Monday, July 24, 2017

Diary of a Cutting, in Riverfeet's anthology, Awake in the World

My essay, Diary of a Cutting, appears in Riverfeet Press' new anthology, Awake in the World. It's a lovely book with a wonderful selection of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction about nature in all her glory. Just out in June, it's available for purchase HERE

Diary of a Cutting is about the timbering of what I call the "hundred-acre wood" behind November Hill. It's actually 103 acres and for most of the time we've lived here it was a forest. The cutting of trees around November Hill began on the morning of the day our sweet black mare Salina died, so the screaming of the cutting machines became a sound that pains me in more than one way every time I hear it. 

I miss Salina and I miss all the trees. 

If you purchase before the end of August 10% of your purchase price will be donated to the National Parks Association. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lots of stuff and a special birthday

It's been a bit of a zoo here since I returned from my writing retreat in gorgeous Little Switzerland, in a tiny chalet atop Grassy Mountain. I was super productive there but as soon as I got home November Hill took me over again and I haven't touched my novel manuscript since! I will remedy that this weekend.

My son has moved out of his undergraduate apartment and is home with us until the end of the month when he and I will take a U-Haul and his car to Ithaca to get him settled into his new place. I'm excited to explore Cornell with him. Meanwhile we are enjoying having him here with us for a bit.

We had a week of heat, then a nice break, and are now heading into a weekend that includes three days of 100 degree temps. I am so not looking forward to this, but what can I do? I'm sure the hose will be in regular use through this coming heat.

A dear friend and colleague passed away last week after a 15-month battle with ovarian cancer. She has been a light in the lives of many and her service was beautiful and heart-breaking. She leaves her husband of 29 years and three amazing children who are just off to college. I miss her and am also dealing with my own issues having to do with how busy I tend to be here on November Hill, often to the point that making time to see friends and extended family is not where I wish it were. Dori's death is a hard reminder to me that prioritizing time with friends and family is so very important.

Yesterday I got so caught up in the day I left the most important chore - getting in some hay to tide us over until next week's big load is trucked in - to the last minute. Storm clouds were forming and I ran to the truck and headed into town. They loaded the hay and we covered it with the tarp I bought in the feed store for that purpose. As I drove toward home it was dark but still dry, but just as the tarp blew off the hay and flew back like a scarf in the wind, still attached by the very back corners, I could see the deluge ahead of me, a gray white blur. I pulled off quickly and got the tarp back on, trying to secure it more effectively, knowing it was probably not going to stay on but hoping. I drove into the deluge and off the tarp came again. I drove home fussing at myself for leaving this to the last minute, not being more careful at the feed store and tying the tarp down, and then I just relaxed and said what the heck. The two large bales on top will get soaked, we'll feed those first and we won't stack any of them. If mold happens I'll take the hay down the hill and use it for mulch on the back path.

Sometimes we just have to give ourselves a break and give in to the chaos, even when, and maybe especially when, it's self-imposed. The herd got flakes from the wettest bale and for them it was a treat - reconstituted Northern grass! All's well that ends well.

And, the birthday! Rafer Johnson turns 10 years old today. It's impossible to believe that he is now in double digits age wise, but it has been a decade of pure joy and delight. He remains a handsome, personable, sweet and also opinionated member of our family. I will fix up some happy birthday tubs tonight for dinner and hope for oh, at least thirty more years with this amazing donkey!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 34


I could stop there with this post but I'll backtrack a little and lead up to this week's string of 95+ days.

Last Friday I went with a friend to a beautiful chalet in Little Switzerland, NC, where we spent 4 days working on our current novels. It was a nice break for me - part of our deal was that Carolyn made dinner every night, and she's a food writer and wonderful cook so the meals were delicious. I got a huge amount of work done. The chalet is on the top of Grassy Mountain with views of Table Rock and the Blue Ridge, and was absolutely charming - an old stone tower that was at some point converted to living space. The stone walls are two feet thick! The landscape was lovely around the chalet too - with blueberries and blackberries there for the picking in the back. The wildlife highlight was when a huge black bear ambled by the dining room window and left, we think, a nose smudge of the glass of the outer front door!

