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. 

Saturday, August 27, 2022

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 84: Chelone glabra, white turtlehead

 The first turtlehead blooms! 

A little info from NC State’s plant database:

This plant attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. Also supports Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton) which has one brood from May-June in the south and June-August in the north. It also supports Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) which has two to three broods from May-October except in the deep south where it can be seen all year. Common Buckeye rarely uses this host plant in North Carolina.

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 83: Passiflora lutea, or eastern yellow passionflower

 I’ve been seeing these around the farm for years and only last year realized they are a native plant, and actually a passionflower. They die back each winter so it’s perfectly fine to let them climb onto other plants. This year I have let them go, and this is the lovely result! This one is climbing along a branch of the button bush. 

Here’s more info from NC State’s plant database:


Eastern yellow passion flower is a native herbaceous vine in the Passifloraceae family.  The hardiest of the passion flower vine, it maintains its foilage in mild winters through zone 8b.  Fing it statewide in woodlands, forests, thickets, and maritime forests.  Tendrils along the stem allow the vine to climb to 20 feet in height without damaging any trellises or structures.

Plant this vine in fertile, moist, well-drained soils in full sun to partial shade.  To encourage robust root growth and ensure its return the following spring plants should be added to the ground as early in the growing season as possible.  

The bright green leaves are wider than they are long and softly lobed in three parts. The flowers are small, about 1 inch or less across, pale greenish-yellow to off-white, blooming in late summer to fall. The flowers are followed by small black berries that that are eaten by birds and mammals.

This vine is an important wildlife plant, attracting bees, butterflies, birds, and mammals while being resistant to damage by deer. It is happy in a container, will grow on a trellis or fence or sprawl on the ground, and is at home in a butterfly or pollinator garden.  In cold areas, containers may need to be brought indoors over the winter.  This plant is much better behaved in the garden than P. incarnata.

Louise Erdrich’s Advice To Myself

 Leave the dishes.

Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in through the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

“Advice to Myself” by Louise Erdrich from Original Fire. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003.

I’m drawn to this today, and letting its message sift in to my consciousness as I woke up thinking of how many things there are To Be Done and how I might Get Them Done.  

The poem came to my attention in a newsletter I signed up for this week, by the author Sharon Blackie, who my old friend Kathleen put onto my radar and whose book she recommended, If Women Rose Rooted, is now on my side table book stack. Thank you, Kathleen! I am certain this author is going to enrich my life and what a treat to have her work waiting for me as we move from summer to fall and on into winter. The very best time for this kind of deep work. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Good Thoughts For Clementine

Update: Clem sailed through her surgery and came home yesterday afternoon. She had a restful night and I woke up to her nose touching my face and her tail wagging, as I always do. She has some healing to do but this is her enjoying her morning today:

 Our sweetheart golden retriever Clementine is having surgery today to remove the local lymph node to the previous mast cell tumor she had. We are hoping this is it for surgery for her, and that with diet, supplementation, homeopathic protocol, and any recommended treatment by her oncology team once they get the pathology report on this lymph node, she will have many more happy and healthy years with us.

Clem is a brilliant and loving dog. After living with Corgis for so many years, it’s been fascinating to learn the behaviors of a whole different breed. Retrievers are so much different than herding dogs! Clem comes from many generations of service dogs and along with her retriever characteristics, she is totally tuned in to her people. More so than any dog I’ve ever known, Clem does something I call soul gazing, where she comes and stands so she can gaze deeply into my eyes. It feels like she is sending healing eyebeams of love into my total being.

Send some good thoughts her way today for a successful surgery. 

Here’s a recent video of her harvesting a fig. She is almost too good at harvesting things and after 20-some years with Corgis we have had to curtail our habits of leaving various and sundry things on counter tops and kitchen island!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Happy to report…

 That my flash nonfiction piece titled To The Grassy Bald We Named Sweet Bay has been accepted for publication by The Hopper literary journal. I’ll share a link when it’s live. 


Sunday, August 21, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 163

 Wonderful writing weekend here that started on Thursday evening with my virtual writing workshop (this one started in March 2020 in response to the pandemic and has continued in six-week sessions ever since) and moving on to the monthly virtual writing weekends I have with two old and dear writer friends. We have gone on writing retreats several times a year together for many years, so when Covid hit, we started the monthly weekends via Zoom to keep our work and our friendship growing. It’s always a huge boost to my work to write with these two women, and this one has been no exception. 

