Tuesday, April 13, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 125

 Another busy week on November Hill. I’ve been watching the bee hives closely after our runaway split + putting a frame of eggs/brood/nurse bees into Artemis hive. Every day things look a bit better.

Hegemone 2 (I’ve decided to keep the Hegemone split in the same name family for ease of tracking) never even slowed down. This is the upper deep hive box that we put on its own stand. We don’t know if the queen was in this box or the bottom box but both upper and lower had brood and eggs so... it will remain a mystery since we do not mark our queens. This hive is crazy busy right now - workers coming and going with pollen and nectar, drones flying, and orientation flights happening daily which is one sign of population growth. 

Here’s Hegemone 2:

As you can see, my colors are getting mixed and matched as we move forward in this beekeeping endeavor. The teal bottom is the stand with a screened bottom filled with 5 or so inches of forest floor “compost.” The darker hive box on top of that is the brood box - it was the upper deep on the old/original hive. We added a wooden slat queen excluder - it will discourage the queen from laying in the medium super above it but the slats are far enough apart that the workers don’t have to squeeze through (thus damaging their wings). On top of the medium super is our glass innercover which allows us to take the roof off and check things out without breaking the hive boxes apart and disrupting the propolis seals and the bees. It has screened holes for ventilation and for feeding during times that’s needed.

Hegemone 1 was moved to Echo hive’s old location. Because its activity slowed a bit when we moved it, I watched super closely to make sure I was seeing pollen going in. The first day was quiet, the second day a bit more activity, the third day that doubled, and today it is extremely busy. Nectar and pollen coming in, a few drones flying out, and orientation flights happening as well. I’m so relieved it’s doing well. One of these two hives is either raising a new queen or had one in the works already and in that case she could have gone on a mating flight and be preparing to lay her first eggs. 

Here’s Hegemone 1:

You can see the stand, the deep brood box, the queen excluder, the medium super, and the top. I’ve ordered a glass innerview cover for this hive and we’ll add it when it arrives. We put medium supers on both these hives because of the sheer number of bees the boxes had and because we’re rolling into our main nectar flow season. My only concern at this point is that we’re having three nights in the 40s coming up and I’m a little worried about that. They should be fine. 

We moved the bait hive sitting on the ground to its new location previously not used in our apiary. It’s ready for a swarm to move in, but if that doesn’t happen by April 24th, our new bee nuc will be moved into it. This is a new genetic line for us and is said to be gentle, quick to build up in the spring, and a huge honey producer. Supposedly it will build up so quickly we will need to do a split to get the swarm it would have cast. So we’ll be watching it very closely once it arrives.

I’m naming this hive Echo since it is technically replacing the Echo hive that was robbed and absconded last fall. It looks tiny here but will soon have a medium super, queen excluder, and innerview glass cover of its own. 

Finally, Artemis, our failing and queenless hive got its frame of eggs, brood, and nurse bees. If all went as hoped, the bees selected an egg and are raising a new queen, the brood is hatching out, and the nurse bees are now becoming foragers. Every day since the addition of the frame has been slow until yesterday when I saw a tiny bit of an uptick in activity. Today that has doubled or tripled. There’s still plenty that could go wrong with this rescue effort, but we’re hoping they make it. Some would say add another frame of eggs and brood and nurse bees each week until it’s up and running, and I have considered doing that, but since we split Hegemone, our strongest hive, I don’t want to now weaken those two splits by taking more bees from them. If Artemis is still struggling when it comes time to split the new Echo nuc, I’ll consider c

ombining one of the split halves with Artemis. For now we’re watching and waiting. Artemis had two deeps and since the top one was nearly empty, we took it off to reduce the space this very small colony had to guard and protect. Now it’s a single deep with innerview glass cover and its top. Once they build out, if they succeed, we’ll add a medium super so they can work on putting resources up there for the dearth time this summer. This hive came from the same farm as Hegemone but was never as strong and maybe had an old queen from the beginning. We just don’t know. I’m rooting for them. 

The second bait hive in the tree is very busy with scout bees checking it out today. I’m very exciting - it would be so cool to catch a swarm this way. We’ll see. Every day I’m walking down with binoculars to sit and watch and see what clues I can get from all the hives. It’s better than TV! 

In other news, with help, we have finished the deck work, got the camper cleaned out for spring, have a few small repairs (thinking of Shawn Colvin’s song here) to make inside, and got the garage swept and dewebbed. We’re about halfway done replacing some back of the farm fencing. 

Still to come this week is a load of mulch, a quote on the attic HVAC, and some work in the garden beds. 

Keil Bay has acupuncture tomorrow and it’s perfect timing, as he has been sticking his hind leg out again. He’s in good spirits, and all are in need of good baths, but we’ll wait for the 40s nights to pass before we have the first bath of the season spa day. 

All the rest of the menagerie are good, the humans are good, and wow - we will be all the way to May before we know it. 

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

November Farm journal, 124

 Monday I got my first acupuncture - it was a little scary but not painful and I had an amazing visualization initially of being an insect pinned to a board - which sounds awful but was more intriguing than anything - and near the end had a visceral visualization of being a caterpillar forming a cocoon and then beginning to form wings. 

I felt lighter leaving the session and better overall. Yesterday I had the brilliant idea to give away the plethora of extra goldenrod coming up (that I really needed to clear out)  to local beekeepers if they would come and dig them out. Today four people came by, we all wore masks, and I spent the entire day doing gardening and hanging out while they got their goldenrods. It was a super fun day, with great conversations and in some way seemed to mark a shift in my overall mood toward (a new) normal. Masks - yes - but still, social interaction. 

I feel that the acupuncture is a big part of this happening.

