Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gorgeous! Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer: The Mushroom Hunters

Neil Gaiman's feminist poem about the dawn of science, from the wonderful Maria Popova's Brain Pickings today:

Science, as you know, my little one, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe.
It’s based on observation, on experiment, and measurement,
and the formulation of laws to describe the facts revealed.
In the old times, they say, the men came already fitted with brains
designed to follow flesh-beasts at a run,
to hurdle blindly into the unknown,
and then to find their way back home when lost
with a slain antelope to carry between them.
Or, on bad hunting days, nothing.
The women, who did not need to run down prey,
had brains that spotted landmarks and made paths between them
left at the thorn bush and across the scree
and look down in the bole of the half-fallen tree,
because sometimes there are mushrooms.
Before the flint club, or flint butcher’s tools,
The first tool of all was a sling for the baby
to keep our hands free
and something to put the berries and the mushrooms in,
the roots and the good leaves, the seeds and the crawlers.
Then a flint pestle to smash, to crush, to grind or break.
And sometimes men chased the beasts
into the deep woods,
and never came back.
Some mushrooms will kill you,
while some will show you gods
and some will feed the hunger in our bellies. Identify.
Others will kill us if we eat them raw,
and kill us again if we cook them once,
but if we boil them up in spring water, and pour the water away,
and then boil them once more, and pour the water away,
only then can we eat them safely. Observe.
Observe childbirth, measure the swell of bellies and the shape of breasts,
and through experience discover how to bring babies safely into the world.
Observe everything.
And the mushroom hunters walk the ways they walk
and watch the world, and see what they observe.
And some of them would thrive and lick their lips,
While others clutched their stomachs and expired.
So laws are made and handed down on what is safe. Formulate.
The tools we make to build our lives:
our clothes, our food, our path home…
all these things we base on observation,
on experiment, on measurement, on truth.
And science, you remember, is the study
of the nature and behaviour of the universe,
based on observation, experiment, and measurement,
and the formulation of laws to describe these facts.
The race continues. An early scientist
drew beasts upon the walls of caves
to show her children, now all fat on mushrooms
and on berries, what would be safe to hunt.
The men go running on after beasts.
The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill
and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs.
They are carrying their babies in the slings they made,
freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.

Here Amanda Palmer read it here.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Meet Blue Baloo!

Ears taped for support, relaxing on the front porch. He arrived last night and has settled in like a total champ. Bear loves him, one cat has laid down the law, the other three are pretty miffed. I think they'll come around. He is an absolute doll. Sweet and playful, curious and loving. It is so nice to see two Corgis gallivanting about again.

He's a blue merle Cardigan Welsh Corgi and his tail is a work of art!

It's so much fun having a puppy in the house again. Especially when there is a big brother to show him the ropes. More and better photos on the way. I'm "blogging from iPad Pro" challenged again.

Friday, April 21, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 29

The past few weeks have been crazy busy. My son has accepted a very generous offer from Cornell University to its PhD program in astrophysics beginning this fall, and this past week learned he has been awarded UNC-Asheville's Manly E. Wright Award as the graduating student deemed "first in scholarship" by faculty across all departments. He has also been invited to speak at commencement! I'm so very proud of him and happy that his homeschooling journey with us led him to find his way to studying physics and the stars. I am so excited to see where his studies in graduate school take him.

My daughter is equally engaged in her own studies as an undergrad majoring in integrative physiology and neurobiology. She's been busy wrapping up a good semester and will be moving into her sophomore year, which seems unbelievable.

These two have been the human heartbeats of November Hill ever since we moved to the farm. With all the animals we live with there are many heartbeats - but I feel a marked shift in the landscape of November Hill itself as these two move into different life stages, where their interests lead them away from home and its focus.

This week on the farm I'm seeing the intense leafing out of trees and the greening of our property. The lane is no longer visible from the house, nor are the homes across the lane. Our neighbors to the side are much less prominent in our vista. As spring fully takes hold I feel the shift into the time of year when November Hill feels like a jungle, complete with all the little critters one might expect to thrive in such a climate. Ticks, ants, flies, bees, wood roaches, butterflies, moths. The night sounds are huge and symphonic. Bunnies, deer, birds. We are teeming with life.

The arena has taken on a definite green tone, which means it's time to start dragging. I am composting madly and finding the process speeding up. As usual, I feel like I'm about 156 items behind on the to do list, but things will get done.

Bear Corgi and I are still working on his canine good citizen skills. The certification test conflicts with my son's graduation so we'll be taking it at a later date. Stay tuned for the results of that as well as a possible new addition to the family!

I've been remiss with birthdays this month. Apache Moon is turning 17 in a few days, and Keil Bay is officially 28 years old. I cannot believe it. These two were the original equines who made the move with us to the farm and I still remember with clarity the morning they arrived. We led them to stalls filled with shavings and new water buckets and gave them hay and time to settle in. They turned out to the dirt paddock first and then to the back field and then the front. I think we followed them step by step that entire day, monitoring every moment as they explored their new home. They paved the way for Cody and Salina, and then Rafer Johnson and Redford. They have helped make November Hill the haven it is for all of us.

