Wednesday, September 30, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 110

 We had a warm up, rain, and now we’re cool again. The front field was limed and reseeded last Thursday, got a nice soaking rain the evening of the work, had a week of sun and warmer temps to help sprouting, and last night got a second nice rainfall. We should get a good result thanks to the timing of the work with the rain and the good fortune of the following week’s weather.

Yesterday I finally got out to treat fire ant mounds with orange oil and water. It’s not a difficult chore, but requires many returns to the water hydrant for refills. I’d opened the grass paddock to the herd while I was working so they could enjoy the grass until the rain came later in the evening.

Little Man apparently stepped in a fire ant mound I hadn’t gotten to yet (a few had popped up since I treated the grass paddock last week) and went into a bucking, galloping fit. He wouldn’t stop for several minutes for me to help, and kept going up to Keil Bay as if he wanted Keil to help him! - but when he settled down I used fly spray on him and didn’t see any ants. He quickly resumed grazing.

It’s absolutely looking like fall is here now, and we had geese flying over a couple of days ago, honking and making their way south. 

I have my new bed planted and forgot to get a photo, but it’s going to be great - will be beautiful, native, and forage for many pollinators and birds - and will also serve as a rain garden on a slope where we need some help with run-off. I’m going to move four of the blueberry bushes I misplaced in Poplar Folly. They’re not getting enough sunlight and some critter keeps eating their leaves. I’ll make a row to the side of the pollinator bed and that will all work to help with water run-off as well as make that area a pretty corner to look out on. I’m sure the birds will go wild over the blueberries once the bushes start bearing fruit.

I checked the fig tree yesterday. It’s loaded but they’re not yet ripe. We’ll see if they can ripen given the temps are cool again. We’re onto a week of sunny days, so maybe they can. What I found ripening nicely yesterday were these persimmons, on the path down to Poplar Folly, and a surprise to me. I didn’t even realize the tree there was a persimmon, as I’ve never found fruit before, but it too is loaded this fall, and the persimmons on the ground are sweet and perfect. I left what was there for the wildlife, but this weekend I may take some for myself. 

This week is busy with home inspection and other new house things, the in-person ones we’re assisting with since we’re here and my son and daughter-in-law are not. One nice surprise is that we knew the house was on 2 acres of land but didn’t put it together until yesterday that the house sits on one of the two acres, and across the gravel lane leading to their driveway is the second acre. It was like discovering they had a whole new piece of property! I’m going to go explore it for them tomorrow and take photos. 

Also a good surprise: they learned their baby is a boy, and they’ve chosen his name, so we are starting to think of “him” instead of “the baby” and it’s exciting to be thinking about getting to know him when he’s born. I had to break the news to Little Man that the pony girl I had promised him is now going to be a pony boy, but he’s fine with that. :)

One of the (many) good things about having my son local is his serious cooking and baking. He sent these photos from his kitchen last week and I realized this is what we have to look forward to!

My daughter shared a beautiful photo she took (her photos are gorgeous and this is a fine example) of Clementine sharing some time with my daughter-in-law over Labor Day:

Clementine brings so much joy and comfort to us all. This week while shopping online for groceries, this popped up in a search and while it wasn’t even what I was looking for, how could I resist getting it?

I bought it for the box but after last night’s debacle with the mad Trumpkin ranting and raving like a petulant child, I am actually drinking it. 

Please VOTE HIM OUT so we can get back on track as a nation.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Happy Happy News!

 I’m beyond happy to report that my son and daughter-in-law are expecting in April and they have found and had an offer accepted on a home that is not only beautiful, it is 19 minutes from November Hill! How lucky are we that they will be so close to us!

The real estate market in our larger area of the state is booming, and the first house they found and made an offer on had something like 57 showings in 2 days, a plethora of offers, and while theirs ended up in the final 3, they did not get the house.

When I saw this new listing come on the market Friday morning, I sent messages to our fam-chat, scheduled a showing with their real estate agent (an amazing agent who is also a veterinarian and a horse person) and with a team effort, an offer was made that night. Which was a good thing, because by Saturday morning there were 10 showings scheduled for that day, and people begging the listing agent not to accept any offers until they had the chance to put theirs in as well. Thankfully, the sellers stood by their word and canceled all the showings!

I had no idea that this is apparently the norm for buying a home here right now. You have to flock to the newly-listed property, put in an above-the-asking-price offer, write personal letters to the owners, and even then may find yourself in a sea of similar offers hoping they pick yours. It’s high drama and I’m glad we’re done with it!

The papers were signed yesterday, checks delivered, and this fellow witnessed me and the agent celebrating the victory in the driveway of the new home:

Congratulations to D and C! We’re so excited to share in this new part of your journey!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A few farm photos from this weekend

 Rafer Johnson hanging out with me while his best friend grazes. 

Artemis hive with a view of the goldenrod:

The best friend:

The shade bed mulched. The darker strip is mulch I added after the rainfall. It will dry out to match the interior area but wow, I love it when it’s dark. Now I can really see the space and can add in the few shade-loving things I’ve got ordered for putting in this fall.

