Sunday, December 25, 2022

Happy Christmas 2022

 Here’s something really meaningful and fun if you’d like some poetry and music and art in your day:

The Universe In Verse

Friday, December 23, 2022

Longing Is Not Regret is up on The Citron Review

 You can read it HERE.

This is one of my favorite pieces and I am SO happy it found a home with The Citron Review. Please take some time and explore the other pieces in this winter issue. I’m in amazing company. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Winter Solstice 2022

 Happy winter solstice! This is my most favorite holiday because of the symbolism and the time of year when for me, the solstice is a quiet and personal celebration as opposed to the hustle of Christmas. Today I’ve seen a few clients, visited the apiary to check on the bees and give them a little food in case they need it, and I’ll be doing some kind of candle-lit walk later in the evening. There are a few things I’ll be leaving behind in this longest night, and many things I’ll be expressing gratitude for. 

The honey bees were all in clusters, which is how they keep warm and stay alive through the winter cold. We have glass inner covers with small circular feeding screens that allow us to check and feed the bees without disturbing them. All seem to be doing well except for the hive that blew over several months ago on a cold, rainy, windy night. We can’t tell for sure if the bees are in the deep hive box or not, and it’s just too cold to take the hive apart to see what’s happening. It’s possible they absconded after the blow-over but we fed in case there is a small cluster still inside. 

The horses have come out of their blankets for the day, and the ground continues to dry out. In a bit I’ll be in the barn setting up new shavings for them ahead of this longest, chilly night. 

The dogs and cats are piled up sleeping inside the house and I’m making a pot of soup when I get in from the barn. I can’t really think of a better way to spend this day. 

Somehow, this visitor on our Red Oak Wander two nights ago makes me think of me on the winter solstice. A time for personal reflection on the darkest night. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 172

 Winter is here, at least this week, with cold rain and horse blankets coming out in full force to keep this little herd dry. The donkeys haven’t yet needed blankets in their lives, as they are sensible and do not venture out when it’s raining. It’s weeks like this that I daydream about covered arenas where the horses could stay dry and still march about, but they don’t seem to mind hanging out in the barn too much during these cold, wet days.

This morning as I type I’m seeing chipping sparrows in the hollies that are just outside the front porch. The chipping sparrows are the ones responsible for the treasured tiny horse tail hair nests we find in early spring, usually lying on the ground after windy March days. So today, our third very gray day in a row, with heavy fog blurring the winter landscape, it’s nice to see something that makes me think of spring. 

It’s a good day for what’s on my schedule, though: morning latte, then a few clients, gingerbread house decorating and some ongoing Christmas decorating with our grandson, then the first evening meeting of writing weekend with two dear friends and fellow writers via Zoom. 

On Tuesday in the midst of a stressful day, I got a photo from what the call the grassy bald “far side.” I feel like this is one of my spirit animals - elk - joining with the black bear. Seeing them on the mountain land makes me very happy, and seeing them in moments of stress feels like synchronicity in its purest form.

This uncollared elk bull walked up to the bald in the early morning and then left just before sunset. 

Ted Andrews says this in his book about animal symbolism: 

The appearance of an Elk signifies that you are entering a time of plenty. Everything you need – you will get. Alternatively don’t try for quick and easy; long and steady is the key to reaching your goals. Elk also brings you courage in achieving your goals. Sometimes all it takes is the next step.

What a nice message to get that day, or any day. 

Animal Speak is a wonderful book if you haven’t come across it, and I watched a documentary on Netflix this week that is also stunning. Stutz is a filmmaker’s interview with his therapist, who shares brilliant thoughts on therapy and on life. I highly recommend this book and this film, perfect for the winding down of a year and moving into winter solstice week.

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

A reprise on the “omen days” post from 2016

 Years back I learned about the omen days from reading Caitlin Matthews’ books, and was enchanted by the opportunity to look at the 12 days of Christmas, which she identifies as December 26 - January 6, as days in which to watch for signs that might portend the 12 months of the new year. 

