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?

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