Thursday, August 27, 2020

The very hungry caterpillars

 I planted bronze fennel in the potager specifically for the pollinators to enjoy, and while picking veggies yesterday evening, look what I found!

These were all up and down the fennel, in the process of munching away at the foliage. So happy to host them and if we’re lucky we’ll get to see cocoons!

Also, my mom had to go to the ER last night due to what turned out to be gastroenteritis. They ruled out stroke and other age-related things, and she is already back home. If you’re so inclined, please send her good thoughts and/or prayers - whatever you send I’m grateful for! She’s 87 this year and has been quarantining in her home where my brother takes amazing care of her. So grateful for him and the fact that she hasn’t needed to go into a rest or nursing home. 

Stay safe and healthy, all! 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Blooms and butterflies and bees: NY Ironweed and spotted horsemint

 It’s a busy week, again, and I feel like I’m ruled by the daily list of things to do. The car’s in the shop getting some routine maintenance and a few small repairs (thinking of Shawn Colvin’s album A Few Small Repairs, a classic that is still so wonderful to listen to), our amazing farm helper is making a larger repair on the barn door that Keil Bay kicked, and the electrician was here making a plan for some barn updates. I’m very happy that all this is getting done, but meanwhile the quiet of an average day on November Hill is just not happening. 

Yesterday in the midst of unloading grocery pick up, pet food delivery, and a heavy mail/package day, I stopped and walked along the pollinator beds to enjoy what’s blooming there right now. 

Butterfly enjoying NY ironweed.

Bee on spotted horsemint.

The colors, the layers, the joy.

Full shot of butterfly, oh how lovely.

I have to remember during busy times to stop and look and take it in, and soak up what I see. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 107

 The main thing I can report is that we’ve gotten some things checked off our list this week and last. The plumber was out and installed a hook-up for water to our camper, and then the well guy was out to install the hand pump so we can access well water when power is out. Yay! 

I’ve resumed work in the camper: moved some kitchen items from the house out there, and bathroom towels, and measured for and ordered a new/better mattress, bedding, and a little bit of decor. Some is already here, some is on the way. 

I also removed the dining table and have turned it the “long” way - until I can remove the bench seating and install a permanent meal/work bar with stools, this at least gives more room. I also moved two new yard chairs out there and I’m really excited to have made this progress.

If you imagine that the front half of the bench in the foreground is removed (I can’t remove the back half because the heat vents through there), and imagine the entire bench seat to the right is gone, you’ll get more of an idea of what my plan is. I’m going to get a new and slightly narrower table that will sit a bit further to the right all the way to that wooden wall, and two stools that will fit underneath, for the overall effect of a “breakfast bar” area for eating and for working on laptop. The metal pieces on the floor are over the vinyl flooring, so once I remove them there will be some screw holes that I can caulk and cover with a rug if needed. Changing the floor plan like this will open up several feet of floor space that will make the whole camper feel bigger. I think it’s nicer to face the window anyway, as it faces our barn, and who wouldn’t want to look out at Keil Bay’s handsome face? He and Cody go right up and peer in. 

Inside the house, I’m still waiting on the framed prints for the new work garret, and I have a couple of final, minor things yet to do in there but it’s for all practical purposes finished!

In other news I finally made it off the farm to a doc appointment for routine bloodwork and to my chiropractor for a much-needed adjustment. I was impressed with both places - one patient in the offices at a time, lots of precautions, including, of course, masks worn by all. I feel like a new person already - everything was out of whack chiropractically. I felt the endorphin buzz and odd but wonderful absence of “whack” after she was done. Whew.

Eggplants are getting ready to bloom, and we’re getting tomatoes, cucumbers, and basil. The kale and chard are actually coming back as our temps have cooled down some. I think the zucchini and yellow squash are done. Our fall CSA starts mid-September so we’ll be getting our extra large share of veggies each week until December, when winter CSA begins. 

I need to get the area for the new pollinator bed set up because planting and transplanting time will be here before we know it. So far I’m planning to:

Transplant tall goldenrod, purple coneflower, spotted horsemint, and rattlesnake master, and...

Add new Culver’s root, anise hyssop, blue vervain, and spice bush. 

Working on my order at the local native plant nurseries. 

That’s about it for the week. I’ve started my third remote session of Writing In The Dark with Jeannine Ouellete and Elephant Rock, and signed on for a ms revision workshop with her in November and December. I’m thrilled to have my writing time planned out for the remainder of this year. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Bloom update: my most favorite pollinator plant of all, Monarda punctata, or spotted horsemint


I don’t know what it is about this plant and its flowers, but whenever I look at them I feel total joy. I’m sure the colors are part of it, but also the textures, the layers, the spots, and the stacked flowering are also visually alluring to me.

I stood today and gazed at the first rush of blooms. In a week or so, the entire area will be full of these lovely flowers. So much joy.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Front Porch Blessings

 Yesterday evening I had the front door open and had forgotten the herd were in the grass paddock. A loud but soft snort sounded and when I got up to look out, this is what I saw:

What a view - all five at once. I felt fortunate to have these beloved members of the family front and center. During these days of uncertainty and stress, seeing them is a balm. 