I thought I’d share this now, in case anyone wants to try it out. This is something I have to be prepared to do in advance, so I remember to start on the 26th. Once you get rolling with it, it is a wonderful way to look for signs and omens, and really, just for beauty and moments of joy, and let those inform the months ahead. See the full explanation quoted at the end of this post.

This year we’re having some gray and rainy days in early December. Some are cooler than others, but it’s a perfect backdrop to the Christmas tree. We had a lovely time selecting our tree from a local farm, along with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, who is now 21 months old and a total delight. He exudes curiosity and finds so much joy in the world he’s exploring. I love the years when humans are young and learning constantly about the world. My therapist self of course has to add that we must honor and nurture this in our children. It’s their natural inclination but most fully manifested when children are loved and cared for and also protected. And importantly, allowed to do the kind of free-form exploration that requires the adult humans to be nearby and paying attention - ideally joining the exploration and celebrating it. 

This is our tree for this solstice season:

A few years ago I read the following excerpt from Caitlin Matthews (who has wonderful books if you're interested in mythology and symbols and all things Celtic). 

She writes:

In the medieval liturgical calendar, the festival of Christmas Day stood alone by itself as a supreme holy day, and so the counting of the twelve days began from 26 December which is the 1st day of Christmas until the 6th January which is Twelfth Night, or the 12th day of Christmas.  What has this got to do with anything?

Well, in Brittany and in Wales, the Twelve Days of Christmas, which mark the intercalary days of the year, are called ‘the Omen Days,’ and they have a special purpose. ‘Intercalary days’ are really the days left over from reckoning up the solar year and, in calendars throughout the world and at different times, they are special because they are considered to be ‘the days out of time.’  It is in this interval between the ordinary count of days that gods are born or conceived in many different mythologies, including the Irish one, where Oengus Og, Young Angus, is conceived, grown and born at BrĂºg na Boinne within this time, all in one day, by the magical workings of the Dagda.

Within these twelve days lies a wonderful secret that those dismissive of the Christian tradition might well miss, for each of the twelve days is assigned to a month of the coming year, with the first day of Christmas the 26th December as symbolic of January, the second day or 27th December representing February and so on, right through to 6th January which represents the December yet to come.  It was the custom of many to go out on each day of the Christmas festival to observe the signs in nature and divine from them the state of the year to come. The omens experienced on each of the Omen Days indicate the nature of each month in the coming year.

The divining of oracles from nature has a long tradition in Celtic lore.  The Scots Gaelic tradition of the frith or the augury from the signs of nature is well established. The listening to bird’s calling was a critical part of druidic lore, as was the movement and behaviour of other animals.  Some of these auguries have come down to us, like the little white book of meanings in a tarot pack: some people used them, but others did not.  The real skill is to read the signs in accordance with your understanding at the time, and as it relates to the question that provoked the augury in the first place.  I’ve been teaching this skill for over 25 years and not yet found anyone who couldn’t do it, as long as they first asked a well-framed question.

In this case, you treat each day of Christmas as the opportunity for an augury for the month it represents in coming year.  This might be experienced during a daily walk, or perceived in the nature of the day itself and how it falls out. Personally, I like to make a frame for each Omen Day, by asking to be shown an augury from nature and allowing the next thing I experience, see or hear to be the sign I am expecting.  It helps to find the right place to do this on a walk, to close your eyes, to spin around on the spot and then be attentive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 171

 I have a lot to report today! First, my flash nonfiction essay To The Grassy Bald We Named Sweet Bay has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize! It would be amazing to see it make it all the way to the print anthology but for now I’m very happy it got nominated by its editors and am grateful for the literary journals who do tireless work for little or no money holding space in this world for pieces of writing that need homes. 

The oaks of November Hill, who’ve been holding on to their greenery later than usual this season, finally turned the switch on this weekend and we’re being treated with their colors.

