Sunday, December 31, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 43

Long overdue for a farm update here, and happy to have the quiet time to sit down and write it!

This weekend we’ve taken a huge dip in temperature, with highs during the day in the low 30s and lows at night in the teens. I think I saw a low of 11 coming up. We decided to set up the water tank heaters so we don’t have to do so much breaking of ice. I have one tank in the barn aisle for Keil Bay and Cody and another just outside the shelter where the pony and donkeys are at night.

The buckets inside the barn are not freezing since we got the new barn roof so winter and water is already easier than it used to be.

My daughter and I returned from California on December 19th, my son came home from grad school on the 22nd, family arrived on the 24th, and on the 26th, the farmsitter arrived and we headed to Corolla for a family getaway. I’m grateful for our farmsitter, who not only stays and takes excellent care of all the animals, but coordinated with our contractor to ensure no blips occurred with fencing.

Before and up to Christmas Day the herd was in the back field and the day after we went to the coast they moved to the front. I came home on Friday to the front field totally enclosed with 3-board and no-climb wire. It looks terrific and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to finally see this being done.

On Tuesday he’ll work on the back field (posts are already in) and then the back property behind the back field. It won’t be long until this will be done and I can start the process of incorporating Corgis off leash (supervised, of course) on the larger property. Once we make that transition I am starting my search for the Maremma pups.

We’re all the way into winter landscape here. Mostly bare trees, pink winter skies, and evergreens showing off their foliage in the otherwise bare landscape. Our fallen branches and leaves have never been better managed. I am a little in shock at not having to continue doing my branch and leaf management that generally lasts all the way to spring. This year I’ve had help and he stays on top of it. The arena is totally clear!

One of my Christmas gifts from my son is a farm journal - it has all kinds of pages for all kinds of tracking of things - I’m very excited to get busy filling it in.

The cats and Corgis are enjoying their naps inside with the cold weather, but I have to say the horses and donkeys are going the other direction. This evening just before dusk the herd came into the grass paddock (long, narrow, just by the house) and put on a galloping show. Keil Bay was the ringleader and he was doing his huge power trot, turning on a dime, and generally looking like a 5-year old. They were all in fine form and while I don’t really like them to do this in the narrow grass paddock, I just stopped myself from fretting and enjoyed it.

The horses have been especially clingy since we got back from Corolla. Between my being gone 10 days, then 4 more, the fencing, etc., I think they just needed some time with us. I spent hours with them on Friday, yesterday, and again today, and even so they were clustering by my bedroom windows last night and at the back gate to the house this morning.

Today’s little rodeo was the perfect way to end 2017. Happy, healthy horses and donkeys having fun. May we all be so lucky as we move into the new year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Happy winter holiday! Busy but happy on November Hill

I aim to get back to regular postings next week but wanted to say that I hope everyone has had happy, healthy holiday celebrations. We had a lovely and quiet meal of tamales made by my housekeeping assistant along with homemade red and green salsas.

We’re having a cold spell right now with highs in the low 40s and 30s and dipping down to teens at night. Thankfully we have a tent full of good hay and the horses and donkeys have that plus shelter and keep themselves warm and happy.

My biggest gift this year is the fencing that is about halfway done. The front field is nearly dog-proof and dog-safe right now! Woohoo! Once it’s done I can breathe a huge sigh of relief that will span a decade+ of fretting over dogs coming in. And thanks to my farm helper and my delivery guy the arena is free of leaves and looks gorgeous. Time to get back to riding once the fencing work is complete!

I’m soon to be working on my annual year in review and looking at what I want to create in 2018. At the top of the list is getting back to being successful writing at home. I love retreat time and will always need some to keep me rolling but I’ve written a lot of words sitting in various spots on November Hill and I’d like to get back to that.

Again, I hope all are having good time with family, friends, and beloved animals. Look for regular postings next week as we move into the new year.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

To California and back again

I have a ton of posts to write and organize chronicling our trip last week, and I will be working on that. Meanwhile, I’m home and enjoying the winter solstice today. Fencing is progressing, I have the bedrooms all set up upstairs, and excited about having son home, some family visiting, and relaxing at home for the holiday weekend.

The trip was wonderful and I’m excited to start this California trip series. Stay tuned and happy winter solstice to all!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can

It’s been another crazy week. Daughter having final exams and presentations, husband working hard, me juggling things and trying to get stuff done before an upcoming trip. Things went off the tracks with the guy I hired to do drywall repair and painting in a bedroom. His work was excellent but the communication and sticking to the schedule I thought we’d made were not great. After I sent an email asking for specific times he could finish the work he showed up even after I told him I had to leave to pick up daughter and sat at the gate honking. Then climbed the closed gate and came to the door, walked around the house looking up at the windows. It was totally creepy and my dogs went absolutely nuts. I went out and asked what he was doing inside the closed gate and he said he couldn’t get me on the phone. When I suggested maybe it wasn’t going to work out, he wanted to come in and get his stuff (a ladder, some joint compound, two small tools, and a roll of tape) and I told him he’d need to come back when my husband was home. The dogs were uncharacteristically growling and snarling at him and I just didn’t feel okay about letting him inside. He reluctantly left. That was that for me, but later in the day his wife (the friend of a friend, and why I even hired this guy) wrote a bizarre “rant” on Facebook about me, and it was so far from reality I felt even more creeped out. She suggested “something was not right here” and that he might not get his tools back and not be paid for the work he’d already done. I didn’t respond. Of course we were going to return his materials and pay him, and we did that. She announced on FB that I was bipolar and I thanked my lucky stars we got out of this before we went any further. 

It was hard not to respond on FB but I know from 25+ years as a psychotherapist that this was not someone who could be reasoned with. Ugh. 

Friday was a nice day with a massage and snow! Yesterday I determined to finally get the lights on the front porch tree. I made a bourbon sour and took music out there and decorated while more snow fell! Very pretty and by nightfall I had made it almost to the top with the lights. I ran out, and husband went to buy more but before I could add them the beautifully-lit tree went dark. I had connected too many strands and blew the fuse. Sigh. He fixed it but we’re going to have to run an extension cord up and make two separate strings. This photo captures perfectly how I feel about my plans for the week. Halfway there, dancing as fast as I can. 

I did manage to hang a wreath and finish up the post box decor!

It was sweet seeing Pixie getting interested in the tree while it was still working!

Today I’m packing for a long-awaited trip to California with my daughter. We’re both attending a conference and day-long workshop with one of her favorite scientists, Robert Sapolsky. And yes, we’re flying right into the wildfires to do so. Our original plan was to drive up the coastal highway after the conference but we changed that due to the Ventura fire and are flying up to San Jose, then driving down the coast to Monterey Bay for a couple days. Then back up to Stanford to visit the campus and maybe tour the Neurobiology Department. I’m so happy to get some time with her on this adventure. 

