Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Ocean Conservancy photo contest 2019, Honorable Mention!

I’m very proud of my daughter, who, in addition to studying neuroscience, doing research with lemurs, training a service dog, and managing a medical issue for the past year or so, continues to take gorgeous wildlife photos.

Last year she won first place in the Human Impact category, and this year she won Honorable Mention overall with this photo:

Congratulations to her and I’m looking forward to seeing what photos come from the next year’s travels and observations of our animal friends both domestic and in the wild.

Friday, July 26, 2019

November Hill farm journal, 81

Busy week here. Our water pressure was getting spotty over the past week so we called the new well service that came highly recommended from a local horse farm friend. I was shocked that they came out so quickly for a non-emergency and am extremely happy with the work they did and the way they involved me in the process, explaining everything step by step and showing me the issues they found.

Our well and all its parts are as old as this house is - going on 25 years of age. The water tank bladder had been punctured by rust debris and become waterlogged, the switch was turning on and off almost constantly, and the old water pump had become worn out as a result of age and the other issues.

We decided to go ahead and have everything replaced with new, better elements. Commercial-grade pump and tank, new switch, new seal, and added a two-filter system as a new update. Our water is very clean and tests well but we wanted to avoid any sediment from having the pump pulled getting into our water lines. It was fascinating to see them pull the pump and stretch it all the way to the front gate! Our well is a little over 300 feet deep.

The highlight of this repair and update is that they have ordered a hand pump for the well so that when we lose power I can pump water by hand into buckets! I’m beyond excited about this - it’s been on my list for several years. These pumps are slow to ship right now so it will likely be another couple of months before we get it, but that will put us squarely in hurricane season - just in time.

We are in a much nicer weather pattern at the moment - highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s - pretty perfect summer weather, in my opinion. We also had a very good rain this past week, which gave everything a needed deep drink after the high heat we’d been having.

In other news, my farm helper is coming two days a week again and as a result is able to get to some tasks that were on the back burner. Every day when I go out I’m finding things he’s done which would never make it to the top of the list but are so nice to see. I’m grateful for his attention and his hard work.

The pollinator beds are going strong. I’ve identified a few things I’ll move in the fall mostly because of the height factor, and I’ve decided that this fall we’ll also go ahead and remove the two remaining rose bushes that I left because of sentimental reasons. They were in these beds when we bought the farm, and while I do enjoy the roses when they bloom, these roses are targets for Japanese beetles and other pests and do nothing for the pollinators, so they’re taking up valuable growing space. I’m thinking more and more about native plantings and how well they perform in the gardens. And now that Arcadia is populated with the honeybee hives,  I need to insure they have a variety of forage year round.

Tomorrow my husband and I are going to watch a friend from bee school inspect her hives. She got her bees the spring after we completed the bee school and has become a certified beekeeper as well as certified in “naturally grown” beekeeping practices. I’ve seen photos of her working her bees and she’s gentle, effective, and shares my beekeeping philosophy, so I’m really excited to get this chance to see her in action, in person.

With the well expense this week, I’m back to my “no new projects” mode until the fall. Already in process is having two broken windows replaced and getting a new/larger dog door installed, but other than that, I’m going to be focusing on implementing things already in progress or on hand. Whew!

I’ve got writing tasks and projects in process also, and this is more than enough to keep me busy. That it’s almost August is amazing to me. How has this year gone by so quickly?

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A visitor with a message

We call these “writing spiders” and this week there are two in prominent places where I see them many times a day. Get back to work, they are saying. :)

Friday, July 19, 2019

Happy Birthday, Rafer Johnson!

12 years old! Who can believe it?

This is the most recent photo I have - it’s so hot this week I didn’t manage to get a birthday portrait, but I like this shot of Rafer with his good pal Keil Bay.

Birthday treats have been given out all week long at mid-day, in an effort to make the high heat more bearable. Though Rafer and Redford seem to love the sun and often lie in their dust circles basking.

Rafer is a real love bug and even when I insisted, ON HIS BIRTHDAY, on using water on his legs and then lotion (we’re having horrid issues with flies on legs right now) he was sweet and cooperated. 

I feel like we’ve had nothing but joy from this handsome donkey. He’s handsome, sweet, full of spunk, and we love him dearly. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

November Hill farm journal, 80

On Monday morning I found one of the barn swallow chicks on the stall floor, dead. It may have been the one that kept falling out and possibly injured itself. We had closed off that stall so the pony and donkeys wouldn’t step on any wayward chicks, so I know that didn’t happen.

By evening, there were only two chicks left in the nest. The resident black snake made a valiant effort to get to the nest for a meal, but the parents had placed it well and the snake fell to the ground before getting to the chicks.

I told the parents yesterday morning to please get those two remaining chicks out and flying - and by afternoon when I fed lunch to the horses, they were out in the barnyard practicing! They followed me to the back pasture when I was doing water troughs and were flying maybe 15 feet off the ground, with lots of landings.