On Saturday we had an odd rainy day that began with cold 40-degree winter rain and ended up in a muggy  70-degree windy deluge that afternoon. By Saturday evening, the sun came out and there were many maple leaves on our deck. 

Little Man had his own collection going.

He also spent a little time in that 70 degree rain!

Thanksgiving was lovely. I made a full meal here and also made peanut butter dog biscuits and apple/oat/molasses horse muffins. The muffins didn’t hold much shape and I wasn’t even sure the horses would like them, but wow, they stood at the fence all in a row and behaved perfectly as I doled them out. It was possibly the most successful treat-giving ever. I told them how grateful I am for them and they accepted that graciously. 

On Saturday I noticed a few mouse droppings on the cover of Keil Bay’s saddle in the tack room. Normally I’d just wash the cover but for some reason unknown to me I brought the cover, the saddle, and the girth inside. I realized as I lifted the saddle onto the stairway banister that was slightly above my head in about the same height that Keil’s back is, that I had brought it in because I know I won’t ride Keil Bay again at this point. That realization in that moment brought me to tears. I do not remember the details of the last ride we had together. There have been so many. Another moment in which the aging of a beloved horse becomes undeniable.

I’ll end with another image, Sweet Bay Bald in November.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving From November Hill!


This photo is from a couple of years ago but I’m sharing it today because of the open sky and the feeling of possibility that offers.

I’m grateful this year for the persistence of my family, my friends, clients, and the world at large. We’ve all been through a few years of chaos and challenge, and while we’re not beyond all of it, and won’t ever truly be, I’ve seen so many people pushing through hard things and in both small and large ways, getting to some good things on the other side. 

It’s a trait we have that we can call on when needed, and we can help each other dig deep to find that persistent core when things get hard. 

I hope that everyone reading here and those who are not all have a day of gratitude and hopefully a little break from the daily efforts of life. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

New flash nonfiction up at Hopper Mag

 It’s called To The Grassy Bald We Named Sweet Bay. You can read it HERE.

On Rehoming Horses

 I’ve written about this before, but just responded to yet another person on a horse-focused group “casually posting to see if someone wants my beloved horse” who is “mostly retired from riding but could do some walking on trails” and has “minor maintenance needs.”

We who live with horses all know this horse. Most of us also know what happens to these horses once they leave the love of their people and get out into the world of auctions and people trying to flip living creatures to make a little money.

A lot of people responded to this horse owner suggesting she give the horse to a therapy barn. For anyone who doesn’t know, using horses for therapy is a big thing now. I do not disagree in any way that horses are amazing therapists. However, last night, after seeing 9 clients and coming down at 8 p.m. after that very long work day, my brain was numb. My emotional self was drained. When I read this long thread where people were recommending therapy barns right and left all I could think of was oh, please do not do that. 

I’m pasting my response below. I could write an entire treatise on this but maybe my nutshell says it just as clearly. In hindsight I should have put the final sentence into ALL CAPS. 

I’m going to add to all the good info people are sharing that while finding a spot as a therapy horse is an option and can sound like a good solution, it is not always that for the horse. Being asked to carry or be handled by special needs children and adults is an actual job, and it can be stressful. I write this as a human therapist who knows that what I do takes a lot of energy and horses are infinitely more sensitive than humans. Some horses enjoy the work of therapy but not all do, and I don’t think anyone should look at it as a default option for a horse. I’m living with my almost 34-year old heart horse, my son’s 18-year old horse, my daughter’s 22-year old pony, and two teenaged miniature donkeys that came to be companions for my now passed on 30-year old mare. Right now I do not have a horse I can ride, three are on Prascend, and one gets monthly chiro, acupuncture and Legend injections to keep him happy. I wouldn’t let any of them go anywhere at this point. Life does throw us curve balls and I am not making any judgment here. But I do think we all need to consider all the possible curve balls when we bring any animal into our home and care and add retirement care expenses in to our decision making when we commit to them. The stress of moving to a new location, new herd, and new humans is not a small thing for a horse.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 170