Thankfully my farm helpers worked hard on Tuesday doing a lot of weeding in the pollinator beds and finishing up the work under the deck in the back yard. As always, there are more projects than I can tackle, but today I was able to start the process of transplanting some extra growth from one side of our front sidewalk to the other side. I hope I can move one species across a day, and extend the visual field of that pollinator bed across the sidewalk as a continuation. I need to take some photos to show this, and I will if I can remember to stop and do it while doing the work.

Everything is coming in nicely so far. I’ve gotten on the mulch delivery list early and will try to get these beds cleared of winter foliage, weeds, and mulched before the end of this month! I’ll make that goal thanks to my helpers, who work like speed demons compared to me. :)

The herd will be moving to night-time turn-out soon. Rafer’s grazing muzzle has been fitted and he accepted it without any drama. It is light in weight and not restrictive for air flow, and he seemed fine grazing with it. Unfortunately, the halter size that I thought would fit the donkeys is too small, so Rafer went into the pony size and now I have to order two more pony size halters. This weekend we have to get the track set up now that everything has arrived.

We’re in the throes of pollen season now and it’s a mess already! Will get worse before it gets better, but I’m so happy to see leaves on trees and green and spring, I won’t complain. 

Too much to do, too little time, but I love that today I got some work done and also took the opportunity to enjoy great conversations and camaraderie with several very interesting beekeeping gardening women. Joy!

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 123

 This week we have scout bees checking out both our bait hives. Hegemone hive is bursting at the seams, and as soon as we get past the point of having cold nights (several nights this week we could be seeing temps at 29 degrees F!) I’m going to try doing a runaway split using Sam Comfort’s method of taking the brood box and base of Hegemone, moving it to where the Echo bait hive is now sitting, and move the Echo base to Hegemone’s current location with Hegemone’s top box. The idea is that the original Hegemone brood box contains the queen and she and nurse bees plus lots of eggs and brood will go to a new location. The old location will have some brood and resources - and a number of foragers will return to the new Echo hive we’ve placed there. The Echo hive will have to raise a new queen, and this gap in egg-laying will create what’s called a brood break, which is a good way to also create a varroa mite break. The runaway part is that you don’t get invasive - you simply move brood boxes and let the bees do their thing.

The main benefit is that with Hegemone thriving right now, we’ll avoid their natural swarm - or to be more precise, we will get to keep what would have been their swarm - and by doing that we’ll have two very good hives going into the nectar flow. Hegemone genetics are good by all measures we can make, so we want to keep them and build our apiary using their swarms as much as we can.

Artemis hive is still very small. I’m seeing a little bit of activity and we’ll see if they pick up as we move forward. 

The scout bees I’m seeing around the two bait hives are very light in color, so I’m thinking these are not any of our bees scouting. I’m hoping we’ll get to see a swarm move in.

Over the weekend I did a mild power-washing of our back deck. After a lot of consideration, mostly having to do with what I can tolerate in terms of work being done this spring, we decided to simply repair our existing deck and spruce things up a bit instead of having the entire thing redone. I ordered a few things from Lowe’s, did curbside pick-up, and here’s what I ended up with:

I have to admit that I’m a failure at power washing. It was obvious as I worked on it that if I really went at it, I could get the deck back to near original condition and then would need to treat it for best results. However, doing this in the few spots I tried it meant that a lot of dirt was flying onto the sliding glass doors and side of the house, and I would have needed to then clean THAT off, and I definitely did not want to end up having to treat the decking right now. It feels like everything sets off a series of domino chores needing to be done. I pulled back well short of that happening. 

Today we had some help taking care of an issue that’s been developing over the past year with a certain canine family member who methodically dug out a cave den beneath the deck steps that was 3x her size. This hole was holding water when it rains and generally just a big fat mess. 

This is where we got to addressing that today:

The muddy when wet clay beneath the deck is now covered with clean gravel, the cave den has been filled in, and we have a tidy grid panel to keep the dogs out. The panel to the far left is removable for accessing the dryer vent, and the deck railing and stair rail have been repaired so they are stable again. I’m going to plant something in front of the longer section of railing that will act as a rain garden type thing to help with run-off which has been happening since we bought the house. We’ve slowed it doing some other things but this should really make a difference. 

Once we get the rest of the deck underlay graveled and paneled, we’ll also have a cat door so they can go in and out. They like having space where the dogs can’t go, and this will do nicely for them. 

I really wanted the grid paneling to be black enamel, but it’s been out of stock at all the local (and beyond) sources for months and this project couldn’t wait. At some point we’ll redo the entire deck and when we do, we can make some upgrades. This will do for summer and fall and then we’ll see where we are. 

I’m grooming huge wads of fur off the equines this week, in particular, the pony, to the degree that I am getting his ACTH checked when the vet is here this month. He may be having PPID symptoms. The pastures are greening up quickly and we have all our materials to move to donkey and pony get fit boot camp. 

In other news, I received my second Covid shot today (it feels like today still but at this point it was yesterday). I have a sore arm and I woke up at 4 a.m. but other than that am not having other issues yet. 

We’re expecting rain/storms this afternoon/evening, a few days of much cooler weather, than more clearing and warm days beyond that, when I can move on to the garden beds that need to be prepped for spring!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Welcome to the world, Baby Will

 This happened over the weekend and we are very very excited to meet this little poppet. Photo credit to his beautiful mama.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 122

We’re rolling along into spring here on November Hill. The maples have bloomed, redbuds are blooming, the red deadnettle is full of bees, and the dogwoods are preparing to pop out. In the garden beds, many things are leafing up and out, and I’ve started removing the winter foliage that we left for birds and insects. It’s time to start the weeding too, but I like to let the early flowering weeds stay since they do offer some pollen for native and honey bees.

