Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The busiest place on November Hill: native pollinator garden!

Loving the pollinator garden! All the activity is exactly why I planted it. Here’s a shot from yesterday. There were so many critters flying around me, each finding their favorite native plants to visit.

I’m also excited to report that I’ve enrolled in the NC Botanical Garden’s Native Plant Studies certificate program. I’ll be taking 9 core courses plus a slew of electives over the next couple of years to complete the requirements, and at that point work with an advisor on a capstone project that I’ll implement and present with poster to receive my certificate. 

Watch for updates and more photos as I start this new journey on November Hill. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 58

I took this photo several weeks ago while waiting for Duke Energy tree crews to arrive and begin the cutting of the trees we negotiated allowing them to take down at the back of our property. What I was aiming to focus in on was the woodpecker who appears as the black thing mid-photo. I had mistakenly done the alarm call for birds thinking it would send them away, but as daughter reminded me later it BRINGS them, so I was suddenly surrounded by birds including two of these huge and gorgeous woodpeckers.

What I now see in the photo is the huge X. In runic tradition, X is Gebo, and generally represents a gift. It’s interesting that I didn’t see this that day as I looked up, but it is so prominent now.

The first day of cutting proceeded. The local Duke supervisor was there and the crews, employees of Burford Tree Services, were contracted by Duke to do the job. There was a bucket truck crew and a tree crew. With the known to us by now Duke supervisor on site I felt things were well in hand, and I told him I’d leave them to do their work. The first day went pretty well. The crews arrived much later than expected and they closed up shop by 4 p.m. so not that much actually got done. (I later learned they supposedly work 4 10-hour days but this is not what we experienced that week)

On the second day around 11 a.m. (they showed up for work around 9:30) I heard yelling, not work-related but like someone was having a party on the back of our farm. The single chainsaw was revving repeatedly, and when I got down to the back to see what was going on, I found huge branches  laying on the fence, the f-word being hurled in all directions, one guy in our tree while four stood on the ground doing nothing. Across the way in two bucket trucks were another five or so workers doing nothing.

I asked where the supervisor was and no one spoke. All the yelling and cursing stopped and even when I repeatedly asked who was in charge, silence. I told the tree crew to get the branches off the fence. No response. At that point I got louder and more commanding and finally one guy got the branches off the fence and another guy, who identified himself as the foreman, walked over. He was surly and unhelpful. I wanted to know why they were making so much noise, why they were not working, and why they thought bellowing the f-word so loud I could hear hear it on my back porch was professional, appropriate work behavior.

Again, no response from the foreman. I called the Duke supervisor who told me his truck was being repaired which was why he wasn’t on site. I told him what was going on and he said he was on the way. I was so upset I called my husband, who came home from work and supervised the back of the farm for the rest of the day, along with the area and regional supervisors from Duke, who later told me there were too many men on the job site with not enough work to do.

We also found trash dumped all over the place by the crews. Duke employees cleaned it up.

On Thursday the supervisor told me the tree crew had been sent home and told if they wanted to come back the following Monday, they would need to come prepared to behave like professionals. The bucket crew worked about a 7-hour day that Thursday, getting most of the trees outside our property line (but adjacent to a section of our fencing) down.

They have never come back. We’ve had rain and I’m not sure if that has made it impossible for them to work but none of what they had planned to do is complete. On one hand, it’s a relief not to have them here, but on another, it’s just dragging this out. We have timber that needs to be stacked and dried for the sawmill guy.

I’m not sure what the gift in all this is, but at the end of the third and final work day that week, the Duke supervisors asked if I could leave the back gate open because there was a very young fawn inside our back fence. With all the chaos back there I’m not sure why or how the fawn ended up there, but at least it was safe! We checked on it after dark and it was still there, so we left the gate open and made a hay trail leading out hoping its mother would come back for it. In the morning it was gone.

Since that week we’ve had peace and quiet and a lot of rain on November Hill. Yesterday we had such a deluge I was out at the barn with shovel and rake shifting water flow by trenching the rain away from the barn. We’re in the midst of doing some work back there anyway to redo some old French drains and put in grids in the barn and shelters, but this was stop-gap work to keep things from flooding near the barn.

The rain is a gift for sure but sometimes when it rains, it pours!

The herd is happy to have a break from the high heat. Yesterday, as the storm blew in, Keil left his double stall and stood in the doorway of the barn, looking out, watching the rain fall. It was peaceful in the barn and one of my favorite places to be when the weather gets a little crazy. For the horses the barn is shelter from the storm and the heat and the biting insects. For me, it’s a different kind of shelter, one that empties my mind of all that’s crazy in the world.

I suppose that is the big gift, right there.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A Handsome Donkey Turns 11

Rafer Johnson is celebrating his 11th birthday today - and in honor of this handsome young man’s special day the entire of November Hill is putting on a show.

Butterflies are soaring, the charm of goldfinches are swooping as one, a pair of male Cardinals are having a mock battle. The second clutch of bluebirds have fledged, thanks to .65 inches of rain a couple of days ago everything is green and growing again.

Looking out the back window I see the tips of Rafer’s ears as he stands in the doorway of the stall he first slept in when he came to live with us. That first night he spent with Cody, teddy bear QH gelding who tends to be very laid back and easy to get along with.

