Sunday, January 29, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 26

After a lot of warm weather and even more rain, we have finally cooled down to below freezing temps at night and found sunshiny days again. The wind has also been blowing, sometimes hard, and that has made it feel colder and harder to be outside, but has thankfully helped speed the drying out process. I was sinking ankle deep into mud in several spots out in the paddock but now the mud peaks are dry and trodden flat beneath hooves and muck barrow wheels.

It's definitely midwinter here. By now I've gotten up a decent amount of leaves and mixed them in with manure and stall waste to compost. The wind has carried a fair amount of the leaves that were left out of the pastures, which made me smile as that is work I won't have to do!

The bones of the November Hill landscape are the most visible right now than any time of year. The contour of the land is clear, and we have our first winter view of the now-heavily-timbered 100-Acre-Wood. Although I miss the forest that was there before, it is interesting to see how that land lays. My husband took a photo from behind what will be our new property line looking this way toward the barn - what a sight! 

The other prominent feature of midwinter are the birds: crows and red-headed woodpeckers, and many sparrows and finches and cardinals. We were at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science last weekend exploring their huge collection of bird nests and finally, after many years not knowing, learned that the tiny nests built of hairs from the tails of our horses are made by chipping sparrows. It's nearing the time of year when we'll find them on the ground, blown down by the wind. The recent ones we have found are conspicuously devoid of Salina's black tail hairs, distinguishable from Keil Bay's by their thick/coarse texture. It seems odd that finding a tiny nest makes me miss Salina but it does.

I remain behind on projects but this weekend's sunshine after several days of dry weather allowed me to chip away at my painting. I put two very nice coats of soft white milk paint on the support beams for the final porch screen, the post and porch rail beneath, and got about halfway through putting one coat on the screen itself. I considered finishing it today but decided horse hooves need touch-up trims and Keil Bay needs his full trim, so hopefully on Wednesday, a sunny day with forecast of 60s, I can finally complete this project!

Then it's on to the front steps which I need to sand, make one small repair, and then paint and tung oil (which will be the second coat of tung oil). I'm looking forward to that day when I can say DONE and place the order for my new porch light!

We have been replacing barn lights with LED bulbs as the old ones burn out and we had four to replace this weekend. It's nice how something so simple makes such a huge and pleasant change - LIGHT! It's nice and bright in there again. Cheerful on gray days.

In other news, I am pondering how and when to start my beekeeping in earnest, though I'm only a few classes into bee school. And on Friday I went to Bear's first obedience class and got some terrific tips that have already proved useful. I feel his biggest lesson in this class will be learning to do things with the huge distraction of being with 7 other dogs he doesn't know. I hope we'll sail through pretty well and then move on to Canine Good Citizen in March. 

I would be misrepresenting life on November Hill these days if I left out concern about our country and what is happening here. Thankfully the farm and the season and the animals both domestic and wild keep me busy and grounded. But the peace and calm I feel here is also like a treasure to be guarded and protected and I'm making regular phone calls to state and national senators and representatives. It makes me both sad and upset to see the chaos this administration brings, but I hope, in a bigger, deeper way, that we are in the midst of a needed change. I feel the two-party system is not serving us well, and I feel our nation has lost its focus. We need to get in touch with what we as a country want to "be about" - I hope we can find a way to be a nation focused on protecting humans, animals, the environment, and making it a point to prioritize good lives for all citizens. With the arts and science given huge support. A lofty hope, perhaps, but I think it's possible. 

I see recently how valuable living on our little farm is - how much joy and peace it brings - and I think there has to be a way to help people find their own November Hills in the world - whether it is a small piece of land and a lively, loving menagerie of animals, or an apartment in the city with a window garden and a sketch pad on the table by the window. It's really a state of mind, finding what sustains us. But it seems we have, in the big picture, lost the ability to find that in our daily lives. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Concerned about what is happening since Trump took office? Take action now!

Shared from Jennifer Hofmann, with gratitude for this wonderful checklist!

What to Do This Week of Jan 22, 2017
Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience

There are 21 months to mid-term elections. Let’s get cracking!

The intention of this weekly document is to make clear suggestions for action backed by well-considered research. If an issue doesn’t affect you, consider whether you would support this issue on behalf of other Americans and act accordingly. Although these topics have been well researched and are intended to be helpful, they are still subject to human error. Please do your own research!