Spring means grass, right? And for people with easy keeper equines it is a mixed blessing. This year Rafer Johnson is carrying more weight than he needs to, and honestly, so is the pony. Redford was gelded later than the norm and either because of that or because he just has different genes, he doesn’t tend to pack on the pounds. Even he has a little bit right now! So, I made the hard decision to put all three of them in grazing muzzles and ordered the new Thinline “Flexible Fillies” ones with padded halters to secure them. These are softer and lighter in weight than the old basket muzzles, and they offer much more “breathing” room. I am sure they won’t be popular with the donka boys or the pony, but my hope is they’ll be the least worst alternative to endless calories.

I also ordered supplies to create a track area in the back pasture that will connect to the riding arena. When the herd is turned out to the front, the littles will wear their muzzles. But when they’re turned out to the back, the littles can have the arena plus a track that will run most of the perimeter of the back pasture, with two areas that widen out for a lot of room for puttering around. They won’t need their muzzles on when they’re turned out in the track area. 

My plan is to do a full-on boot camp with them this spring, on through summer, and into fall, in hopes that I can turn things around with the weight gain and they can handle late fall - early spring normally. We’ll see. The good thing is that Keil Bay and Cody will be right in the midst of the track so no one will feel isolated or separated. And when they’re in during the heat, the paddocks are both minimal in grass so they won’t have to wear muzzles for that time either. 

Right now out the window the donkeys are playing their donkey-go-round game, which reveals their dexterity and burns a lot of calories I’m sure, so I’m happy to see them in such good spirits. Imagine how much better Rafer Johnson will feel when he can run like his namesake!

Keil Bay is having some minor symptoms this week. We had the roof replaced, then the next week we had the arborist do some tree work, and we also had a rain/storm event (that thankfully did not really hit us the way it could have) - all these things combined created some stress on the farm and it’s during these times that I see Keil sticking a hind leg out. He’s in super spirits though, and his chiropractor did some big adjustments last weekend, and she said she thinks he’s doing well and that I shouldn’t get too upset by the leg thing. He’s stable and he really does seem happy, so we’ll keep doing what we’re doing and celebrate his 32nd birthday next month!

Speaking of birthdays, Cody just had his 18th. How in the world is he that many years old? He remains the handsome, easy-going, sweetheart he’s always been. And honestly, he could use some riding, so maybe that will be our adventure this spring. Happy birthday, Cody! 

In other news, we have put up a bait hive in Poplar Folly. And it has scout bees checking it out! Maybe we’ll get a wild swarm to move in. I’m eagerly checking it daily. For some reason, I can’t get any photos to load right now, so I’ll add a few in a new post later.

Hegemone hive is bursting at the seams and I’m going to try something called a “runaway split” to see if I can get a new hive going from this very robust one. Their genetics seem perfect and I want to expand them in my apiary.

Artemis hive - a puzzle. They were not as strong as Hegemone from the start, but they made it through the winter. They are just not very active, and the next warm/dry day we’re going to go into the brood box and see what’s happening. I’d like to seem them build out and get stronger and I may try to move a frame of brood from Hegemone into Artemis - I’d love to get them to accept a queen cell from Hegemone if I find any. All this is more manipulative than I really want to be with the hives, but while I’m learning about beekeeping I’m going to push myself to experiment some and see how things go. 

Generally, we’re taking a little break from home repairs. I’m getting a quote today for exterior painting, and since that will at least be quiet and I can keep the herd in the back, we’ll move forward with that when we can get on their schedule. 

Writing news: I learned yesterday in a pure piece of random whim, that my short story Trauma Tattoo was honorably mentioned in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, volume ten. This happened in 2017 and I just learned of it yesterday! I’m truly honored, as she is the queen of horror anthologies (horror being an umbrella category that includes science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction, which is what Trauma Tattoo is). My stories in this vein are more Twilight Zone than pure horror, and I’m really happy I found out that TT got some notice the year it was published. 

Writing weekend is coming up, so I’ll be putting in some writing time and getting on the track again after a busy month.

On the Covid front, my immediate family is almost totally 1/2 vaccinated. I get my second shot next week. This feels like progress, and I’m grateful for the leadership that made the roll-out happen. To be clear, that is Biden/Harris and our governor Roy Cooper. 

I trust spring is starting to peek its way into many of your farms, yards, and windows. It’s good to be where we are this year, isn’t it?

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 121

 We’re in the middle of a wonderful dry and sunshiny but not too hot ten day stretch here on November Hill. Spring is definitely in the works, with daffodils in bloom, many trees starting to bud, bees bringing in pollen, a pony shedding like mad, and some greening beginning to happen in the pastures.

In the midst of this, though we also had three nights with temps in the twenties. Ice in waters outside and some blanketing to keep the Big Bay warm. I think tonight we shift to warmer temps and it will be good to try and get sheets and blankets clean during this warmer, dry spell.

We’ve had a bit of a spring cleaning thing going on last week and this. Last week I finally got the estimate done for the upstairs windows that face out to the front of the house. The big picture window was original to the build, so 26 years old this year, and its seal has failed. The French casement window I wanted to replace it came in at $30k, to which I said, um, no thank you, so we found something similar to that but not nearly as pricy. I’m going with wood inside and aluminum clad out so we don’t have to deal with the outer frames of the windows succumbing to the elements, and the picture window plus the smaller windows on either side will be casement windows that open out instead of the double hung existing ones. More useful to us, attractive, but not the arched French version I’ve been ogling for a few years.

I got a bee in my bonnet and redid the arrangement of things on the kitchen counter. I’ve created a coffee/tea/toast area where everything is gathered nicely for ease of use. Of course this meant finding a place for the things I displaced, and in the end I’m going to have to re-organize a few cupboards, but it’s pushed me to clear out some unused things, which is always a good thing to do periodically.

