Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween from November Hill

The Pumpkin King overlooks a tragic accident in the Graveyard of Lost Souls.

The cake my mom, daughter and I made this weekend during our three-generational sleepover. So much fun and the cake was delicious too. Carrot cake with lemon cream cheese frosting. Those chocolate pumpkins were pretty good too but I think the favorite candy ended up being the white chocolate peanut butter ghosts! They disappeared fast.

Happy Halloween to all!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Goodbye Sweet Kyra Corgi

We said goodbye to our sweet Corgi girl Kyra yesterday morning. Closing in on 17 years with us, she has been an amazing and feisty member of our family. She thankfully went peacefully and although I feel a huge empty space in our lives and home right now, I'm grateful for all the time we had with her. Bear Corgi took it hardest of all, and although he seems better today I am fretting a little about what this means for him. We'll figure it out.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the thousands of photos of Kyra - who I now picture running with Chase and enjoying her youthful body again.

Kyra with her best girl. My daughter was only 3 when Kyra came to us and they became best buddies very quickly. I don't know why we don't have puppy pictures! I couldn't find a single one.

She and Chase went with us almost everywhere. Kyra was a terrific hiking buddy for her girl.

The day Bear came to live with us she took him under her Corgi paw and became his very best friend.

And even when he outgrew her and revealed himself to be a huge ball of energy, you can see who remained "top dog." 

It's almost unfathomable to me that she is gone, but as we all know who live with and love animals, they are never REALLY gone - their spirits remain in our hearts forever. We love you Kyra girl. You'll be with us always.

This last photo says it all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Worst idea ever: "Handispur"

< This keeps popping up in my Facebook feed asking for support on Kickstarter.

Ummmm - how about NO THANKS. 

Let's call it what it is, a torture tool. If you want your horse to pay attention to you, develop a relationship with him/her and get quieter, not louder with inducing pain. Sigh.

If you agree, head on over and report this campaign for the cruelty it is.

Monday, October 24, 2016

one of those little things that makes me happy: Mrs. Meyer's rhubarb hand soap

We've used goat milk-based bar soaps from our local farmer's market for years now but I encountered this at my office and became enthralled with the rhubarb scent. Now this is in 2 out of 3 of the bathrooms at home (her bluebell scent is in the 3rd one and I love that too). Every time I wash my hands I stand at the sink and smell the scent and it makes me happy.

The same way putting Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap in the wash bucket in the barn does when I'm de-webbing or wiping down dusty things.

Same as putting a few drops of lavender or peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil on the mop when I'm cleaning floors does. 

The power of scent is amazing! Just ask Keil Bay how much the smell of a peppermint in a pocket brightens his day. :)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fall Felines

This afternoon on the back deck there was a flurry of felines as fall blew back in to November Hill. I couldn't resist taking a few photos. This is our oldest kit-meow, Osage, aka Muffine, aka Muffine Eloise. She's one of the original three kittens who came to live with us after we moved in here. Her sister Keats died at age 7 and brother Dickens disappeared last fall. We suspect coyotes. But Mufffine is here and safe now that we've enclosed the back yard, front porch, and connected the two with the tunnel. She's 11 years old.

Here's Pixie, the youngest of our curiosity of cats. Pixie turns four this November. She made it through cytauxzoonosis and although the most petite in size of this crew, she is fierce. I call her Pixie Pie. Certain family members insist her name is Merry. 

Pixie's litter-mate brother Pippin is a lot bigger than she is but she has no problems stalking him and pouncing. The two of them have their sibling issues but they remain bonded and spend a lot of time together.

And here's Pippin. He's pretty huge and a total goofball. Sharpening his claws! 

Mystic made it through cytauxzoonosis AND congestive heart failure. He is 8 years old and the King of stealth. We're happy he's doing so well. 

It's hard to write about these four without mentioning Keats, Dickens, Moomintroll, and River. We miss them a lot and are so grateful for this clamor of cats who keep every day busy and bring so much joy. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 21

Although we've had a mini heat wave this week, with temperatures in the mid-80s, it looks like fall. The dogwoods are going red, leaves are falling, acorns drop regularly, and I'm seeing peeks of winter grass beginning to come in. 

Meanwhile the chores roll on. Last weekend my husband spent a chunk of time repairing the wall of the barn shelter, which suddenly had two large hoof-sized holes going all the way through it, and a spray of gray Hardiplank fragments out in the paddock. Thankfully Hardiplank is forgiving and has no sharp splinters. I suspect Keil Bay is the culprit, probably kicking the wall instead of kicking the pony, who was likely bugging Keil as he relaxed underneath the shelter.