Back to November Hill on Tuesday and that's where the heat comes in. It is so hot and relentless for the next three days before we dip back to the low 90s. The cats are staying in, the Corgis are on vents for the AC, and the horses are enjoying the shade and fans in the barn during the hot days.

Farm updates:

I got my signs for the front gate, which I need to take a photo of to share, but they are very nice and make it clear that no one should enter without express permission. The surveyors finished up yesterday, revealing some surprises about our strip that goes up to the main road. It's much wider than we knew, which doesn't mean much but does make me wish I'd know where the line was a couple of years ago when an obnoxious relative of the heighbors told me "he owned the road." The truck he used to haul in his ATV to race up and down was actually parked on our property! Oh, well.

One flower bed is neatly covered in cardboard and compost now, thanks to my husband, who did that for me while I was away. It's so nice to see that project starting to take off, even if it does coincide with the hottest week of the year thus far!

The horses are having their feed tubs decreased, as they are getting so much grass right now they are leaving the tubs half eaten. The overseeding we did and continue to do has paid off. I can't say enough good things about our Newer Spreader. I'm finding it to be one of the best farm purchases we've made, ever.

That's about it for now! If you're enduring summer heat, my sympathies. I am so ready for fall!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 33

July 4th is behind us now; there were fireworks but mostly distant. The cicadas did a magnificent job providing white noise, Rescue Remedy for the herd helped them stay calm, and an Aperol spritz and dear husband kept me calm as we sat in chairs by the barn and waited it out.

My mom was here for a 5-day weekend and we had good food, great conversation, and a very nice visit. Our son was in town and came by a couple of days for a few hours, and I treasured the constellation of family that made up this holiday weekend. Who knows when these particular orbiting  planets will align this way again!

We're managing to keep on top of the farm chores. The grass is growing like mad, the horses are eating grass and hay and dropping manure at a pace that seems super-equine in sheer volume. We are mucking and spreading and overseeding and mowing and weed-eating and trimming back the jungle. The Newer Spreader is a godsend, and our new shelter is affording space for the mower so it stays where it's most used. The harrow has moved to the hay tent and that's made harrowing easier too.

I have a new mini-ShopVac in the barn and although I haven't used it yet I think that will make life easier as well. This year seems to be all about getting super efficient with the work we have to do here. I'm happy to be getting some things done and getting some tools that help.

Tomorrow I have a new farm helper coming for the day. We hope to have him here every other week for now, and I'm thrilled that he came so highly recommended. He works alone and apparently he can do just about anything I put on the work list.

Horses and donkeys and cats and Corgis are all happy and healthy.

And it's JULY. Once we hit August 1st I think we're over the hump of summer. The wild muscadine vines have fruit! That's the first sign that fall is coming.

Monday, July 03, 2017

And gate annoyance

I love the new gate. Love, love, love it. But no sooner than it was installed and operational did I start to experience some of the annoyance that I guess is inevitable.

A landscaper I had met with one time about some work showed up unannounced to take a second look at a tree (after I had specifically instructed him to schedule any such visit with me) and CRAWLED UNDER THE GATE with someone. I happened to be in my driveway when this happened and I was both appalled and annoyed. What the heck does a closed, locked, gate mean to you? My message with a closed gate is DO NOT ENTER. That I had verbally said this to him just made it worse.

Yesterday the rural mail carrier showed up, on Sunday morning, blowing the horn at the gate and then when I didn't make it out there in 5 seconds, shoved a huge package over the top of the gate onto the ground.

I have ordered signage but really? Is it that complicated? If a gate is closed do not go through it unless you have been invited to do so.

My delivery box is now set up so hopefully once I get signs installed that will be the end of that.