Monday, November 28, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 23

The big red oak at F is just past its peak, starting now to turn the rich brown that matches Keil Bay's luscious winter coat. We're nearing the time of year when both Keil and Cody match the tree leaves, and against a gray sky like today's, the rich browns and reds are stunning.

F is the corner of the arena that used to be the most sheltered by the 11-acre wood, and it has always been the coldest corner as well, often frozen on winter mornings. It's the place where Keil has most often seemed spooky, though this doesn't make much sense because when he's in the barnyard, the area behind this corner, a narrow strip between the arena and the border of our property, he often grazes there for acorns and other delights. It's such a treasured spot it's where we buried Salina, so when Keil snorts and blows going from F to A I remind him that there are no monsters. I often halt between F and C, or circle at F just to reinforce that for both of us.

This gray day is the prelude to promised rain, which our area and west in North Carolina sorely need. It's odd to have such dusty ground in late November. 

I'm getting used to seeing light and sky behind our property line. The 100-acre wood has always been so thickly forested there was nothing visible but the trees, even in winter. Now that it's been timbered the light and sky show through. It's sad but the new "normal" here, at least until younger trees grow up and fill these gaps.

Yesterday we started hoof trims after a play session with the Little Man, who trotted and cantered and went through his paces beautifully for me in the arena. Cody and Keil Bay got a little mini-session with my daughter and the donkeys kept us all in line. There's something about being in the barnyard and the arena in the late fall that makes me deeply happy. I think partly it's because it was the first month we lived here and the most potent realization of my lifelong dream to have my horses on my own little farm. Every November I am reminded of that again, and I love the feeling of boots on the earth, trees in fall color, and horses' winter coats thick and soft under my fingers.

The chores have shifted now. Mucking is a chore of all seasons, but now it includes managing leaves and layering. This morning as I took a barrow full of both to spread under an oak tree I noticed a flat area that was about the size of a donkey lying down. I layer leaves with manure for several reasons: to compost and to keep the leaves from flying around, but also to make thick soft places for horses to sleep. They each have their favorite spots to do this. I don't know why finding one of these flattened spots is so precious but it is.

I'm halfway done with applying tung oil to the cat tunnel, down to one porch screen to paint, and halfway through tung oiling the front porch steps. The rain this week will slow me down with all of these things but meanwhile we have put up the big tree on the front porch and a smaller tree in the living room. The white lights are cheerful and we'll start bringing up a bin at a time of decorations. We used to do them all in one big swoop but I've found that doing one bin at a time makes it more fun and taking them down that way makes it so much less of a chore at the end of the season.

The garden is done for the winter (I never did manage to put in some greens) but we planted a newly acquired Montmorency cherry tree this weekend. It's a tart cherry, good for pies and for making tart cherry juice being heralded for arthritis relief. I love sour cherries and look forward to picking them when the tree grows and bears fruit.

I also got my confirmation for beekeeping school this January - March and am so excited to be moving forward with learning about bees. Winter is the perfect time for it. 

I'm not sure why this time of year feels quieter to me - there are as many chores to do, and I'm as busy as ever, but the landscape itself seems to be still and thoughtful. A sense of winding down in some deep way. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Political action list for week of November 27, 2016/ GET INVOLVED!!

Week of November 27, 2016

Actions for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans of conscience

There are seven weeks until DJT takes office

This document's intention is to make clear suggestions for action backed with well-considered research. I learned a lesson last week in preparing the first What To Do This Week action checklist: Not everything you find on the internet is valid. In this week's document, I've been more discerning about petitions in particular.

Each statement has at least one practical action to take. At the end, you'll find some good news. While these topics have been well researched, recommendations are still subject to human error. Please do your own research!

I support equal rights for all Americans

Action: Oppose the Bannon appointment THIS Saturday (11/26) and Monday (11/28) by participating in a coordinated, nationwide postcard avalanche. You'll need a postcard and a stamp. Full instructions here:


Action: Oppose the Bannon  appointment again (Jewish Voices for Peace petition)


Action: Tell DJT to reject hatred and bigotry (Southern Poverty Law Center petition)


Action: Tell DJT to reject hate acts in schools (Stand for Children petition)


Action: Thank Senator John McCain (R-Az.) for speaking out in opposition to waterboarding and torture. Email contact form here.

fact check:

Action: In support of our Muslim neighbors, their civil rights, and their right to practice a religion, volunteer or donate money to CAIR at

fact check and fact check

I support fair, open elections

Read up on “audit vs recount”

Action: Demand an audit of the presidential votes ( petition)


Action: Contribute to expenses for Jill Stein's three-state recount effort. It is not likely to change the outcome of election results, but may reveal useful information.


fact check:

Action: Petition for a presidential election recount in Florida ( petition)


Action: Thank Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for supporting an investigation into election and DNC hacking.


fact check:

fact checks

I support integrity, and reject corruption

Action: Support a new bill to counter DJT's major conflicts of interest.