Our hall closet has become a nightmare of coats, duffel bags, hats, gloves, leashes and dog gear, so I ordered a few fun fabric bins and a wall hanging fabric thing with pockets to try and bring some order and pleasant aesthetics to this very small closet. The storage stuff is lovely and sitting on the dining room table because when I open the closet to begin this reordering, I am just overwhelmed with the thought of actually doing it. I’ll wait for the day I get the bee in my bonnet for the closet and it will go much more quickly!

Yesterday and today our roof is being replaced. I’ve lived through a re-roofing in other houses (rentals in my younger days) but never with five indoor cats and three dogs. Yesterday started pretty well. I kept the dogs quiet with chewies, put Clementine’s “suitical” on when she got nervous, and we watched the entire season of This Farming Life on BritBox. Thankfully the cats came downstairs and found places to curl up for the day, and until two workers came in the back yard unexpectedly and without permission all was well. After a conversation with the owner, we regrouped and made a better plan for today. Right now all is calm and not too noisy. The cats are in their spots, the dogs have chewies, and we’re watching the old PBS series Old Creatures Great and Small. For some reason having the TV on with animal shows seems to make things better. And running the washer, dryer, and several fans also has helped mute the sounds. 

The roof was also the original one, so it’s lived a good life. I’m excited to see the new one - not the black shingles we had, but a mix of grays that I think will look nice.

The horses are happy in the back pasture, Keil is doing well, and even with all the extra stuff going on, I managed to get the arena harrowed when it was still damp enough to harrow easily and well. Today is hay day, so the hay room is being tidied out and new hay coming in. Yesterday my new garret chair arrived and is sitting strapped to its pallet in the garage - it never fails that things sort of pile up to create a three-ring circus effect here, but I guess it’s good to get it all over with at once.

After today we’re taking a break from invasive projects for a bit. There are a few more things on the agenda but we need some quiet days to recuperate first.

For the first time in months, one of the tasks for today is to WATER the bayberries and winterberries! I’m so relieved to be drying out, I don’t even mind this.

In other plant news, our Meyer lemon tree suddenly burst out with blossoms - at least 15 total, and the little lemon that came from the first bloom (the only bloom at that point) is now turning yellow. It’s still tiny but on its way. I’m not sure what has prompted this growth spurt, but I’m happy to imagine a little tree full of lemons in another 9 months or so.

We’ll be putting our bait hive up in a tree in the next week or so in hopes of catching a honey bee swarm. I’m eager to see if this works for us - it will be a first and a big experiment in learning how to replace any hives that do not make it through the winter. This year we need to replace one, and I’d be happy to get two, so we end up with four going into next year.

I have no photos to share today but will have for the next post! 

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Redford’s official birthday portraits

 I have to preface this to say that these are raw photos from my daughter and not the finished photos they will be when she processes them digitally, but she is so busy with her semester courses I am too impatient to wait and share the final products.

A few days after Redford’s 13th birthday, she put these in our “fam chat” text and I shrieked with delight. She always captures the spirit and the essence of each living creature she photographs, and this is so so so Redford.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A few glimpses into the week on November Hill

Not the best photo, but through the windshield as I was driving in. I got winter gate decor a month ago to change from the holiday/Christmas horse head wreaths. The young woman who makes these is on Etsy and she will customize if you want something she doesn’t have listed. I love the hanging stirrups and the wintry foliage. Hoping I can make the change to spring wreaths sooner rather than later, though!

It’s my birthday week and I have treated myself to three gifts, one of which is below. A new embroidery project, a rainbow of floss, and the time each day to do it. (Can you guess which element of that combo is the hardest?)

This is me.

The second of my gifts to self: the Dualit toaster I have wanted for 30+ years. I had such a hard time picking the color. Decided on the bronze, and I love it. I’m creating a coffee/tea/toast area on the countertop which involves (of course) changing all the kitchen cabinets around which is going to confuse me for the next year or so, but maybe it also creates new neural pathways. :)

We had five equine dentals yesterday but thankfully the first of three warm, sunny days to dry things out. The night before the dentals it rained like cats and dogs and the ground is so saturated it is a muddy mess AGAIN. But the dental work went very well, it’s over for the year, and the herd is out today enjoying the sun on their backs. 

If your birthday is coming up, do something special for yourself. If not, do something for yourself for MY birthday. It’s been a rough year. You deserve it. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Happy Birthday to our youngest herd member, Redford!

Who is now a teenager! From here on out, it’s probably going to be my standard first line in birthday posts to say:

I cannot believe...

Redford is 13 years old!

Aside from all the wonderful things Redford is, this year he became Keil Bay’s constant companion through the EPM ordeal, and I am so very grateful to little Redbug for taking that on, and doing such an amazing job. When Keil has vet appointments, Redford insists on staying with him to offer support, which is not an easy thing since Redford is not all that fond of vets himself. 

And I should probably add that Keil Bay loves vet appointments and loves every bit of attention he gets, so Redford is offering support to the king of being the center of attention. 

But Redford is always willing and even eager to stay with Keil no matter where he is or what is going on. 

All this to say that Redford is a super special donkey and we love him dearly.

Here’s a photo from this week:

When Redford was very young, the only white on his face was his star, and if you think of that star as representing his superstar power, as you can see, it has grown exponentially to the point of being a blazing galaxy of goodness. I am always drawn to the whorl that he has front and center. It makes me think of the third eye and how much this little but powerful donkey knows about the world around him.

Love you, Redford! You will always be our superstar here on November Hill! 

A few thoughts on EPM, and an update on the Big Handsome Bay

 As regular readers know, Keil Bay, 31 years old, was diagnosed with EPM in October, and had:

90 days of treatment with Marquis + corn oil for better absorption

30 days of Rebalance

acupuncture weekly, now monthly

continued careful chiropractic adjustment

monthly Legend injection

specific to EPM homeopathic remedies

a supplemental regime including increased vitamin E, a specific research-based immune system supplement, duralactin, and his other senior horse supplements

bloodwork to monitor vitamin E levels and kidney/liver function

Equioxx and bute depending on symptoms

rehab work

All of this was put into place with a collaborative effort between 4 different vets and my own research. As of today, he is 100% most of the time, but seems to have mild relapses happening a few days a month. Most importantly, he seems to be happy and content all the time. 