Now I have to match the paint on the rest of the barn, which may be difficult. Thanks, Keil Bay. 

Meanwhile I completed the painting of the cat tunnel. Now I need to apply tung oil over the milk paint and that chore will be officially checked off my list. Then it's back to the last porch screens and that too will be done.

Sadly it has been too hot to ride, at least for me and for Keil Bay. A final bloom of flies is driving all of us half mad, and with winter coats well on the way to coming in, the horses have been miserable in this heat. I see relief coming tomorrow, and a low on the forecast of 38 for Saturday night. I can't wait to feel that chill in the air!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Time Traveling

On Thursday evening I went out to the barn to give hay and check on the herd. Keil Bay came trotting in from the field, down the paddock, whinnying, and as I walked through the barn aisle to the front gate, he popped his head over the back stall door (his stall, or the one he claims, anyway, since they are rarely ever in them at this point) and whinnied again. I cannot express how young he looked in that moment, like a 5-year old version of himself, and I thought for a moment how lucky I was to get to see it, since I hadn't met him yet when he was 5. 

As some of you know, Keil Bay is 27 years old now. He has always seemed far younger than his actual age, but I see white and silvery hairs in his mane and tail, and around his eyes, and this year have seen some changes that make it clear even through my wall of denial that he's aging. If I think about it too much I start crying. Just the idea of him not being here is heart-breaking. So seeing him trot in, hearing his gorgeous musical whinny, and seeing that white star and bright eyes pop into the back stall door was a huge and wonderful gift. I wish I could start all over again with him, from the moment we met all the way up to today.


In another time traveling moment, my husband and I went to the small town where I grew up and heard John Hiatt perform on Friday night. We got there early and parked behind the cultural center that used to be the elementary school I attended from first-sixth grades. My mother and father both went to high school there. The auditorium has been converted into space for shows and concerts. 

The first thing I noticed was that the front steps that lead to the auditorium doors seemed very small. I remember that set of stairs seeming huge and almost ominous. We used to play games on them before and after school. We walked downtown for dinner taking the same path I used to take walking home from school, past the building that held the library, police station, courthouse, jail, and fire department. That little public library was one of my favorite places on the planet when I was growing up. One day after school in the first or second grade some friends and I snuck up the open to the street steps to the jail cells to try and catch a glimpse of "some prisoners." By the time I got home someone had called my mother at her office in Raleigh and she had called home to ask what I was doing sneaking up those stairs. That's the kind of little town it was back then. Everyone knew everyone. People watched out for children no matter whose they were. On Friday night I saw one person I knew and she is someone I've met in the past few years, someone who has moved there as an adult but didn't grow up there.

When we got back to the auditorium for the concert I recalled being there many times as a child, for school programs, pageants, performing with my baton-twirling troupe in shows, etc. I have a very distinct memory of what might have been the first time I sat in that auditorium as a first grader, for the Thanksgiving program, and singing Over The River And Through The Woods with the entire school. I remember the light and the stage and the way the floor felt under my little feet, and how big those wooden chairs seemed. 

John Hiatt was wonderful, as was the artist who played before him. I thought back to first grade and wondered: what would I have thought if someone told me that 50 years later I would sit in the same place listening to music, the mother of two amazing "children" ages 19 and 21, living on a farm called November Hill with my family and horses, donkeys, cats, and Corgis? It felt like somehow there was a direct link from me listening to John Hiatt to that little girl singing that song about family and foreshadowing November Hill.


Yesterday I painted a huge portion of the cat tunnel and as I painted, using the bristles of the brush to form a point that was able to do the edging without getting a drop on the side of the house, I recalled with equal vividness a time when I lived in Hollywood and my friend Ann and I painted ceramic angels. 

Ann taught me how to do verdigris coloring and we painted and talked and laughed. I suspect music was playing in the background, maybe it was June Tabor and the Oyster Band, and there may have been cocktails involved, Pernod and cranberry juice, or wine spritzers. The light around our apartments, mine upstairs, Ann's down, is pure and perfect in my mind's eye. We painted in the courtyard outside our back doors. My cats were up in the kitchen window and Ann's dog beside us on her leash. It seems unbelievable that was more than 25 years ago now. 


I'm convinced that as we age time travel becomes more and more possible. We can travel back and forth in the blink of an eye, recalling details that are so perfect and visceral we might as well be there in the flesh. While I sometimes bemoan the fact that time seems to fly, I'm enjoying these little trips to times and places I've been and lived and loved. And in the case of knowing Keil Bay as a 5-year old, dream of. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

ADD Friday on November Hill

With apologies to anyone for whom ADD is a serious issue. We're all subject to deficits in attention and focus and in some situations it's actually a strength.