Phone: Call your congressman/woman; Look up by ZIP code here. Bonus points for calling their in-state office.

Script: “Hi, my name is ___ and I am a constituent who lives in __. I'm calling to let you know I support Rep. Katherine Clark's Presidential Accountability Act. It is important to me that we hold the president-elect and vice-president-elect accountable. I support laws that separate their business affairs from political leadership. Thank you.”

fact check:

fact check:

I support a healthy environment

Action: Tell DOJ to investigate and demilitarize police responses to nonviolent water protectors. (ACLU petition)


Action: Petition to remove Ebell and replace with a qualified scientist to head the EPA (Sierra Club petition)


I support safety and shelter for refugees

Action: Donate to the Neediest Cases Fund for refugees


I support constitutional freedoms

Action: Sign a petition to prohibit government hacking into electronic devices without a warrant. Keep your personal data private. This link has been shared several times by Oregon Senator, Ron Wyden. Sign by November 30!


This week's reading list

From the Department of NOT NORMAL

This is not a normal president-elect. #notnormal

It is NOT NORMAL for a presidential candidate to send a family member on his behalf anywhere, much less to strategize with Russia. A normal president would use diplomatic channels after being elected and sworn in.

Fact check:

It is NOT NORMAL for a president elect to visit a foreign country (with yet another family member) and announce a business venture there three days later. A normal president would understand that business dealings while in office are corruption and avoid even the suspicion of a conflict of interest.

Fact check:

It is NOT NORMAL for a president's philanthropy to use its tax-free donations for personal use. A normal president would honor the charity's purpose and use donations for their stated purpose.

Fact check:

It is NOT NORMAL for a president-elect to literally threaten a business for having a difference of viewpoint. A normal president doesn't resort to intimidation to silence critics. A normal president values economic growth and free speech.

Fact check:

It is NOT NORMAL for a president-elect to choose a cabinet so out of touch with the will and values of the majority of Americans. A normal president would choose cabinet members who can build consensus, are free of conflicts of interest, and work for the good of all Americans.

Fact check:

Fact check:

Keep reminding yourself this presidency and its cabinet are not normal. Complacency and confusion may grow over time, so keep connecting with people who can remind you this is not normal.

Good news



Final action: Please share any or all content in this message today (no attribution needed). We're stronger together.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Color is still peaking in central NC

Every glimpse is a delight right now in central North Carolina. Everywhere I go I'm seeing trees like this, colors ranging from deep yellow to brilliant orange and red. Absolutely glorious time of year. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A horsewoman's perfect weekend

First meal of the season with our sweet potatoes - sweet potato shepherd's pie. One hundred tested bales of low s/s hay in the barn, cold blowing in so it feels like the month it is, and a cat in the Christmas tree. 

Add in Tallenti's holiday gelato flavors (peppermint bark, pumpkin pie, and old world egg nog) and it's gone right over the top!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

November Hill farm journal, 22

We are fully into autumn now, with gorgeous color and leaves falling like mad. This morning I was momentarily overwhelmed by the sheer number of leaves and manure piles on the ground and then I reminded myself that both are compostable whether I get them raked into piles or not.

After many days of dry autumn we finally got rain last night and the horses and donkeys stayed in the barn for the first time in awhile. It was nice to wake up this morning to horses outside the windows right next to the house. 

In the garden it looks a mess, but the good kind of mess: my husband just dug up the large patch of sweet potatoes he put in and we have quite a harvest. I laid them out to dry after he washed them this morning and thought about all the good ways we'll eat them. Sweet potato shepherd's pie, sweet potato chickpea curry, baked with a little cinnamon and brown sugar, sweet potato pie, and maybe I'll try a new recipe I saw today: flourless sweet potato brownies.

In the fridge is a sugar baby watermelon that volunteered in the barnyard. Along the outside of the fence an entire long row of cherry tomatoes are hanging off the cat enclosure wire which they used as a trellis. I'm not sure if they're edible after the frost but if not they are still red and look almost ornamental there. I suppose the birds will enjoy them.

This weekend we bought a Montmorency cherry tree to plant as the first official fruit tree on November Hill. I saw an article after purchasing it that said these cherries are good for making the tart cherry juice heralded for health benefits and I'm eager to try making it when we get our first harvest.