Today I’m going to set up the new full sun pollinator bed and let it sit until I get the new plants. I’ve also started weeding the possumhaw area and around the entire side edge of that bed. I’ll mulch as I go, and eventually get into the pollinator thicket that is the center. What I get for not getting out there early on hot summer days and keeping up with it along the way!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 109

 This is the first week it’s started to feel like autumn is here. The temps have been in the 70s each day, lows falling a bit lower each night, and we have color change in the dogwoods and sweet gums, which makes it much more apparent that we’re rolling toward my favorite season.

Today we have rain, thankfully a softly falling rain that the pastures and plant beds need, so I’m happy to have a day or two of this so everything gets a good soaking. I hope all in Sally’s path stay safe, especially those getting the brunt of the storm.

We’re making some progress in the clearing of invasive plants in Poplar Folly. My farm helper has been working on that, and my husband did some weed-eating in Arcadia to clear the grass around the hives. The goldenrod is in full bloom and the bees are extremely busy right now, taking full advantage of the last nectar flow before winter. Two copperheads were spotted down there, so it will be another few months before I’m willing to take the dogs down again. 

The wild muscadines are fully ripe, and plentiful, though many are too high for me to reach. They’re not as sweet this year, and given all that’s going on in the world, that seems fitting. 

In the potager, I thought we were done but for the basil and sweet potatoes, but I found three huge cucumbers all lined up in a very visible row two days ago, and had to wonder if the cucumber vines were proving a point. We had a delicious cucumber salad that night. These three vines have kept us fed most of the summer and now into the beginning of fall. I also had company while checking in that day I found the cucumbers. One of the resident black racers was there, and slid around as I worked, staying inside the fencing but with excellent distancing. 

The fig tree is loaded but as is its usual habit, the fruit set late and is not yet ripe. It’s now a race to see if the fruit can ripen before a first frost hits. I’m rooting for the figs!

I finally got a load of mulch, which seems like forever ago that I was first wanting it, and they ran out, and then I got busy with other things. This load will go to setting up my new pollinator bed, and I’ve already mulched the shade bed across the driveway. I’ve been working on the deep weeding the beds need right now, and as I clear out some weeds, will begin mulching for winter. The pollinator beds are, frankly, a mess, but the bees don’t mind, nor do the butterflies, and we still have several fall-blooming plants to come before the garden goes dormant. 

A few projects on the horizon: liming and overseeding the front pasture, doing a deep clean of the barn once the days are cool enough that they horses move to daytime turn-out, doing a couple of stall door projects + the barn aisle project, and installing new back deck railings and a wider set of steps. 

Inside, I’m still working on my green strip, waiting for the new sliding glass doors to arrive, and also waiting on new garage door panels (one needed repair and in the back and forth with Pella that ensued, they told me the custom panels we’d ordered were not what we got - I had no idea! - and they are replacing them with the right glass windows). 

Next week I’m going to get my old mailbox installed in the potager as a place to store some hand tools and my garden journal, and we’ll set up the compost bay in the corner of the pasture by the potager for easy access. 

The farm follows the seasons, and the rhythm of the seasons intimately affects my writing process. Fall has always been my busiest writing time, and suddenly I’ve been feeling the rumbling that usually precedes a burst of creative work. I’ve started a new novel, am doing edits in another novel, have about 10 essays and short stories out on submission, have one essay forthcoming at Minerva Rising, and am also working on a 6-part creative nonfiction flash series that I’m really excited about. 

There’s nothing I love more than having lots of books to read, projects to work on, and writing in progress as the season begins to turn. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Decor note + a wild hair

 New mattress plus linens in the camper - have shams and new pillows to add to the mix but this is a quick look:

The back of the quilt is a beautiful light blue stripe that I love - meant to fold up a corner to show that, but I forgot. It looks so comfy I wanted to crawl in and take a little nap!

The company that made the mattress (it’s an odd size and also has one corner cut to fit the space) also made the mattress cover and an air-flow mat that goes beneath so the mattress isn’t sitting directly on the wooden base. It was all done very well and if you’re looking for something in a size that isn’t easy to find, or impossible to find, I highly recommend them. Tochta is the company I used. 

After writing weekend I found myself full of creative energy. We each read new work, got feedback from one another, and I also started a new novel. (Gasp!) It’s a project I’ve been holding off on because I have felt I needed to get some of my finished novels out the door before starting a new one, but this weekend I decided that in the midst of a pandemic, with so much in flux in our country, why the heck am I hoarding a novel I’ve been wanting to jump into? So I wrote the first chapter and read it too to my writing colleagues and they loved it. I’m so happy to be working on it, especially as fall is tiptoeing in and I love having a big new writing project this time of year.

Even all this didn’t use up the creative energy that a writing weekend generates. Yesterday afternoon I literally stood up from writing, got the can of paint left over from the new garret space, and started working on this strip that goes around the stairway in our house. 