Today I was out early, watering the pollinator beds, and heard birds calling above me. The entire flock of barn swallows were flying high! After the video above, they actually came directly over my head and circled and swooped, as if to show me they were all doing well. I assume these weeks in the barn hearing our voices, being close to us as we do chores, acclimatized the chicks to humans. It was a treat to see them all enjoying the cool of the morning, and to watch the young ones practicing moves in the air.

We’re once again in the midst of high heat, with daytime temps in the mid-upper 90s, and heat indexes in the 100s. The herd are doing well, as it seems to be a drier heat that isn’t as draining, and we’ve had a breeze blowing which at least keeps the air moving around us out there.

The native plants seem to be much more able to handle this weather than the non-natives do, but I’m trying to keep them happy, so I did a deep watering this a.m. We may get a thunderstorm late in the day, which is welcome, as the pastures could use the water too.

We have another week of this kind of weather, but I read last night that moving into August we have a period of lower than normal temps on the way. Hallelujah! I need a break from this, as I know much of the country needs as well. And much of the world.

As many of us do, I worry about the planet and what is to come, but for this morning I’m focusing on this little flock of barn swallows who made it in spite of the dangers of nesting and fledging. Flying high and celebrating their success.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Barn swallows!

This is a short clip from a longer video; the long one shows the parents feeding large insects to the babies as well as the babies turning around to use the bathroom over the edge of the nest so it falls to the stall floor below. How smart is that?!

They’re starting to fledge now, but have had to be put back in the nest a few times because they’re falling out but not flying. Hopefully they finish up today so we can stop fretting over them. The nest is sheltered and safe from wind, rain, snakes, but obviously a stall floor in a horse barn is not the best landing pad for young birds. Soft but not safe.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Editing, writing consult, coaching reminder

I posted about this a week ago but wanted to remind folks that I’ve signed on with Authors Against Border Abuse to provide up to 3 hours ($100/hour fee) of editing, developmental editing, consultation about your writing, and/or creative coaching regarding writing practice or other creative issues, in exchange for a paid receipt for your donation to organizations like RAICES, which help with legal counsel and fees for families and children at our border.

This can be done for local folks in person, or folks at a distance via telephone, Skype or FaceTime, or telephone, and you can make your donation now and schedule the actual consult for the fall if summer is not the best time for you.

Please comment with your telephone number or email if interested - all comments are moderated by me, so any with contact info will remain private. Thanks for considering and I’d love to assist with a writing project while also helping families and children at the border.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Holiday weekend, a mother’s pride

Last Thursday, the morning of the 4th, I had an email from a neighbor saying her adult children were coming to visit and bringing fireworks to set off for the holiday. I could go on about that, but the most important result of a night of sitting outside with horses and donkeys while warfare was simulated next door was a reminder of how amazing my own two young adult children are.

My son and daughter-in-law arrived from New York for the holiday weekend, bearing no fireworks, but a bag of extremely good coffee beans. Along with my daughter, they brought keen minds excited to talk about real issues in the world, loving souls happy to snuggle dogs and cats and comfort as needed while the warfare simulation was happening, and values that guide them to consider the environment, wildlife, all animals, and other people when celebrating and simply living on this planet.

I’ll never have to worry about any of them bringing fireworks home to frighten animals, trigger combat veterans, or pollute the air and neighborhood with toxic smoke.

I consider myself lucky and I hope I’ve modeled that consideration to them and in that way played a role in helping them develop into the people they are. And they will model the same to their own children, moving us collectively toward a country where July 4th means something other than exploding sound and flashing light and toxicity.

We celebrated with good food - made veggie burgers, homemade fries (thanks to my son for that!), and drank good wine on the 5th. On the 6th we had our favorite fresh summer pasta (sauce made with local tomatoes, garlic, and basil, plus olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and a round of Brie) with handmade linguine thanks again to my son. I made my mom’s old-fashioned lemon pie filling but served it with local blueberries and a few raspberries instead of in a crust. It was wonderful. Even more wonderful than the food was the conversation we had while preparing it. What a gift it is to sit with my entire brood together!

Thanks to Mother Earth for the rainfall that evening and to the cicadas for providing a giant white noise machine. And the trees for processing that horrid toxic smoke. By the time I went inside for the night, I could see the stars again, and hear the soft snorts of a calmer herd.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019


I’ve added my name to Jessica Keener’s list of authors who are against the abusive policies being enacted at the Mexican border. She’s compiled a list of authors offering our editorial services in exchange for donations to organizations actively fighting the abuse that is happening. If you have writing that you’d like a consult on, make a donation to a legitimate organization, show me (or anyone on the list you choose to work with) the receipt, and we’ll schedule the consult.

Jessica has laid out the ground rules clearly on HER BLOG - read it and let me know if you’d like a writing consult with me.