I’ve been coughing a lot the past few days, still testing negative for Covid, and assuming at this point that this is a regular cold, probably exacerbated by allergies. I’m scheduled for allergy testing this week and if I end up with positive results, will try an immunotherapy treatment that is customized to my allergens. I’m  ready to be done with whatever this is!

I’m getting little parts of things done - mucking the larger areas to spread along the front where I’m creating a new and very long bed for planting more natives, keeping the barn tidy - but procrastinating on some of the bigger parts - deep cleaning the feed/tack room in the barn, weed-eating several areas, bigger housekeeping chores. I am trying to keep to my summer plan to do a couple of outside things and a couple of inside things in a day. And it’s okay if the things are little. But my to do list brain keeps chugging along. 

Keil Bay had chiro last weekend and his chiro vet says she really thinks he can go 8 weeks between adjustments instead of 4. We’re splitting the difference and making it 6. I’m happy he’s staying so clear between adjustments. But he loves getting them! So we’ll see how he does with the increased interval and I’ll call her if he needs her sooner.

Clem has her lymph node surgery this Thursday and we’re hoping for the very best outcome. If we’re lucky this will be the end of mast cell tumors for her. But either way, she’s happy and loving her life right now and that’s the most important thing. She is very busy harvesting figs for herself from our loaded fig tree in the back yard. It is pretty hilarious!

This week every time I’ve been outside I see goldfinches flying about, which is such a delight, and the spotted horse mint is beginning to bloom. I haven’t been taking my phone out with me as much and so have zero photos to share, but will hope to remedy that this coming week. 

This morning we had a thunderstorm to wake us up. The horses and pony and donkeys were waiting to come in, and we have had a very nice rainfall to water everything on the farm. We weren’t exactly dry, but have had a break from the more frequent waterings, so this was needed and means I do not need to water the hollies this week. 

A couple of weeks ago I went with my children and my grandson to the museum of life and science in the neighboring town we lived in when my son was born. We had a membership that allowed free visits for the year and there were times we went with him every day because he loved it so much, and if we ended our visit with the meandering train ride they have, he would fall asleep and nap until we got home. It was such a pleasure to be there with my grandson, his dad and mom, and my daughter all together. Such a layering of memory and the present to be walking up the path from the indoor part of the museum to the outdoor exhibits and turn to see my son, now taller than me, carrying his own son. There is such pleasure in these reflections and while it’s hard to describe the way they feel in words, the best I can manage is to say it’s visceral memory - the sensation of back then blended with now, in my body’s muscle memory. I persist in calling this time travel because for me that’s exactly what it feels like. 

From the window I’m seeing goldfinches darting across the front pasture from one tree to another, and then darting down like a bright yellow missile from high in the dogwood tree by the front porch down to the coneflowers in the garden beds. The sun is trying to come out and they’re back to their busy days out there. Time for me to do the same. 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Foreshadowing Fall

 It’s early and quiet, just the sound of distant bird song coming through the open doors, which I opened to let in the 56 degree air. I’m a little chilly and oh, how welcome that sensation is at the waning of a long, hot summer. 

We still have more hot days to go, of course, but this is an early glimpse of what is to come. The horses and pony and donkeys know I’m awake but instead of heading to the barn to come in from the growing heat, they’re lingering in the pasture, enjoying the relief. I noticed yesterday that the shedding of summer coats has begun, yet another foreshadowing of autumn.

Even the cats and dogs, usually ready for breakfast the moment anyone’s feet hit the floor, are drowsing and I think enjoying the cool air not born of an HVAC. It feels different when the farm itself cools down.

In the garden beds goldenrod is coming out, and the deep fuchsia of ironweed. The spotted horsemint is starting to bloom, and asters lie in wait. The dogwood trees are just beginning their tonal shift from bright green to red. The figs are ripening, the wild muscadines readying, and the days are slightly shorter. 

It’s too soon to celebrate, if, like me, the turning of this season is cause, but the glimpse is reason for pause,  to think about the party to come, a reminder that each season has its joys and that life is cyclic. With the change in climate that we know is happening, I am treasuring these seasons even more. 

For me, autumn is a time of deepening colors, crisp air that allows for the easier completion of chores, ideas of big projects on the page becoming more appealing, as if the longer nights fuel creativity and the shorter days add a bit of urgency to the work. 