 Feels like winter has dropped down this past couple of days! Yesterday morning the Sun Kings puffed out of their summery bodies and soaked in the sunshine:

While it was cold on November Hill, it was seriously cold up at Stillwater, where we got the first snowfall of the season:

When I look at this inviting path that we’ve named Red Oak Wander, I think of the very first poem I learned to recite in second grade. Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening is a poem that I’ve loved since I first read it, and this scene illustrates everything I love about it. The allure of the snowy path, the shadowy forest, the knowing that outside the frame of this invitation, a warm home awaits. And of course the jingle of harness bells on a horse was something that I desperately wanted to hear as a young child. 

Inside the warm home here I finally got the upstairs bathroom painted, much of it done in the evening after the sun went down. 

I have had this particular color, Benjamin Moore’s First Light, on my mind for YEARS for this bathroom. It’s a long narrow bathroom that opens to two bedrooms upstairs, and it has one decent-sized window through which the morning sun comes in. I wanted to celebrate that light, but I also wanted a color that would be inviting in the evening light of bulbs. It’s hard to know how a paint will look until you get the entire room done, and by then, I’m not likely to change my mind if it isn’t perfection, but this color does the perfect job for my vision. I couldn’t wait to see it the next morning.

I wasn’t disappointed. This morning light is precisely what I imagined. 

For anyone who is a paint geek, I need to let you know that Benjamin Moore paints, and this is the one specifically for bathrooms, is a dream to work with. I’m not an expert painter, and while I get in the zone off and on as I paint a room, I make mistakes and I hate working with rollers, so I need a paint that goes on well with a brush. This one was so forgiving. I love it. 

I still have to paint the trim - in Benjamin Moore pearlescent finish White Dove. It’s the color Iused for the laundry room ceiling that, instead of matte, lets the light play and makes the room seem larger. Yes, I still have to paint this bathroom ceiling too! 

The painting projects abound here and I am resisting the urge to list them all out. I’ll get to them as the creative spirit moves me. A new mantra!

For now, I’m just enjoying the light and the very subtle color in this bathroom, finally getting its turn at being spruced up. 

Soon to come: the bathroom cabinets! the closet interior! 

Outside, right now, the goldfinches are sporting their changing to winter colors and are darting in and out of the pollinator beds eating the seeds that are there for them because I don’t remove the plants. I leave everything to overwinter, and the birds and insects love it. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 169

 We’re well into autumn here, with the dogwoods, tulip poplars, hickories, and maples mostly done with their shows of color. The oaks are still shifting and we’re bombarded with fallen leaves, which, by the way, I actually now leave where they fall, knowing that between wind and rain and horse hooves they will gradually decline over the coming winter and spring. The most important reason to leave them though is to allow all the beneficial insects who are pupating in them to overwinter and emerge in springtime. 

When Doug Tallamy talks about keystone species, the oak is one of top hosts, with several hundred species of insect living and growing and reproducing in its foliage. Think about how many birds and small mammals those insects feed. Leaving the leaves is one of the most important things we can do to positively impact the ecosystems in our properties.

And remember, you don’t have to leave them exactly where they fall - if you want some lawn, gently rake them onto sheets and move them to areas where they can be through the winter.

In other news, we have a lot of spots of color still happening around November Hill. A number of my native plantings are shooting up new growth and even flowering right now. Yesterday I saw green-headed coneflowers, goldenrod, and several herbs blooming anew. The pollinators are busy on our warmish days collecting as much pollen and nectar as they can before winter. And the late-blooming asters are also providing late season nutrition for bees of all kinds.