Meanwhile husband will be here working from home and keeping all the animals fed and watered. And overseeing the completion of the bedroom by a new person (someone we know and trust) and maybe the beginning of the fencing if I’m lucky. He’s likely going to need a week off after single-handedly managing all of this while we’re away.

I’m sure I’ll post some travel updates along the way! And hoping we carry some rain/snow energy to Southern California. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

3-ring circus of a day

It’s being a crazy week here. Today there were branches being trimmed on the big oak trees by the house and barn, house cleaning going on inside, repair work being done on a bedroom’s walls and ceilings, and I was trying to keep tabs on 4 cats, 2 Corgis, and 5 equines while vacuums were going, chainsaws and blowers blowing, and all animals not sure what was going on. About halfway through the show, husband came home to work so I could leave with daughter for an appointment.

Appointment, late lunch, trip to feed store, and trip for paint later, we got home again. The color paint I wanted was not the same name at Lowe’s as it is on Valspar’s website, so that took awhile to sort out. The woman at the self-check aisle (the only one open) was amazingly kind as I bumbled through the self checking process and then in conversation told me the story of her son dying that was so moving I started crying right there in Lowe’s. She gave me a bookmark of a photo she took after he died which was equally inspirational and I left feeling like I’d just been in an episode of that old TV show about encounters with angels.

I was happy to be home and ready to settle down for an episode of X-Files with husband and daughter when I opened a cupboard in our kitchen island and found a container of salt soaking wet. I pulled out the cupboard drawer to find that an entire gallon of Deer Park water had somehow leaked into the wooden drawer and a bizarre Japanese snack husband brought home from work a year or so ago had fallen behind the drawer and been smashed open. Sticky brown stuff was mixed with the soaked-in water on the wood and the whole mess was getting moldy.

Something I couldn’t exactly leave until tomorrow to deal with, so I spent a half hour cleaning that up.

In the midst of that I crazily decided it was time to dye a sofa cover in the washing machine. It would be nice if I could just turn off my “to do” button and go veg out on the sofa!

On the positive side, there are no more branches hanging over the house or barn, the back yard was totally cleared of fallen leaves, and the house is clean. The bedroom will be done by the weekend so I can move daughter back into her bedroom and get the garret set up for son’s visit home for Christmas. Yay!

I’m shutting down the lights in the big top and calling it a night.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Late November Light And Waiting For Chiro

Little Man wasn’t on the schedule for chiro today but he let it be known he needed adjustment so she worked him in. Good thing, as he was totally out of alignment!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Days flying by, stopping the madness with Keil Bay

I feel like time is racing forward - November has gone by so quickly and even though it isn’t December yet, it feels like that, too is going fast, as if time has bent and I am feeling it in advance. This morning I have a long list of things to do and right now I’m sitting here on the sofa as if at the helm of my own starship, trying to bend back time to its normal passing.

When the rush of things to do and things happening gets like this I have to consciously stop and recalibrate. Just one thing at a time. Feel the actual passage of seconds and minutes. Pause in every one of my things to do and let the thing I’m doing be the only thing. Savor the experience for whatever it is.

One of the things I’m doing today is visiting my chiropractor, who I haven’t seen in awhile because my body has felt fine. What always brings me back to her is raking season, when I swear I’m going to rake only in moderation and do it slowly, and carefully, using both sides of my body, and never overdo it. And I always overdo it.

So today I’ll get adjusted and tomorrow Keil Bay gets adjusted and Friday we’ll both be in alignment and ready to ride big circles that slow down time. If you read my magical pony school novels you know this bit of magic is in there but the truth is, it came out of real rides on the Big Handsome Bay. Time slows and then stops when I ride him, and it’s the way to stop the madness of days flying by.

Sometimes in life we gallop and sometimes we go into a moment of collection so perfect everything just stops and hangs, silent and pristine, in the air around us. It’s a healing moment. Riding isn’t the only way to find it but for me it’s what works. Try it out. Let me know how it goes.

Monday, November 27, 2017

‘Tis the Season on November Hill

Last week we got new screenings on one end of the arena, with another load coming in this week to finish the job. On Thanksgiving day I let the herd in with me while I got up leaves and all but one went off searching for acorns. Cody was my best helper!

We had a wonderful dinner out with my brother and my mom, and enjoyed the long weekend here at home. 

I’m so excited to reveal the finished gate complete with holiday decor. Two coats of dark Tung Oil cut with citrus solvent have been applied now and I think we reached the color saturation I want. I can give it one more coat with regular Tung Oil after Christmas if we have a good day for applying it temperature wise but I’m very happy with the results thus far. 

If you look closely you can see the pony inserted himself into the photo. And if you look to the right you’ll see a sample of the new fencing (though it will all have boards on the inside and outside once it’s done) and to the left the old fencing. I think the new fencing will look very spiffy with the gate!

We went a little overboard and got two trees. Last year I found a skinny tree for inside and we had our old big one on the front porch. A month ago I went on a cleaning spree in the garage and decided the two artificial trees were old, dusty, and just not in good enough shape to keep using, so we let them go and opted to get live trees again. We actually stuck with the rule that we couldn’t get a huge tree for the living room but then went overboard on the tree for the front porch. They are set up and ready for lights and maybe a few ornaments. Since it’s Baloo’s first Christmas I am thinking we’ll keep things easy and not put on anything to tempt him. He’s been good - tore a few branches off the bottom but quickly picked up that we didn’t want him doing that.

Pixie, our Christmas tree queen, checked out the porch tree. This is her first live tree experience.

I’m a little sad that she is not climbing the trees the way she has done every year since she’s been with us. I’m not sure if she’s just older nad wiser or if the live tree branches feel too scratchy. Maybe I should have cleaned the old trees and kept them. But in the end it’s probably best she is not going to the top of the trees and hanging out there! Though it was cute and I’ll post some of those old photos later. 

I got a call from the contractor last week saying he may start earlier than expected on the fencing. I’d love it if it were in place before daughter and I head to California but I suspect that isn’t even possible at this point. It may be I leave with fencing in process and come home to a finished product, which will be the best Christmas present ever! Can’t wait to see it and can’t wait to start integrating Corgis with horses so all can be happily out together. 

One big question: look at the gate photo again and help me come up with a way to dog proof the gate without taking away the overall look of the wood and design! We have to figure it out while contractor is here to do the work. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Giving Thanks on November Hill, 2017

Thankful for family, including the animals, and friends, and for November Hill, which is such a living, breathing place to call home. These photos were taken yesterday, the day before Thanksgiving, as I drove in from a run for cat food and Corgi chews. The color is still spectacular.

Earlier in the day I walked out and startled a flight of doves, who flew up with a flutter of wings and whistle of air. Late in the day I walked to the back and a herd of white tails bounded away, tails flashing, disappearing down the hill in back, then up the other side into the hundred-acre wood, now clearing, but thanks to the border of trees on the other side that remain, the white tails mysteriously disappeared, as if they had all leapt into another realm. 