It’s a time when the horses thrive. The biting insects die out, the horses grow thicker coats, and they seem to love life best when the nights are in the mid-forties. They are more playful, they prefer to be out than in the barn with fans blowing, they lie down in the early morning curled like cats, muzzles resting on the ground. 

I have learned since moving to November Hill that blacks and bays, chestnuts and grays, and one painted little pony look stunning with autumn colors as their backdrop. 

The moment that defines November Hill, a moment when I felt the first impact of our having moved here and claimed this little piece of land, was an early morning in the beginning of November, the first year here, when I walked out to a chilly landscape and saw Keil Bay and Apache Moon cantering down the hill in the front pasture. Between an oak and a cedar tree was a tree trunk that had fallen perfectly, like a cross-country jump, and Keil sailed over it, looking like a mythological horse leaping headfirst into autumn. 

These days he is not doing that kind of leaping, but yesterday, as I brushed him in the barnyard while waiting for his chiropractor to arrive, the lush and perfect color of ripe figs and green leaves behind him made me think of that first year, though the fig tree wasn’t planted yet, and the white hairs on Keil’s face were years away still. 

Every autumn has its perfect moments. Every season has them, but for me the ones in autumn stay with me, markers of the years. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Opossum in the cat tunnel

 In the years since we had the back yard, front porch, and cat tunnel set up so our cats have a safe and expansive area in which to go outside the house, we’ve never had this happen! 

Yesterday morning when I opened the front door to the porch to clean water bowls and litter boxes out there, I was greeted by a very obviously non-feline pile of scat front and center on the porch floor. It was full of fig seeds. I figured raccoon or opossum, and was super surprised to see it in the cat safe haven, but made a mental note to close the back yard side of the tunnel before dark to deter this becoming a nightly habit for the intruder.

I visited my mom yesterday evening and just plain forgot to pass this on to my husband. When I got home from my mom’s it was after 9 p.m. and I was in the bathroom when I heard a huge ruckus through the wall where the tunnel runs. My husband closed the dogs inside, went out with a flashlight to check the tunnel, and I went to the porch where Pixie came out of the tunnel and then Mystic hovered in the porch-side tunnel entrance until my daughter came and lured him out. We got them inside with the other three cats and I blocked the tunnel entrance on the porch.

Meanwhile the opossum would not leave the tunnel and husband noted it had blood on its ears and face, clearly from the scrap with Pixie and Mystic. Mystic had a scratch on his nose and Pixie had some ruffled fur above her eye and what looked like a pre-existing scab torn off. I cleaned their little wounds and used triple antibiotic ointment as a precaution, and emailed our vet so they could let me know today if we need to do anything else. 

Both cats seem fine this morning. The opossum left in the night. We kept the dogs inside to give it a chance to get out of the tunnel and out of the yard. My guess is the opossum came up the fence and got over the cat-proof wire into the fig tree, then came down the tree into the yard. And I guess after one night doing that, came back for a repeat visit.

I’m hoping the encounter last night is enough to deter the opossum from future visits!

We’re going to block the tunnel tonight just in case. 

The fig tree is full of ripening figs right now after years of having huge numbers of them later in the season, usually so late we’re looking at first frost which stops the fig harvest in one night. This year the figs formed early and are ripening at the much more usual time for fig trees in our area. We’re enjoying them daily and so, apparently, is this opossum! 

On another note, I tend to keep an eye on what posts get the most hits each day, and it always leads me to click on an old post that suddenly is getting noticed. I’ve been posting here for many years and it’s always a treat to click on a post title that is popping and read it. This morning I read the post I wrote after Moomintroll’s death. He was a polydactyl cat who showed up in his elderly years and just absolutely made himself at home with us, in a home full of other cats and Corgis who weren’t all that sure they wanted him here. He had been declawed in front and had seizures, and we took care of him and quickly came to love him dearly. When he died at what the vet thought was around 21 years of age, it wasn’t totally unexpected but it was both sad and interesting. I really think when he died that his spirit immediately went to find that of his previous person. Reading the post I wrote in 2012 made me think of many Moomin moments. He was such an interesting and loving cat. He’s buried in our back yard along with Chase, Kyra, Keats, River, and Osage. Quite the circle of love and many beloved memories in our back yard. 

