Saturday, June 26, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 132

 I’m happy to be in the middle of a 3-day cooler spell which is giving us nights in the 50s, in JUNE! What a great break from upper 80s and 60s at night.

It seems like there isn’t much news to report this week, which is fine with me. Everything is growing, we’re getting good rain and plenty of sunshine in between, and our veggie garden is producing now, so we’re starting to enjoy the harvest just as our weekly CSA winds down for the summer.

We split Echo hive this past week, as the population was booming. So we now have 5 hives: Artemis, Echo, Hegemone 1 and 2, and Mnemosyne. All are doing well as we begin to move into the beginning of the summer dearth here in central NC. A number of pollinator plants are in bloom, and several more are getting ready to pop, so the bees here will have forage, just not the big nectar flow of the springtime. We had to remove burr comb from Echo when we opened it up to split, and got some honey to sample. Wow! It was a very light honey that had a slight fruity flavor. Really nice. 

The herd is doing well. Hoof trims were today and they’re all growing lots of hoof this time of year. 

I started this earlier this week and never finished it, so I’ll update that we are now out of the cool spell and back to summer heat and humidity. 

We’re already giving cucumbers to neighbors, I’m at the point where the pollinator beds are on their own for the most part, though I am cutting back the goldenrod so they don’t get 10 feet tall, and I’m enjoying the fact that our rain is reliable enough thus far to keep us from having to do much watering.

One exciting bit of news is that I approached one of our local native plant nurseries to see if they could partner with me on a native grass pasture seed mix that will be good for horses, and they are interested! I’m very happy about this, as the native grasses will thrive and be so much more hardy than anything else, and will be better for a balanced ecosystem. I suspect having a variety of native grasses will also offer better nutrition to the horses. We’re aiming to have this seed mix ready to sow in the fall.

This was writing weekend for me and I had a marvelous time with my two long-time writer friends via Zoom. We planned, we caught up, we laughed, we read and critiqued, and we inspired one another as we do each month since the pandemic began. I’ll be submitting a new essay I polished this weekend, and also submitting three chapters of my newest novel to a first chapters contest. Once I get these sent out tomorrow, I’m moving on to a longer project and hope to be focusing on the longer form work through August. 

It’s summer! It’s almost July. And I’m already stressing July 4th but that’s another post altogether. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Pet Peeve #874: when horse people attribute negative intention to their and others’ horses

 I have to vent. Today on a horse group discussion someone asked what to do for her horses who are free to come and go between stalls and pasture. They are urinating in the stalls and she doesn’t want them to mess up the shavings.

She said they will actually come in from the pasture when she’s mucking and pee/poop right in front of her.

She feels this is them insulting her.

I could not believe how many people responded saying their horses are “jerks” who do the same thing, their horses are “shits” who are “giving the middle finger” by coming into a stall to pee.

Many recommend not putting any bedding in the stalls so they won’t pee in them. 

I am totally confused. Isn’t a stall a horse’s space to rest, relax, eat, drink, pee, poop, as they see fit? Some horses are closed in stalls many hours a day, some are free to come and go. What is the point of a stall if you’re going to take the bedding out so they won’t use the bathroom, and you lock them out because you don’t want them to be in there messing up the shavings. What are the shavings even for, if not to be rested on, peed on, and pooped on?

We do close our stall doors when horses are turned out, but when they’re “in” I expect there will be pee and poop and that it’s sometimes going to be messy and that some horses are tidier than others just like humans are. They pee in the shavings because it soaks up the urine and doesn’t get all over their legs. Same reason I sit down on the toilet and use the bathroom instead of going outside and peeing behind a bush.

If I’m mucking and any one or more of them comes in and pees or poops, I consider that is them doing me a favor, not them giving me the middle finger. 

Why do people who presumably love horses and keep them insist on attributing negative intention to what seems to me normal behavior?

I do not even begin to understand this mentality. Sigh. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 131

 After several days of good, needed rain, we’re having a quiet, cloudy but not rainy Saturday. The cats are sleeping on the front porch, the dogs are stretched out in the living room, and I’m sitting here feeling very grateful that two of the largest projects we had lined up for this season are now behind us. 

With the rain and the season, November Hill is right now in tropical jungle mode. Grass is growing, flowers are blooming, trees are thick and green, and the farm is teeming with life. This week marked the end of dog romps in Poplar Folly for the season, thanks to my son spotting a large copperhead in the pathway. I had hoped that what I’ve always heard was true: that black snakes are territorial and keep the copperheads away. We know we have a number of black snakes back there, so it seems this is a myth, or at least has exceptions. We keep a path weed-eated along the back fence since we use that as a walkway and place to sit and watch the honey bees, and there are several other bare path areas from the dogs running, but the brush piles and other foliage are there for wildlife, and snakes reside in that category.