I hope you’re finding the little (and yet so very big) blessings in your life this week.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 106

 Finally bringing a few projects to their ends here! The new work space, aka the second garret, is painted and after a few finishing touches will be ready to use, just in time for the start of fall semester for my daughter. I’ll add a few photos once it’s all set up.

The new sliding glass door has been measured and ordered and is set to be installed in about 8 weeks, which seems like a long time from now but at least we’ll be out of the summer heat by then. It’s a fairly massive job, as the entire door frame and indoor/outdoor trim plus weatherstripping will be replaced. Pella actually had me hold off on the laundry room door as they are making some changes in how they do the ordering for entry doors and didn’t want me to get caught up in glitches. So that’s another project that will get done another day. 

We must have something going on with doors, because one of our garage doors came off the tracks and we are awaiting a warranty claim approval and repair for that. As my grandma always said things come in 3s, I’m not going to look for a third thing other than Keil Bay’s stall door, which he rammed and splintered (again) and that just brings up the fact that I have an entire barn door project that needs to get done, but really has to wait until the horses can turn out in the daytime again. I have most of what I need for this to get done, so maybe by the time the sliding doors are installed, I can move on to the stall doors!

In other news, we finally have a date for the electrician to come do some updating of wiring in the barn, and although not a date, I had a call-back from a recommended plumber who at least asked for my info so he can get us on his schedule. We need new spigots installed outside the house. It seems like all the recommended people are booked way out, and it also seems like the 25-year old house has made a plan to need many little and some big repairs done. 

My farm helper is coming on Wednesday to tackle another hot spot for me and help bring some order back to our driveway and front/side yard spaces. Our muck help has been a bit difficult; it’s hard to find someone who has attention to detail and the focus it takes to do exactly what is asked. We started out with the idea of every day, and quickly reduced to MWF, as the disruption to our daily life was just too much with someone coming on the farm daily at 7 a.m. I’m not sure what we have in place is going to work for the long term, but after this second week’s trial period, I should be able to make a decision. 

The horses and pony and donkeys are all hanging in there with the heat and insects. I hope we have an early fall as I’m ready to move on from sweaty grooming and fly spray and salve applications and I am sure the horses are as well! Though they get peppermints with the fly stuff so they tend to be very cooperative and in the case of Rafer Johnson and the pony, actually follow me around waiting for their turns.

The bee nucs have done excellent jobs building out comb in their new hives, and since we’re approaching our fall nectar flow, they’ll have a nice, last burst before winter season to hopefully get everything ready for wintering. What this means is that they can begin the spring flow in 2021 with plenty of comb in place to store honey, and we can possibly add medium supers on top to get a little honey for us. We will see - I’m not in beekeeping solely for honey, but it will be nice to have a few jars if they can spare it. 

The pollinator beds are readying for the fall plants to pop, and the wonderful buttonbushes are gearing up for a huge second bloom. The brown-eyed Susans have been and continue to be lovely, and the narrow leaf mountain mint is still going strong. I’m seeing the ironweed coming out and the goldenrod is in some places on the farm starting to bloom as well. The asters and the spotted horsemint are still to come, as is Joe Pye weed and a couple of other things. Right now the busiest part of the garden are the spent coneflowers - the goldfinches are loving the seed heads and I’m happy to see them in the garden.

Cats and dogs are good as well. They too will be happy for fall, I think, though the cats seem to enjoy laying out like rugs on the very hot front porch when the afternoon sun hits. Bear Corgi is not always eager to go out on the farm romps with the heat, and he’ll enjoy the cooler season to come. 

The humans here are hanging in there as well. I had an appointment on the phone this week with my ND and have scheduled a chiropractic adjustment in two weeks. The Covid numbers here are finally stabilizing some and while I feel we all need to stay very cautious, the chiro is only having one patient in her office at a time, and I think it’s time I went and addressed the pelvic rotation I am certain I have! 

Good books, a prolific garden, virtual writing retreats and a wonderful Zoom-based writing class, and the comfort of family and friends is keeping me happy, as is the knowledge that November is coming and I hope a big change in our political climate. It’s been a long spring and a long summer and in some ways, a long four years. I’m ready to move on. 

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Hurricane is gone and all is well (on November Hill)

Tuesday morning and all is well. Violet taking her morning sun bath.

As usual, I over-prepared for the hurricane potential here, but that’s always a relief when I wake up in the night and here nothing, no wind or hard rain, so it’s back to sunshine and the knowledge that everything got a deep watering yesterday and into the night.

While Pella was here yesterday measuring for our sliding door replacement we had a deluge during the paperwork part of the appointment and this little cutie ran up the dogwood tree to escape the water on the ground. 

North Carolina’s Bertie County, specifically the town of Windsor, had terrible damage from a tornado that spun off in the hurricane’s wake, with one dead and many injured and several people still missing. Everyone in the path beyond us, I send good thoughts for safety.