On Wednesday, the second of two sunny and dry days we had this week, I went out to give some apple slices to the herd. Keil was all the way down the hill in the front pasture, and I walked to the upper flat area where I began to give out the apples to Cody, Little Man, and the donka boys. In a moment’s wonder, Keil Bay looked up, saw me, and galloped perfectly up the hill, taking the narrow path between the outer fence line and a number of trees along that area, the trickiest place to gallop through. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to go into my “oh my god what if he falls” mode. I saw him launch into a gallop from a standstill, watched his path, and then suddenly he was stopped on a dime two feet away, sticking his muzzle into my hands while keeping his 1250 pounds carefully away from me.

To say I was happy in that moment is an understatement. In the early days of the diagnosis I feared for the worst outcome, and at 31, we will of course reach the worst outcome at some point, but for now, as he moves toward his 32nd birthday, the Big Handsome Bay could be the same age he was when he came to live with me, and for that I am so grateful.

I took a one-hour CE course designed for veterinarians on EPM a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the info presented was so basic I already knew more than what was offered, and the treatment part of the class was woefully short. I could have added so much more info to the mix, including a list of research studies that guided my own plan for Keil Bay. By throwing everything but the kitchen sink into his treatment, I certainly muddied the waters of what aided in his recovery, but with this disease, which can be so debilitating, and expensive, it seems like doing it all is the most efficient way to address it, since lag time, and the damage to neurons that happens while you stretch things out, is not a place you want to go. 

This was never stated in the class. Nor was it said that nerves can regenerate with rehab and horses can regain function if given time. I feel badly for the horses and their owners who aren’t told this quickly so they know it from the beginning and can make treatment plans accordingly.

I’m grateful for knowledgeable, open-minded vets who did extra research, listened to my findings, and supported me and Keil in our journey with this disease. And to my husband, who took on the rehab and made it his own personal mission to get Keil’s neurons back in good working order. And of course, grateful to his herd who support him psychologically every single hour of the day, and Cody, who has stood beside him and allowed Keil to lean on him quite literally when needed. Keil has a great team, and all of us, including his vets, love him and are so happy with how he’s doing.

This week Keil had a full hoof trim with zero difficulty. That and the perfect gallop up a hill to a perfect stop for apples, this is the best part of my week. My month. And certainly among the top five of my year so far. Can’t wait for the birthday bash we’ll have in April. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 120

 After many days of rain I’m happy to say that I see blue skies out the window and some sunshine. And our temps today are going up into the high 50s, a welcome relief from the upper 30s/low 40s. I do know that our “ugh” temps sound like a dream to those of you dealing with single digits, and that days of rain is possibly preferable to feet of snow. We’re all used to what we’re used to though, and I think for all of us, it’s hard when weather pushes us beyond what we’re set up to manage, so hopefully all of us get a break very soon from our relative extremes!

Unfortunately we had a Saturday night visit to the vet school hospital ER with Baloo, who suddenly seemed to lose use of his hind legs. It turned out he was able to walk, but just didn’t want to, as it was painful, and after a neuro exam and x-rays plus sedation with pain medication, he was discharged with more meds and a diagnosis of IVDD, a condition/disease of the discs in the spine that is apparently relatively common in Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

He came home very groggy but ate some dinner, used the bathroom, and went to bed gated in our master bedroom, where he continues to be on restricted activity. He woke up Sunday morning looking 100% like his usual self, which is a little puzzling, but he’s getting acupuncture on Thursday here on the farm, and will soon have an appointment with the vet school specialty clinic in neurology. Hopefully an MRI will reveal more and we can develop a comprehensive treatment plan. He’s only 4 years old, so we want to do everything we can to insure he heals, and that we know exactly what we’re dealing with.

Keil Bay has, in spite of too many days hanging out in the barn due to rain, been doing very well. His acupuncture scan last week was “the best he’s ever had” per the vet, and he had a normal full hoof trim done this morning. Aside from being generally annoyed at the weather, or is that me projecting my own feelings onto HIM, he seems happy and healthy right now.

With all this rain, the farm is mostly mush. Combined with mud. I’m constantly making efforts to manage the dogs tracking the mud in - in spite of layers of microfiber mats and a couple of towels on top of the permanent laundry room rug, some amount manages to make it in to the living room. I’m doing laundry nonstop.

We have more rain due on Thursday, then by the weekend it looks like full sunshine again. I’m so ready for spring I could burst! Or even winter without all the rain.

In other news, the arborist kept his appointment in spite of the rain, and pronounced all but one of the trees healthy. The one he wants to take down is a small oak near the arena - he’s going to take the top off but leave the base, which has a perfect owl or feral honey bee hole in it - I’d like to see if either will take up there. Otherwise, he’ll do pruning on the ones that need it. I’m very happy to hear this - the one very large oak closest to our house has seemed like it needed something or was perhaps declining, but he doesn’t think that’s the case. A few branches removed and he thinks it will be fine.

Still pondering what to do with the deck, and continuing the stone work in the front pasture. 

What felt overwhelming yesterday suddenly feels fine today - it’s amazing what sunshine and blue skies will do to one’s mood!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Thoughts on the creative process, and something beautiful.

 Back in the fall I found someone whose work reminded me, in a loose way, of the kind of farm sign I’ve been wanting for 15 years. The first couple of years we lived here, my husband took photos from the front and one November he captured what is for me the essence of our farm and why we named it November Hill. I’ve tried to explain what I wanted to various artists and sign makers since then, but no one seemed to get what I was imagining, and so I just waited.