This is the magic of November Hill and I am so thankful that I get to live here and enjoy these sweet moments. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

Monday, November 20, 2017

A flurry of days and Sunday savory pie

Seems like I’ve lost track of time the past few days. We went to see Shawn Colvin a week ago, and then it seems like the days slid by like one of those game board slide things where you land on a spot and then you’re suddenly on a completely different part of the game board.

So, Shawn Colvin, some cool barn repairs, a fun lunch out with friends, my mom visiting, and today, new footing in the arena.

Fencing date has pushed back to December 2 or thereabouts.

Can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving!

Last night I made a savory pie - layers of spinach, mushrooms, tomato, and a ricotta/Parmesan mix - it was delicious even thought I forgot to brush the egg mixture onto the pastry dough, and didn’t roll the pastry quite thin enough and had to fill in with bread crumbs.

I’m thinking Sunday night is savory pie night around here through the winter.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Paying it backward

This morning I was in the drive-through at Starbuck’s and when I got to the window the cashier told me the person in front of me had paid for my order. I wasn’t in a bad mood but had been bemoaning the state of things earlier in a message to a friend and this made me happier than I would have thought possible. The cashier was excited to tell me, I was excited to hear it, and then I pulled out a 20 and said “Pay for the person behind me and then put whatever is left in the tip jar.” She was grateful and said she really appreciated me continuing the thread and thinking of her and her coworkers too. It was a simple and random act of kindness from the car ahead of us, and I wanted to spread some of it down the line. I drove away hoping that maybe a string of paying it back kept on going for as long as there were people in line getting coffees this morning. And you know, that eggnog latte was the best ever.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 42

After a rainy couple of days it seemed the color was dying down here, but now that things are drying out again we are in the midst of wave two. It is simply brilliant out our windows in every direction. I try taking photos but I can never get the camera to pick up the quality of color that happens when sunlight illuminates changing leaves. It makes me happy, this elixir of light and color that I only see this time of year.

About once a week while spreading stall waste with the Newer spreader I do some mulching and blowing as I go, aiming the out spout of the mower toward the trees, and letting the winter grass see the light again. Once I get up the hill and look back, there remains a mystery of swirls and circles, a design that holds the slight vibration of the mower in my lower back, the sound, the turning on and off of the blade as I make the circles, and something I’m not sure how to name, but which goes all the way back to when I was a girl and my dad bought the first John Deere riding mower and taught me how to drive it, in our huge yard that had hills and roots and tricky spots, just like November Hill has.

The horses and the pony and the donka boys have thick coats now, and it’s pure pleasure to lay hands on them and feel the give of the fur as it shines in the autumn sunlight. They are enjoying the days out of the barn, and seem to love coming in when darkness falls to hay and fresh water before they are served their dinner tubs and then go back out again with hay for the night.

After the rain I’ve been using the muck barrows until the fields dry out some, and enjoying being out in the midst of the herd as I work, with sky and trees and at least a few times pure silence which is its own elixir. Like I imagine it was in the time before cars and planes and trains and machinery. Just the air and occasional soft snort of equines.

Monday our delivery guy with the very wonderful little dump truck is bringing screenings for the arena and part of the paddock, and some to resurface the stall floors, and that, aside from the fencing, is the last big thing I’m doing this year. I have a few small repairs (and as I type this I smile because on Monday evening we went to hear Shawn Colvin on her 20th anniversary A Few Small Repairs tour, which was absolutely wonderful) to make and the last coats of tung oil on the gate and then it’s going to be a quiet end of year and new year on the farm.

Except of course for the sounds of hoofbeats and a new sound of Corgis running wild in their enlarged space (at first while the equines are in stalls with hay, then hopefully herding dogs will learn that this herd is not for herding!) and inside the snap of wood in the woodstove and my holiday music playing endlessly because at this point I’ve narrowed it down to the songs I love best.

The time since summer has flown past.

And my son is not coming home for Thanksgiving! But I booked the train ride home for Christmas and that’s going to be a fun summer solstice event - picking him up and having a nice span of days in which all my little birds are in the nest again.

Right now though husband is working at home for the day and local bacon and eggs are cooking and there’s a good, peaceful day ahead of me.

Monday, November 13, 2017

One would think we have barn elves!

Last week I stepped into what is now serving as a storage stall and found this:

If only I had the before picture when they were still hanging in the barn, coated in dust and cobwebs so you could see the comparison!

Alas, not barn elves but my super farm helper who noted that I mentioned earlier last week that “at some point” I would ask husband to get these down so we could clean them. It’s a two-person job in my opinion, the taking down of these heavy fans, and I don’t ask our farm helper to do chores that involve ladders and lifting, but he did it, and I am so grateful.

I guess only someone who has a barn and knows what a pain it is to get these things down and then clean will get how happy I was to see them sitting there like this, but you can substitute one of your most dreaded chores and imagine my reaction. There was no one but me in the barn when I found them but I cheered out loud.

My checklist shrinks without me even knowing it!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

What I bought, what I also wanted to buy

I went to the North Carolina Artisan Fair this morning and was wowed by all the gorgeous work on display and for sale.

The first thing that captured my heart was this, and I could afford it, so I picked it up and never put it down again until it was wrapped and in my little bag ready to bring home:

You can visit Fat Pony Studios HERE.

The artist was a horse person and we talked for a bit about horses and riding and donkeys. She had a larger piece I would have bought if money were no object.

I stopped in many booths to tell the artists their work was beautiful, but nothing seized my heart until I got to the last row and spied this:

Her name is Trish the Dish and she is a clock and curio cabinet and has a secret compartment with a red heart in it. The second hand on the clock is a feather because, the artist told me, time flies. He and his wife utilize vintage materials that have been scrapped to make these wonderful, whimsical creations. I think Trish would love it here on November Hill.

See more of The Perfect View’s work HERE.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Gas station TV

Who thought it up? Why is it so loud? Why can’t you turn it off?

Tonight, after leaving a wonderful talk by Dr. Katie Mack on gravitational waves at the Museum of Natural Science’s weekly Science Cafe, I had to stop for gas and rolled my eyes when I saw the Gas Station TV screen. Ugh.

But this one was turned way down so I wasn’t immediately assaulted by talk noise. I glanced at the screen.

Word Of The Day.

Wait, what?

And the word of the day was:


One of my favorite words.



(shhhh... maybe gas station tv doesn’t have to be so bad after all)

It’s soup/stew weather on November Hill - share your favorites!

Gray Horse Matters mentioned stews in a comment earlier this week and I was already thinking of soup, so I thought it would be fun to share some favorite recipes.