Saturday, August 06, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 162

 Busy week, but feeling better and my brother and mom are both now testing negative for Covid, so I’ll see them tomorrow and let my brother get back to the gym!

Not sure if I’ve shared this here, but I’ve also come out of semi-retirement and am seeing psychotherapy clients part-time again. I’m doing a 100% virtual practice and have made a few changes in my garret so that it works well for these virtual sessions. It’s been a number of years since I saw more than a few returning clients off and on as they requested time with me. I’m finding it interesting that the work I did full time for years, and then part-time after I had my children, is still as rewarding as it ever was. 

The farm remains jungle-like in its summer foliage. We’ve now had several days with no rain so things are drying out a bit. The horses have transitioned fully to the front pasture now after over a week turning out for several hours a day there and then moving to other areas of the farm for their remaining pasture time. 

Cody is into his final week of treatment for Lyme disease and I’m definitely seeing some improvement. He’s also on Prascend during the seasonal rise and we’ll evaluate him in December with an ACTH test to see if he should remain on it or not. 

Keil Bay is doing well, the donka boys are good, and Little Man is his regular self. Since my last post, Rafer Johnson has celebrated his 15th birthday. Oh my gosh, there is no way I can even contemplate he has been with us for that many years! Every year a gift and we remain as enamored of him as we were the day we met him. He continues to be a sweetheart and these days he sticks close to Little Man and spends some quality time each day playing donkey-go-round with Redford. Happiest of birthdays, sweet Rafer! We love you.

Yesterday afternoon I had some barn chores to catch up with and some horse stuff to do, so I let the herd graze in the big barnyard for easy access to each of them as needed and easy access to get in and out with muck barrow and water buckets. 

First they went into the crowded corner I wish they would stay out of. 

Then the best buddies came back up.

Then they all ate their way back up. 

This ended with Rafer joining me for an ear scratching session in which he rested his muzzle in my lap and was so close I couldn’t get a photo of him. 

This herd gets along so well together, and each of them has special relationships with each of the other ones. I don’t know how common this is, but we feel fortunate that this crew is so bonded and that their lives are full with equine companionship. 

Everyone can use a little therapy and this is mine. Group therapy but with five therapists and me the client! You can believe I soaked it up like a sponge.

The bees are hanging in there through our forage drought - July and early August in our area tends to be a time when there isn’t much blooming for the bees. Soon the asters and spotted horse mint and goldenrod will be bursting forth and offer the native and the honey bees much-needed fall foraging so they can build up their supplies of honey for the winter. 

Winter! But first we get to live through my favorite season. FALL. I’m ready! 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

This is me this week

 My PCR test for Covid was negative, but I have had a cascading downward spiral of chiropractic issues (this tends to happen if I have to cancel an adjustment and forget to reschedule for two months) that were piled onto by the Moderna booster #2 well and truly kicking in. Add to that high heat and summer doldrums in general and I have barely set foot outside the house for days. 

I had a chiro adjustment on Monday, which helped, but it’s going to take a few weekly appointments to get things back to a great place. I have massage tomorrow and this heat is winding down some over the weekend, so I am hopeful things will bounce back for me. 

I’m grateful to my husband and daughter who pitch in every day with chores and definitely keep things flowing here!

Friday, July 22, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 161

It's been a week. My brother and my mom both tested positive for Covid, and thankfully both have had mild cases. My mom got Paxlovid as a precaution due to her age. Also thankfully, I wasn't exposed, and I've stayed away this week and won't see her again until everything is clear. However, I started having my own symptoms over the weekend - these are what I think are allergy symptoms that I've been having off and on since early spring. I did a Covid test every day for four days, all negative, and I've sent in a PCR test just to be sure. I'm feeling better at this point, but haven't had much energy and so have barely been outside. At the moment I'm suffering from not being out and about! This should be remedied today. We've continued to get regular rain and also heat, but not as high as has been predicted. It's still a jungle out there! Clementine had her oncology consult on Monday. They've recommended the lymph node come out and she's on the list for late September. Her regular vet practice are considering if they can do this sooner. Cody has tested positive for Lyme disease and we're waiting for the antibiotic to come in so we can get him started on it. This week it feels like a vet clinic and a Covid clinic combined! Keil Bay keeps me on my toes. On Sunday when I went out to feed his mid-day meal, I was a few minutes late and this was my greeting:

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

What’s Coming Up In The Garden, 82: Rudbeckia subtomentosa, or sweet coneflower

 Rudbeckia subtomentosa, or sweet coneflower. I put this in last fall along the front walkway and it just started blooming yesterday and today. I love it! 