If you'd like get this checklist weekly, sign up here:

I believe I can make a difference.

Gear up for the next 652 days to the midterm elections. 
Print out this worksheet for the steps below:

* Put your representative’s name, local phone, DC phone, address, and email on the worksheet or your phone. Get them here.
* Put your two senators’ names, local phones, DC phones, addresses, and email addresses there too. Get them here.
* Get a pile of postcards (or sheets of 110lb cardstock to make your own) and 34-cent postcard stamps. Snail mail is the new response to full voice mailboxes.
* Decide on your “Top Three” most-important issues. Focusing on just a few issues will prevent overwhelm. Consider choosing at least one issue that doesn’t affect you personally. #Top3
* Have a conversation with yourself and/or beloved others about how you want to give time and/or treasure to your Top Three.
* Set aside time each week to be active. 20-60 minutes is a good range. Add this to your calendar. You might consider doing your actions with others for support and community.

I believe in a free, quality education for America’s youth.

Oppose the appointment of Betsy DeVos to Secretary of Education ASAP. 
Even if you’ve already called and/or left a message, call again. If you get voicemail, leave a message. (Hearing on 1/31. Instructions on the next page.)
Call: Senate HELP Committee Chair, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 202-224-4944
Call: HELP Committee Ranking Member, Patty Murray (D-WA) 202-224-2621
Call: Your two senators. (lookup)
Script: Hi! I am calling to oppose Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. (Really, that’s all you need to say.)

I believe in equal rights for all Americans.

Oppose Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions (hearing on 1/31)
Call: Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) 202-224-3744
Call: SJJC Ranking Member, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) 202-224-3841
Call: Your two senators local office (look up)
Script: Hi! I am calling to oppose Jeff Sessions for Attorney General.

Read the ACLU’s 7-point action plan
Choose what action you will take based on what you read.

I believe in integrity and reject corruption.

Sign the first two petitions on the new White House website. (Incidentally, I’m happy to see the petition page--which Obama started--still on the site.)

* Release tax returns:

* Divest: 

I believe in creating a healthy environment for future generations.

Since the new potus* and crew don’t believe the climate crisis is real, we must ask our state governors to uphold Obama’s climate goals.
Click this link for an easy call with complete script. (Weekly Resistance rocks!)

I believe in my Constitutional right to free speech.

Call your governor if you live in Indiana, Michigan, Washington (state), Minnesota, North Dakota, or Iowa. These six states are proposing legislation that criminalizes peaceful protest and risk lives. (source) (source)
Also call your state representative if you live in the states above.
Share: If you know anyone in the states above, ask them to call. 
Script: I am a constituent calling to oppose new legislation that threatens my constitutional right to peacefully protest. 

I believe in the value of social welfare.

Protest the potus’* wide-ranging, unamerican budget cuts.
Full instructions on The 65 

I believe in affordable, accessible healthcare for all Americans.

Read this thorough, timely action plan to prevent dismantling the ACA.
Choose what action you will take based on what you read.

I believe in the power of my voice.
Get coffee: Ask a few friends to meet up and discuss how you’ll proceed over the next four years. This website offers fantastic step-by-step instructions on how to take meaningful action. 
Send an email to friends. 
Use this guide: 

Recommended Reading

Prepare mentally: The next four years will be rough if you don’t understand how psychological manipulation works. Using precise examples, this article shows you how to avoid falling prey to fear-based mind games. Moyers is a little intense for my taste, but his information stellar.

ACA Executive Order: This article explains what the potus’* executive order means for the Affordable Care Act, signed the day of the inauguration.

This is #NotNormal

It is not normal for a inaugural address to include words like carnage, trapped, robbed, decay, and ravage. (source) A normal president doesn’t use language of fear and escalation, but hope and vision. 

It is not normal for a democratic president to have military parades in major cities. (source) A normal president respects the military by supporting veterans and pursuing peace.

It is not normal for a president to threaten citizens for using their First Amendment right. (source) A normal president seeks to understand complex issues and takes a just and nuanced approach to solving them.

It is not normal for a president to promise to eliminate business conflicts of interest, fail to do so, and then lie about it. (source) A normal president enters his or her term free of conflicts of interest and even the impression of corruption.