A few images with some color:

The herd is doing well, though I’ve had to absolutely insist they eat their feed tubs and hay each morning before turning them out. They are slightly obsessed with acorns this year and when the gates are opened each morning, Keil heads in turn to his favorite oaks to forage. The only good part about this is that they are all moving constantly all over the entire farm, but I want to be sure they’re getting plenty of wet feed into their guts! 

This week we’ve had some very warm days for November, but I see that after Hurricane Nora goes through we will have more normal November days to come. I’ve been doing some cleaning in the feed/tack room in advance of the cooler weather, and got all the stalls bedded yesterday for tomorrow’s rain and wind. 

Writing and seeing clients and getting ready to paint the bathroom this weekend! May all stay safe in this late season hurricane. 

Saturday, October 29, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 168

 We lived through the bathroom renovation. I need to take photos but will wait until I get the painting done and mirrored cabinets hung, as we opted to do that ourselves. I’m so happy with the floor, the new toilet, and the vanity, though. Very nice. 

The toilet was a bit of a fiasco. The one I’d purchased was a smidge too tall for the windowsill, so I scrambled to find a replacement, found one, got it home, and it was broken inside the box. Returned, no more anywhere nearby like it, finally found one similar at a different store, and thankfully got it and it installed with a perfect fit. So the now spare new toilet that didn’t fit was installed in the downstairs guest bathroom. Which was on the list anyway, so now that bathroom is halfway to being updated. 

I spent the last week at Weymouth writing with two of my best writing friends. Beautiful space and time and company, as always.

And we have some fun company up at Stillwater this week. 

Looking forward to a calm and quiet week to come. :)

Monday, October 17, 2022

A Lovely Writing Weekend At Stillwater

 On Thursday I headed up to Stillwater for some very sweet writing and retreating time. The journey was extended by two hours due to random interstate travel issues so by the time I got there I was more than in need of this respite! This trip I also hosted a fellow writer and it was nice to have the communal writing energy flowing. 

How wonderful it was to have a several hour writing discussion on Sweet Bay Bald! This was our view and as the late afternoon shifted to early evening the light became magical. 

I enjoyed the fall landscape in the garden beds around Stillwater too. 

Stillwater has amazing energy and I’m feeling the creative energy build each time I write there. It’s a wonderful place and I’m grateful we found it.

I love the fall shape and colors of the ferns. 

And the doghobble. 

Speaking of dogs, Baloo loves it too. 

This view from my deck chair remains a favorite. I can see our herd out there even though they remain on November Hill. 

The oakleaf hydrangea is to me most beautiful in fall and winter. I love these colors and the dried blooms. 

The hiking on the larger property was also wonderful, to the degree that my phone never even came out of my pocket. I am home and restored, just in time for the renovation of our upstairs bathroom here on November Hill to begin tomorrow! Whew. Ready to be on the other side of that but at least I’m starting in a very good state of mind. 

Monday, October 03, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 167

 We made it safely through Ian with many power blinks but no outage, I’d say thousands of tiny leafy branches on the ground, 5 inches of rain, and Echo bee hive tipped over. Thanks to my husband, who went down to check the apiary late in the night and was able to get them upright and put back together again. 

The rain was steady and our rainwater run-off solutions worked well. And the farm got a deep watering that it needed. I’m so sorry for the areas that were devastated, and heartened by the eco-conscious neighborhood called Babcock Ranch in Florida, completely run by solar panels and designed to manage flooding from hurricanes like Ian. Ian went pretty much right over Babcock Ranch, and no one living there lost power, water, or internet. Imagine if Desantis spent all the money he’s wasted on funding smart infrastructure and neighborhoods like Babcock Ranch (who is the completed vision of one man, a former NFL player). That’s all I’ll say about that, but the possibilities are exciting under the right leadership.

My biggest focus right now is that we’re in October! Yesterday I changed Clementine’s fun dog tag to her Halloween one, once things dry out tomorrow I’ll change the gate wreaths to the autumn ones, and I was inspired over the weekend to do some needed cleaning inside the house, which I hope is the beginning of a month of high energy, as I’m going to need it. This week is fairly quiet, but next week Clem has her three-month abdominal ultrasound, the next week is the upstairs bathroom renovation stage 1, and the final week is my mom’s 90th birthday and my writer-in-residence week at Weymouth. 

