Thursday, August 31, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 36

I'm taking a hiatus from Facebook, which means I have more time to write blog posts, and since I have things backed up on my blog post list, I'm eager to get rolling.

Right now the thing making me the happiest is the approach of autumn. I have been counting the days and watching for the signs. The dogwood tree leaves are starting to turn slightly, and the signature red berries are formed. Wild muscadines are everywhere on the ground beneath the tall trees where the vines have climbed high. The tulip poplars, always early to drop leaves, are letting a few go these past few weeks. Yesterday geese flew overhead, calling as they went. That is a sweet sound for those of us loving fall.

All summer as spread the stall waste and grass seed I mowed a few areas where we tend to get weeds. Now I'm spreading with pelleted lime mixed in and instead of mowing weeds I'm mulching leaves into the beds around the trees in the pastures. The seasons change and the chores shift with them.

Keil Bay and Rafer Johnson had chiropractic work done this week. The vet who does this work is my touchstone on how the herd looks. Before she arrived I was fretting that Keil looked a little thin, then as she drove up I glanced and him and thought he looked good. After she adjusted him he was standing tall and, truly, looked like a horse in full work, ready to head off to a cross-country course! She assured me that he looks amazing by any standard, but for 28 years of age, especially so.

About Rafer she said, well, he's a little chunky monkey! He needed a few adjustments and was quite happy to get them. That morning he and Redford did a half-hour runabout through the fields and as cooler weather sets in there will be more exercise being done by all of them. I constantly bemoan the abundance of pasture we have and the need to keep something for erosion's sake while not allowing it to get so lush they can't turn out on it. I keep the grazing muzzles hanging in the barn aisle in case anyone needs them. Both donkeys and the pony could live in them from April through October and I'm sure would be sleeker and healthier but I hate to do that to them. It's a tricky call - thus far we have healthy animals and no laminitis.

They're all shedding summer coats and I'm so tempted to trim the manes into our annual "sport cuts." I'll leave them long until the summer biting insects are gone though.

Cats and Corgis are all doing well. Baloo and Bear are signed up for basic obedience and canine good citizen classes starting in October. The cats are, I think, in need of a new "cat space" to peak their interests. Things are going to change some when the perimeter fencing is installed. The contractor was here last weekend to do final measurements but unfortunately the work is pushed back to November due to heat and rain through the summer. Once we have the fencing done, Corgis will get to have the run of the farm a few times a day, and I can move forward with locating the Maremma pups!

It was exciting to finally walk the perimeter of the new fencing on the back of our property. I have several areas set aside now for bee hives which will be out of the way of horses and dogs. Even without the additional property. I still wish I had it but I'm seeing that (of course) I can live without it and do the things I want to do here on the farm.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Adventures at Cornell: The Johnson Museum

When I finally made it to the Cornell campus, I dropped my son off to run some banking errands and the only place I could find to park (legally) was at the Johnson Museum of Art. Thank goodness I did - and went in. This lovely university art collection is impressive and housed in a gorgeous building designed by I. M. Pei.

I sometimes find museums awkward in that there is so much to see and I like to be organized about how I wander, so as not to miss anything. This museum's design contributes to a beautiful flow, as though you are transported through the collection in an organic way. There was no need to track where I'd been or what I'd seen. I loved it.

My photos uploaded en masse and thus are not in any real order. I'll say just a bit about them but want to stress: if you visit Cornell, take the time to see the art museum. It's wonderful.

Of course these little statues caught my eye:

Here's the building itself. Absolutely stunning, art in its own form:

Another equine piece - a mural. Which isn't showing up well here, sadly.

Upstairs there's a beautiful vista to be seen (those photos next Cornell post) but I loved these figures keeping visitors company.

Yet another equine.

A beloved Andy Warhol!

Giacommeti, arresting.

The spheres were intriguing.

An entire room of figurines and small pieces, the ultimate sandplay therapist's museum dream:

There was so much more to see.

On another parking note, the parking app Passport is wonderful in North Carolina but in Ithaca you will need Parkmobile. Same way of working and same convenience both on campus and all over town. Parking is no longer a nightmare with these handy apps.

Friday, August 25, 2017

More on the Argos Inn/Adventures in Ithaca

This is one of my favorite places now that I've been, in part because of the beautiful inn itself, in other part because of this cocktail, the Argos Bourbon Sour.