Good news

Fair voting: Gerrymandering took another huge hit in Alabama where a judge found twelve congressional districts to be racially discriminatory and subject to redistricting. (happy dance for justice!) (source)

Republican leadership: Once again, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is calling for deeper investigation into Russia’s influence in the American election process. His willingness to speak out is courageous and commendable. (source)

NoDAPL progress: Water Protectors in North Dakota have two pieces of good news. First, out-of-state lawyers may now assist with the glut of arrest cases, and, second, the full environmental DAPL study will proceed. (source)

Stronger together: The Women’s March in DC to protest the new potus* was a rousing success. Women and allies marched in more than 500 US cities (source) and more than 70 countries in sister marches (source). The DC march alone surpassed inauguration attendance!

Commence Impeachment: The ACLU is taking the first step to analyze potus’* business conflicts of interest as an impeachable offense. Expect calls to action on this in the future. (source)


* If you’d like to receive this message weekly, sign up here.
* To see archives of past Action Checklists, click here and scroll to the bottom.
* Support (patreon) or contribute (paypal)

Final action

If you found this useful, spread the word!

Tweet: One solution to stress is clarity. This helps me take action!

Facebook: Banish anxiety: Use this awesome checklist to take action and make a positive difference today.

We're stronger together!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Beekeeping news: getting ready for the bees!

I'm in week two of beekeeping school and enjoying the challenge of learning new material and readying for the chance to actually set up a hive on November Hill.  I'm hoping that this year I can start with one hive, so I have something to apply the knowledge to, and get my feet wet with this venture.

We're using this book as our introduction to beekeeping:

I read through this chapter earlier today:

Working on locating the best spot for a first hive and colony and also very happy to learn last week that our local feed store has made new space for beekeeping supplies! They hired an actual beekeeper to set it up and he'll be working there part-time. When I peeked in last week he was busy putting frames together and they already had everything I need to set things up. 

I need to do a little more research but I learned that it's likely I can use my tung oil and milk paint for the outside of the hive. 

I also attended my first meeting of our county-wide Beekeepers' association. Very nice meeting with two grad students from NCSU presenting their current research on honey bees. I loved that the association donated a check to their research lab - $2000.! It's nice to be joining a group who values science and learning and puts money toward that end.

As a side note, we are having the mildest weather - highs in the 60s for days and days now, and lots of rain which seems to be clearing out this morning. Good news for projects I have nearing completion and for those I had hoped to already be working on!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

This is so important I am saying it again - on horse herd behavior and dominance

  • It's a direct quote from Wendy Williams' Scientific American article highlighted in my previous blog post, and I am putting it in all caps and bolding it because it is that important.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Clinton Anderson, his followers, and what they know (or don't, as the case might be)

This morning I received the following comment to an old blog post  about Clinton Anderson and his website response to an outcry in 2013 about his way of handling the death of a horse in training on his ranch. The post has generated a huge amount of traffic and currently has 158 comments.

I recently edited that old blog post to say that I would no longer approve anonymous comments due to so many people writing rude and hateful things without being willing to sign their names. But I still get them, and this is the one I received this morning:

"You people piss me off. In the wild herds of horses are based off of what? DOMINANCE!!! Hello people are you that fucking stupid? If a stallion in the wild lost to another one he loses his rank and gets cast out. In the wild if you are not of high rank you get walked on. So to you uneducated morons Clinton Anderson's methods seem primitive, but to the ones that are educated his method is true. You see it as dominance I see it at putting my foot down with a toddler like animal that will eventually understand that I am the "stallion" and grow to be apart of my herd...Aka my companion. Remember respect isn't given its earned. Fucking twats"

Whew! I did not approve this comment - its writer adds nothing of substance to the discussion, is rude, calls names, and is unwilling to put a name to his/her words.

The reason I'm posting it here and writing an entire blog post in response is twofold. First, it's a good example of a reactionary, close-minded, "my way or the highway" comment, very much like CA's statement which he put on his website back in 2013 and then removed, probably because he was told it wasn't good public relational strategy. It reveals buckets of information about the kind of person he is, and the kind of person the commenter is. 

It doesn't say anything correct or valid about horse herd behavior in the wild.

I'm happy to share some educated, documented information:

Wendy Williams, in an article in the October 2015 issue of Scientific American, describes the newest and most accurate information we have about wild horses living in bands and how they behave. 

