she did the right thing by stopping the Olympic ride. But to do so after a horse suffered a fever 24 hours earlier and after tacking up and warming up to compete (and the warm-up photos revealed how very hard she pushed him, not to mention the outright abuse he suffered from spurs and hyperflexion) is not the mark of a good rider. I had to post a retraction of my own words!

Since then the story has continued to unfold. Now it is being said that the Olympic veterinary record says he was examined and found to have a hairline fracture of the jaw. This is one of the things that can happen when using rollkur due to extreme hyperflexion of the head and neck. 

Questions began to be asked. Was there ever even an insect bite? A round of responses came out - the hairline fracture story was said to be a vicious rumor. 

I don't know what exactly went on with Parzival. It is clear he has been ridden harshly and with cruel methods for years. That AC rode him hard after either an insect bite or a hairline fracture or both to see what he could do in warm-up before pulling him from competition speaks in my mind to the worst kind of horsemanship. Treating him as a machine instead of a living, sentient being. 

Today, Colleen Kelly posted that she is tapping into her retirement income to personally sue AC for animal cruelty. You can read more here:


Her willingness to stand up for Parzival in what is sure to be a complicated, costly lawsuit is a reminder to us all. When we see cruelty to animals, even in the Olympics, where one would hope the utmost integrity would prevail, we have to stand up and speak out. Colleen Kelly has taken on this fight. Let's all vow to take on the fights for horses we see in our own communities. When we speak up for cruelty to animals, we're shining light on a dark shadow. Whether or not we fix things for that horse, we are educating everyone who sees. And eventually that will make a difference. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Early morning, Cades Cove

We got up at 5:45 to get to Cades Cove by opening of the gate. (we were in the cove last night until dark!) The first thing we saw was the huge herd gallop in from the far pasture for breakfast. Seeing close to 50 horses gallop in, in small waves, was stunning and such a gift. We were able to identify the same small groups within the larger herd and we had to smile when the last straggler, a chestnut with a white stripe, meandered in until he realized he was truly the last one in sight and then he picked up a gallop and caught up with his herd.

There were bears, deer, crows, a few goldfinches, and one very sad dead coyote who we think had been hit by a car.

Cades Cove is such a wonderful place. It's been years since I was here and it's so nice going multiple times this trip. Mid-day, sunset, sunrise, and tonight we'll go again. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

feet in the river

Dear daughter and I are taking a long weekend pre-fall semester getaway in the Great Smokies. We're going to ground ourselves with rock, center ourselves with rushing water, and enjoy two of our favorite places on the planet, Cades Cove and Elkmont.

First thing we did upon arrival was stop and put feet in the river. See you on the other side. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Santa Cruz: Natural Bridges State Beach

Back to travelogue posts for a bit. We spent some time on the beach our last full day in Santa Cruz. Everyone recommended Natural Bridges and it was lovely. The sky and water were so blue.

I love the gulls and how they lined up along the water's edge. 

And how they perched on the huge rock.

As a girl I read and loved Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I haven't read it since then and don't recall much about the writing style or the story itself, but it left me with a sensation that gets evoked whenever I'm close to gulls. I was very drawn to this one.

The beaches in North Carolina don't have these amazing rock formations and this one with the opening was mesmerizing. Watching the waves break through the opening was magical.

This looked very much like the doorway to another world to me. 

Leaving the beach I noted all the footprints criss-crossing and that too looked like something from a different place and time.

One of the best things about travel is seeing places that look different from those with which we're familiar. It reminds us how big the world is and how many things there are to see and experience. And what has become everyday to us fades as we see new and different things. It does something to our perspective, in good ways. 

Sunday, August 07, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 15

Today after trimming hooves we took advantage of the cloudy sky and temps in the 70s to walk the entire perimeter of the 5.5 acres we hope to buy. We had a machete with us and once we got down our path and into the very back of our property we had to cut a path through the brush to get to the other side of the power cut.

I was down there last week but all the rain has created a huge growth spurt in the late summer plants. We climbed the hill to the other side and made our way through the border of trees that were left along the entire edge of the 5.5 acres. From this side it looks almost normal - though we could see light through that border for the first time since we have lived here. But on the other side it looked like a battlefield, or a mass murder. Tree stumps littered the entire area as far as the eye could see. Many smaller-trunked trees were taken down and left behind, their only crime being wood not valued or their proximity to the larger trees.

This forest was so thick before being cut the ground was pure mulch. Soft and cushiony, now strewn with branches and trees, chips of wood, and the tracks of the big cutting machines.

It was sad to see but we focused on the line that will be drawn and I busied myself walking what I hope will one day be our perimeter trail. There's a natural path that runs just on the other side of the tree border and I think it will be a nice hack on horseback or walk on foot.

