Saturday, October 31, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 111

 We’ve had a lot going on. I’m happy to say that Keil Bay is much, much improved and that is a weight off my mind, body, and spirit. I’m grateful for Marquis, Prascend, HA injections, APF, and acupuncture, and also for three great vets who love the Big Bay and helped put together a treatment plan. 

I also need to say a special thank you to Cody and the donka boys, and to remind all readers that if you don’t already know this, horses have the capacity for emotion, and they also have the capacity for deep friendship. When Keil first exhibited symptoms, Cody came up to me over and over again that first day, facing me directly, putting his face to mine, and it was clear what he was saying. HELP him. 

In the days that followed, Cody spent many hours side by side with Keil, putting himself on whichever side seemed weakest, and literally held Keil upright with his own height and weight. It might not be obvious to those who don’t know the different sizes and weights of my herd, but Cody is the only living thing on November Hill farm who is big enough to do this for Keil Bay. And he did it. He did it in the double stall, he did it in the barn aisle, he did it in the barnyards. I watched him watching Keil and putting himself right next to him, their barrels touching, Keil’s weak hind end resting against Cody. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed.

The donkeys, especially Redford, stayed with Keil overnight, because I knew they would bray their little hearts out if he went down and could not get up again. They did that for Salina, and I trusted them to do it for Keil Bay. Thankfully it didn’t happen, but what a gift to me to know they would call me if needed. 

Little Man was Keil’s first new herd member when Keil joined our family. They joined us two weeks apart, and suddenly they were pasture mates in their boarding facility, then they were the two who moved here with us to the farm. Little Man has a very bossy personality but he’s also a good friend to his herd. He has been super sweet to me since Keil got sick, coming up and licking my hands, standing quietly beside me, and in subtle ways he took over as interim herd leader. I’m sure he’s been waiting for this for years - but while he took on that role, he gave it back whenever Keil Bay asked for it. 

I’ve lived with this little herd for years now, and they have taught me so much about how horses live together and how they care for one another. They have their little arguments, they converse, they share and say no, they play, they form unique bonds, and they do, without question, love and grieve and mourn. 

In other farm news, we are fully into autumn now. The dogwood trees are gorgeous this year, with burnished red leaves and berries, and the hickory trees have gone brilliant yellow. Our late ripening fig tree is laden and giving us delicious ripe figs on a daily basis right now. As long as we don’t have a hard freeze in the next few weeks, I think this will end up being one of the best harvests ever for this tree.

We’re not having a mast year with the oaks, but there are many acorns on the ground, and in the high winds we had this week from Zeta moving through, many more fell. 

Our front pasture was limed and overseeded with orchard grass earlier in the fall, and we’ve had it closed off to the herd for well over a month now. It looks amazing! And they are definitely aware of how good it looks. I’m giving it another few weeks to mature, and once Keil has the all clear to go out to that much larger space, we’ll open the gate and let them have some time on the grass, probably an hour or two a day for a few weeks, and then I’m hoping, if weather cooperates, to do a quick liming and overseeding of the back pasture, though it may only need rest to bounce back. 

I’m definitely liming and reseeding the big barnyard, to help with the trenching that was done to run our electrical line to the camper. 

In good to do list news, my farm helper put in 40 southern bayberry bushes along the front and around the side of our property. The front line are all mulched and look really good already. As they grow and offer some privacy it’s going to be wonderful. The ones on the side are inside the pasture, in an area that has always been a bit problematic, as it’s where the storm water runs out of the front pasture. We’re going to put some fencing in that corner, to keep the horses and donkeys out of it, and that will allow me to put in a rain garden area with rock/stone to help with erosion and to give a dedicated space for pooling that will hopefully end up being a sanctuary for birds and other critters. The bayberries will add privacy from the lane and also provide a nice evergreen backdrop for our new rain garden. 

I have 10 winterberry hollies to go in that area next. They lose their leaves but are known for their bright red wintertime berries, which will be great forage for birds and a bright spot in the winter for our eyes and spirits. 

Once we get the wild plums, pawpaw, and persimmon put in, all but one down in Poplar Folly, I’ll be done with planting for this season. (Okay, I do have some native seed mixes I’m going to toss out in a few spots, but other than that...)

The bees are moving into winter mode now. There are still some things for them to forage, and they are on warm sunny days, but we’re feeding this year since these were all nucs in late spring and don’t have quite the honey stores to make it through the winter. Next year I hope they’ll have their own honey to carry them all the way through. I’m feeding 2:1 cane sugar syrup, adding an essential oil mix called Honey Bee Healthy, and also adding a tablespoon each of powdered probiotics on the side. It was recommended in a beekeeping workshop I attended via Zoom recently to feed small amounts, enough for 3 days or so, rather than one large amount less often. We’re lucky that our hives have the capacity on top to open a panel and slide the food in without disturbing the bees or allowing cold air into the hive bodies. And this week on one of the super warm days we were able to install a new inner board that has a glass panel plus three vents which allows us to feed syrup or powder using a mason jar, and which offers a very nice view of the top box frames - again, with very little disruption or cold air going into the hive itself. I’m going to see how this goes and if we find it works well, will get these panels for the other hives too. 

I hope the bees make it through the winter this year. We’ve done some things differently and I hope these colonies are strong enough to make it!

Yesterday I was thinking about the fact that I haven’t been to a store of any kind since March. My shopping is online now; thankfully our local grocery, feed, pet supply, and wine stores are all well set up for curbside pick-up or delivery. I haven’t been to malls or shopping centers regularly in years so that part isn’t much different for me, but I have loved supporting local stores and businesses and getting to know the owners and staff, and I miss that part a lot. 

While life on our little farm has its own time and space, and the “apartness” of it from the world is one of the things I love most about it, I do feel a large sense of anxiety right now that stems from the upcoming election and the things that are at risk for our country if it doesn’t go toward the light. It feels like we’re in some kind of dark place now, and while I have issues with a lot of politicians about various things, it’s clear to me that we need a change in leadership, or to put it more accurately, we need an actual leader in the White House. I want a landslide. I want to know that a lot of the people in this country care about science, about the earth, about each other. I want to know that while many of us didn’t get our first choice in the primary, we are clear enough about what is needed to take us there with this election. It’s a big step, it’s a needed step, it’s a critical step. Where we go at that point is what we face next - and we should be ready to remain engaged and demand good leadership and progressive, humane policies throughout our layers of government. But right now we have to put out the toxic fire that’s smoldering. 

That’s as much as I’m going to say today, but as protected as November Hill is from the real world issues, it’s now holding this stress as well. I know it’s so much harder for so many people. May we find a path out of this mess and may we work toward helping everyone have their own safe haven. 


Grey Horse Matters said...

Horses are amazing. I love how your herd helps each other when needed. I see it here too. Just this morning during turnout Hanz waited in the catch pen for Sami and Grady to come out before they all left for the day. Grady waited for Rosie to be done with her lesson before they both left yesterday. They seem to all care about each other and have manners and truly care that no one is left behind. Blue stayed to keep Grady company when the vet did a procedure on Friday. Wouldn’t it be nice if the rest of the world cared about each other like the horse herds do.

I can’t wait until this Wednesday. I hope there is a landslide and definite winner so they can’t steal the election, which is my greatest fear. Fingers crossed 🤞 it goes the way we hope it will.

billie said...

Oh, what good friends your herd are too!

Yes, re: Wednesday and please yes to the landslide.