Saturday, September 29, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 63

Last Sunday I went to the barn and realized quickly that something wasn’t quite right with Keil Bay, so I called the vet and as I had feared, he was having a choke episode. I’ve been through one sedated tubing through the nose to clear the blockage with our sweet old mare Salina years back. Hers was in the middle of the night and seems surreal in my memory at this point.

Keil is 29 and I’ve only ever had to call the vet a few times for him. Twice for corneal scratches, once when he embedded a small twig under the skin on his neck, and once for a very small cut on a hind leg. I was very stressed. Initially he presented with a cough but between the time I called the vet and she arrived 40 minutes later he had become agitated, was coughing much more frequently, and clearly wanted me to Do Something Now.

My daughter noted when she got home and came to join me at the barn that the blockage was visible on the exterior of his neck. She gently massaged him until the vet arrived and that helped him settle down.

The tubing was nightmarish. The first attempt was difficult and his nose started bleeding copious amounts of blood. I went from almost in tears to my “emergency in progress, go into robotic calm mode” status and between me, by daughter, the vet, and sedation, got the block cleared. In the midst of it, with all of us covered in blood, Keil turned and gave me the stink eye. I think that’s when I realized he was going to be just fine.

He’s on two weeks of SMZs and is doing fine. The first 24 hours after the choke he got many soupy meal tubs and no hay, but was allowed to graze with his herd. He has since moved on to regular tubs with an extra meal mid-day and his regular hay (but we’re wetting it down). All is well, and he’s got a regular check up in another week so the vet can go over him generally and just make sure everything is okay.

Otherwise, we had half an inch of rain this week, nicely supplementing my hand-watering of the beds, and now we’re back to sunny and cooler weather, which is wonderful. I harrowed the arena today, did some work in the back field, and got up a lot of acorns. It’s time to spread lime pellets and overseed in the next couple of weeks.

Life has been busy and a little stressful, partly due to Keil’s choke and partly due to the goings-on in DC. What a week.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Autumnal equinox in the pollinator garden

Lots of interesting things are happening today in the pollinator garden. The asters are soon to burst out, and Joe Pye weed and Eastern horsemint are looking beautiful in a whole new way. There’s also a large non-native pollinator doing some work in the garden!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 62

The sunshine is back, things are drying out, and yesterday my farm helper spent an entire day clearing fallen branches, mostly small, nothing requiring chainsawing, and created a new brush pile with what he got up.

Some days I want the brush piles gone. We have a number of them in different areas of the farm from all the work he’s done over the past year. The early ones are nearly gone, and I notice month to month the height of the piles gets lower as the bottom mulches down. In the long run the soil will benefit, in the short run we are providing habitat for birds and bunnies and probably mice and snakes.

Now, as I type this, the red-shouldered hawks are calling outside. Our nights are cooler now and the mornings feel like fall. Today marks the day when the horses were given hay in the pasture and will wait until mid-morning to come in for breakfast and fans. Gradually we’ll change them over to day-time turn-out, and for most of the fall and winter season, nearly 24-hour turn-out. That’s the time of year to finally get to some barn chores I want to wrap up before cold arrives. (It’s almost impossible to imagine cold, but I trust my experience that it will indeed come!)

I met with our local sawmill guy right before Hurricane Florence blew in. He says we have plenty of poplar for the feed/tack room walls, and that poplar will take paint well - stain not so well - and that it has a nice grain if I want to simply use tung oil on it.

We have some red oak as well, not quite enough for the floor, but if we end up deciding to take down another red oak on the property we could easily put in a nice wide plank oak floor in the room. He looked at all our remaining red oaks, at least 2 of which are suffering from a root disease that he said is besieging red oaks in this area. One is beyond use in terms of wood - it just needs to be taken down and mulched. A second one needs to come down soon if we are to get any wood from it. I’ve learned we have a down-the-road neighbor who runs a tree service and I’m on his call list after the emergency work due to the hurricane is done.

Now the hard part is how to get the big tree trunk sections from inside Poplar Folly to the flat grassy area behind it without a tractor. My farm helper has an idea. So the plan is to have the sawmill guy return to mark the wood that can definitely be milled, get it in place for his portable sawmill, have him cut it, put it on our truck, and bring it around via the main road to our barnyard where we will sticker stack it and put some kind of tin roof over it so it can dry and await the renovation of the tack/feed room.

I’m excited and will be happy to get the wood processed so we can finally spruce up Poplar Folly. It’s a mess right now with all the wood lined up and the brush piles and the ground so bare after all the work that has been done over the past year. I’ve been pulling Japanese stilt grass and carefully leaving the native ferns and other things. When the leaves fall this year we’ll have the start of a good forest topsoil again. I’ve spread stall waste down the path in advance of leaves falling in hopes to get the grassy path we used to have back again. That helped the erosion when it rains and also made such a nice path to walk and ride the mower down. It’s a process.