My favorite fall stew is what I call sweet potato chickpea curry. It can be made on the stove or in a crockpot, using either dried or canned chickpeas. I used to make it in the crockpot but then my favorite (old, given to me by my mom) crockpot died and the new one just isn’t the same. It seems like it heats up too much too quickly and the notion of slow cooking doesn’t really happen. So I shifted back to stovetop and this recipe works well for it.

I sauté a medium onion and how ever many cloves of garlic you like in some coconut or good olive oil. Lately I’m preferring coconut oil for cooking. I salt the onion liberally when I put it in the pan and then I have to force myself to leave it alone and let it do its thing. The more you let it caramelize the better taste you’ll get in the stew.

Once the onions have cooked down add a large or several small sweet potatoes. I peel and cube them. If you love sweet potato, add more. Once I have the sweet potatoes in the pan I add the spices. You could use a pre-mixed curry powder, or you can do what I do and just mix and match what I have in the cupboard. Usually that is cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, a dash of nutmeg, ground red pepper,  and garam masala (which you could just use on its own). This spicing is really about customizing the flavors to your own tastes.

Let this simmer for a bit, until the sweet potatoes just start to soften. Then add in the chickpeas. These are either canned, or the pre-soaked and cooked chickpeas you have ready. Let all this simmer on a low temperature. I’ve never done this before but if I made it today I might add a bit of coconut cream or milk to make it a bit richer.

You can eat this in a bowl on its own or serve it over rice. Jasmine is good but again, do what tastes good to you!

With sweet potatoes being readily available in the fall it’s a perfect way to use them. I haven’t done it with pumpkin but that would work, and butternut squash is also delicious made with chickpeas this way.

Originally I added in fresh or canned tomatoes to this recipe. Over time I stopped doing that, probably because I just didn’t have any on hand, and I think the flavors are more distinct without the tomato. But right now we happen to still have tomatoes on the vine and with a freeze coming Friday night, this would be a nice way to use them. You can add more or less depending on your taste for tomato!

A favorite soup around here is butternut squash soup. My husband is good at making this and it is fairly quick once the butternut is baked. It’s easy enough to put a couple of small or one large butternut squash in the oven for an hour (we just put them in whole and let them cook) then when you’re ready for dinner, scrape out the squash, leave the seeds and pulp behind, and put in the blender with salt, pepper, coconut milk or cream, any spices you like, and blend. Then heat the purée on the stove and eat. Husband sometimes add cheese. If you want to put more time in, for a more complex flavor, saute onions and garlic on the stove while the butternut is baking and add that in when you purée the squash and seasonings. The end result is a creamy, tasty soup that warms you up and is very filling on a cold night. You can also pair this with sausages - we like our local bratwurst - and a side salad for a more complete meal.

These are standard autumn fare on November Hill. I would love to try some new recipes! Share your favorites!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Clearing the cobwebs

Inside and out!

Inside, mostly metaphorical cobwebs in my brain as I try to focus in today on clearing my to do list and getting back to the book. It’s a gray, damp, drizzly, cold day outside so perfect for making phone calls, checking things off, filing, and clearing small piles of papers that seem to stack up even though I go through mail and recycle daily. With the fall color coming in through the windows it’s one of my favorite kinds of days. A good soup for lunch would have been delicious but I just ate some cold pizza and will have to think about making soup for tomorrow.

I went to let the horses and donkeys in as the drizzle started up. They were in all night due to rain but got to turn out for the first half of the day. My farm helper is here and since it’s cold and damp for him as well, he’s working in the barn today. He mucked the stalls (a rare treat, what a luxury!) and has been working on clearing the cobwebs up to the top of the roof. I walked in the barn and breathed a sigh of pure joy. The rafters are so very clean now. Seeing those clear beams and ledges cleared the last of my mental cobwebs right out!

We are lucky to have him and grateful for his work.

We’re looking at 20s tomorrow night so it’s time to bring in the potted plants. I need a plant stand at this point. And still have some repotting that needs doing but it’s not going to get done today!

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


This one was in the sky at sunset, another one was yesterday’s ride on Keil Bay, just before sunset. I didn’t even think about the previous apres-sunset ride and my intent to ride earlier in the day. Yesterday’s ride was not so much like a coiled spring. We did a little more trotting and more shoulder-in and daughter called out “heels down!” as we went by one time.

The donkeys are coming in and marching about too. It’s fun having them there.

Last night was blissfully silent. No coyotes, no barking dogs in my pastures, no barking Corgis in the house.

Monday, November 06, 2017

PSA: please keep your dogs on your own property!

Last night Bear and Baloo went completely crazy barking and howling in our fenced back yard. I went out with the trusty Malkoff flashlight and heard a pack of coyotes yipping and yowling behind our back pasture. I spotted the horses and donkeys, clustered together, agitated and upset in our front field. And then I heard a dog barking in the lower part of the front field.

This is the second time in a few weeks a dog has been on the property. One neighbor reported a loose dog in the neighborhood in this same time frame and another neighbor acknowledged it was their dog and came home from work to get the dog in.

Ever since we moved to November Hill we have had ongoing, though not frequent, issues with dogs coming onto our property. I have dealt with neighbors individually educating and asking that they please adhere to the law regarding dogs. Some neighbors have been super responsive and apologetic. Others have been totally uncooperative and the issue has never been resolved. This is what has fueled our refencing project and my plan to bring a pair of Maremmas to guard the property and the livestock.

Although we have a larger area we do not allow the Corgis to run free on our own property. The Horseguard fencing is very secure for the horses but not as secure for dogs who run through quickly, and we do not want our dogs disturbing neighbors.

For the record, allowing one’s dogs to leave the property off leash is against the law in our county! And North Carolina has a livestock law which protects livestock from being harassed or endangered by dogs. Any injuries or damage to property are the responsibility of the owner of any dog who breaks this law.

I sent an email this morning to the neighborhood going through this yet again and asking that people please keep their dogs on their own properties. Since I haven’t been able to spotlight the dog barking with my flashlight I do not know whose it is, but I think a wildlife camera might be helpful in figuring that out.


The new fence can’t come quickly enough for me.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 41

The fall color is close to peaking on November Hill this weekend. It built slowly and then suddenly yesterday things started to pop. I named the farm November Hill because of how absolutely stunning it is in November, which is my favorite season and probably my favorite month as well, and each year I’m reminded of how special this place is.

I’m also reminded of what huge roles the trees play in my daily life. The pines and other evergreens, the oaks, the tulip poplars and birch, the dogwoods and redbuds, the hickory, and the maples and sweetgums. I have an idea to create an ongoing journal that catalogs and follows every tree on November Hill, and the other plant life. It would be a huge undertaking and I may never get to it. But I love the thought of documenting the plant part of our menagerie.

This weekend it has been overcast but before the clouds rolled in I was starting to document the light, which had become especially beautiful as the leaves changed color. There is no way to capture sunlight through changing leaves, but this is my meager effort with my trusty iPhone.