So, spring is here. And I have projects to finish, start, work on. Riding to do. Waters to keep clean and full. Bugs to battle. Plants to keep in line. Before you know it we'll be into summer and those many-shower days.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter bunnies celebrating life on November Hill

It has been a total nightmare trying to get this video onto this blog. I give up! I've made the post I put on Facebook public and am linking to it here so that hopefully I can wish everyone a happy belated Easter with the amazing little scene we came home to late last week. My daughter took a huge amount of video of these bunnies who kept at it for 15-20 minutes or so before finally retreating to the woods' edge. It's one of the most amazing things I've seen here, and I've seen a lot of magic on the hill.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

beekeeping tales, 4 (plus tangents)

I'm very sad to say that I've decided I need to postpone setting up my first three hives to next spring. When I first signed on for beekeeping school I wondered if it would be possible to get the hives going this spring and, as usual for me, leaped into Do It Now mode. I didn't realize just how busy I would be and I also neglected to consider that with my son going off to graduate school this fall (he accepted Cornell's generous offer, yay!) I would be helping him move during the midsummer when bees here tend to need attention.

Reality hit last week and I made the hard decision to wait. I'm lucky - our local beekeeping association offers many and regular opportunities to help with the hives they maintain at our local community college campus. And there are many beekeepers willing to let new ones come and watch/learn. So I'll be building skills this year and hope that next spring when I start I'll be a better beekeeper for having waited.

Another issue that has come up, which deserves its own post, but I'll go ahead and write it here, is that Bear Corgi is doing really well in his Canine Good Citizen class. BUT. And this is a but I didn't anticipate. His work with me and his trips out into the wider world have created some separation anxiety. He wants to go with me ALL the time. He wants to go to the barn with me, to the garage with me, to the mailbox with me, basically he wants to go everywhere we go when we leave the house. It's become clear that he is going to have to have a new canine companion so our leaving isn't quite the ordeal it has become for him. The puppy search is on. And most of you who read here understand the commitment of taking on a new puppy. This isn't the search for the Maremma Sheepdog pups, which leads me to yet another part of the saga.

We have scheduled construction for May for barn gutters and for a farm entranceway gate and fencing to completely enclose our existing property. With all this going on, including the contractor coming in and out, delivery of materials, etc., I felt it would be a lot of commotion during the exact time frame I would be setting up new hives.

We also got quotes for new dog/horse-safe perimeter fencing and are looking to do that in the fall, which along with the gated entrance will get us ready for livestock guardian dog(s). Which made me rethink the location of my hives and I realized the place I had planned to put them won't work for the longer term. So postponing gives me time to get all that re-considered and organized.

Isn't life wonderful? Just when you think you have it all under control something shifts and new plans have to be made.

In the big picture, waiting a year to keep bees is best. But today, I feel sad. I'll be learning and writing about that process, though. And I suspect a puppy in the house will lessen the sadness just a bit.

Monday, April 03, 2017

horsekeeping rant, reprised

I know I've ranted about this previously here but it seems like a long time ago. This morning I was reading an email digest for a horsekeeping forum I've been on for years. Someone is asking about caring for a horse who foundered at some point and the boarding barn is being resistant to requests to customize the routine for this horse, who can't take the rich feed they use, needs soaked hay, and needs more feeds per day due to the forage only nature of the prescribed diet.

First, boo hiss to the boarding barn. You're taking money for horse care. Provide it. Horses aren't stamped out of some one size fits all mold.

Second, in the back and forth that followed after the owner posted asking for help, and kudos to that owner for seeking some state of the art advice on the issue of insulin resistance in horses, it was revealed that the horse lives in a 12x12 stall and GETS NO TURNOUT.

The owner wrote that the horse "has never been very nice" and thus gets no turnout. The horse is ridden but that is it for time outside the stall. Can we just call the stall what it is in this instance? Cell. The horse is in a cell 24/7 other than the few hours a few days a week when ridden.

No one is addressing this thus far on the forum. I don't want to shame the owner, who is at least trying to find out how to manage the IR.

But when I read the posts just now I wanted to throw something.

What kind of life is it to be kept in a 12x12 space for your entire life? I think most of us would end up being "not very nice," especially if our feet hurt at the same time.

What do horses need to be happy?

I think they need shelter, access to forage 24 hours a day, limited if need be by using hay nets, clean water, the company of other horses, or perhaps donkeys, or even goats, and space to move. By move I mean walk, trot, canter, gallop, lie down, roll, stretch, and "graze" - whether something growing or something provided.

It boggles my mind that anyone thinks a horse, whose entire physiological system is based on movement, can be kept healthy and sound living in a stall 24 hours a day.