The botanical garden annual sale is coming up so I plan to really focus on my native pollinators for the shaded bed and will fill in a few gaps in the sunny beds. My American beautyberry is thriving but not forming the beautiful fuchsia berries it’s named for, and it’s possible it’s just not getting enough sun where it is, so I’m going to find a sunny spot and move it this fall. The plant sale is amazing and so much fun - I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m pleased to report that all the trenching my farm helper did and the gravel we had put in did the trick. No more waterway ending in a waterfall through my sunny pollinator beds! By working with the natural lay of the land and giving the water a nice path to follow it’s all going where it would end up anyway but circumventing a few areas we don’t want it to be along the way.

The horses are good, cats and Corgis good, and we’re all enjoying this cool September morning as the sun climbs and throws sunny arrows of light across the farm.

Life is good. I send good thoughts to all those for who it is still a big mess due to wind, rain, and flood waters. We’ve had a huge amount of flooding in our area, with roads closed and detours all over the place. Our coast has in many areas been ravaged. If you will, take a moment and send some positive thought their way. And donate for relief if you can. It takes years to recover from this kind of natural disaster.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Checking in as Hurricane Florence whirls through

We’re fine here, with about 5 inches of rain total since last Monday, and wind that has gusted, blown steady, and currently died down quite a bit. We lost power for about 22 hours but had water set aside for us and for animals and for flushing toilets. Food and hay stocked in as well, and my grandma’s oil lamps with extra oil and wicks from Lehman’s were very useful last night when night fell.

Many areas of NC are flooding and have sustained huge damage, and I hope everyone comes through with the least possible upheaval.

If you’re in the path, please check in and update in the comments!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Prepping For Hurricane Florence, with a little help from some friends

Yes, this is really how it looked at the barn this afternoon. Who would believe a hurricane is on its way?

Stay safe, everyone in the path.

PSA for those living with donkeys - a couple of great resources

First, this book which I reviewed recently on Goodreads:

The Clinical Companion of the Donkey

And from this book, a link to purchase a donkey weight tape, since the equine ones are not accurate on small ponies and donkeys:

Donkey Weight Tape

I’ve estimated Rafer and Redford’s weight for years and now I can get a lot more accurate about it. The book is a must-have if you live with donkey companions.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 61

Fall is quickly approaching, though not so much fall temperatures yet. Leaves are beginning to fall, the sound of acorns on the horse trailer and the metal barn roof and even just the back deck sound loud enough to startle a person.

I was on a writing retreat for the past week and of course the day after I left home Duke Energy called to say they were coming to resume the tree cutting on the back of our property. Husband was thankfully able to work from home to monitor things. The crew they sent was respectful, efficient, and didn’t make a bit of mess. The tulip poplars are now in logs waiting for the local sawmill guy to come process them into wood we can use to finish the walls and floor of our tack/feed room.

The corner where most of the trees were is now open and sunny in the mornings. I’m thinking that might be a good place to close off for bee hives, but will see how it looks once the logs are all removed.

They’ll be going down the long sides of the power cut soon, and that will be its own ordeal to endure, but at least the white prehistoric monster machines won’t be coming anywhere near our back fence.

Although a little stressed about the work being done here on November Hill, I had a lovely week of writing with two old and dear writer friends in a very lovely Airbnb home in Southern Pines. I got a tremendous amount of work done and it was such a needed getaway. I came home Friday, stopped in to check on animals, and then headed to my second Native Plant Studies certificate course at the botanical garden. This one is Taxonomy and it’s going to be fun.

Keil Bay had some kind of nasty bug bite while I was away that necessitated the sending and perusing of photographs and discussing the clinical details of things like tissue and pus. The vet was called and photos sent to him and he felt we could manage it, which has turned out to be true. The bite was swollen hard and did a fair amount of draining and is now resolving. I spent several hours in the barn yesterday and today grooming and paying a lot of attention to the Big Bay and his herdmates. In the midst of this something got into my muck boot, beneath pants leg AND sock, and bit ME. It’s made a nasty itchy red area on my leg. I’m not sure what kind of insects are doing these bites, but it’s been a particularly yucky summer in that regard.

There are a lot of chores still to do out there but I was drenched and came in for a shower!

I’ve been filling in a couple of new native pollinator plants a week from the botanical gardens, one of the perks of going to classes there. This week they had two very nice shade plants and tomorrow morning I’ll be starting a whole new native pollinator bed, on the side of our driveway, and this one will be shade plants. I’m excited to get that going, and there are still many plants in my original two beds that are fall-blooming so the show isn’t over yet!

Cats and Corgis are happy and I think as ready as I am for the shift to cooler temperatures.

Projects that pushed their way to the top of my list:
- the trees, sawmill, and tack/feed room work
- broken hinges on dryer door
- broken fan in master bath

I’m just taking it one day at a time. :)