Note: I fell in love with this coneflower even though it is possibly not native to North Carolina. I’ve read that it is, and I’ve read that it is not. It’s definitely native in the central US, as far east as Tennessee. I don’t normally plant non-NC natives but I made an exception for this one. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 160


The green-headed coneflowers in the potager have come into bloom this week. They’re one of my favorite things there and I am so happy to see them. They’re as tall as I am! Sadly the ones I planted in the shade garden bed have not managed to do much because of bunnies and/or deer. They were lush and thick, about 1.5 feet tall earlier in the season and then they began to get eaten. By the time I got the protective cages for them they were eaten nearly to the ground. They are holding their own right now in the cages but that beautiful early growth isn’t happening again, so it may be that all I can do is keep them alive for next year and hope that I can keep the munchers away. 

We’ve had a lot of rain over the past week and everything got a very good watering. I need to get out and do some weeding and enjoying of the things that are nearing their bloom time. 

This week I’m mucking the front pasture while the herd is rotated off and spreading the manure along the inside of the front fence. I’m leaving fallen branches in that area and in the fall when leaves begin to drop I’m going to layer them up there and then put a layer of compost on top to keep them in place through the winter. I may put in a few service berry trees in along that long strip as the foundation plantings for that new bed that we’ll fence off from the nibbling herd. It will take me a few years to get this project completed, but the thing it does right now is give a break to the manure going back to the big grandpa compost pile. When you have horses and the daily dropping of manure, you have to find places to use it! 

It’s hard to believe it’s already July. This year has gone quickly for me. In spite of the heat and the biting insects and the allergies I have had this year, I’m enjoying the high season for the pollinators and all the plants they are visiting in huge numbers. 

Writing report - a nonfiction piece I wrote called Everything Is Connected was accepted for Minerva Rising’s 10th anniversary anthology this week. I’m so happy it found such a great home. And I have gotten to the end of my TV series pilot episode this week. I’ll be setting it aside to simmer for a few days while I work on a long short story that hasn’t found a home for a number of years. It’s almost too long to be a short story and many journals have loved it but not accepted it for publication. It’s too short to be a novella. But I decided to add to it and bring it fully into novella territory to see it finds a home in that genre. It’s been fun to work on again. Once I get it done, I’ll shift back to the pilot to work on a pitch deck. 

Right now on November Hill there’s a soft breeze blowing the rainbow colored panels of the Tibetan prayer flag hanging on the front porch, and the upper branches of the button bush are wafting in the wind too. The button bush is as busy as ever with many butterflies and bees. Beyond the porch and garden beds the farm is a wall of green right now thanks to the trees. The fluctuating buzz of cicadas, crickets, and tree frogs is nearly nonstop this time of year. It feels like we’re in the midst of a protected haven, and that’s a good feeling in this crazy world. 

Saturday, July 09, 2022

Everything Is Connected

 Happy to report that my creative nonfiction essay Everything Is Connected has been accepted by Minerva Rising for their 10th Anniversary Anthology coming out later this year. Yay! I’m super excited about this one, and will post more info as I have it. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 159


The confluence of coneflower, baptisia alba, and button bush made me really happy this week! And now that the July 4th weekend is over, I can breathe that sigh of relief. Sadly there was so much stress and horror yesterday, the firework booms took on a larger and more ominous meaning for me. Thankfully the herd accepted cookies and nasal gel easily and remained calm for the fourth night in a row of people exploding things. 

But back to the photo and the joy it brings.

We’ve had more rain and I’ve got plenty of projects to do around the farm as well as basic tasks that rotate around regularly, like weeding and mucking and composting and mulching. I’m trying to create (as always!) the perfect balance - actually who cares about perfect, just serviceable will do - of a few housekeeping tasks, a few outdoor tasks, time with horses, time with writing, time for family, and time for yoga/exercise each day. 

This defies my theory from years back that I can do three things in a day. When I fold in time at my mom’s, forthcoming client time, and pop-up things that just appear on the calendar out of nowhere, it’s a huge challenge and one I’ve never really mastered.