It was warm while I was there so I didn't sit outside but it would be a perfect place for a drink when the weather is just right.

Every angle is lovely.

This was before the evening crowd arrived.

Outside the room:

 The stairs to the third floor:

Along the wall outside the room:

The room!

I loved the little nook with the sink.

And the writing desk.

In the bar, a piano.

The bar where they make the amazing cocktails.

This season's menu.

Shelves any sandplay therapist would love.

The main stairway.

I'm looking forward to the next visit.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Me and my herd view the eclipse

Remember Lee Smith's wonderful book, Me and My Baby View the Eclipse? If you haven't read her work, go find it now and start at the beginning. She was an early writing professor and a mentor and her stories and novels are well worth reading.

Yesterday I was on November Hill alone with the animals. My husband traveled to the Great Smokies to get totality eclipse photographs, my son watched in Ithaca from Cornell's campus, my daughter was with her neurobiology professor on NC State's campus watching. Many friends took road trips to South Carolina and other points along the path. I have no desire to drive hours in traffic to stand in a crowd of strangers to see anything, so I opted to be here with the November Hill herd.

It occurred to me that aside from the peace and quiet of my own home, this would likely be the only time in my life that I could see a 93% totality solar eclipse on November Hill Farm with Keil Bay, Cody, Apache Moon, Rafer Johnson, and Redford. How could I miss that?

I grabbed my straw hat and my iPhone and headed to the barn around 1 p.m. I didn't have viewing glasses and briefly pondered making a viewing box, but decided to focus on the landscape itself and the animals and insects. I spent a little bit of time mucking stalls, tidying things up, which is what I normally do when I go out mid-day. The equines were all, except for the painted pony, in their stalls with fans and ready for some fresh hay.

Around 1:30 I went to the hay tent to get a few flakes. I was distracted by the crescent moons beginning to form on the ground beneath the oak trees and by the fact that the hay-barrow frame has completely broken. I decided to just carry a few flakes in my arms. As I opened the gate I saw this:

I realized the tiny holes in my straw hat were projecting the eclipse onto everything I looked at! I headed over to the picnic table to experiment. It's hard to see in this photo but all around the brim of my hat, tiny crescents of light haloed my silhouette.

I took the hay to the horses and got them set up. The quality of light was increasingly odd and eerie, though never truly dark. Birds didn't stop chirping completely but they did get much quieter, and crickets began to sing. I walked through the arena to the back field to see if I could find the pony. The arena at F, under the big oak tree, looked like this:

In the back field, grazing through the event taking place in the sky, Apache Moon:

Unfortunately the iPhone just couldn't capture the odd light we had here. I walked over and stood by the pony's shoulder. Apache Moon, named because of the half moon on his barrel, suddenly had tiny similarly-shaped moons everywhere I looked!

I was completely enchanted by my magical straw hat. It's old, the band has fallen off, and it is mishapen but it is cool and it keeps the sun off my head and face. And today, it became the best eclipse-viewing instrument in the whole world.

After a lot of walking about and casting tiny crescents onto things, I followed the pony back to the barn and while the horses and donkeys and painted pony munched, I sat on the bench in the barn aisle and watched the light return outside the doors. Keil Bay came out of his stall, stood with me for a moment, and then went to take his own gander at the eclipse:

I wouldn't have traded this moment for the world.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

My essay "Airplanes" up at Manifest-Station

I'm very happy this one found such a wonderful home! The Manifest-Station is a terrific place with interesting stories and perspectives on a near-daily basis. Check out my essay and then keep reading - and go back often.

You can find my essay HERE

Thursday, August 17, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 35

I have more adventures to share but wanted to check in about farm stuff today. We had several weeks without rain and the pastures became quite dry. This week we've had three good rains so things are going green again. The most recent rain came with a thunderstorm and the worst lightning strikes we've had in several years. Fortunately nothing was hit and the horses and donkeys came in to the barn and finished out their night under shelter.

Yesterday the gravel guy came and fixed the pothole in our driveway, as well as the drainage issue that was creating it. Our temps have gone back into the 90s so he brought the gravel earlier in the day but came in the evening to do the work. After my own sweat-lodge style chore session mid-day, I considered doing the same thing until this heat breaks!

