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.