It was further than we imagined along that straight line to the far edge of what we would own. Once we got to it we cut across the grassy area to the "near" side of forest that directly adjoins our current line. The walk from that furthest edge back to November Hill took a lot longer than we expected as well. It's a gorgeous woodland section of land, with huge old trees but plenty of room for walking. There's a rock outcropping along one side and on the other the fence that marks the 11-acre wood that is beside us. It too was cut (3 years ago, on the day Salina died) but now it has 10 and 12 foot trees already. I have a parallel dream of buying it too.

We have never walked that area before today and it was nice to see what might be ours - the little woodland path I made behind our back field would extend into a true nature trail if we get this parcel. There's a perfect spot for a little cottage too. 

Just as we crossed over the line onto November Hill I had a little sensation of ownership of the new parcel. I hope it's an omen of success in this venture. It makes me happy to think of November Hill growing and the November Hill deer herd having refuge no matter what might come to the larger tract of land. 

It felt so much bigger than what I've been thinking. I'm excited and happy we made this trek today.

Friday, August 05, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 14

We have hit some snags in the purchase of the additional acreage and this week has been spent slowly working through them. The remainder tract survey cost turned out to be huge and as this is something that has to be paid outright we opted to get a second estimate from a different surveyor.

The owner/seller had stated that she needed a signed offer in hand by yesterday; otherwise the timber company would cut the trees on the 5.5 acres we hope to buy. 

We had a deluge on Wednesday, another yesterday, and more rain overnight. The ground back there is very wet, and I couldn't help hope perhaps too wet for timber machines. Yesterday I walked back to the property line and stood in the pelting rain while a flock of birds sang like mad over the roar of rainfall. The trees along our line, the ones at risk of being cut, were tall and majestic and I sent them hope that they will be spared.

In the feed room 3 spiders had convened to make a triple layer of intricate webs. I took this as a lucky charm. In the house I got a spam email saying my guardian angel is trying to contact me. That put me in mind of my dad, and I asked for his divine intervention to save the trees and make this deal happen.

We are still not certain, but it appears the timbering machines have been removed from the 102 acres. The trees on the 5.5 acres still stand. At least for now, things are holding steady.

Meanwhile I have a second estimate coming in on Monday, our Farm Credit ready to work with me to make this happen, and possibly a fat check to write if we proceed, but it feels like this dream is still on the tracks. 

This morning the sun has come out and pulled my attention from the back line to the back yard, where the sunflowers have become a center of activity. A charm of goldfinches are in the hickory tree making frequent forays to the sunflower heads. Swallowtails are fluttering around them as well, as are other smaller, darker birds and bees. I have found myself going to the window again and again to watch all the activity. The rest of the garden is ragged right now. The tomato vines are producing at a mad pace and most everything else is showing the effects of much sun and now rain. It will soon be time to do a thorough clearing out and preparing for the early fall plantings.

But today I'm enjoying the goldfinches and the butterflies and those huge old trees that stand like sentinels on the back of November Hill.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

we love Bojack Horseman

The Netflix Original animated for adults series is all about BoJack, a horse who reminds me of Keil Bay only in his facial expressions and bay color, but one expression is such a perfect match it's uncanny!

Bojack is a TV star who struggles with anxiety, depression, and a lack of connection. He has moments of revelation which make me hopeful for him. 

Yesterday my daughter and I were on campus and we left our little bit of Bojack's glimpse of wisdom on a white board table in the library.

Artwork courtesy of dear daughter, rendition of Bojack's quote courtesy of me. And she managed to capture the Keil Bay expression perfectly! 

And a thank you to the blog readers and writers I have connected with here through the years. I am buoyed by all of you on a daily basis.

Monday, August 01, 2016

UC-Santa Cruz - the rest of the campus

One of the most beautiful and compelling aspects of UC-Santa Cruz's campus is the varied landscape. Thus far I've focused on the campus proper - the part situated at the top of the hill in the redwood forest. But the drive into campus is much different and very appealing.

There are barns and cattle on these golden rolling hills. It looks like a prairie - and is so beautiful. Below is the view from the parking offices.

And heading up the hill, which is very gently sloped:

Driving in, there is an area to pull off and walk and look at the mountains to the east:

I couldn't get enough of this vast view:

This view with the cloud made me linger.

Once you drive up into the redwoods and the campus proper there is a huge looping road that goes through campus and then back down on the other side. From this end you see Santa Cruz and the Pacific.

The arboretum (featured a few days ago here) is on this side of the campus as you head out. And this ocean view is visible from a few points in the arboretum as well as from the road as you're leaving.

Living in North Carolina where the ocean is on the eastern end of our state and the mountains on the Western edge, seeing mountains and ocean in opposite directions and such close proximity seems pure magic.

I loved this campus most of all, I think. It felt both infinitely majestic because of the landscapes and redwoods and yet very intimate and manageable walking from building to building. In a lot of ways it merged all the things I love about nature and higher learning into one fantastic package. 

Do you think they'd let November Hill relocate to the grassy hill right at the edge of the redwoods? I would be tempted.