When the weather allows and sometimes even when it doesn’t, I live with the door open to the front porch. I love seeing the front pasture and the trees, and the light that shifts with the movement of the sun as the day passes. The color has gone mad even since I took this photo, but you get a sense of how it pours in through the open door.

A couple of weeks ago a photo on Pinterest gave me an idea I have never had - wrap the front porch around the house, over the garage, and around in back, where it would replace the deck. I found more photos which make me think this would be a terrific way to enhance the “flat” structure of the house on those two sides. And the cats would then have a route all the way around the house. When our contractor is here doing the fencing this month I’m going to show him the photos and get an estimate.

Out on the existing porch, through the screen, I couldn’t resist this shot of the donkey boys. The herd knows exactly where I am in the house and they often position themselves where I am so that when I look out, there they are. It’s one of the joys of the layout of this place, the proximity to the equines from three out of four sides of the house.

The back field is barely visible from the house which is one reason I have the idea for the writing studio back there. It has its own ambiance and feels removed from time in a way the front pasture isn’t. Now that the area behind the pasture fence has been cleaned out I can see the footprint of where the studio would go. In my mind the little front porch on the studio would actually be in the pasture so the herd could gather literally at the door. In a not quite fully thought out plan, the studio would have a run-in with big windows that would open into the writing studio so we could hang out side by side in there.

The pony poses in the back field in front of the gorgeous fall light:

My husband sent me this lovely photo of the Corgi Boys, Baloo and Bear, enjoying the cooler weather this week. Baloo is all grown up now. Puppies only stay puppies for a short time!

In chore news, I finished applying dark tung oil to the front gates and posts, but in a slightly hilarious twist, couldn’t reach the very top of the two massive posts. I had that on the list for husband for this weekend but it’s so cloudy and damp I decided it would be better to wait for a dry day to finish that task. For someone who likes to finish things and check them off my list, this was either going to be annoying or funny. I’ve decided to view it as a little cosmic joke on me and my list neurosis!

Sometime around Thanksgiving I will put on a second coat and then I think sometime around Christmas a third and final coat of the pure dark tung oil (without the citrus solvent). That should seal the wood and deepen the color even more.

I’m looking forward to getting two things done in November, aside from the fencing, which will be someone else’s chore to complete: screenings in the arena and the stalls resurfaced. I’ve decided due to both cost and something I read online to postpone the stall grids. I read several people complaining that with the grids the manure forks get stuck as they clean the stalls. I suspect this is because they didn’t put the recommended thick layer of screenings on top of the grids, but I want to see if I can find someone who has them and installed them exactly as is recommended before we go to the expense and trouble to put them in. For now, we’ll clean the stalls down to the base, level with new packed screenings, and put in new door jambs to keep everything in place. That will be enough work as it is! We only have mats in two stalls right now - the other two were redone without the mats and I think they work well that way.

And, finally, we had a bit of drama this morning. The squirrels are crazy for acorns and hickory nuts this year, crazier than usual, I think, and they are coming into the back yard via the trees. Occasionally they get trapped on the ground away from the trees and because of the cat enclosure they can’t go over the fence the way they did in years past. This morning one squirrel got trapped, and was up in the corner of the screen and fencing trying desperately to escape. Husband ran out to help, Pippin got the squirrel and after a quick tussle had him by the neck and ran with him. Husband grabbed Pippin, who dropped the squirrel, which ran (slowly) up the hickory tree. Baloo caught him by the tail and pulled but the squirrel managed to get free and went up the tree. Pippin went up the tree after it but I managed to lure him down and in with a treat. Ever since, Baloo has been tracking the scent of squirrel all over the yard and generally running wild. Pippin gave up and found something else to hunt. It’s another wild day on November Hill.

Friday, November 03, 2017

28/7 + 57(needs more rides) = quick ride on the second day

Or, translated:

Our ride today happened at sunset and Keil Bay quickly went from 28 to about 4 years old, in the very best way, meaning he was simply and completely ready to go, very alert, bold, and sensitive to my leg in a way that would be beautifully perfect if I weren’t so out of riding shape!

As it is, I felt like I could ride the big trot he was chomping at the (bitless) bridle to do, but I fretted that if he spooked at that big trot I might not stick with him, so I kept my legs OFF and we did some 20m circles at the walk and then did walk/trot transitions at each dressage marker to give him a predictable pattern of coming down to the walk himself.

I stopped while things were going well.

I felt good in the saddle and he felt super at the walk and the trot. I wish I could speed up my own getting back into shape.

Thinking maybe the sunset rides are not the best idea for now! Exciting though to have him feeling so good and moving so well.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

When 28 + 57 = infinity

That would be a handsome 28-year old Hanoverian + a 57-year old woman = an infinity of JOY when a ride finally took place after an unheard of 7-month hiatus.

I do not know why it has been so long, except for a busy life, new roof work on the barn last spring, a hot, buggy summer, and more busy life. The message here is an old one: ride first, do everything else after.

But today was the day. Daughter agreed to go out and supervise so I wouldn’t get caught up in a half-day grooming/spa session for the Big Bay and so that if I encountered any trouble she would be on hand. I don’t know what kind of trouble I expected - nothing specific - but it was nice to have her out there.

When the saddle pad came out Keil Bay’s eye whites showed. Mine were probably showing too. He got a peppermint when the girth was put on and that was the end of eye whiteness. I feel it is important to note that I didn’t get a peppermint but I persisted anyway!

He was amazingly sound at the walk and trot. I only asked for walk, he offered the trot himself. Daughter informed me we weren’t moving as fast as it felt like we were moving, and I’m sure she was right, but when Keil Bay rounded his neck and started to go into power trot at one point I notched him down as I wasn’t sure I was ready to go straight from 7 months off to Keil Bay’s big trot!

He got many peppermints during and after the ride. I think he was pretty satisfied with himself at the end of it. I was too. My right shoulder has been aching the past few weeks (too much raking) but I felt not even a twinge while I was riding Keil Bay. As has always been true, he is the remedy for every ailment.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Passing Unseen

An element of the fiction I write is my continual efforts to reveal to the reader the ways my characters (and us) connect both intentionally, unintentionally, accidentally, unbeknownst, synchronistically. I know from my own life that we often are affected and influenced by things people do that we don’t even know about. I find this fascinating, and novels, as well as short stories, are the perfect venue to reveal this web of connection amongst characters to the readers, who can see the entire picture.

Kyle Kimberlin, a poet friend, shared this quote (which describes what I mean perfectly) on his blog Metaphor (highly recommend a visit there!):

We keep passing unseen through little moments of other people’s lives.
– Robert M. Pirsig

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The annual Halloween graveyard cake

Every year my daughter and I make a graveyard cake for Halloween. This year we did a layer cake instead of a sheet cake and it was fun decorating a different “shape.” It’s a homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting underneath all the candy. I usually take the junky stuff off (namely, Peeps) and just eat the cake!