The chores are lined up like dominoes. I finished painting the cat tunnel two weeks ago but only this past week got to the tung oil application. I'm 1/3 of the way through and had to stop due to the rain. I still have the final two screens to do on the front porch, and the porch steps. We've had busy weekends and my progress has slowed, but I'll chip away one domino at a time until I'm done.

We have a wood stove to clean, a catalytic combustor to replace, and wood to prep. And we also have a mystery critter in the attic to catch and release, and gutters to clean. Tree limbs to cut, hay to pick up and unload. The moment I think I'm ahead more chores pop up. When I stop calling them chores and name them projects somehow it feels more manageable.

A fun chore has appeared in the long row of dominoes this week: we signed the contract to have the barn roof replaced in January and I have to pick the weathervane! We're going with a green metal roof with functional witch hat cupola. I am torn between the traditional horse weathervane and more unusual ones: a cat, a Corgi, a shooting star, trees, a leaping deer. I wish I could commission a horse, donkey, Corgi, cat one but that will have to wait for some future time!

Speaking of cats and Corgis, Bear is doing well as a single dog. We all keep imagining a puppy or a rescued Corgi or another rescued pup but for now he seems to be handling this solo time well. With four cats in the house there's never a dull moment. This morning Pippin was running along the cat walk above our kitchen cupboards and refrigerator and he slipped and fell behind the fridge. A huge scrabbling thunk and then a series of deep-throated yowls was my wake-up alarm this morning. He was promptly rescued and I hope has learned he needs to be very careful up there. 

Across the lane our neighbors just brought home two very young donkey boys who I met over the weekend. They are as cute as little donkey pies and it is such a wonderful thing to hear more donkeys braying in our neighborhood. I haven't yet heard any answering back from Rafer or Redford but I expect that's soon to come.

With all my longing for autumn I find it hard to believe that we are approaching Thanksgiving already. I want the days to slow down so I can enjoy this season. It's passing much too quickly. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Leonard Cohen's "revelation of the heart"

Today in Brain Pickings Weekly this Leonard Cohen quote from Paul Zorro's book Songwriters on Songwriting was featured along with Maria Popova's words about what Cohen had to say on leaving certain potent and challenging verses out of his songs.

"I didn’t want to compromise the anthemic, hymn-like quality. I didn’t want it to get too punchy. I didn’t want to start a fight in the song. I wanted a revelation in the heart rather than a confrontation or a call-to-arms or a defense."

Maria Popova:

"In these present days of outrage and confrontation, how much of even the most elegantly argued writing aims for “a revelation in the heart”? And what might our world look like if this is what we aimed for instead of belittling and badgering those we find at fault?"

It's tempting to come out blazing about issues we are passionate about, but I love the idea of sharing revelations of the heart instead and hopefully getting people to respond from that same place in the process.

Since the election I've had some revelatory heart moments. 

Hearing my mother tell the story of her neighbor coming to visit, a little girl who was confused about what she was hearing - that both Hillary Cllnton AND Donald Trump won the election. My mom, a die-hard Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, took the time to explain to this little girl, whose family are Trump supporters, about the electoral college and the popular vote, and encouraged the girl to enjoy her candidate's victory and to hold him accountable for his acceptance speech promise to be a good president to all citizens. 

Visiting the Museum of Life and Science yesterday so that my university student daughter could recreate a childhood photograph in the butterfly house. And leaving, seeing a young girl of color crying and lost from her family and helping her find them again, hoping that she could tell we were "safe" and friendly people. 

Riding Keil Bay this morning while the neighbors worked in their woods with a shrieking chipper/shredder, all dressed in white, throwing things out of the woods. Keil was spooky but my daughter came out and stood with him while I mounted from the picnic table instead of the mounting block and later encouraged me to dismount to the ground just to prove to myself that I can. 

Visiting neighbors whose two young donkeys just arrived yesterday to answer some questions about donkey care and to spend an hour getting little donkey hugs. 

Some of these things have to do with the election and some don't but I think they all put a little bit of goodness into the world and when we all do that I believe it makes a huge difference.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The state of our union - my thoughts

Without getting too deeply into political party issues here, I suspect many of us are feeling overwhelmed with the results of the recent election in one way or another. I went on hiatus from Facebook for most of the fall because I became so tired of reading posts which said:

If you plan to vote for Trump (or Hillary) unfriend me now.