Today we’re still cloudy, the trees are still green, except for the dogwoods, who are beginning their shift to deeper color, and everything is very quiet and still. I’m happy to be sitting here with coffee and sleeping dogs for a bit to enjoy this time. 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 166

 Readying for Ian, whatever it may bring our way, which is likely to be a lot of rain and increasing winds. We’re already feeling them today. Keil Bay had his acupuncture and Legend injection in the barn aisle because while we were waiting for his vet, a gust rattled the mower tent and he did a spook and canter in the barnyard. He enjoyed his acupuncture a lot today and had some tricky spots where the needles kept sliding out. But he was licking and chewing and turned to the vet when she finished up and thanked her for the treatment. He’s a sweetheart. 

The scab from his one hock sore is gone and there’s no broken skin (the scab took the fur with it) but I want to have something on hand to use for protection if I need it. I’m in discussion with Sox For Horses to get a pair of hock wraps that should do the trick. 

Oh, the things we seniors deal with! Honestly, I need an inflatable donut to wear that will protect me if I take any more tumbles.

Yesterday I took a walk around the farm with my husband with the promise to self that I was not going to get drawn into any chores. A walk to enjoy what is there already. I made it! Yay! The bees are slowing down a little in population but continue to be busy foraging. They were especially enjoying the swamp sunflowers that are prolific in my upper bed, and they’ll enjoy the asters when they bloom a little later this fall.

The plantings are all doing pretty well. I’ve lost a few things to deer and bunnies, but that’s to be expected.    At this point in the season I’m letting things go for the most part. I’ve pulled out some burnweed as it was dark brown and unsightly among the still-blooming fall season plantings, and I’ll continue a few small chores that keep the beds usable by all the foragers. I still have a large pile of mulch, so I’ll top off some as needed. 

The front walkway is very overgrown at the moment. I’m just not worrying about it for now!

This was one lovely surprise yesterday. This is Spiranthes lacera, I think, but for sure one of the native orchids that love boggy, wetland conditions. It came up on its own - was not planted! - and is being called a miracle by the native plant group I’m in. It is truly lovely, and fits perfectly with the pitcher plants and equisetum I DID plant in this container.

I’m very excited to have it, and hope it remains this happy for years to come. 

Biggest gardening fail is that I never got to the Japanese stiltweed in Poplar Folly and oh it is a mess of this invasive weed. At this point doing anything other than hand pulling and putting in plastic garbage bags will only distribute the seeds more. I may work on this but at the moment I’m just letting it be. There are also a number of large branches that have come down in the Folly and we need to figure out how to use them. On a good note, the inkberry hollies back there are doing really well and are loaded with black berries for the wildlife!

Thinking of hollies and berries, the winterberries I planted in the bird haven bed in the front corner are hanging in there but I think I somehow got all males except for just one female, as I’m only seeing berries on one of the plants. I may have to add a few more females to the mix. Otherwise things are growing. The arrowwood viburnum is doing well, the southern shield ferns are too, and the witch hazel, and several other shrubs also growing. That area will be a nice native thicket if these things keep maturing, with tall trees, a nice understory, and the ground plantings that will hopefully fill in as time passes. 

The upper bed by the house is a huge burst of yellow and purple right now, though you can’t see the asters in this photo.

Not a highly cultivated area, but the firework goldenrod and swamp sunflowers create a sense of movement and abandon that I love. 

That’s about it for today. May we all remain safe through the storm. 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Writing weekend! Much needed by me…

 Busy week with a messy ending thanks to me face planting in the arena (thankfully not related to a horse), so I’m especially happy to be back in the garret with my two writing colleagues having Zoom meetings and discussing our projects and works in progress.