She writes:


  • Scientists have long studied the best ways to train and treat domesticated horses, but they largely ignored the behavior of free-ranging horses. Recent research has begun to fill that gap.
  • Observations from long-term studies of wild horses show that the conventional, male-centric view of their power dynamics is wrong.
  • In fact, females often call the shots, employing tactics such as cooperation and persistence to get their way.
I urge you to read her entire article which you can find HERE. The article was adapted from her book, The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion, published in 2015, available HERE. There is much more information out there which validates her information.

I guess CA and his followers just haven't read it yet.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Early morning wolf moon, Temple Grandin, and LGD pups

On Tuesday I was up early and heading out in 15 degrees with ice still on the roads. I'm not an early bird by nature but sometimes when I need to be up and out at this early hour beautiful things happen. This captures a little bit of the gorgeous wolf moon from the driveway, with the cat porch illuminated by its Christmas tree lights.

The road was dark and there were areas where the ice was still heavy. Along one curving section of roadway a truck had gone off the road and was perched nose down in a deep culvert of trees. I was glad to get where I was going with no issues.

That same evening the temps had risen to 49 so everything melted! My daughter and I went to hear Temple Grandin speak at NCSU's Hunt Library. It was a high energy lecture about different kinds of minds and how they learn. She's a very animated, intense speaker and has so many good things to say. 

Every day this week the temperature has risen. Today I finished the tung oiling of the cat tunnel along with the front porch steps. I am SO happy to have completed that chore! Next up is completion of the last bit of painting I need to do on the front porch. 

Today in the balmy 70s outside I spent some time mucking and raking in the back field with the herd. The mud is drying out, much of it actually ON the horses, pony, and donkeys, and the raking helped me remember what the melting snow does when it falls, rests, and then melts on top of fallen tree leaves. It kicks off the composting process! All I had to do was rake a few swaths to see the start of dark crumbling humus material. For some reason that is a comfort to me - it might look like mud out there but there's good soil amendment cooking too!

We are continuing to research livestock guardian dogs. At the moment we have narrowed the field to Maremma Sheepdogs, Great Pyrenees, and Kangals. 

The Maremmas are said not to wander as much as Great Pyrenees do and the Kangals have shorter, non-white coats that would likely suit our summer climate and our red clay better than solid white junior polar bear coats. We've been invited to meet some Kangals who guard horses locally and also a Great Pyrenees who does the same. And even though I don't yet know anyone local to us who has Maremmas, I have to admit that this photo from Windance Farm in NY is totally singing to me about this breed:

I'm fretting the coyotes and the idea of having huge canine guardians out there 24/7 makes me happy. Though I know we would have a good year of work to do to help any breed of LSG pups get up to speed to do their jobs.

Any thoughts welcome! 

Monday, January 09, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 25

We had predictions for 5-7 inches of snow this past weekend, along with 3 days of temperatures well below freezing and 3 nights of temperatures in the single digits, and, last night -6, so I spent Friday preparing. We of course stocked up on Timothy balance cubes and the pellets I give Keil Bay with his meals now. With our hay stall well stocked in the barn, that was taken care of, but I added extra bags of shavings so we could top off stalls as needed until their night-time turn out can resume.

Normally these extremely cold days aren't paired with precipitation here, so I decided with all of us recuperating from colds, and with both snow AND extreme cold, I would do something I've never done before. I bought two stock tank heaters and set up water tanks in the barn aisle and under the shelter so that both sides had water with no worries of freezing up. Typically we go out and remove the ice on these cold mornings and tote out buckets of lukewarm water as well, but that gets dicey when the ground is slippery! 

It has worked so well I have a new idea to implement after the barn roof work and additional side shelter are completed. My next barn project was going to be getting the barn re-wired, and now I'll have that done but will add a dedicated outlet on each side, under each shelter. I'm thinking I'll put slightly smaller stock tanks beneath each shelter, with the capacity to use the heaters during winter months as needed. If I do this I can do away with the water buckets in the barn aisles and the individual stalls since we rarely close anyone in anyway. 

I'll keep the stock tanks in each field, obviously, but I think in the long run this will be easier on us and better for the horses as well.

We ended up getting about an inch of mixed sleet and snow and then a little more snow on top of that, which hasn't been too difficult to navigate. The big issue has been the extreme cold and we are all looking forward to tonight being the last of this cold spell. One more night, 13 degrees, and then we start to warm up so that by this weekend we'll be at 70 degrees! 

This is the crazy roller coaster weather we get in North Carolina. The blessing, I suppose, is that we get breaks from the extremes pretty regularly so nothing goes on for too long a time.

