Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thoughts on the current state of college campuses

I've spent some time this fall on the campus of my undergraduate alma mater, which has been interesting in a lot of ways. I remember this campus as a sea of bricks, bright, too stark for my taste, and a place where I felt initially overwhelmed, then later more confident. I changed majors early on, from pre-vet to English, and in the English department I found a home. Kindred spirits. Professors I respected and admired. 

These days Life Sciences is a more personal department, and there are more trees, and shade, and the pale red of the bricks is muted by green.

Being here as an older woman I find myself at times appreciative of the kindness of students - they often hold the door for me, seem courteous for the most part, and have been helpful in moments when my iPad was nearing no battery and I couldn't find a working electrical outlet. In the library I seem to be a magnet for students who want someone to watch their belongings while they run to the restroom. But I also hear tales from my daughter about what students say about professors under their breaths during class, how they conspire to cheat and get by with as little work possible, and seem not to care much at all about the education they're paying for. (Or not, as the case may be)

I overheard a girl in the restroom bemoaning the fact that she has to pay for her own birth control while wearing $70 jeans. (I was inspired by the fact that the girl's friend pointed out her $70 jeans in response to the whine about paying for birth control!)  I walk past shrieking fundamentalist Christian preachers here to take full advantage of freedom of speech, shouting about sin and judgment day, standing beside huge posters of aborted fetuses. I am not sure freedom of speech covers what they're doing, but they're allowed here and while I have Tweeted my discontent at having to listen to them I expect they'll remain.

This week two students posted hate-filled racist and sexist statements on an "underground" forum. Their posts were captured and reposted on social media which set off a small uprising on campus against their behavior, calling for their expulsion as students. The chancellor has declined to do that. Meanwhile I ponder what they're even doing here, in this place of higher learning. I'm continually surprised to encounter so many examples of that not being the case.

Mostly I'm inspired by the fact that the two college students I know best are avid learners who appreciate their professors and the opportunities afforded by their university communities. I'm proud that they care more about their classes than basketball games and that I will never have to worry about them making racist comments on forums or otherwise. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

On being an introvert

Having had more time "out in the world" lately I've been treasuring the days when I don't have to interact with people, particularly people I don't know. I've always considered myself an introvert. I  enjoy social interaction but definitely need solitary time to refuel. Solitude includes the animals on November Hill. Their interactions with me seem to always refuel instead of drain.

But when it comes to people I don't know, to make matters worse, I seem to be a magnet for folks wanting to talk, or sit near, a maternal soul. So when I'm out and about I can choose a spot that's totally empty of humans and before long I'll be surrounded.

I've seen this image before and am totally drawn to the sweater. If it weren't for the hot flashes I would wear it! At least the top half.

Upon close inspection I wonder if this is actually a huge sized-sweater and the hand is coming through the neck, the legs are in one arm, and the head in the other. If so, I love the repurposing going on here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

And a quick chore update

Got another screen painted today and touched up some of the porch posts that were stained from red clay (before the screens the cats jumped up and down from the porch rails and the little posts were places their paws touched going up and coming down). Now all I have left is the end - one big screen, the support beam, and the triangular screen up at the top.

The front door got its last application of tung oil and that effectively took care of the Corgi nail marks.

Looking ahead, once done with the screens I'll also clean and touch up the firewood bin on the porch too. Then it's reward time - I need to find the light replacement and get it hung!

I've ordered something called TC Guardian which is supposed to kill mold and fungus in wood. I'll apply this to the front steps, then move on with my French Gray milk paint on the cat tunnel and steps. I found a page on the Real Milk Paint site that gives proportions to mix French Gray with white to get different gradations of color. I think 1:1 is going to be the perfect shade. The great thing about moving on to the tunnel is that I don't have to block the tunnel, lock the cats off the front porch, etc. to do the work. I'm looking forward to it.

Once the tunnel is painted and tung-oiled I'll move back to the steps and do the same to them.

And isn't it always true that once you check something off, or get close to doing so, another chore pops up? Today as I was working I noticed that the honeysuckle and wild muscadine vines have literally pushed the trellis along the bottom of the porch off the board they were attached to. Sigh. Once all these vines are dug out and removed I'll get the trellis repaired and then (this is a mid-winter project I think) I'll work on securing the space beneath the front porch - and make a little ramp down for the cats so they can dig and patrol and have expanded but secure territory. It will present its own little nightmare if we want to get them in and they don't want to come, but what the heck. I can still pull a can of tuna out of the cupboard and use that as a reward.