Based on the portfolio of this artist, who specializes in home paintings and does some signs, I felt like she could do what I wanted, if only I could explain it properly to her.

I sent her the photo and a few images harvested from Pinterest of various farm signs, showing her the way I want to hang it, the style (such a nebulous concept) of the overall effect I was seeking, and she and I went back and forth for a few weeks about colors and fonts and sizes and when we had a basic sense of what she would do, I paid her half and she promised to get to work. 

Thanksgiving came and went. I sent her an email promising I wasn’t rushing her but just checking in. She said she was working on it but was behind due to a large number of orders. 

Christmas came and went. She said she was still struggling to get caught up with orders and assured me she would get the sign done by the end of the year. I need to say that I had no concern at all about her actually doing the work and getting it to me. She has many good reviews from happy customers. But I was getting a sense, mostly just a faint feeling, that she was struggling not with having too many projects, but with my project in particular.

I had built up the idea when I described it to her. Explained how much I wanted this specific look, that I had been searching for the right artist for years. I think I transmitted my own vision so perfectly it locked her into something that became a huge constraint. She so clearly wanted to give me what I was asking for. 

When the new year came and we were well into January, I checked in again. She apologized profusely and I told her there was no rush, no pressure, that I simply couldn’t wait to see it and that I would be happy to wait because I felt like she was the person to do it, and if it took months more, that was okay. 

I promised myself I would leave her alone and not check in again. 

Today, I got a message from her saying it was finally done. She sent a photo. And I can’t explain how, but I could feel her tentative fear - what if I didn’t like it. What if I hated it. What if I had waited this long and hated it. Possibly the worst scenario - what if I said something mediocre, like, okay, thanks, that looks fine.

I know she wanted me to love it and I know I wanted to love it. I opened the attached photo and thankfully, it blew me away. I cried. I’m so happy with the result - it’s exactly as I had imagined it, and I wrote back more than I’ve written here in this post telling her just how much I love it.

She confessed that she was terrified to start the project. That she got my vision from the start, but wasn’t sure she could bring it out of her paint brush onto the wood. Isn’t this how we all feel with writing, painting, creating? We have that idea, it’s so clear in our minds. But to bring it to fruition in whatever artistic medium we work in is always the tricky part. The hard part. Sometimes not even possible. 

I’m so happy she did it. I think I’d have appreciated her efforts even if they had not quite matched what I hoped for, but sometimes these things work out perfectly and she’s sending it tomorrow. I just cannot WAIT to hang it up and see it every time I drive through our farm gates. 

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Look for what you want, go with your gut, be patient, and when you get what you hoped for, savor the heck out of it. I’m sharing her photo and will of course share it in its new location soon.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 119

 Well, another week, several more days of rainfall. I am grateful we’re not in drought but now we’re in tropical rainforest territory, though cold. The horses have to have their sheets on as I do not want Keil Bay getting chilled, and they are all weary of mushy ground. Thankfully the sun came out this afternoon and it looks like sun tomorrow, then I see rain on the forecast several more days this week.

I’m seriously thinking we need to cover our arena - not enclose it, but have a nice cover that lets us see through it from the house to the back. The idea of huge equipment back there totally freaks me out though.

Meanwhile, we’re making some progress getting stone put in to the stormwater creek bed in the front field. We’ll leave large gap areas in the flat spaces for the horses go to through, but the sections that are deep/steep are getting stone, and then in the fenced off bird habitat area we’ll do more extensive stonework, as that’s an area where water tends to pool out. If I can get some research done I’d love to put in a small water feature for birds and frogs. 

The barn roof repair was completed nicely and now we’re awaiting shingles that are on order so the house can get its new roof. The deck in back is next, though I keep shifting my plans for what we’ll do with it.

I’m worried about the two bee hives, Hegemone and Artemis. I peeked at them on admittedly a colder than they like day and the upper boxes were super empty looking from above. I hope they were in cluster below. One hopeful sign - Hegemone girls have propolised their bottom entrance hole (about the size of a half dollar) so that it’s now a bee-sized hole only. As I noticed this and leaned down to check it out, amazed, one of the girls came to the hole and peeked back at me! 

Keeping my fingers crossed they make it through the winter. They have sugar patties available to them and have been taking that thus far.

I’m about halfway through my Taxonomy and Winter Flora native plant studies classes and am enjoying being active in that program again. Mostly on Zoom, though we have met for winter garden walks with everyone masked and distanced. 

This weekend past was both a friend’s book launch party via Crowdcast and my monthly writing retreat via Zoom, so it’s been busy here!

This week we have an arborist coming to assess the large oaks around the barn and house, as well as the two hickory trees in our back yard. All of them are beginning to grow toward house or barn and need to be pruned, and I’d like someone to do it with an eye toward the health of the trees at the same time. I’m very interested to see this work done once we get it scheduled.

Keil has had a number of slightly off days but looked really good today, so I hope we’re back to some normal weeks again. He had chiro here last week and had a minor pelvic adjustment but was mostly clear, which is terrific. And although he is done with his 5 p.m. medication buckets, he now gets 5 p.m. extra pellet buckets because I knew he’d be upset if we just stopped. He’s 31. He can use the calories. He can use the pampering. And he loves it. 

That’s about it! Hope all are hanging in there through this wintry month (for some of us much more so than others, and I’m not complaining about anything but the rain here!).


Saturday, January 30, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 118

 We’re in a cold snap this week, highs in the upper 30s, lows in the low 20s, and we also had a dusting of snow (after a night of near-solid cold rain) so are back to square one with the mud factor. We’ve had horses in blankets for 2 days straight now, somewhat unusual for us, but I don’t want Keil Bay getting cold. He’s doing well for the most part.