Here it is, and happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2017

A family get-away to Roan Mountain

Husband, daughter, my mom, and I went on a quick weekend get-away to a lovely cabin on Roan Mountain. Our farmsitter came and stayed the weekend with the menagerie. A few minutes after she walked in the door she was on the sofa with cats and Corgis snuggling in.

The fall color was beautiful and we had one rainy day with clouds rolling in and out over the mountain tops like surf, then a morning of snowflakes and then sunshine.

It was fun to take a little trip together and just as fun to get back home again.

I have some projects to finish this week and will get to them starting on Wednesday!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

This and that

The week suddenly gained momentum - my mom arrived for a visit and to celebrate her 84th birthday with us. Busy schedules but good times!

The back area is ready for fencing and hollies.

Even with help I still need 48-hour days.

Loose dog on the lane today, coyote at the back line yesterday.

100 bales of hay in the barn, with 40 more coming in November.

Everyone but me has gone to bed, including cats and Corgis.

It’s kind of nice being up alone.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

My little barn is shaping up nicely!

It’s clean as a whistle!

Needs those hay nets filled, and the woman looks a little tired, but that red-haired pony girl is on her painted pony ready to go.

Even in the little barn, though, we have the same problem: even when the cat is not away, the mice still play.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

One of those days

I had a slow start this morning. It was gray and wet and I had a hard time getting rolling. I finally got motivated enough to get off the sofa and do some chores. I had to laugh when I walked into the laundry room and saw this:

I guess we’re all having that kind of a day. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 40

I’m home after a wonderful writing retreat weekend in Hertford, NC. It was lovely to drive in through the November Hill gates and see the rich warm color after I applied dark tung oil last week. I got the insides of both gates done and the outside of one gate, so when I drove up it was clear to see the difference between bare treated wood and newly tung-oiled wood.

I’ve also done the insides of the gate posts and that wood looks terrific too. I’ll take photos when it stops raining.

Yes, it is raining. I made a big pronouncement yesterday that today was the “get back into the arena with Keil Bay” day and woke up to rain. We need the rain so badly I can’t complain and I’m sure Keil is okay to start tomorrow, but I was looking forward to getting him tacked up and riding in the autumn landscape.

The pollinator garden plants are doing well so far. About half of them are either already dormant or going that direction but the asters have blooms and one of the coneflowers bloomed. The beautyberry is on its second set of berries - the birds loved them!

We bought two pawpaw trees - native to NC and produce fruit that is said to be like a cross between banana and mango. They do not last long once picked and don’t travel well, so aren’t often seen in commercial markets, but they’ve gotten a lot of attention in our county as good trees to have and good fruit to harvest, eat, and even bake with. I’m looking forward to trying them out.

Our clearing project is nearly done thanks to our wonderful farm helper. On Thursday when I left for Hertford he had completely cleared the front pasture of manure, fallen branches and twigs, and he even cut the remaining trunk of the red oak that Salina and company killed by girdling its bark years back and made a pile of firewood. We are so lucky to have him.

The rain should dry out tomorrow and I should be able to finish the first tung oil coat on the gates and posts by Thursday. I’ll give it a week or so and then apply a second coat. After another week or so for that to cure, I’ll get straight dark tung oil (no citrus solvent mix) and finish with a good coat of that. I think that should do it for the winter, though the way to tell is to apply it until it stops soaking in. I’ll gauge that when I get to the third coat and if needed, will do a fourth.

It’s also nearly time to start searching for some 6-foot American holly trees. I need them for the side property line and for the back property line. Once the fencing is done we will plant the hollies. I’m very very excited about getting these two things done. It’s going to make living with energetic dogs easier and also living beside neighbors I really don’t want to have daily visual contact with. And of course, we will FINALLY be rid of dogs coming through the fence on that side.

Although I wanted to ride today, I have to stop and note here that this is about a perfect fall day for me. The beginnings of color, a cool breeze, gray sky, intermittent rain, and leaves falling. I love the ambiance of this kind of day. Right now cats are napping, Corgis too, and the horses and pony and donkeys are in the barn relaxing. I’m puttering inside with the doors open and it’s just perfect.

In a side note, as I almost always do, I checked real estate in Hertford during my visit and found 327 acres bounded 3/4 of the way around by the Perquimans River with bottomlands, uplands, producing hay fields, and abundant wildlife, all for $249,900. I am so tempted - an inner banks getaway spot!

I have stopped myself from researching cabin styles and open barn layouts, etc. I’ve been back to the website twice and won’t let myself dive into that rabbit hole today! My hands are full here on this much much smaller parcel of land.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Last night on the river

At least for this visit! Lovely drinks as the sun set, much work done, and still going, and a near-perfect place for writing. So glad we found this haven and met here for writerly fellowship and sharing the flow from different floors/rooms/spaces.

Tonight’s perfect view:

Dreaming of flying

I take it as a fine sign when on writing retreat I dream of flying. I went outside in my dream wearing pajamas and two long scarves, in search of a character from a previous novel who had come to visit. I couldn’t find him but in the process of looking discovered that I could fly. Off I went, using the scarves as sails, or wings, and then one scarf got caught up in the wind and I let go. I could still fly, and practiced with the remaining scarf, learning to steer with my feet and the direction of my shoulders, learning that even intent was often enough to take me exactly where I wanted to go.

Although I no longer needed the scarves, I wanted the one I had let go of back and I swooped down and grabbed it, as agile and accurate as a diving bird.

Today I’m writing a new chapter that will be the final POV chapter for a flawed but beloved character. I think I have to fly to write it, and swoop down when needed to grasp that piece of purple wool that is perhaps the core of who he is.

The Perquimans River is a shimmering companion to this work. Last night I carried the umbrella to the dock and swept the fallen evergreen needles away and cleaned up a spilled greasy candle mess that defies my imagination as to what it actually is. Then we took drinks to the dock and told stories that should all be essays and watched the sun set.

Today birds are flying along the river calling and I’ve managed to have two coffees and overnight oats and take a shower and get dressed and visit with dear women writers. Now it’s time to sit down and take on this chapter.

And with that, the huge outdoor siren/fire alarm for this little town has gone off. What an entrance to this chapter with this character.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The view out my window for the next three nights...

I'm in a lovely cottage on the banks of the Perquimans River. This was sunset tonight. Here working on a new section near the end of my novel, hoping this is the final piece that puts this whole puzzle together.

I am completely smitten with this place. There's a dock and 4 kayaks and a rowboat, plus bikes and a front porch and a back porch and many nooks to sit and write. And read, and ponder.

Deep work happens here!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Stand-off: calico versus blue merle (and a November Hill weather bulletin)

Last night Baloo had his chewie and dearly wanted to curl up in his big dog bed with it and relax. I had watched a few moments before as the resident calico staked it out and then climbed in. Pixie is the most petite of our cats and she is also the fiercest when she needs to be. Baloo came to this house full of felines as a puppy and he learned quickly who the bosses are around here.