The second night and for the next 7 or so years, Rafer stayed with Salina, his goddess mare, and then young Redford Donkey joined them. That trio were inseparable until Salina passed away at the age of 30.

Since then Rafer has bonded deeply with Apache Moon, our painted pony, and the new trio, Apache, Rafer, and Redford, are a united front and they share the stall on the near to the house side of the barn, their “porch” shelter outside it, and the grass paddock. Of course they all turn out with the big boys but it’s a sweet sight to see Rafer’s ears out the window the way I have for these 11 years.

Rafer remains the same loving, delightful donkey he has always been. On one hand it seems he just arrived yesterday. And on the other it seems he has been with us forever.

Happy happy birthday, sweet Rafer! Enjoy this midsummer day.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Garage area update!

The sun went behind a cloud just as I was taking the photo, and it’s slightly blurry on top of that, but here’s the nearly final result of the garage area update:

The grassy area up near the garage doors will be filled in with gravel. I’m leaving a strip of grass on either side from the retaining walls back. Note the new light fixture, the latest from Barn Light Electric! It matches the door hardware perfectly. As is the front porch fixture, this is wonderful quality and I am so happy with it.

The arbor above the garage doors is the next phase. I’m not sure if that will go up this fall or early next spring. I am reconsidering growing the existing rose over the arbor and thinking of taking the roses out of these beds and rehoming them to a more naturalized area along the fence going up the lane where they can trail along the fence and not require so much pruning to keep them tidy. If we do that, I will likely plant the native coral honeysuckle on either side of the garage doors and see if they grow enough to eventually meet over the garage entry door.

For now, I’m focusing on getting the gravel finished and adding some compost and another layer of mulch to these pollinator beds.

As I’m looking the photo right now as I type, I just imagined a November Hill plaque there by the entry door. We’ll see.

I’m happy to have things shaping up!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 57

At the end of a Very Hot Week, during which husband and daughter were vacationing in San Diego and my mom was here staying with me, we finally got rain. A few tenths of an inch a day for 3 days, then a huge and wonderful 1.6 inches all at once. I can water the pollinator beds and the veggie garden, we can tote buckets to the baby dogwoods and inkberry hollies, but the pastures are on their own, and they desperately needed a good soak.

During the heat before the rain came every morning when I washed out buckets and cleaned troughs I was joined by a gleeful group of chipping sparrows and house sparrows who used the little puddles to bathe in and drink from. I sprayed the hose far and wide around me and all sorts of insects came to drink as well. It was the November Hill watering hole morning ritual.

I managed to keep the pony in work, though not daily, and kept up the treatment of scabby areas on both donkeys front legs. It took a gray (not white) washcloth, the clicker, and a few horse feed pellets but they cooperated.

The saving grace for having all the chores to do by myself that week was getting a week’s worth of vegetarian family dinners for two from a local restaurant. They delivered them to the garage door and all I had to do was mix salads and reheat entrees and cut the homemade brownies. Delicious food and it made life easier for me and my mom.

July 4th came and went with not much fanfare. There were no fireworks on our little lane but someone close behind us started shooting them into the sky around 10 p.m. I went out back with my high-beam tactical flashlight and after beaming it through the woods and into the sky a few times the fireworks abruptly ended. And that was that. I sat with the herd and they ate hay while the cicadas put on a symphony of sound that pretty much blocked everything else out.

Finally, FINALLY, the garage doors were installed! I absolutely love them and we got a 15% refund for our troubles with this long-awaited order. Photos soon. We also had a French drain put into the soggy side of the driveway, more gravel spread, and have one section left to add stone to. Once that is done and the light fixture is put up out there I’ll take a final photo and show it off here.

Today, sadly, the trees on the back of our farm that were marked by Duke Energy to be taken down are being cut. I have left them to it after sitting out there early this morning listening to maybe 100 different kinds of birdsong, either coyote pups or fox kits, and cicadas singing in waves. It breaks my heart to know that some of their habitat will soon be gone but we negotiated many less trees to be cut than they would have done on their own, so I’m leaving them to it.

Other than a bucket truck driver who was a bit of an asshole about cutting the timber in sawmill lengths, it seems to be going okay thus far.

Later the white prehistoric monster cutting machines will come down outside our fencing and cut back both sides of the power cut. Thankfully what they’re doing today means those white monsters won’t be on our property at all but I dread the sound and the view after they come through. I hope all the birds and other wildlife get out of the way.

I’m on a “no new projects until every little and half-finished project is done” kick, and I’ve also made a promise to self: no new purchases on new projects until I have sorted through and cleaned out three bedroom closets and a hall closet. July seems the fitting month to take this on. The new AC is doing well and hopefully we can keep the other one going into the fall at least.

November Hill is glorious in the summer, but I currently have multiple kinds of insect bites and stings all over my arms and legs, my neck, and a patch of poison ivy on one arm. I have no idea how I got it as I haven’t gone near the plant itself - and we have less this year than we have in years thanks to my farm helper. Possibly the Corgi full-farm romps are the culprit here so I’m not complaining (too much, only when it itches like mad).

We have blueberries and tomatoes and that’s about it right now. Next year I’m going to take the time to plant more veggies! Husband put in sweet potatoes and watermelons but that’s it.

We have a birthday approaching but that will be its own post!