In spite of the cold and the ongoing wetness, the time came this week to move on with some of the postponed repairs at the barn. The roof repairs were done yesterday, and will be finished up on Monday. It’s a relief to have that mostly done. Next is rebuilding one of the interior stall doors, bringing in some footing for the two shelters, and doing something with the barn aisle - either packed stone screenings with mats on top or ??? - it’s time. Depending on how easily that goes we may do some work on the feed room as well. 

My farm helper has been doing some pruning of the giant butterfly bush and the hollies in front of our porch, to get a jump on that before they start growing like mad as spring sets in. He also worked on creating a hugelkultur berm where an old and dead tree tipped over in the side strip, which happened to fall in a way that will be a great place to do the berm and create a storm water break over there. 

Next up, though, is a new roof on the house, which is still sitting under the original roof that was put on 25 years ago. We’re moving to a metal roof and I’ll be relieved when it’s over and done with! Then the back deck is up for replacement. These two things will be both invasive and difficult to live with if they go on for longer than a day, which I guess I need to steel myself that they will. There are days when I feel like it would be easier to buy a new farm than manage this one! 

Inside, we’ve moved the old sofa on to Habitat, and the new one is here and ready to be installed today. I’m enjoying the sofette and now the little ottoman I got to go with it. The dogs are not amused that their big sofa is gone and for now there’s just the floor along that wall! 

One thing I’ve made sure to do with these new sofas is get very lightweight throws for ease of washing and drying. The quilt I had on the large sofa was king-sized and very heavy, and with three dogs who have access to a back yard 24/7, I had to wash it at least once a week. The new one is super light and will be very easy to toss in the wash and will dry quickly.

I may have gone overboard with the size of the throw pillows I ordered - they’re great, but take up a lot of room on the sofette. Thinking of some kind of dedicated throw pillow caddy where they can be used when needed but put aside when not. 

This week’s weather has made me decide I’m officially ready for spring. Not that I can summon it in any way but I’m ready for slightly warmer temperatures again. 

In other news, I reembarked on Julia Cameron’s 12-week Artist’s Way exercises last week. I’m happy to bring some structure into creative efforts and routine, and also eager to move into her new book once I complete this 12 weeks of work.

Almost February! Hoping we get a bit warmer weather moving forward and that the vaccine for Covid gains a lot of ground in terms of being out there for everyone to access. I’m happy to see the efforts being put to that task. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Book Review: The Part That Burns, a memoir by Jeannine Ouellette


Jeannine Ouellette’s memoir in fragments, The Part That Burns, reads like a shattered mirror that the author reassembles as you go, pulled forward by writing that’s precise and beautiful both in its parts and as a whole.

Often when I read I mark sentences that shine, soar, stop me in my tracks with their potency. A good book usually has a handful, a great book more than that. This book has so many it’s hard to pull them out. I searched for a line or two that I might share here, but find myself highlighting entire paragraphs. Beyond this, the fragmented structure Ouellette employs to tell this story is itself masterful and compelling. 

Ouellette spans the time between her own childhood and motherhood, sharing potent memories of herself as child, daughter, mother, and the places in between, as well as the intersections between all these selves. I think again of mirrors, the ones in the fun house at the fair, where you see many reflections from many angles, some distortions of who we are, some closer to reality, but all real in that place in time, from our perspective as we look at what we see in the panels around us.

Make no mistake: this narrator’s voice is clear and true, and you’ll want to know where she goes next. You’ll hold your breath at times, and you’ll pull for her to reach her destinations safely.

A story of childhood sexual abuse, a story of a girl who journeys and survives, eventually thrives, this is not the usual memoir with this subject at its core. It’s a map of the path this narrator took, not in sequence, but the way you would hear it if she told it to a friend, or a therapist, in remembered pieces, so you come to the whole almost by surprise, with a little gasp of wow as you see where she ends up. 

Very highly recommended. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

YES! We can all breathe again.

 So very relieved, happy, and ready to get to work now that President Biden and VP Harris are at the helm. Not to mention a Democrat-led House and Senate.

It’s time to clean house, both the WH and all houses of law enforcement. Time to clean up the planet. Time to clean up how we do business on every level of government.

As our inaugural poet laureate Amanda Gorman said today: 

There is always light. 

Only if we are brave enough to see it. 

There is always light. 

Only if we are brave enough to be it.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Dream Journal, 1

 I’m starting a new series today in honor of a dream I had last night about Salina. I often have vivid, unusual dreams and this is one place I can put them. One Jungian take on dream work is that different characters in our dreams represent different parts of ourselves. I always think from that perspective first and then consider other ways of interpreting meaning. Though I also feel strongly that many of our dreams are not so much things we need to interpret, but glimpses of feeling and mood that, on reflection, can help us let go of something we may be holding onto unconsciously. 

I’m not posting these dreams to find meaning necessarily, but mostly so I do not forget them. The act of writing them down helps keep them in mind, and this is one I do not want to forget.

In the dream Salina, our black German Hannoverian mare, was still with us. She had the arthritic knees she had in real life, but it wasn’t clear in the dream if she had just the one eye from her real life or both eyes. I was with my husband in the paddock behind our barn doing some mucking, and in the dream we had a covered arena that connected to one end of the barn. Salina was meandering around keeping an eye on things, as she so often did when she was with us in her body.

The fascinating thing about the dream is that in addition to Salina’s equine self, she also had a miniature person self who was also meandering around. This petite human girl part of Salina was dressed in riding attire and at one point when I got distracted and then eventually looked back at her, she had tacked Salina the horse self up in beautiful dressage tack and was mounting for a ride!