He's very much full of confidence and perhaps a little more than he needs right now but even he wasn't willing to try to shove Pixie out of her very large nest.

This is as close as he got:

Pixie was initially upright and in defensive mode but once she insured he respected her boundary she rolled over, exposed her belly, and rubbed it in his face that he had been effectively kicked out of his own bed!

And, a November Hill weather alert: it is 8:55 a.m. and 32 degrees outside! What the heck!

Yesterday was so lovely I opened the arena gate and let the pony in. He showed off his walk, trot, and canter in both directions at liberty, looks fabulous, and was a joy to play with.

A few minutes later I let Keil Bay in and oh, my. He was a galloping, bucking wild man! After a few entire arena gallops he settled down and did some of his lovely trotting and then came and insisted on his peppermint. 

The donkeys and Cody did some walking and trotting too but although they definitely wanted to come into the arena, they were not that into me telling them what to do. I deferred. What I really wanted was to see them all move and check for any issues. And to enjoy the day, which we did. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dreams that are in an unknown "language"

I'm not sure what else to call them. Over the course of my life I have had a series of dreams that are vivid and clear inside the dream world but upon awakening I realize there are no words in English or any other language to express them.

This morning I woke up from one of these dreams, trying to recount it, but unable to. Not because I couldn't remember it - in fact, the dream was still very vivid in my mind - but because when I tried to put words to the dream there were none.

Even the feeling of the dream didn't fit any words we use for feelings.

All that came to my mind was the feeling - not nameable - and some unknown to me characters, a sort of alphabet or math symbols or something. A visual representation in my wide awake mind of what I might write if I were to write down the dream. But again, completely not known to me in terms of what the "writing" means.

It is odd but I have become used to it. I always wonder where these dreams come from and how they happen inside my brain.

Have you had a dream like this? What do you make of it?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Rain in the morning, sunshine as the sun goes down

We got .4 inch today and I had to laugh as the horses and pony came out and stood in the rain. The donkeys waited until the sun emerged this afternoon and came out to play.

It's very nice and cool, with a breeze, and I think all of us on November Hill are breathing sighs of relief to feel the cooler air.

As the leaves fall I'm thinking about the hollies that will be planted along the fence line to our right and to the rear. I'm so excited about having some visual privacy, especially to the right. No more dogs encroaching from that side, a more aesthetically-pleasing view.

Feeling a little sad - the for sale sign on the front of the hundred acre wood came down today and I guess that means the developers' deal went through. I am now pondering if we can buy two building lots directly behind us - it won't be quite the same but it would be something. Will see how things progress.

Meanwhile, six-foot fencing is going up at the rear of the farm and that, with the hollies to come, should give me peace of mind.

Right now it's as quiet as a church outside. Except for Baloo who just started barking!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A harrowing day

In the arena. I alternated harrowing with raking up and removing leaves, pine straw, manure, and many acorns. In hindsight I should have done this yesterday - we had several days of rain but two days of sunshine since then so there was a little dust on top. Not too much, though, and with the leaves it was far easier getting them up when they were dry again.

Right now is the time of year when the arena is just going to have leaves in it on any given day. I removed most of them today because they were "raked" up by the harrow but generally I don't stress it once I get most of the acorns up - a good windy day and they will be gone!

I love the big oaks at H and F but it does make for some extra work in the fall.

Plus I sort of like the sound of Keil Bay's hooves as we trot through the leafy corners, so that is my goal - to hear that sound soon.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Eastern red cedar. And ponies.

We have these popping up all over the farm, with only 3 that I'm remembering at the moment grown into full size. Why is that? This is what a NC forestry site says about Eastern red cedar:
EASTERN RED CEDAR (Juniperus virginiana) – Eastern red cedar, also known as red juniper, grows throughout the eastern half of the United States. It is the most widely distributed conifer of tree size in the eastern United States. In North Carolina, it is found everywhere except the high mountains. It is a small to medium sized tree 40 to 50 feet in height and 1 to 2 feet in diameter. The crown is dense and narrowly pyramid-shaped, or in some cases, columnar. When “open-grown”, the crown extends nearly to the ground. Eastern red cedar is found in a variety of soil conditions, however, it seems to thrive on barren soils where few other trees are found. It grows best on light loamy soils of limestone origin. Because of the moth-repellant properties of its oils, eastern red cedar heartwood is used for closet linings, wardrobes, and chests. Shavings are used for kennel bedding. It is in great demand for posts, poles and rustic work. Red cedar is also grown for Christmas trees, ornamentals and for use in windbreaks. Red cedar’s berry-like, fleshy cones are purplish-blue when ripe and are eaten by animals and birds. The dense crown provides shelter for birds during rough weather. Strips of its fibrous bark may be peeled off by squirrels, mice and birds to line their dens and nests.
The thing they left out is that painted ponies, at least the one who lives here, likes to let the volunteers grow to, oh, about 2.5 feet tall and then he breaks the trunk off at the exact right height to provide himself with a belly scratching post. I guess the cedar feels good on his tummy and maybe it has some insect repellent properties beyond the moth. 
There was a cute one along the path from barnyard to woodland gate that was looking decidedly Christmas tree-like but, alas, it is now chopped off and being used as a scratching post.

Friday, October 13, 2017

he knows exactly what I mean

Yesterday in the barn aisle Keil Bay and I were standing and enjoying the cold breeze that blew through, finally some relief from the hot muggy air we've had for the past week.

That's for us, I told him. We have a cool spell, then another few days in the 80s, and THEN, it's cooling way down and maybe this time that's it. We're going to ride, Big Bay. It's you and me in the arena getting back in shape.

He turned and looked at me and then went into the deepest, most perfect downward dog, horse version, that I've ever seen, and when he finished he extended one hind leg out behind him in a perfect stretch.


And point taken! I need to work on some yoga stretches too so I'll be as ready as he is when the saddle goes on.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What happened when I stopped trying to do Everything

A few months ago my husband and I decided to hire someone to come once every other week to help us get the fenceline on two sides of the farm clear for the fencing that will be done in November. Through a serendipitous referral we found the exact right person to do this job, and quickly realized that a number of my projects could be expedited with his help. He started coming one day a week and then two days a week.

What happened next?

The nightmare of honeysuckle, wild muscadine, and trumpet vine living under our front porch was dug out and cleared out of the beds around the porch.

The beds were cleared and prepped for planting.

The farm was weedeated on a regular basis.

The mowing was done.

The fenceline, a total thicket of poison ivy and other invasive things, was cleared.

The pastures were cleared of fallen sticks and weed patches.

The very back wooded area is about 2/3 clear now, with stacks of firewood and kindling waiting for the woodstove if it ever gets cold this year.

A month ago we decided to have someone come help me with cleaning inside the house once every other week.

