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