I immediately directed my husband to look - Salina is riding herself! I said to him. It was, in the dream, a beautiful merging of two parts of Salina. (Jung might say two parts of the Self - maybe self and Self)

When the miniature person Salina was riding the horse Salina, all the effects of the arthritis was gone. It was as if merging made them both complete and perfectly mobile. They trotted, cantered, did dressage movements, and I watched, transfixed, until the human Salina took them to a window in the arena and dismounted onto its sill. I was worried she would injure herself jumping down to the ground, but she was fine, and their ride was over.

I’m not sure what this “means,” but the mood of the dream was luminous and wondrous. It was pure joy to see Salina moving so beautifully, it was mesmerizing to see this miniature human part of her come to life in my dream world. And I woke up still feeling the joy. I’m sure there is deeper meaning. In one totally superficial way, I feel the dream is saying to me: RIDE! 

In any case, it was a lovely dream and I hope never to forget it. The way I felt while watching it unfold. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 117

 So, this week has been back and forth between sunshine and rain, and whoa is it mucky out there where the horses and dogs roam! Our barn roof repair keeps getting pushed back because the ground is not getting completely dry between the rain days, and some other projects too, as bringing trucks in just makes a big mess.

Oh, well. It’s winter, after all, and I am continuing my push to notch my expectations back and just go with the flow of the earth. Easy to type, less easy to do.

Last weekend was my writing weekend via Zoom, and I’ve started the new session of Writing in the Dark, so I have lots to work on, even more to read, and the garret is always a warm, dry place to be. I’ll be reviewing a forthcoming book soon, but if you want a quick heads up ahead of that, order Jeannine Ouellette’s The Part That Burns. It’s a memoir written in fragments, almost like a broken mirror that she puts back together as you read, and it’s a really beautiful piece of writing in its fragments and as a whole. 

Today the rain is supposed to be gone but the sunshine is playing hide and seek with the clouds right now. I’ve turned the herd out because they want to be out there, and I hope I don’t go out later to find they’ve all rolled in the mud. The pony rolled right in front of my face after his breakfast tub and blanket removal, so he’s a mess already. 

Keil Bay had his acupuncture and Legend injection yesterday. He’s had a minor relapse this past week but it’s minor, and after yesterday’s treatment he was soft-eyed and so very content. I’m content too. 

We’re all hanging in there. I’m signed up for a flurry of native plant classes this spring - most are via Zoom but a few have some outside instruction and yesterday was the first meeting in my winter flora course. We walked through the botanical gardens all masked up, mostly in the rain, with umbrellas and rain gear, identifying trees by twigs and shrubs by shape and sometimes looking on the ground beneath for clues. It was super fun. But cold! 

This week I’m starting the taxonomy class I’ve tried to take twice - once had to cancel because of my own schedule and once canceled due to Covid, but it’s on Zoom now so I hope I get through it this time!

On November Hill it’s still a winter landscape, very beautiful in its muted colors and seeing the bones of things. Today I’ve ordered fly predators and beneficial nematodes for spring and summer into fall, and the idea of flies and gnats seems foreign (a nice place to be, for horse people). 

This week we had warm enough weather to check on the bee girls. Hegemone continues to thrive. We added more sugar patties and watched them through the glass. Very busy girls, and lots of them. Artemis is hanging in there, taking the sugar patties, so we replenished them as well, but there are just not that many at this point. I’ve heard that a cluster the size of a grapefruit can make it through til spring, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this colony!

Clementine was spayed last week and is nearing the end of her recuperation period - she’s going to be so happy to get out and explore the farm again. We’re glad this is over and done now! Before the spay day, in the rain but oh so sweet:

Thursday, January 07, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 116

 Me, front and center, stumping for the party when I was very young. 

In the larger world outside of my little microcosm here, I am disgusted today. I grew up in a southern NC county that was riddled with racists and klansmen and much of my childhood was spent both worrying about the Black people I loved and making my introverted and then later bolder actions against the racists who threatened them.

My mother worked for Governor Terry Sanford when he and his staff strove to rid our state of this hatred, so I also grew up seeing firsthand ethical, honorable action being taken by our leaders in government. 

It has been obvious to me since I first became aware of Donald Trump (in the 1980s when I went to NYC a few times a year and hung out at clubs including Studio 54) that he was an ignorant, arrogant, misogynistic jerk. When he entered the presidential race, I thought he was a joke. When he won, I thought our country had lost its mind. Yesterday I was absolutely disgusted, angry, and reminded in a potent way how I sometimes felt when I was in high school, how I felt the day I was pulled over by two small town cops because I was transporting Black members of our state championship basketball team to the downtown soda shop to celebrate. How I was personally threatened by teenaged KKK members. Seeing the faces in the photos and video footage taken yesterday, as a group of ignorant grinning terrorists breached our nation’s capitol and threatened harm. 

I understand to some degree the psychology of this kind of behavior. In some cases, they were taught to hate. In many cases there is low intelligence. Put arrogance, ignorance, and hatred together in a mob and you get what we saw yesterday. 

All I can say today is that I will never again tolerate anyone saying they support Donald Trump, these terrorist beliefs and actions, or any kind of racism, period. I will say that outright to anyone who crosses my path espousing these beliefs or acting on them. It’s past time for this hatred to be treated as criminal behavior in our country. No, you do not get to line up along small town sidewalks draping confederate flags and carrying assault rifles. No, you do not get to march around calling for the eradication of a race of people. No, you do not get to, as a law enforcement officer entrusted to maintaining peace and rule of law, perform violence against the citizens you are bound to protect. Doing these things should, and must, land you in jail with serious incarceration consequences.

How can it be that in my 60 years this is not already true?

Today on November Hill I will do the things I always do: muck some manure, clean some floors, do dishes and laundry, feed horses, dogs, and cats, and beloved donkey boys. I will write some and read some and stay in touch with friends. I will look at garden beds and ponder projects in home and barn and farm. 

And I will make time to call my senators and representatives and demand that they take action against Trump, his accomplices, and his rioting terrorist mob. It is time for change.