Every room but the master bath has now been deep cleaned and kept that way.

For years I've said I can do three things in a day. Barn, house, family. Ride, family, house. Pasture, family, house. Family, writing, house. The bottom line is that family, which includes the 11 animals we currently live with, is always going to be one of three. That is as it should be. But what it meant was I never got to everything, because there are really 5 things that matter to me: family, write, ride, house, barn/pasture/farm. So I was forever juggling it all, making bits of progress, then losing it again as other things piled up.

Now what happens is a couple of amazing people do one of the things while I do the others, and at least some of the time, I see projects getting done much more quickly than they otherwise would.

I'm an introvert at heart so some of the time I go through a half hour of stress about having someone here, but once that passes I appreciate the help and am grateful that at this point in our lives we can afford to make the choice to put some resources toward getting it.

Yesterday while the downstairs was being managed by someone other than me, I sat in my garret and reduced three piles of paperwork to nothing, checked about 6 things off my to do list, and prepared the sleeping set-up to accommodate having the attic AC/heat unit inspected and two rooms painted. It's amazing what I can get done when the pressure of trying to do it all is removed.

The message beneath all this is not about hiring people to help, although that is part of it. At its core, the message is about me allowing for the fact that I can let go of my own desire to Get Everything Done. It's something I have worked on for years but hiring people to help has not only helped get some needed work done, it's shifted my mobile, to use an analogy I often use with clients. When we change something, just one thing, it shifts everything else around. So often we think we have to make huge changes to see a difference in our lives, our relationships, our selves. But many times just making one change results in a whole new way of being. Like a mobile hanging in a room. If you touch just one part, the whole things shifts.

And that is what I've done.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Rain mandala

Finally, some rain on November Hill. I put in a rain gauge in the flat upper bed and measured .6 inches on Saturday, .5 inches on Sunday, a trace on Monday, and more yesterday that I need to check.

We need even more but it's nice to have some each day instead of a deluge all at once.

I noticed a batch of huge rusty-colored mushrooms in the back this morning. I'm sure some things are popping up with the ground staying damp for so many days now with not much sunshine.

The birdbath created an interesting mandala when I emptied it yesterday so I took a photo. May we all get the water we need to sustain our needs. I'm thinking too of California and the wildfires and hoping the winds die down, rain falls, and the fires are soon under control. It's been an intense late summer and early fall with hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Horses and humans, meeting in the middle

Last night in the barn I was cleaning feed tubs and waiting for husband to bring out the dinner buckets. Keil Bay thought I was getting ready to feed, so he joined me at the feed room door, but when I just stood there, rubbing his neck, he nudged me, a big (some would say rude) nudge with his muzzle.

I stepped back to catch my balance, made a little shriek sound, and the Big Bay's eyes went wide and a sliver of white showed. He raised his head. I collected myself. Then, just as suddenly, I relaxed and breathed out in a sigh. He lowered his head and made a soft snort.

Keil Bay and I know one another well enough that this kind of communication happens all the time. He got overly excited about dinner, I misread his appearance at the doorway, I offered affection, he wanted food, he expressed himself, I reacted, he reacted. Then we both breathed and relaxed and grounded ourselves together. I think if you simmer the essence of horse and human communication down to its most basic, this is what you have.

I kept thinking about it, though it's not a new idea to me, nor to most people who spend time with horses and spend more time pondering how this relationship works.

Horses are large compared to humans and their instincts tend toward flight in moments of fear, boldness in times of play, and what to a horse is a simple nudge asking for movement, can be a rough shove to a smaller human. A shriek quite normal in volume as a reaction of surprise by a female human is incredibly loud to a horse.

This could have gone another way if Keil didn't know me and I didn't know Keil. Years of living together have taught us a few things.

Horses bolt and flee when things get scary, sometimes they rear and spin. Humans grip on tight and fold forward into a modified fetal position. Humans usually tense up, horses do too but their tension is released by their motion, if allowed.

Put the human who grips on tight and folds forward into a ball of hard muscle on a horse trying to get away from something scary and you have a recipe for disaster.

For humans to coexist peacefully with horses we have to engage in a mutual training down of our natural instincts. We teach the horse not to bolt, not to run away, to keep his hooves on the ground, to spin only when we ask him to. We teach ourselves to sit up straight, to resist the urge to grip on tight with hands and legs, to let our seats go deep instead of forward, to relax our bodies into the horses' forward motion. It's almost never an equal endeavor.

A young horse with less training usually needs a more experienced human and vice versa. Personalities play a role, and for the human, a basic philosophy about how we treat "others" plays a role as well.

I think the best horse people meet their horses in the middle. They listen to the horses to learn how to give at the right moments, in ways that are safe for both, in consistent patterns of behavior that build trust.

The image I have is of a human and a horse walking into an open space, an arena, or a field, and both working in unison to control instincts and join forces. A well-known Rumi poem came to mind, but I'd never considered it in the context of humans and horses. I think it fits pretty well.

Out Beyond Ideas
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.  I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense

Monday, October 09, 2017

Corgi tales

Baloo is getting so big now, and although he looks like an adult he is still very much a puppy and seems to be going through a teething phase right now as he has been going through the yak milk chews faster and has also had a few chewing mishaps.

In a 3-day period he chewed up my checkbook that cat knocked to the floor, chewed up a paperback novel that fell off the sofa arm (my fault for leaving it there), and in an odd accident, while chewing on the handle to the bottom drawer of a chest of drawers I have in our dining room, learned how to open the drawer.

The first day he just chewed the handle and I sprayed it with a no-chew concoction. That night he opened the drawer and removed everything in it and spread it all over the living room floor. The drawer contains a huge number of intricately braided ropes and lanyards and other things made by my son when he was younger. Some of the patterns of braiding and the knots are works of art, and some are connected to carved wooden handles he also made. I put it all back, used the air can as a firm NO, and hoped that was the end of it.

The second night he opened the drawer and took it all out again. I heard him and sprayed the air can again and put all the stuff back again.

Today, the third day, before leaving the house for awhile, I piled all his chewies and toys and bones in a big pile in the middle of the dining/living rooms and resprayed the concoction on the drawer handle.

When I got home he had opened the drawer yet again, removed all the ropes and handles, and spread them out almost like he was admiring them. They weren't torn up, or chewed, simply spread out all across the floor.

I have removed them all from the drawer now and figure I'll just leave it empty for awhile, but I can't even express how funny it was to see him figure this out and proceed to take all these treasures out three days in a row and lay them out like he had, indeed, discovered his very own treasure.

The expression on Bear's face - I had nothing to do with this - was also priceless!

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Breakfast at the Small Cafe

It was hard to choose today. I ended up getting the dark rye with eggs and salmon. Delicious! I haven't tried the mushroom toast yet - that's on my list for next week unless another special catches my eye, which often happens. Too many good options, not enough Saturday or Sunday mornings!