Sunday, July 25, 2021

A Very Happy Birthday to the 14-Year Old We Live With and Love

 Rafer Johnson turned 14 this week and I’m trying to resist the urge to ramble on about how unbelievable this seems and how fast time passes. Both are true, but this year on his 14th birthday I’d like to tell a few stories about our lives with Rafer Johnson.

We met him when he was only a week old. He was with his mother Contessa but he was already incredibly social and very calm in his demeanor. 

When Rafer arrived on November Hill at six months of age, he marched forward from his journey led by his friend and caretaker Marty, and he bravely met four very large and very intense equines. Keil Bay and Little Man appeared as if they were viewing an alien landing. Cody was his usual no-nonsense self, but he was surrounded by the alien watchers he lives with so he wasn’t quite sure if maybe he too needed to be ready to bolt. Salina was intense, but from a different place. She saw, I think, a baby horse with kind of long ears and no mama, and she was more than ready to step in and manage him. 

Rafer spent his first day here meeting and greeting these new family members through the fence, and late in the afternoon we began introducing him 1:1 to each herd member in a separate space from the rest of the herd. This went well, though Salina was so smothering we did not let him spend that first night with her. Instead, Rafer shared a stall with Cody, whose calm and no-nonsense acceptance seemed like the right way to proceed. The next day Rafer gradually transitioned into the full herd, one horse at a time. Salina notched it down a little and by the end of day two she and Rafer were two peas in a pod.

This remained true until she died at age 30. Rafer was always with her, and when I walked him through the barn to see her after she passed, he put his head onto my chest, looked into my eyes, and there were tears on his face. He stood by her grave daily for weeks, and he removed her halter from its hook and brought it to me on a near-daily basis for several months. He mourned and grieved her loss as much as we humans did. 

In a surprise move as the months went by, Rafer became joined at the hip with Little Man. They had always gotten along, but Little Man was always at odds with Salina during her lifetime here. He refused to follow her boss mare directions and she constantly tried to keep him in line. Somehow I expected Rafer to shift his intense devotion to Keil Bay, Salina’s best friend. But he shifted it to Little Man, and the two of them are rarely far apart. 

Today’s 14th birthday portraits reveal a very handsome donkey who stole our hearts when we met him and has kept them close ever since. He is a zen master and a love bug. He is our beloved Rafer Johnson. Happy Birthday, Rafer! We love you lots!

Photo credit goes to my amazing daughter, who always captures the spirit and soul of every living thing she aims her camera at!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 134

 It’s been a busy couple of weeks here. My husband and daughter went on a photography trip to California two weeks ago and I was here for 6 days trying hard to keep up with the regular routine. In years past I could do it without too much trouble, but whoa, it is harder now than it used to be! However, the menagerie and I did pretty well, though when I got word from my husband that their plane was delayed coming home I thought, OH NO, I can’t do this an extra day. But they got home safe and sound and all was well.

Until my daughter came down with a nasty cold/flu bug a day later. We’re all fully vaccinated and we are still masking up more than the recommendations call for, but she got a Covid test out of an extra layer of precaution. It was negative. Two days later I came down with the bug and I got a Covid test which was also negative. Then we were all three sick and yuck, that’s been life this week. Sore throats, fevers for some of us, coughing, coughing, congestion. We’re all on the other side of the worst of it now but I feel like I’ve done nothing but rest and nap and stay up late because I napped too much during the days.

Today I didn’t take a nap at all but I’m still awake at nearly 1 a.m. It’s going to take a few more days to get back to my normal routine.

I was supposed to be on a writing retreat this week, in a small private cottage where I could relax, write, and let my work take over every waking moment. Alas, I’m not there, and writing has taken up no waking moments at all this week, but that’s okay. It will take a few days to get back to that routine too.

We’ve had sunshine and rain and hot weather and cooler weather. The insect and frog songs at night are so loud I can hear them with all doors and windows closed. We have lots of green stuff growing and some of it’s getting out of control, but that too is going to take some time to catch up. 

Meanwhile, this:

Thursday, July 08, 2021

November Hill farm journal, 133

 What a morning! Elsa is moving in and when I woke up, the rain had just started. I ran out and got the horses and the donkeys in, gave them their morning hay, tidied the barn, and then ran back in to take the dogs out for a run before the rain got heavy. Thankfully the big rain set in after we were back inside.

It looks like we’re in for a very rainy day. I hope this storm passes through with the least possible damage for those east of us and up and down the east coast as it makes its way north.