Right now I’m visualizing a sort of rolling and relaxed being in the present moment doing the things that I can do, focusing on the joy of each task, and not allowing my own very big desire to “get it all done” to derail me. 

Many days I can do this with some grace, other days I either err on the side of too much or too little, meaning I just cave in and see the things I never get to at all. Life is full. 

This summer my focus is on not rushing. Not trying to knock it all out in a day. And to be like someone riding a wave, going with the flow, accepting the rhythms of always having more to do than I can actually get done. I’ve placed myself in that kind of life, and in a way it’s a life of riches. Having so many things to do that I love and care about. Having support from my husband and my children, and the freedom to run my day the way I see fit. It’s a LOT of goodness. 

In the garden today I’m enjoying the very busy activity around the button bushes. They are like the super highways of the world when they’re blooming, hubs of pollinator insects and also birds flying, hovering, resting, gathering. Lots of productive tasks going on around the button bush. 

I’ve resisted the notion to set up a set of tasks for myself for today. I’ll do a set plus some by the time the sun sets, but I’m choosing to let the tasks come find me in the moment. Right now a very full laundry basket beckons, it’s time for breakfast, and my screenplay pages are waiting. Thanks to my daughter who fed the cats and dogs, and to my husband, who fed the horses. We’re a team. Everything that needs to get done, will get done. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Salute to the Big Handsome Bay

 Here’s the Big Bay yesterday after being out in the rain for a bit and then drying out, and after his acupuncture and Legend injection. 33 years old and still the King here on November Hill. I salute him. He’s the best horse I could ever have found to be my companion in riding as an adult and now my companion in aging well. He’s doing it better than I am, but he inspires me every day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 158

 Finally, some rain yesterday evening! We’ve been rotating around the farm with hoses, watering any plantings that haven’t been in the ground long enough to develop mature root systems, and of course the vegetable garden. 

Another wonderful reason to plant natives is they are generally very drought tolerant after the first year of regular watering. 

Even before the rain, things were looking beautiful. The bee balm in this bed is stunning right now.

The golden Alexanders look like constellations. And the prickly horse nettle behind is a native that I pull out of the planted beds, mainly because of the prickles, but it’s also aggressive. The bees do love it though!

The button bush is nearly ready to bloom. It will soon be a mass of white “buttons.”

The front walkway is also looking nice, with the transplanted rattlesnake master on the left also getting ready to explode into bloom.

I’m a little behind in garden chores this week. I still have a fair bit of mulching to do, and weeding, and continuing my work in Poplar Folly. Once again, I’m reminding myself that the goal is not to finish everything, but to have pleasurable, meaningful time working on the things I love. Framed that way, I will never run out of these tasks, right? Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have been brought up in a culture that places value on the doing of things rather than finishing them in an effort to have nothing to do, a completed to do list, and some intimation of perfection in one’s life because everything has been done and there is nothing left but to gaze upon it.

For me, this requires a shift in what pops first into my mind, and I take that step, always aiming for that step to eventually disappear from my mind altogether.

Today the high on November Hill is predicted at 84. What a relief for all the equines and for us humans working outside! There’s a stiff breeze blowing and everything has been watered by the rain, so from that perspective today’s pleasurable tasks will be less than usual this time of year.

Writing update: I’ve taken a turn this week and have shifted from novel format to TV series pilot episode. I had got a bit stuck and felt like maybe this story is more a visual one than the printed page. I’m giving it a try and we’ll see how it goes. 

I tweeted today that I’ve spent every July 4th for the past 20 years sitting with my herd because of fireworks set off by neighbors. I’ll do the same this year, but I’ll wear black while doing it. I’m not happy with the state of our country, with the Supreme Court’s decisions of late, and for all of my life there have been so many things I find wrong about the way this country works. Independence is in my opinion something to be celebrated by the responsibility it brings. None of us is free unless all of us are. Right now  the rights of many are being trampled for the rights of a few. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so ashamed our country. 