Today I'm not sure what's going on with me, as I tend toward too much attention and I can get really bogged down in minutiae when going about my daily routine.

I got up this morning, did a little reading, did NOT do the review I was supposed to finish, had coffee, read a little more, then suddenly leaped up and mixed milk paint and grabbed a brush to sweep off the cat tunnel as I went.

My plan was to paint the cat tunnel roof in its entirety but once I got out there I ended up doing most of the tunnel along the side of the house before it "steps up" to the higher part that I'll need the big ladder to do.

I only took out the big brush so I ended up doing all but the detail work along the edge of the house. I kept going until I used up the paint I'd mixed.

Initially I thought YES - the 1:1 ratio of French gray to soft white is perfect. Then I wasn't sure. Maybe it was too blue. Then it seemed too white. But I told myself this is the color I'm going with for now and when I repaint in however long it takes to need that I can change the color if I want to. 

When the paint ran out I came in and did some laundry, made Keil's lunch, did a little vacuuming, stopped to clean the washable filter, did a little more vacuuming, stopped to go feed Keil, decided to muck in the field while he ate, then he finished but I was into mucking so I decided to keep going. Then decided to do some raking. Then more mucking. Then more raking. 

Happened to glance at the house and the cat tunnel and whoa! I think it IS perfect. Considered going to mix up more paint and finish it up.

You can see how this is going.

Now I'm in again after giving hay. I'm going to need to keep the laundry going but I'd also like to finish vacuuming. And there's that book review that needs finishing. And more reading. And what about editing?

Kyra Corgi just walked by and the idea popped in my head that she needs a bath.

And I was thinking of a ride. And there's a John Hiatt concert tonight. 

I started thinking with way too much attention on the fact that I'm so scattered. And told myself: just go with the flow. 

That feels right for today. Happy weekend! It's so nice to be getting dry again out there!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Hurricane Matthew, how we fared

We had relentless rain (at least 6 inches) from early Saturday morning all day long and into the evening, gusting wind, and flickering power, but we didn't lose any trees, nor did we lose power, so we're far more fortunate than many people in this hurricane's path.

This was the view from the front porch at the peak of the water flowing:

A little more than 24 hours later, here we are today:

I feel very fortunate that the woman who picked the sites for our barn and house knew what she was doing. The barn is on the highest point of the property, and then the house. She put in French drains at each end of the barn which help a lot too. 

Starting last Wednesday we stocked up on groceries, hay, feed for the animals, and shavings. I cleaned and filled my water storage tank in the barn, cleaned and filled all the troughs and buckets, and by Friday at bedtime the stalls had been cleaned and set up for the duration. We made a wise decision to move the square bales we had on hand into a stall so we didn't have to make trips back and forth from the hay tent during the rainy, windy Saturday.

I'm glad it's over and there's nothing but sunshine (and a few nights with lows in the 40s!) on the weather docket for awhile.

This morning the donkeys were running and playing all over the front field, and Cody was running and tossing his head, which means he's ready to ride. All is well on November Hill. 

I hope all are safe and sound. Many folks have weeks of clean up ahead and I send my best thoughts their way. 

Thursday, October 06, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 20

Fall is finally here, temperature wise - our highs are mostly in the 70s now, I see lows next week down to 48, and the horses are no longer fussing about my having kicked them out of the barn during the day, which means the heat and the horseflies have faded.

Leaves are slowly falling, the sound of acorns dropping ranges from quiet clicks to loud ringing gunshot -like sounds when they hit the horse trailer. I see lots of chores to be done but until our mower gets back from the shop we're just enjoying the start of the seasonal show.

Starting last week I've been doing groundwork with the herd. I did a couple of days where they all came in the arena together. The pony and Keil Bay had a grand buck-fest while the donkeys sprinted around and Cody stayed off to the side as he continues to heal from his hoof abscess.

Keil looks pretty good to me right now, both in his movement and his weight, so we will resume a riding schedule this weekend. Meanwhile I have cleaned out the treat bag, readied the clicker, and we've been having individual clicker free lunging sessions. Keil is the king of working for treats so I don't really use the clicker much for him. He's moving well, tracking up/over-tracking, and still has that big powerful movement I love so much. He also got his chiropractic work done yesterday so after 48 hours off he's ready to go for a ride!