I’m back to the TV series pilot and happy to be in that world for this weekend. 

I’ve been noticing some light refraction on my photos recently and realized last night the lens protector is cracked. I didn’t even know it had a protective screen on it, and not sure if the phone comes with it, or we put it there (this phone was inherited by me from another family member). In either case, replacements are super cheap and I’ll get one ordered. All to say excuse the odd light at the bottom and right side of the photo. :)

Happy weekend, all! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Autumn Tease

 We have had a string of cooler days and very nice nights but it looks like 90s and 60s again this week. It’s hard to go back after getting the taste of fall!

The big excitement this weekend was a small gang of elk appearing on Red Oak Wander, making their way to Sweet Bay Bald, and ending up on the Stillwater lawn. After numerous visits to Oconaluftee Visitor’s Center over the years to see and photograph elk, they’ve come to visit us! 

A few mowing chores were done this weekend, some barn and grooming fun, and generally continuing to relax while everyone here with Covid recuperates fully. I have not tested positive thus far and will retest tomorrow or Wednesday. 

I had some time in the potager too, and took a quick snapshot of the African basil, which has totally taken over. It’s flavor is more intense than sweet basil, so I rarely use it for cooking, but the bees LOVE its flowers and so this is for them. ;)

Sunday, September 11, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 165

Well, we said we needed rain and we are getting it! It’s on again, off again for two days now, and the sun just peeked out but seems to be hidden again. It would be nice to have a sunny break to dry things out a bit. 

Yesterday morning Baloo was perched on the sofa, looking out toward the front as he often does, when I heard a low woof and noticed his tail was moving very slowly back and forth. I assumed he had spied a deer out front, but when I got up to look, an opossum was on the front porch, digging in the large planter that my dead plant tree still occupies. 

I ran to the front porch to get Pixie in. She was lying in one of the porch chairs, totally unconcerned, but I brought her in and went to the back door to call to my husband. I spotted Pippin heading into the back yard end of the cat tunnel, so ran back to the front porch to get him. Mystic, Isobel, and Violet were already inside. 

By this time the opossum had climbed the dead tree. Husband swooped Pippin in and relocated the opossum to the front steps. He trotted off to the woods next to the driveway. 

I have to admit, he looks sort of handsome in the quick photo I took!

In other news, early Friday morning before taking Clem to get her stitches removed, I discovered the kitchen sink was leaking - a huge amount of water underneath. Thankfully most of the water had filled a tupperware bin I had sitting in there but that had overflowed and it was a mess. When we got home from the vet I got everything out and put a box fan in front of the open cupboard to dry the wetness.Thankfully, it didn’t take too long, and we were soon able to determine that the faucet was leaking down through the sink hole. It’s been needing to be replaced anyway, so yesterday dear husband went and picked up a new one. 

He ended up taking the entire sink out and once that old thing was removed, I remarked that it would be nice to replace it too. He headed back to Lowe’s and I was excited about a new sink. Not the ultimate dream sink (that would require wood working and new plumbing to be done) but the closest thing to it. Of course the configuration of that sink meant completely re-doing the plumbing, and we weren’t eager to  take that on. The best substitute was this:

I’m not the biggest fan of stainless steel appliances and sinks. I chose one for the laundry room because it was the sleekest thing I could find when we replaced that old sink, but for the kitchen, I wanted an off-white cast iron sink with no divider and one drain. Dream sink: that plus the farm sink style. But this is what they had in stock that fit our existing set up, so I said okay. We installed it last night and by this morning I can’t even remember what the old sink looked like, nor am I bemoaning that it’s not what I wanted. So - it’s new, super clean, and now I just have to redo the grout line along the upper part of the countertop, which needed to be done anyway but somehow looks much worse now that the new sink is adjacent to it. 

All this brings me to another home repair that we’re soon to be enduring. (Ha!)