For now, this is what’s happening on November Hill:

It’s been a fairly quiet but crazy week. On Tuesday we lost internet and cell service simultaneously for about 12 hours. That evening found me sitting in a silent house with book in hand. Actually, a nice break from devices! But I was glad to wake up Wednesday a.m. to everything back to normal.

We lived through three nights of fireworks this year, though Keil Bay seems to be having an EPM flare-up as a result. The disease is never truly gone, and flares can happen when stress increases. We did everything we could to minimize that for him, but we couldn’t stop the idiocy of humans shooting things off, and if you detect anger in my tone here, you are right on the mark. I’m so disgusted, more so than ever, with the use of fireworks to celebrate anything, really, but independence in particular. What I want is independence from people’s desire to create what sounds and looks like a war zone. And one that impacts every living thing around them to boot.

I’ve checked in with Keil’s vet and we’re putting him on Banamine for several days, then Bute, and finally Equioxx, to try and get control of any inflammation going on. She’s on the schedule already for her monthly visit, so he’ll get a thorough assessment then, his acupuncture, and we may increase acupuncture to weekly for awhile, again, and if absolutely necessary, we can do a course of EPM treatment as well. 

He’s in good spirits though, whinnying for meals, and generally seems to feel fine, for which I’m very grateful.

Everyone else in the barn is doing well. 

We’re in the midst of cucumber production here - I’m deluged again! I picked 10 large ones yesterday in advance of the rain coming in today, and three large tomatoes. For whatever reason, the tomatoes aren’t doing quite as well this year. They’re producing, but not in large numbers. We staggered planting, though so have several plants coming up to replace these older ones. I’m also overrun with sweet and African basil, and should have cut some yesterday before this rain so I could make the annual favorite brie and tomato and basil pasta for dinner! If we get a break in the rain I’ll run out and get some later today.

Everything is growing - grass, pollinator plants, trees, shrubs. We’re in NC jungle mode and with the rain we’ve been getting, it’s NC tropical rain forest mode as well.

The bees are doing well too. We have ended up with 5 colonies. We’ll soon be in summer dearth time here in NC for bee forage, though all the pollinators I’ve planted that bloom in midsummer will help out some. This year’s spring nectar flow was very strong, so the bees have plenty of honey and we don’t harvest it (though we would if they had extra, and probably could have this year). They should be fine until the fall flow begins.

Speaking of bees, I dreamed that we started finding bee trees on November Hill. In other words, trees with  bee colonies living inside them. In the dream, we kept finding another one, and another one. It was quite wonderful. I would love it we found even one!

Writing: I have 15 pieces out on submission and am working on a creative nonfiction chapbook of essays this month. I think I forgot to note here that I had a piece come out on Manifest-Station recently. If you go to their site and search for Billie Hinton, you’ll find this one and an earlier essay they published a few years ago.

I have a number of writing projects on the stove, as is usual for me, and am trying hard to get them completed and out the door!

In other news, my grandson is loving cloth books, laughing and smiling and in the midst of early language development, and a total joy to behold. 

We’re at the second viewing stage of land shopping, which has been an interesting process. With larger land parcels there are more things to review and consider than I realized. Since looking at land has been something I’ve loved since I was a young girl and did it with my parents, this is in some ways like a return to childhood, when I analyzed each parcel we walked for its suitability for horses. I started that early and I continue to do that now. Life is full of circles, isn’t it? 

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Annual PSA for July 4th celebrations

Find other ways to celebrate than re-creating a war zone!

Animals of every kind, including wildlife and birds, are negatively affected. People are affected, especially combat veterans and anyone who has been traumatized by gunfire. Many animals including livestock cannot be brought inside to safety. Shouldn’t a celebration of independence be something quiet and peaceful for all?

I just got an email that at least one neighbor will be setting on fireworks tonight. While I very much appreciate the notice, I wish they would choose not to do it at all. 

My least favorite years are the ones when July 4th falls on a weekend night, which seems to stretch out the celebrations. This year I’ll spend July 3rd AND 4th sitting at the barn hoping for the best. Thankfully the thunderstorm last night meant I didn’t have to be out for three nights in a row.

If you read this and you’re planning fireworks, please at least think through what it means to every living thing around you. If you think it through and decide to do it anyway, then consider what that says about who you are as a person. I’m being very serious. What does it mean to do something loud and obnoxious that others cannot get away from? That you are imposing onto them because you have the “right” to do it?

We all need to practice considering how our behavior impacts others. Let’s all start right now.