Once the front steps are done I'm moving to a very special (and fun) project on the side fence. It will be part of what I'm calling the "garden project" - going into winter I will be expanding beds and prepping them for new plantings as I create a pollinator garden. This is going to be my big attempt to get control of the wild mess that has taken over in the current beds, with the goal of having something fairly easy to maintain but also very lovely and bee/butterfly/hummingbird/goldfinch friendly. I saw an idea on Pinterest for the fun whimsical part. Can't wait to photo and show it off here.

I also decided it was time to inch my way toward riding the Big Bay. Step one on this 75-degree day was to put him in the arena with the pony and do some free lunging to see how he's moving. It also effectively cleaned their hooves and the donka boys insisted on joining in so they got some exercise and hoof polishing too. Keil looks good. He warmed up into a lovely big trot and canter and I'm feeling good about some rides in the next week or so.

The pony looks like a million dollars. If he could grow a couple of hands I'd ride HIM!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

End of the week catch-up

The week got away from me and although yesterday was blissfully free of anything scheduled, I never managed to sit down and write a blog post!

My big excitement for the day was finding the perfect lamp for my desk in the garret at the Habitat store for $17.50. I stopped by on a whim and there it was. For the past year I've become very sensitive to blue screen light and have to have lamplight of some kind close to the screen to temper it. I'd put a small lamp there but didn't like how it looked so was waiting to find the perfect one in the Habitat store. I've crossed that off my list now.

Otherwise, spent time mucking and noticing the change of season. Leaves are falling and horses and donkeys are crunching on acorns. I kept seeing them gathered under an oak tree and it took me a few minutes to realize they were waiting for acorns to fall so they could eat them! 

Cody's abscess is resolved and he's back on regular turn-out with the herd. 

Keil Bay is now having a pound of pellets added to his Timothy balance cube mix 3x/day. I have been fretting over him looking a tiny bit "gaunt" and kept pondering whether it was time to put him on Eleanor Kellon's complete senior diet, which Salina was on for years before she died. It's a beautiful, balanced meal for seniors but it's fairly labor intensive and I'm not convinced Keil needs it at this point. 

My feed store owner talked me down from the ledge last week and suggested a pellet that has most of the ingredients from the senior mix and is non-GMO and with no corn or soy. I developed a mild headache standing there contemplating trying it but then decided we'd try one bag and see how it went.

Keil loves it. He has put on a little weight, in the right places, and it's very subtle which is exactly what I hoped for. I've been feeling guilty for not doing the complete senior mix for him the way we did for Salina but honestly, he's never needed calories until now and I don't want to do anything that puts a LOT of weight on. For now this is working well.

Later today I'm getting a 90-minute massage as a barter for an office rug I didn't need and then I'm coming home to paint another screen. I'm close enough to finishing the front porch now that I ordered the milk paint for the cat tunnel and the wood guardian for the front steps to prep them for their milk paint and tung oil. And I'll put another coat of tung oil on the front door. Hopefully it covers the scratch marks made by a certain Corgi boy last weekend when I closed him out temporarily while my mom came up the garage steps! 

Which reminds me - we had a very fun sleepover weekend with my daughter, myself, and my mom. I feel lucky to have both of them in my life and look forward to the next one. 

Fall is here (and hopefully today's 91-degree high is the end of that for awhile!) and life is good.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

And a note on flying and Southwest Airlines

I hadn't flown in several years and admittedly was a bit stressed about it with all the new rules one has to follow. The ticketing process was easy online and after a friend recommended I pay extra for the early check-in online that Southwest offers, we ended up boarding in the first group and getting good seats. 

The TSA protocols were easy. I have read nightmare stories and I'm sure they have happened and continue at some level but we had absolutely no problems. Even when I forgot and left a water bottle in my carry-on backpack. Everyone I encountered was helpful, friendly, and made our trip out and mine back very easy.

I enjoyed Southwest. The flights were reasonably priced, two bags flew free, they allowed two carry-on pieces as well, and although the seating is as cramped as it was the last time I flew, fellow passengers were easygoing and friendly with one exception (and thankfully that presented food for observation and not something I had to personally deal with).

We flew into San Francisco International airport and that one was the most challenging, mostly because the rental car line was long and slow and there were issues (which later got resolved when I tweeted about them) with pricing. 

I flew home out of Burbank, which was as easy and delightful as I remember it. Boarding still happens in the open air, which I love, instead of through tunnels that attach to the plane.