I read a poem this week that encouraged us to be seeds and wait for the water. To plant food and feed ourselves and those who need it. I believe in voting, in being engaged politically, in writing letters and making phone calls. I believe in making our immediate smallest circles, our homes, as peaceful and beautiful as possible for our own pleasure and comfort. I believe in advocating for those people and animals and plants and the planet who need people with louder voices and more privilege to make change happen more quickly than it otherwise might. I also believe that we are all seeds, and that water will come.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The Good Boys

 Cody is on an exercise regime to get him fit and hopefully back into some riding time as a part of that fitness program, and we started hand walking before his AM and PM feed tubs as a way to begin. He’s up to 16 minutes each time now, and soon I plan to put the saddle on him one of those times and ride. Eventually we’ll probably put the times together into one daily work-out under saddle. 

I have been leaving the gates open to the arena this week and I found it remarkably sweet that Redford came and did the walking with us the past two days. He marched every step with us, as if he wanted to keep us company. 

Redford stayed with Rafer Johnson at the end of Rafer’s broken leg saga, was a best friend to Salina when she was alive, and then to Keil Bay during his EPM time. He has daily play times with Rafer Johnson, and he gets on well with the pony boy too. Redford is a little more sensitive in personality than Rafer Johnson is, and in some ways more like a horse than a donkey, but the thing I love best about him is that he always seems to gravitate to the equine who needs him. 

This is just another example of that in a long line of instances. Thanks, Redford!

And here they are at the end of the exercise:

Friday, June 17, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 157, the bluebird bed

 When we moved the grass paddock fence to keep the horses from being right on the driveway when turned out there, we opened up a little space for a fire pit and seating area for us. I also added a small flower bed around the bluebird box we’d moved to its new location.

Some may recall my brilliant plant to put many multi-colored bird boxes on the backyard fence that provides a backdrop to my upper pollinator bed. It looked lovely but our cats were literally sticking their paws through the cracks in the fence to swipe at the bluebird parents as they tried to protect their nests. It quickly became clear that fledging bluebirds could easily fledge right into the back yard with the cats, so we moved it after the final fledging that year and much monitoring to insure no babies were injured or killed.

What I now call the bluebird bed is a sloping area that needed something similar to a rain garden to drink up the water run-off during rain events. In a grander plan that I haven’t worked on yet, my aim is to extend the bluebird bed along the grass paddock fence and eventually meet up with the front walkway beds, with the final goal being to have a large pollinator garden that wraps around the chairs and fire pit. 

I’ve learned when creating garden beds out of grassy areas, it’s best (for me) to pick a section and get it going rather than trying to do a more expansive project all at once. 

The bluebird bed is beginning to be where I originally envisioned it. This is how it looked after we moved the bird box but before I did anything else. This photo is from the front pasture through the grass paddock, but you can see that the bluebird box has been installed to what was grassy lawn on a slope. 

This next photo is how it looked after I prepared the bed and put in the first batch of native plantings. On this area, I used cardboard topped with compost, and after planting, I mulched it heavily. Unlike my main pollinator beds, this one wasn’t given a season to sit. I did it all in a weekend. I think if you have time to give a prepared bed a season before you plant, it’s easier, but I used a garden knife to cut holes in the cardboard for this initial planting. 

In hindsight I should have immediately dug a trench around the perimeter of the bed. The grasses are very aggressive and it’s taken a lot of effort to keep grass and other things from moving in. That first year I lost a number of plants to brown bunnies, and added a few things to fill in those losses. Last fall I tried to really fill the bed in and although I lost a few plants to bunnies again, it is starting to look like my initial vision.

As of this morning, I’ve weeded out some of the native plantain that seems to love the area right below this bed. All I can think is that the run-off and slope create an area that the plantain thrives in. Since the plantain is growing inside the front pasture just behind this, it is creeping up and into the bed. I don’t mind a patch of plantain in the front pasture, but I may have to get rid of it in this general area to make life easier with regards to maintaining this bed. 

What needs to be done still: fill in a long/narrowish empty strip that is left by some of the bunny munching. It would actually be a great place for a garden sculpture if I had something on hand, or perhaps a strip of stacked stone. I got a newsletter this morning from our feed store saying native perennials have been restocked and oh dear, do I really need to go buy some to fill in this space? Maybe, but I’m going to sleep on it!

Also, it’s impossible to see in these photos, but I have a small grouping of Indian physic in front of the bluebird box that I love. It’s tiny by comparison, but it has such pretty, intricate leaves, stems, and flowers. 

Now that the main bed is done, I can add in a few final touches as they come to me. But how nice to walk out and see this bed coming into its glory a bit!