The pony adores the clicker. I've been working with him on very specific free lunging work (since I can't really ride him). He is terrific going to the right but for some reason doesn't want to go to the left. With the clicker we had success in a couple of days. He's now walking well to the left but still wants to trot off and turn to the right at the trot. I'm not sure if he's feeling stiff to the left or if possibly he has some vision changes that make him want to avoid that direction. But we'll get there. He can be spunky - we have had a few of those double-barreled hoof kicks in the distance - although I see them all doing this when they play together I really discourage it when they're with me. A smack on the ground with the tip of the whip is my reminder to move on, please. 

The donkeys are reviewing their work on the halter and we have them going over poles in the arena now. They are fun to work with too - they really enjoy the clicker. Dear daughter is taking over the donkeys' work - Redford is especially happy partnering with her.

Cody is finally getting sound enough to do some halter work and I hope we can get him back under saddle in the next week or so. 

This past weekend was my time to finish painting the porch screens but a big bucket of water spilled in the feed/tack room when the bucket handle broke, so I got sidetracked cleaning that up and ended up going ahead to the fall cleaning of the entire room. It badly needed it, and the tack needed to be cleaned up before any riding could be done, so while I was sad not to finish the screens, it's now a pleasure walking into the feed room!

This is often how things go on November Hill. Something pops up that requires immediate attention and my other chores get pushed down the list. I can get frustrated with this but had to admit it was nice being in the gorgeous weather out at the barn working on tack and organizing all the stuff. We did a big purge of the junk that tends to accumulate in the barn. I love walking in and seeing everything clean and tidy again.

I hope to get the screens done between now and Sunday, assuming Hurricane Matthew turns out to sea and doesn't bring lots of rain our way.

I think I've finally selected the porch light fixture. 

I'm tempted to go for one of their very bright colors but I think on the porch the classic white will look best. 

Today I'm enjoying the very pleasant weather, the sound of the breeze blowing, crows chatting, and the glimpse I just got of Keil Bay sauntering down the paddock. It's autumn! My favorite time of the year. 

Stay safe all who are in the path of Hurricane Matthew. 

Monday, October 03, 2016

Homeopathy and feline congestive heart disease

Six months ago the Miraculous Mystical Kit-Meow was in the ICU at NCSU's vet school hospital in congestive heart failure. He went in crisis and was put on a ventilator almost immediately upon arriving and remained on the ventilator for several days. He was discharged after a week. I can't even bring myself to post the couple of photos we took of him in the ICU. He looked to be, and was, near death's door. Once off the ventilator he was weak and would lie down every few steps to rest. He came home on 4 meds for his heart plus an antibiotic for a bacterial infection from the ventilator tube. He was stable but diagnosed with congestive heart disease for which there was no cure. They said he could have six months to two years to live based on what his heart looked like at that time. The meds were to manage the symptoms. 

He had to be taken off two of the heart meds because they made him vomit, but he did really well on the other two and had a good follow-up two months after he was discharged. At that time, though symptoms were managed, the echocardiogram showed increased thickening in the heart wall and his heart was enlarged. They said he would need his medications for the rest of his life and that his lifespan prognosis remained 6 months to 2 years, though they encouraged us to be hopeful.

After that follow up, four months ago, I consulted with our amazing homeopathic vet to see if there were any adjunct treatments he would recommend. We have had excellent results with homeopathic treatment in many of our animal family members (human ones too!) and I hoped there might be something to help Mystic live as long as possible given his condition. He put Mystic on a homeopathic remedy along with the other meds he was taking and Mystic has been doing great. His heart rate has been normal, his activity normal, and he has returned to his usual feisty self. He takes his meds without fuss, even eagerly, and without the blood-thinning meds the vomiting completely disappeared. 

Friday at the vet school they did a scheduled follow up to check his heart, including an echocardiogram and a lot of bloodwork. They brought him out when all was done and were flabbergasted to report that his heart is completely normal now. There is absolutely no evidence of congestive heart disease. The thickness of the muscle and the enlargement are gone. There is no fluid. They suggest we wean him off the Lasix (his kidney values were very slightly elevated - though still in normal range) because there is really no reason for the Lasix at this time - and that we keep him on the Pimobendan to help with a mild refill issue he has due to a congenital heart murmur. They have no explanation for the heart's return to normal and said with reference to the homeopathic treatment: keep doing it. He wasn't happy to head to the vet school but boy was he happy to be home with this wonderful report!

I strongly recommend using a classical homeopathic veterinarian as an adjunct therapy in general. We have had many miraculous tales over the years when we've done so, and I think Mystic's story is the most dramatic yet.