Saturday, March 31, 2018

Product Review - Pasture Vac

I’ve maybe written here about my right shoulder, which has been sore since the late fall after I (as usual) did too much raking. Once I overused it I’ve had a hard time getting it back to normal. A month or so ago I met with a physical therapist who checked range of motion and strength and gave me strengthening exercises to do as well as general guidelines about how to work on my technique when using my shoulder. I tend to use the right (my dominant) shoulder to do things I’m not quite strong enough to do without that extra shoulder shove.

It’s better but still not normal. The PT said he felt it would heal completely but would take time.

With all this in mind, my birthday gift this year was the Pasture Vac in hopes that I could get the mucking done using different movements and hopefully a bit more quickly. We’ve had it for a month but just got around to trying it out today.

The pros: IT WORKS. EXTREMELY WELL. I can’t believe how perfectly it sucks up manure, sweet gum balls, leaves, etc. It’s a quality piece of equipment and aesthetically very nice. We did nearly the entire back field before having to dump the canister - which has a mechanism that allows you to tip without unhitching it. Very handy. The vacuuming action also breaks the manure down quite a bit so when you dump and spread there are very few actual balls of manure left - great for composting. The motor is externally attached and is a Honda motor which can be easily removed for repair. It is quieter than the mower! (Note on capacity - we got the large size)

The cons: It had to be drop-shipped by a huge 18-wheeler that couldn’t get down our private gravel lane, much less into our driveway. They met husband up the road and put the pallet into the back of our truck. Husband got it out but I was afraid to watch - he didn’t complain so I guess it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it was going to be! While it works like a dream, the hose is heavier than I expected and between trying to steer the mower and hold the handle and maneuver it with my shortish arms, I’m not sure I will be cruising the pastures vacuuming manure any time soon. However, since most manure tends to be in clusters where the horses graze together, it’s not a big deal to drive the mower, hop off, vacuum the general vicinity, then move to the next cluster. If one person drives the mower and another mans the hose, it is very fast and I can see it being a time-saver using it that way.

Overall: We bought it during a sale and so got a good deal on it. It was still pricy but in the long run if it saves my shoulder from wear and tear, a bargain. There was a small cosmetic piece that was damaged in shipment. The company sent a replacement very quickly with no fuss. I think when my shoulder is stronger and if we had a larger mower it would work more easily as shown in the photo above. Husband can maneuver the hose from the mower much better than I was able to do. However, it uses different movement than mucking/raking so at the very least it will give my shoulder a break that way.

I suspect as we use it more it will get easier to handle. We still need to try using it in the stalls tomorrow to see how that goes. I read that it sucks up a pee spot instantly! And now that we used it in the field I believe it will do just that.

Friday, March 30, 2018

A little more Monterey Bay Aquarium

I found more photos and am resisting the urge to post them all here, but these capture a little more of the magic that was there.

They have an indoor aviary section for rescued sea birds that needed refuge and care, but these gulls hang out as well and are very friendly.

 These guys were so intriguing to watch.

 A plaque in the building summed it up perfectly and reminded me that I used to watch his TV show when I was young!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Meeting With A Remarkable Octopus

I can’t be sure this is the same giant Pacific octopus I met at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in December but the display is similar. My daughter and I walked around a corner and spotted the large tank, which was dark that day, the way they like it. The resident octopus was in the back corner, not active at all, but we stood and admired him anyway.

After 10 minutes or so he came out, slowly, to the front of the tank. He positioned himself so his left eye was adjacent to my face, and we made eye contact. In a few moments I felt like I had connected with this creature of the sea. It was sentience, intelligence, a meeting between two living beings.

I’ve never seen an octopus in such close proximity and I don’t think I ever realized until this meeting how much personality they have. We kept eye contact for minutes, and I told the octopus how amazing he was.

As I continued talking to him, he began to move and show off his tentacles and his range of motion, in what I can only call a dance. It was a stunning display that went on for a long time. Across the entire tank and back again, then up to the corner where a water flow was emitting lots of bubbles. I have never seen anything like it. He went to different areas of the tank and displayed his color-changing ability, then came to the front corner and stayed there for another long time.

I didn’t want to leave. I felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend. On the plane home days later I bought and downloaded a book about octopuses and their biology, wondering what it might take to go back to grad school and study marine biology, one of my early career interests.

For now, I’m an avid octopus fan, wishing I could have a repeat of this encounter on a daily basis. If you go to marine aquariums, find the giant Pacific octopus and stay awhile. Talk to them. Admire them. See if they respond. I think they will.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 48

I was on writing retreat in Virginia last week and came home to a big springing forward of plant and tree growth, in spite of the fact that we had cold weather and even a bit of snow while I was away. The horses are shedding like mad still and hooves are starting to need trimming more frequently. I am seeing buttercups coming up in a few patches along the fence line. Everything but the carpenter bees say spring is near.

We have finally gotten the front gate dog-proofed and now have a few places along the still-in-process fence line to fix so the dogs can go onto the entire farm. Meanwhile Bear Corgi is still enjoying his near-daily romp in the way back. I am still trying to come up with a name for it. No one here liked my name Poplar Sorrow so maybe I need to head in a more positive direction. Poplar Run? I am open to ideas here and not restricted to the use of the word poplar!

Baloo Corgi is making good progress with his desensitization to his collar and harness. He’s doing so well I held it up for him yesterday after getting Bear ready to go out, and Baloo approached (a huge change from the previous behavior of running outside) but did not come up and actually nose the harness, which is what I’m waiting for. I have an idea to further shape his comfort level and will start that today. We began by feeding cheese cubes with the collar and harness in the room, in his full view. Next we fed the cubes in the vicinity of the collar and harness on the ottoman. Next me sitting on the ottoman (where I often put Bear’s on) and collar/harness on the floor next to me. Today I’ll feed the cubes with the harness and collar hanging on my arm. If he doesn’t approach immediately for the cheese, I’ll start by tossing it to him with the collar and harness on my arm and progress from there.