I also learned when picking my son up out of our local RDU airport that there's a very easy to navigate route from our house that involves no traffic. The RDU gates were easy and I was allowed to sit parked at the curb while waiting for my son, even when his flight was delayed. Making things easy for both passengers and family/friends who are dropping off or picking up seems more of a priority in the smaller airports.

The trip was wonderful but it was so good to see the lush, green landscape of North Carolina when the plane began its descent. There's no place like home!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Caltech, terrific end to a tour of physics grad programs

We drove into Pasadena on a Friday, mid-day, via some huge freeway that made me recall why I left LA and haven't missed it. But then we took the exit and there was Pasadena, much more intimate a city, friendly, easily navigated. But smoky because of the wildfires near Santa Barbara. 

We quickly found Caltech's campus, which is seamlessly integrated with the city, in a good way.

I had some trouble finding parking but after sending son on his way to his meeting, asked some students and all was well.

I enjoyed the trees and the simple architecture.

Dear son messaged me where he was and I made my way in that direction.

I didn't photograph the lovely approach to the physics building, which had beautiful natural areas out front, but once I got upstairs I got busy with camera. (phone!) The theoretical physics department was quite wonderful!

I found a spot to sit and admittedly had a huge fan girl moment when son brought Sean Carroll out and introduced me. His books on physics make complex ideas available to those of us who are interested but lack the math knowledge to go at it from that angle. In my eyes he's a superstar but he presented as a gracious, humble person who seemed truly happy to hear me rave about his work. (Which I highly recommend!)

Alongside the physics building there is a citrus tree-lined walkway that totally captivated me. We ended up coming back here with coffee and scones the next day to sit and soak in the ambiance once more.

And oh, this made me so happy to capture with my camera:

An old and very dear friend lives with her family in Pasadena, as do homeschooling friends, so if perchance dear son ends up here for grad school, I will be one happy mom.

We spent another night in Pasadena after having lunch with homeschooling friends, dinner with my old friend and her family, and then on Sunday went where all moms of college students go before dropping them off for summer REUs:

A very clean and pleasant laundromat.

I had a hard time delivering son to UCLA later in the day. We drove the long way, via surface streets instead of freeway, and he played a sweet Santa Monica song as we traveled Santa Monica Boulevard. And then as we hit Beverly Hills, the Fresh Prince. It was perfect.

It's sad to finish this little travelogue. It was a privilege and an honor to visit California with my son. I loved every minute and can't wait to see where he ends up going for graduate study. 

Meanwhile, dear daughter has hit her freshman year with a Big Bang and I'm loving that journey too!

Monday, September 19, 2016

cat tunnel toll collector?

This morning I noticed a logjam on the front porch. Cats seemed to be lining up for no apparent reason. I walked all the way out to see what the problem was and found this.

Do you think he's collecting toll fees for tunnel use now? 

Later in the day his sister Pixie was spotted following him around the house smacking him so I think she exacted a little revenge on the Pipkin.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Butterfly Beach, California, travelogue continues

Almost to the end of a busy week and the perfect day to remember a stroll down Butterfly Beach near Santa Barbara, California with my son in June.

I love the stones. Our North Carolina beaches are nothing but sand so this made for interesting perusing and in some places careful stepping.

Butterfly Beach was quiet and sweet, though it was disconcerting to see oil tanker platforms in the distance. There were also chunks of tar from the tar pits offshore, and I ended up with tar on my feet for weeks after this afternoon walk!

The terrain was lovely as was the afternoon light.

The tide swirling around the rocks was mesmerizing.

I took many photographs of the light on the water as it washed over the stone.

And was again left behind by a more adventurous son, who ended up far ahead of me.

This was such a bittersweet image. I recall so clearly his first trip to the ocean when he was only a year and a half old, in bright orange shorts and yellow t-shirt, and his instant connection with the sea. How can it be that 20 years have passed since then? And somehow, miraculously, he is clad in similar colors? 

In those younger years I would be running behind him, calling his name. On this day I just stood and watched him go.

This seemed somehow apropos:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

UC-Santa Barbara's gorgeous art installation: Lament by Nancy Gifford

I spent a little time in UC-Santa Barbara's library during my visit with my son and while there were many things to like, this truly took my breath away when I spotted it. I spent quite a bit of time perusing the piece and wish I could have photographed every square inch. As a reader, a writer, and someone who spent years working in various university libraries and independent book stores, It's one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen.