This strip has always been a sort of mismatched color to the rest of the space around it, and the color did nothing to accentuate the lovely red oak. This bright botanical green is a really nice color in that respect and by the time I got the first coat on and the sun was beginning to set and glow through the upstairs windows, it looked amazing. I love it!

I’ll do a second coat today and then the first coat on the remainder that goes around that hexagonal shape. I may carry this into the dining room on a narrow strip that goes along the light panel. I could also carry it along the top wall in the kitchen. For now I’m taking one step at a time, but I’m glad I went for it when I had the sudden impulse. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

It’s Writing Weekend/ our monthly virtual retreat

 I’m not sure if I’ve written here about two of my very long-time writer friends and colleagues who I’ve been retreating with usually two times a year for 20 years. When Covid hit in March, we knew our time together would be seriously impacted, and I concocted the idea to have a monthly writing weekend where we meet virtually. 

Each month we pick a weekend, I select a location, choose a rental home, and send them photos with an elaborate and fantastical plan for how we’ll get there. It’s all make-believe, but it gives us something to look forward to. When the actual weekend happens, we meet via Zoom, doing the thing we usually do when on real writing retreat: gather for meals and discussion, write in between those times, and end with an after-dinner cocktail and critique session where we read work out loud to one another.

We’ve all come to treasure these weekends and I think we’ve all been surprised at how effective they are in terms of refocusing us on the writing work. We celebrate publications, discuss issues we’re struggling with, read out loud from what we’re writing, and hold one another accountable for meeting deadlines and digging out of stuck places. It’s wonderful.

So tonight I’ll be in the garret, sitting at my desk, with dinner and a glass of wine, ready to Zoom to Key West and a 3-bedroom, 2 bath houseboat. I’ll be sitting here:

But in spirit, we’ll be here:

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 108

We’ve had a lovely weekend with our family and some cooler weather. I shivered on the porch the past two mornings!

Our first guest run with the camper went very well. While the electrician is still looking for a part he needs to do our upgrade, we got a long heavy duty cord and ran it to the outdoor outlet on the back deck. It worked fine to power the camper and its AC unit. We hooked up the water and all went well with that. One thing I hadn’t thought of is that the new water hook up doesn’t run through our well filtration system. Boo! But I got a travel Berkey water filter tank and it will do the job nicely in the camper, for drinking water. 

Sadly the new mattress was delayed and is arriving today - after the guests have left - but at least I’ll have it set up for next visit. 

This is before:

And this is now:

When I find the right fabric, I’ll take down the mini-blinds and put up curtains. I’ll also be doing more work to open the space up, but for now, this has already made a big difference in the usefulness of this previously tight space.

This is before:

This is the sofa, folded down, with the fold-down desk the previous owners installed. (On the left, between the counter and the sofa) While it worked well when you were sitting down, it extended so far out it was a real hazard coming in the door, and I knew it wouldn’t work for us. I removed the desk and the really ugly mirror over the sofa, and the curtains and valences.

This is now:

For now, I’m using a comfy blanket to cover the sofa. Eventually I’d like to get/make a fitted cover for it that I can remove to wash as needed. The prints were inexpensive and add some color. The lamps on each side add a different quality of light than the overhead camper lights do. And with the curtains and valences removed, the whole feel is lighter and brighter. I’ll have curtains for these windows too once I find the perfect fabric!

This is before:

And now:

I’ve added an electric kettle so that it’s easy to make tea and French press coffee without turning on the propane stove. And of course, ditto the curtains and mini-blinds for the kitchen window. 

I forgot to take the after photo for the bedding, which is lovely! But I’ll do that for a future post, after I’ve got the new mattress in place and everything set up again.

There’s a lot more I have planned, but we’re happy to have a space for my son, daughter-in-law, and their Belgian Malinois Aria. And for me to go for some writing time. And of course for any other guests who come to November Hill once we’re able to entertain again!

In other news on the hill, the veggie garden is just about done with the summer produce. We still have a lot of basil, the odd cucumber, and the cherry tomatoes, as well as the sweet potatoes to harvest, but things are winding down out there. I signed on for an extra large share in our fall CSA, so I’m not sure I need to plant fall crops. I may just put a cover crop in the veggie beds for the winter.

I’m seeing a few trees starting to shift to fall color, which is exciting. The wild muscadines are ripe. I haven’t seen or heard any geese yet but that’s sure to come. In what has been a truly strange year, it’s a comfort to know that fall is on its way. 

Now that the heat is breaking, it’s time to do some dedicated weeding in all the beds and in Poplar Folly, so that’s going to be the focus this week and next. The projects never end, and I’m grateful for that!

In the barn: Cody had an itchy ear, a bout of hives, and an abscess brewing. All are better now, but Redford has a tender hoof. We’ll move through these things and I know every equine on the farm will be more than thrilled to see autumn hit full force. It’s been a particularly gnat-filled summer. 

I’m restored after getting to spend 5 days with my entire little family all together. In spite of everything, life is good.