We have used this slow but very solid approach with the horses on various things and although it takes longer than more forceful and/or punitive methods, I see it fostering trust and a behavior that is based on that trust, and thus very solid and long-lasting.

In other news, the garage doors decided they needed to jump to the top of our to-do list two weeks ago so we are now awaiting the new ones, and a new entry door downstairs to go with them. I’m making progress with garden weeding in the pollinator beds using a nifty tool called a Dutch hoe. So many of the pollinator plantings are coming up! I’m still waiting on a few but for the most part I see successful first wintering for the beds.

I’m ordering redbuds, dogwoods, and a few tulip poplars for planting the way back and in an area along the driveway. Spoke finally with our local sawmill guy about utilizing the poplars that are marked for cutting. He is a delight and it will be heartening to actually use this wood from these amazing trees for the tack and feed room. Which I think I will have to name Poplar Place or something better to honor their gift to the barn.

It’s a cold gray day here but we are predicted to be 80 degrees by Thursday!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Travels with daughter: Monterey Bay Aquarium in December

Continuing the December travelogue with daughter, we drove from Santa Cruz down to Monterey Bay, to a lovely hotel right on the water. The first morning we woke up there, we got coffee and bagels and then walked a block to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

It was amazing. I could go on and on about every feature, all the marine life we saw, but I’ll add a few photos below so you can get a glimpse. I took photos, video, and soaked in a full day’s worth of pure delight. If you are close by, go. It’s a terrific way to spend a day.

I’ll write about my favorite encounter in the next travelogue post.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 47, flow

Daughter and I returned from California last Wednesday and on Thursday morning my husband and I met with the Duke Energy Progress folks about the trees. We learned a few things we hadn’t known: most of the trees they want to cut were cut before, around 20 years ago, and several of the tallest ones grew back from those cuttings, leaving visible weaknesses in their trunks which may make them more likely to fall. We also learned a lot more about the transmission lines.

I had what I think is a brilliant (ha!) idea that would allow the trees to stay and the lines to remain safe, but it will take time to find someone to develop it and I’m not sure the idea on its own is enough to back off Duke Energy, so we have made the difficult decision to move forward with cutting.

The good news is that they selected 11 trees to cut, not the entire swath as we had feared, and will have a tree man do it by hand. We have located a local man who has a portable sawmill and who will process and use the wood from these trees to finish off our feed/tack room once the wood has dried, and Duke agreed to have the tree guy cut the timbers in lengths we can use.

Both before and after the trip to California I’ve been feeling like a gear hopelessly grinding away at something relentless, to the point of being stuck. Too many unfinished projects, no sense of progress happening, winter (we had snow on Monday!), and the thought of losing trees have all weighed me down. Then my writing retreat scheduled since last July for next week at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico was canceled. I tried for several days to work it out so I could go on my own, but kept hitting obstacles.

Yesterday two things got finished, thanks to my farm helper and his assistant. The sun came back and the bit of snow melted. I walked from the front gate to the back, thinking that I was going to have to let the trees go, and I was also going to have to let Ghost Ranch go. And at that moment I spotted a stream of water flowing down our driveway. I thought at first it was the snow melt but it is a little spring that has popped up. Water flowing. Flow.

I feel connected, as I’ve written before, with November Hill. That’s a large part of why having the trees cut has been so difficult. But knowing one man will do it, with respect, makes it a little easier, and knowing we will use the wood for something lasting makes it a lot easier. When I let the battles in my head go, I felt the gears turning again. And the flow of a little spring appeared, making the perfect metaphor.

The redbuds are blooming now, and I have a plan (and an order forming) for planting trees in the back that won’t ever need to be cut. Redbuds and hollies, some shrubs, all native pollinators, and then some tulip poplars in the middle of the farm where they can grow to the sky without worry.

We managed to get the front field limed before the rain and snow rolled in on Sunday, so the horses are in the back pasture. We’ll move them and lime the back when the cutting is done. Yesterday afternoon I was able to take Bear Corgi to the back, which is finally secure for dogs, and let him have his first romp off leash back there. He loved it, and the pony and donkeys came to the shared fence line and trotted up and down, laying down the Equine Law. Bear was on his own mission and they weren’t part of it, so peace prevailed. Baloo Corgi is having an issue with allowing his collar and harness to be put on, so he wasn’t with us. We’re working on it daily and I hope very soon he’ll be romping back there too! This is stage one of getting the Corgis acclimated to being free on the farm. Things are moving along.

Meanwhile, the pony made it clear what the boundaries are.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Monterey in December

Daughter and I flew from Anaheim to San Jose (had to scratch the original plan to drive up the coastal highway due to the wildfires that were raging) and then drove from San Jose to Santa Cruz, recreating a part of my daily life years back when I did my final clinical internship for grad school in Santa Clara County. I lived in Redwood Estates, had a post box in Los Gatos, worked in San Jose (and all over the county, doing intensive in-home family counseling and then child sexual abuse intervention), and shopped in Santa Cruz. It was a wonderful year and a half in my 20s!

Of course many things have changed. Development has taken out trees and forest, there are more stores and gas stations and places to live. But downtown Santa Cruz is close to what it was when I was there, and we had lunch in a wonderful little place there.

We left Santa Cruz mid-afternoon and drove down the coastal highway to Monterey, where we stayed for a couple of nights. This was the view across from our hotel:

The layered color at sunset was absolutely stunning. We also enjoyed Cannery Row and the Christmas decorations.

Stay tuned for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the highlights of the trip!