The toilet ring in the upstairs bathroom started a slow leak and we have to replace the toilet and some of the surrounding floorboards. Which means ripping up the original ceramic tile. Which means we’ll never be able to match what remains. Which means we need to have the floor redone. That bathroom has been on the list of  “things we need to get to” but because of the cost of bathroom renovation and the pain that would be for us and our animals, we haven’t done it. 

Now that we have to do the worst part of it anyway, we’ve come up with a compromise. Our contractor is going to do two parts. First, he’ll replace the floor, install a new toilet, and replace the old vanity that has a built in cracked sink. I’ll probably do the painting. Then in part 2, later this year, he’ll replace the old bath/shower combo with a walk-in solid surface shower, spruce up the open closet with some painted beadboard, and replace the old bathroom fan. 

I’ve chosen materials that are easy maintenance and in stock at Lowe’s. I think it will look pretty spiffy and the ease of cleaning will be most welcome. 

He also has to repair the hole that had to be cut out in the dining room wall at the ceiling to diagnose the leak. It kind of never ends, right?

Meanwhile on the farm:

More fall flowering natives are blooming, the tulip poplars are shedding leaves, and the dogwoods are still turning. I’m behind with garden tasks but I don’t even care. Right now I’m just trying to ride the end of summer wave until it reaches fall. Added bonus of not caring - I’ve had time to READ! We cannot do it all, nor are we meant to. 

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Red Oak Wander natives blooming + Clem news

 I’m still in the process of cataloging the native flowers along Red Oak Wander. These are a few from this month:

This one known around here as wild sunflower, in some places Jerusalem artichoke.

Ironweed, the only one of these we have here on November Hill.

White snakeroot, which fyi is toxic to most animals including horses.

Great blue lobelia, aka blue cardinal flower.


Red Oak Wander is truly a native flower haven.

In other news, we got Clementine’s histopathology report yesterday and her surgeon says that the lymph node did have mast cells (we knew that but good to have it confirmed again), it was excised completely with capsule intact, and there were no mast cells extending beyond it. She gets her stitches out tomorrow and we have a follow up with her oncologist next week to review everything and get recommendations for moving forward. 

We’re very happy with this result and hoping for no more tumors. She continues on a diet and supplements developed for dogs with mast cell cancer, as well as a homeopathic protocol. She’s happy and doing well for now! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 164

 I finally got a few photos this weekend and can share a bit of what is happening on November Hill this late August. 

First, the little passionflower that is so delicate and pretty growing along the branches of one of the button bushes:

The long view of the larger species of passionflower that has grown from the ground to the roof in the corner in one season!

The quite extravagant flowers I can now enjoy from the front porch.I didn’t capture it in this photo, but the tendrils of the vine match the curled wire, a fun surprise.

Many gardeners planting native plants such as common milkweed get upset when they see something like this. It’s a common milkweed stalk that has been completely devoured by caterpillars. This is its job! It’s how milkweed plants support butterflies like the Monarch. When I see this I think, wow, I hope all those caterpillars make it into butterflies! 

My most favorite native, Monarda punctata, aka spotted horse mint. The garden is full of them now and I absolutely love seeing them. This is younger bloom. 

Back to the passionflower with its very happy visitor.

A more mature bloom here:

This is not a native plant! Even though her name is Violet and she seems to have planted herself on the back deck to enjoy the day.

The bee balm in the terraced bed is done blooming but look at how lovely the seed heads are. Perfect for fall decor, perfect for feeding birds and a few insects. I’ll leave these be on through the winter. 

The first bloom of the turtleheads I planted in the side bed last fall. The color makes my heart sing.

The very mature spotted horse mint in full sun, with a visiting bee who loves it as much as I do. 

Pixie guarding the entrance to the cat tunnel on a late summer day. 

A camouflaged visitor on a spent spotted horse mint bloom.

I only made it through a very small area of the gardens. There is so much happening in every square foot. A small part of what is going on here this week.