My Facebook friends list includes people from many backgrounds and religions and political parties. While I don't agree with any of them about EVERYthing, and in some cases ANYthing, they are on my friends list because in some way or other we share a connection. Some of the people I disagree with about politics are the people who would be at my door in a moment's notice if I needed them to help with my horses. Some of the people I most agree with would never lift a finger to help me or anyone else. It would never occur to me to tell any of them to unfriend me because they believe something different. (Abuse of children or animals is the one thing I can't tolerate)

If someone's BEHAVIOR or posts on Facebook are so out of line with my beliefs that I can't tolerate it, I would proceed to unfriend them myself and not take the passive-aggressive path of posting that all such people should unfriend ME.

We all have to move forward from what has been a stressful and difficult campaign season. We have to move forward now. I think the way we have to proceed is this:

We are all people who live in this country.

We all have the ability to change our personal behavior and examine our perspectives on things we do not understand or believe. 

We live in neighborhoods and communities and we can focus some of our energy on being good people in those contexts.

We can choose to put energy and hours into causes we believe in. Volunteering is a great thing. It's DOING something. Writing daily posts on Facebook bashing other people does nothing productive. Calling people idiots because they supported a different political candidate doesn't add anything productive to a conversation.

Let's all commit to finding something we can do that matters - to us, to someone else, to animals, to the environment, to a group of people who need our advocacy and voice. 

And above all, we have to get in touch with our own shadows, our own baggage, and our own journeys to be the kind of people we want to be in this world. If we take care of how we act and react, if we aim to be good to the people we meet in our daily lives, and stand up for others when they cross our paths and need our help, that will make a big difference in the world. Maybe the biggest difference of all. 

Monday, November 07, 2016

Weekending with kindred spirits

This past weekend I attended the North Carolina Writers' Network fall conference in Raleigh and had a fabulous time attending workshops, a master class in subtext in fiction, and the best part, talking and spending time with bunches of kindred spirits: my fellow writers.

Writing can be a solitary venture. We spend time, if not necessarily alone in offices or rooms, with our faces and minds deep in the screen of whatever device we use to write down our words. Even a yellow legal pad and a blue ballpoint pen pulls us in so we aren't really present with the people around us. 

Add to that the fact that serious writing is a lifestyle, a long-term journey, and an endeavor that often involves rejection many times over before there is acceptance and fanfare, if there ever is that. But anyone who keeps writing does it because they have to, not for the reward of publication or recognition or fame.

So imagine a conference full of writers, all having so much to say that so many of their friends and families don't really "get" - there was a constant buzz of conversation in between the workshops. In the halls and bathrooms and at the bar, by the coffee tables and in the banquet room, around the book tables, everywhere.

The long hallway that stretched outside the meeting rooms was lined with booksellers and their wares. Literary journals, novels, books of poetry, nonfiction work. Browsing, talking, bumping into writers one knows, writers one is just meeting. It was a lot of fun.

In addition to the master class I learned about the problem of plot in nonfiction and uncovering emotion in characters. Met Rita Mae Brown's agent and listened to Margaret Maron talk and Shelby Stephenson sing and read from his evocative poetry. It was inspiring. 

North Carolina is known as "the writingest state." NCWN hosts annual conferences in the spring and the fall and also a summer residency workshop each year. Come join us! 

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

A good ride on the Big Bay

It was warm this afternoon and there were flies and two donkeys wedged themselves between me and Keil and the mounting block but I got on and away we went. Keil and I haven't had a ride since JUNE. I wondered how it would go. Would he be off or disgruntled after so much time or would I be off and uneasy in the saddle?

None of that happened. Keil Bay walked and trotted and I was relaxed with no tight places and Redford donkey went along with us for most of the ride, a little shadow on the inside. The oak tree at F is starting to turn red, in the same spots it always does. The afternoon sun went low in the sky so that as we came around to K we rode directly into the light. Beneath the oak tree at H the leaves this time of year tend to collect, and Keil crunched through them like he was wading through a stream. 

Oh, it was good to be riding him again.

I still don't know how I got so lucky to find the Big Bay. Four months off and not a single issue today. He got two peppermints at the end of the ride and marched to the feed room door when I opened the arena gate and sent him on. He waited for me there and didn't even fuss when he stuck his head in for another peppermint and I gave him his dewormer gel! It was apple flavor but still - what a horse. 

Later when I went to get Cody for his dewormer dose he stood and sniffed it and said, hmmm, no thanks, and politely went from standing still to a big canter through the barn and out the other side where he kicked out his front leg and tossed his head. I think he's ready to get back into work too. 

There's nothing better than standing in the barn aisle cleaning Keil's bridle after a ride and hearing his  hoofbeats as he saunters past, touching me with his nose before he heads out to graze. This is November. Happy days.