I enjoyed the snowy landscape on Saturday and on Sunday until the sun came out - for some reason the sun on snow isn't pretty to me, and the blinding whiteness makes me want to cover my head and not come out until the snow melts away. 

Inside, I'm putting down towels to catch the snow on all the cats and Corgi paws, not to mention boots, and sweeping up firewood debris around the wood stove several times a day. It's a messy kind of weather all around. 

As is usual in North Carolina when it snows like this, we all have snow days today. The university canceled the first day of spring semester classes, my beekeeping school first class is canceled, and husband is home from work. There are a lot of joke memes about this going around on Facebook but I actually love this about our state. We don't get this weather frequently enough to invest in heavy duty equipment to clear the roads and keep things going through the snow, so everything shuts down for a few days until it melts enough to drive. 

These snow days are good times for enjoying family time, making good food, and creating memories. And it impresses me that for those of you living with horses in this kind of weather for months on end you are able to keep things going! 

Friday, January 06, 2017

And finally, the twelfth day of Christmas, December

We have snow approaching so today I had a list of things to get done in the event we get the high end of the range of inches predicted, which is 9. A huge amount for us here in North Carolina, enough to bring things to a standstill here.

This morning before leaving to run some errands, though, I was sitting on the sofa reading when I saw a red-headed woodpecker on our shagbark hickory tree, pecking away. He was big and very handsome and I watched him searching for food wishing I could hear the knocking of his beak against the wood. I always think of knocking when I hear woodpeckers, like someone is building something or else the sound of someone at the door, so symbolically that's what comes to mind when I think about what might be showing up next December.

Later in the day I saw a cardinal, probably the same one I've been seeing all last week and this one, and again, felt his brilliance and cheer.

I spent the afternoon getting the barn set up for horses and snow, but also for a couple of nights of very cold temperatures, 9 tomorrow night, 0 on Sunday. 

Before coming inside I was startled by the coyotes shrieking and yipping in the 11-acre field just next to the barnyard. The horses, pony, and donkeys all flew out of the barn, into the rain, on high alert. I was so annoyed that the coyotes were this close, that they had drawn my herd out of their dry clean stalls with hay into the cold rain. I went out and shrieked and howled and yapped back at them and they stopped. Whether they moved on or just went silent I don't know, but I coaxed Keil Bay back into his stall and the rest followed suit except for Little Man, who stayed out until I got a lead rope and led him into the dry barn.

We've been talking about getting a Great Pyrenees as a herd guardian. I'm not sure how serious we are, as I would want to enclose the property with woven wire if we were going to have a dog living out there, and I can't quite imagine us owning a dog who stayed outside 24/7. But tonight I announced we should get two of them and let them deal with the coyotes.

All of this makes me wonder what the coyotes mean for next December! A lot to think about with these omen days and the year to come. 

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh days of Christmas: August, September, October, November

August through October are going to be mystery months as I lost track of this journey in the throes of rain, a cold, and trying to get organized after the new year! 

Today I am readying for the forthcoming snowfall due to arrive this weekend. There's a sense of waiting in the herd, and I'm sure they know it's coming. For the humans here, we are looking at snow with lows the next few nights in single digits and highs below freezing, which is not usual for us and we have to prepare. 

I don't know what this bodes for November 2017! Outside it is gray and the temperature is dropping. The most prominent thing in nature to me today are the evergreens, all of whom seem to be standing tall and steady and I enjoyed feeling that sense of "ever" in them as I worked outside.

Stocking up on food and have many good books piled in multiple stacks and on my Kindle so I'm happy and ready for the weekend. 

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Sixth and seventh days of Christmas: June and July

Yesterday ended up being an indoor day. It was chilly and some of us have colds and we ended up watching TV on Netflix and I made a big pot of chicken soup for dinner, bought good bakery brownies and egg nog ice cream for dessert, and rang in the new year with a gin and tonic. 

On my way out of the market I ran into (literally) three beagles on very tangled leashes and their human. I talked to him about beagles and rescues and am not sure what this foretells for June but I think anything to do with those sweet beagles has to be good.

Today, New Year's Day, we got RAIN. But a cardinal came to the tree by the living room window and perched for awhile and the rain has been steady but not hard, so I'm calling it a win for July. Water and seeing bright red birds, who can go wrong with that?