This is the long view:

A few steps in:

Even closer:

The details were exquisitely fine:

A favorite panel:

So loved this one:

And my final photo, which says it all:

If this installation were for sale and I could afford it, it would be hanging on my upstairs wall as I type this. Oh, it was divine. Kudos to the artist, Nancy Gifford.

OH, and look what I found!!

Making of Lament by Nancy Gifford from Nancy Gifford on Vimeo.

Monday, September 12, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 19

Things have calmed down a little here on November Hill. Signs of autumn are everywhere now, but we continue to have temps into the 90s at least a few days a week. The nights have dipped into the 50s several times but are mostly in the mid-60s right now. The mornings when the air is cooler are special treats.

We've hit a rhythm with chores, trying to keep up with everything that needs doing on a daily basis. With daughter in university now we considered hiring someone to help out a few hours a week. I had one candidate whose experience with horses sounded good but references were vague and since the applicant was a minor I have decided to keep looking. 

This is the time of year when the fields seem to need more attention. Right now a few early leaves are falling and along with mucking I'm trying to rake things into a little order. There are many fallen limbs and twigs that need raking too. Before long acorns will start coming down. It can feel like an endless task or it can be a time to celebrate the season - I just have to remember to make that distinction in my own head!

The garden is done with the exception of a few tomatoes and the sweet potatoes, planted late but trying valiantly to catch up. The fig tree's spring growth was knocked back by a late hard frost, but as is the way of nature, it's had a huge growth spurt as a result. It is so tall its leaves are nearly touching the lower limbs of the oak tree nearby.

Yesterday I had time to rub in tung oil coat number 2 on the front door and clean/paint one more porch screen. I'm in the final stretch with that particular chore so am torn between enjoying the journey and completing the task! What you see is all that remains of the unpainted area. I love the finished look but I have also enjoyed the golden glow of the bare wood. Mainly I'm thrilled, still, with the way this turned out and how happy all the cats are to have their front porch available for 24/7 use. 

Once I finish these last screens and support beam I'll move on to the cat tunnel. We've decided to go with French Gray after living with the sample colors I painted early in the summer. I keep changing my mind but reminded myself I can always change the color later when it's time to repaint. So French Gray it is.

This weekend Cody let us know for sure that he has a hoof abscess. I'm not happy about it but there's nothing to do but treat and wait and hope that when it bursts it doesn't make too much of an exit hole. When one horse has an issue I start obsessing about all of them. Keil Bay looks gaunt to me, Little Man did one of those loud barking cough things and I instantly thought lung disease, and the donkeys, sweet boys, assured me they are both just fine. 

Kyra Corgi recently developed a weeping mammary gland and we feared the worst. At age 16 she has some arthritis in her hips, cataracts, and some hearing loss, but for the most part she looks amazing for her age. She runs around, barks, bosses, and eats like always. I gave a homeopathic remedy and consulted with our homeopathic vet, and she's now on a daily homeopathic regime. The weeping stopped, the redness completely abated, and she's stable for now.

Mystic goes back to his cardiologist the end of this month. He is completely normal as far as behavior and we are eager to see how things look when they take a more in-depth look at him. He too is on homeopathic remedies, in addition to his medications. It would be terrific to see improvement that would allow his meds to be decreased some. 

Crazily, in the midst of all this, the same friend from high school who put Pixie and Pippin in our lives has sent a photo of a 3-week old kitten who looks uncannily like Dickens E. Wickens, our beloved tuxedo cat who disappeared last year. It's not a done deal yet but we are seriously considering bringing this little guy to live with us. 

Every time one of our beloveds leaves us I tell myself we need to put a halt to bringing new animals into the fold. And then one appears and there's a feeling that it's supposed to happen, and our numbers rise again. 

We are animal people and November Hill seems happy to host all of us here.

Friday, September 09, 2016

UC-Santa Barbara Library: art exhibit - ART OF SCIENCE

This is the first of two exhibits that were hanging in UC-Santa Barbara's Library while we were visiting campus. I enjoyed them so much I took photos to share!

This one was actually a competition called ART OF SCIENCE. These are the winning entries.

I'm putting the art before the description so you can see it before you read what it actually is. 

I got better at capturing the descriptions so you can actually read them. Bear with me.

This next one is one of my personal favorites.

I also really liked this one.

And this one.

The winner is pretty nice too!

I really enjoyed finding this as I explored the library. Stay tuned for the next exhibit they had hanging, one of the most wonderful things I've ever seen in all my years of loving art.