I had been tromping fearlessly back there but will probably be more watchful now. I always wear my muck boots, and I don’t mess with the wilder sections of the folly, so it’s likely I’ll never see all the snakes that pass through. But for safety’s sake we’ll keep the dogs out until we get around to autumn again.

I’m happy to say that in the barn, the swallows are flying, the horses and donkeys are happy, and yesterday, when his chiropractic vet arrived, Keil Bay broke away from my husband and trotted out of the barn, giving her the perfect look at how he’s doing. He had very little needing adjusting, and he’s finally shed his winter fur. I’m happy to see him so feisty. 

Hopefully this week I’ll get some photos around the farm. I’ve been forgetting to take my phone with me when I go out, and there’s a lot to share right now. Early summer on November Hill is always nice. Not yet to the multi-shower days of midsummer!

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Sometimes A Project Delay is Exactly What You Need

 Well, we lived through 95% of the house painting. The front porch and front steps are left to do - they got rained out and we ran into the inside work that meant tons of foot traffic via the porch so they will be back next week to finish that up.

Today we lived through the attic HVAC not only being replaced, but being replaced with electric unit instead of the old propane fueled one, and that meant HVAC crew + electrical crew and oh my god, I honestly thought this day would never come to an end. 

Five minutes before they were ready to roll out, the downstairs unit failed! The HVAC crew valiantly rallied knowing they needed to fix it for us before they left, and I know they were exhausted after a complex attic replacement in 90+ degree heat. 

They determined the drain line was blocked but each time they cleaned it out, the unit ran for 10 minutes and then stopped again. They had to remove entire pieces of the unit in order to look deeper into what was going on. Turned out to be a very clean but very dead mouse. 

I think the indoor animals were relieved to finally be let out of their rooms after a 9-hour day. We were all relieved that we made it through this long-dreaded home repair. 

So when Pella emailed that they went through the boxes containing our three custom windows and everything looked good but ONE piece was the wrong size, and it would take a month to get that in, I basically said THANK YOU SO MUCH because they were coming Monday morning and I was dreading it after the two weeks of painting and today’s very high intensity attic work. 

We all need a month to recuperate and now we have it!

The house looks great, the upstairs is cool, and these things are checked off my list with a big fat black Sharpie. Yay!

Monday, June 07, 2021

A Rare Weekend Away

 This weekend was my husband’s and my 27th wedding anniversary. Thanks to our children, we were able to go to the NC mountains and spend it pursuing a long-time dream we’ve had - to purchase land in the NC mountains.

I’ve been scouring the internet for months looking at online listings, and we’ve gotten pretty good at finding land parcels on GIS systems so we can do preliminary research. We found one parcel we loved about a month and a half ago, and tried to use a local real estate agent to look at it and possibly make an offer. It became very clear that the agent (who is amazing at home purchases in our larger area) was really in deep waters with the nuances of mountain land and all the individual quirks one must know about to make a responsible purchase. I switched my scouring from properties to mountain agents, and found one who seemed perfect for us. When I contacted her, she apologized that she has retired, but gave me a name and asked if she could pass my email on to him. I said yes, he contacted us immediately, and wow - it has been like night and day working with someone who grew up in the NC mountains, knows the ins and outs of everything we need to know, and was ready to jump in with us on this journey.

This weekend we explored one property each day - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. These were the three we’d narrowed down to after the hours of searching online. 

I can’t say enough good things about the agent, who drove us (in various 4-wheel drive vehicles depending on the road systems of the properties) to the tops of mountains and helped us experience the feel of each one. His knowledge is going to be key as we figure this out.

The three properties were absolutely stunning in person. In three different counties across the entire western end of our state, they were each very different, and each had pros and cons. One we had to rule out because the road going in and up is not adequate and the $$$ involved in improving it, plus the need to get right of way landowners on board, plus the lack of electricity or water, proved too daunting. 

Making things more difficult, the other two properties weigh out nearly equally on our “love the land” scales, and they are so different from one another it’s like picking an apple or an orange - or two fruits you love - it’s almost down to what are you in the mood for in the moment you look at them. 

We have a lot of research to do, and some thinking, and also need to keep our eyes and minds open to other properties that come on the market. 

I can’t think of a better way to spend an anniversary weekend than riding in a Polaris on gorgeous mountain land that’s for sale, while asking questions, soaking in the landscapes, and dreaming of what we would do to create a little haven without harming the land. It was wonderful. 

A little sampling of the very few photos I took, these from the property that won’t work - I was too busy soaking everything in through my whole body to focus much on photos!