Today my farm helper is putting gravel underneath the front porch to create a tidier surface under there. Once he's done with that I'm going to repaint the lattice boards and we'll put everything back together for now. I'm still pondering the cat space and how to do it.

He's continuing to clear the fence line, which is looking wonderful, and once he gets to the barnyard gate we'll move to the other side of the property to get the fence lines clear for the new perimeter fencing. That is I think going to be an easier job for him but it's all hard work and I'm grateful he's willing to do it in this heat. He prefers to start early and finish at 3. Most of what he's doing is in shade so that helps! But we're both ready for fall and cooler weather.

The gravel guy is returning this afternoon with a load of mulch to put on the path that goes from our back yard gate to the barn. That path was always a bit of a drainage issue when we get a lot of rain, but over time as other, higher areas have eroded some, it's gotten worse. He looked it over with me and said while gravel might make it tidier he didn't think it would do much to stop the flow of water. His thought was to mulch the area and stop the water, absorb the water, and maybe in the process help out the oak tree that's looking very sad in that same area. We are wondering if its proximity to the well is the problem - not getting enough water at the roots due to the well pulling from the water table - and he thinks maybe the mulch will create some water retention that might help. It's worth a shot. I hate to lose that oak tree but there's one ten feet up that is thriving, so if it doesn't make it, we'll use the wood for the wood stove.

He has a plan to mulch the path and create a bed where I can plant stuff or just leave it plain. I'll need to think about some horse-friendly plantings since I do let them in the barnyard! Any ideas are welcome. And we're thinking maybe slate stones on top of the mulch for actual walkway from gate to barn door.

This will get done today and then next week he's going to work on getting the arena topped up for me. Then we'll take a break until early fall when the horses are out of the barn. That project is going to be a much bigger one. We'll be clearing the shelters, stalls, and barn aisle out and putting in gravel, stall grids, and a layer of screenings on top of that. And creating more of a lip on each end of the barn aisle. Re-doing French drains at each end and then hopefully that will be that for many years to come.

My hope is that with fencing done in September and the barn work done early October, this phase of projects will be over just in time for riding and enjoying the season!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Adventures: Ithaca

I'm woefully behind on blog posts, but for good reasons - a series of adventures that started with helping my son move to Ithaca for graduate school. We set off near the end of July. He drove his car and I drove the U-Haul truck.

I was fairly confident - I think this is the largest truck (at 15') I've ever driven, but it was almost brand new and ran well and although I was a little nervous, I was also excited.

With Google Maps set on "avoid tolls" off we went. The initial part of the trip into Virginia was on familiar roads, the same route I take to my beloved writing retreat, the Porches. My destination that first day was Hagerstown, Maryland. The landscapes were gorgeous - lots of farm land and working farms on both sides of the road. It was only the last hour that was stressful - a lot of traffic going 70 mph. Drivers were courteous but I felt very boxed in and my visibility was severely limited in the truck so changing lanes and merging onto the freeway after rest stops was harder.

The hotel was a Ramada and although old and sort of dated, the restaurant itself was good. We had chicken fajitas and I had a homemade blueberry mojito that was amazing and perfect after a day of driving.

The second day Google Maps seemed to have a mind of its own. After the first hour I found myself on "way off the beaten path" roads that were completely devoid of any other vehicle but mine. Normally I love this kind of driving but the roads were narrow, winding, and with stop signs in places where I had to make left turns - and it was impossible to see out the right window of the truck if it was angled at all. A few times I got behind horses and carriages and had to pass them! I was totally worried that the big white truck would spook the horses but all seemed very much used to it.

The landscapes were beautiful. I'm looking forward to driving this route again but in my car!

I have never been more happy to arrive at a destination - Ithaca! - but worried on my way into town that our hotel parking lot might be hard to navigate in the truck. Fortunately for me there was plenty of space to back in and with my son already safely there, all my anxiety disappeared.

We stayed at the beautiful Argos Inn:

I highly recommend the Argos. The rooms are gorgeous as are the public spaces inside and out. And the Argos bar is amazing. I'll do an entire post on the inn but suffice it to say, that night, upon arrival, this bourbon sour was my reward:

The next day we moved my son in. His apartment is wonderful. It was such a great feeling to take this photo at the end of the journey: