Thursday, May 19, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 153

 Our temps are going up this week into the 90s here on November Hill, and then it looks like we’ll drop back into the 70s for a few days. I’m not looking forward to 90s in May, but I’m reframing today’s heat as a great opportunity for the first full horse baths of the season. They’ve been hosed down a few times already, but today I’m going to get out the shampoo and the scrubbers and give them a proper cleaning. 

In other news we have had to put a solar charger on the Horseguard tape protecting the holly trees from the herd. The donkeys were going through the tape and one section was torn down. It’s clear we’ll need to do the same for the tape going in to protect the cedars. They’re not actually eating the tree foliage, they’re going through to eat the grass in between and around the trees, and in the process they’re pushing against the trees, all of which are still in the process of developing strong root systems. I knew this was a possibility and we had the materials to install the tape, so now we just have to power it so this bunch of hooligans respect it! They are, of course, just doing what foraging animals do. Here’s a recent photo of the  morning sun worshippers after a night of holly tree marauding. 

Fast forward a bit to the amount of spring green we have and the metabolisms of ponies and donkeys, and what you get is too many calories and too much sugar. We’re moving everyone off the front pasture so it can rest, and I decided it was time to add board fencing to the two sides of the arena still using the plastic fencing, which the donkeys climb right through. This was finished on Tuesday, and for the next month night-time turn-out is Keil Bay and Cody going into the back pasture, and Apache, Rafer Johnson, and Redford going into the arena. There’s a little grass in the arena but it’s sparse, and we can give them their hay in the hay pillows to more easily control the amount they’re eating. Since the dirt paddock and back pasture wrap around the arena, they’re all close to one another and no one will feel too stressed. It’s either this or grazing muzzles. I’m sure they were shocked to realize they could not climb through as they usually do!

I’ve been doing pollinator bed weeding and starting to work on getting the beds mulched for the summer and fall. I’m doing a little every day and it’s going to take a bit of time, but that’s fine. So far I’ve lost a few things to nibbling wildlife: one of my oakleaf hydrangias has been I think killed by its leaves being eaten completely off, two shrubs in the bird haven bed have seen the same fate, and something is eating my coneflower tops off in one area of the garden. I know there are a number of brown bunnies coming in and also a few deer. It’s just one of the consequences of sharing the land with all who live on it, so I’m not going to fret about it. There are some things I can do to protect these plants and see if they can come back from the heavy browsing.

Poplar Folly is a wealth of things both planted and volunteering, and I am going to have to put some energy into figuring out where I want the walking path to go and then keep that part cleared. There are some invasive non-natives which need to be removed, but unfortunately with all the other things to do we rarely get to that enough to really knock things out. It’s an ongoing battle, and we just have to what we can. 

The bees are doing well. I think Callisto, the new nuc, really took off in their hive box and may have already swarmed. We had other things going on and in the spirit of letting the bees do what they do, we let them go. Swarming is the honey bees’ way of reproducing. The existing queen leaves with many of her workers, who have scouted out a new home, and the workers left in the hive box rear a new queen to take over. This not only creates two hives in the place of the one, it also gives a brood break - a time when no eggs are being laid which means there are no larva in cells for the varroa mites to breed in. So it’s actually a good thing if you’re looking at beekeeping from a Darwinian perspective. If interested, read Tom Seeley’s work on Darwinian beekeeping. 

Clementine is doing very well. Her tumor was removed, the histopathology report was the best possible results, and for now she is not getting additional treatment other than the homeopathic protocol our homeopathic vet has put together for her. 

It’s the time of year when I have to shift into my own conservation of energy mode. A couple of outdoor chores a day during the cooler times, and keep up as best I can with the summertime jungle November Hill becomes. 

I’m also working on the new novel again, and very drawn into this story and world. 

It’s not my favorite season, but I do enjoy the privacy all the trees offer when they’re fully leafed out. I feel their protection and their company. 

And I forgot - the laundry room work is finished! Well, okay, almost finished. The ceiling is done, which was the big thing we had hired in. I have one more matching shelf to install, some hand-made tiles I found which will make a small but serviceable back and side splash for the sink, and a matching washer/dryer “countertop” (that will enable me to remove those two towels) is on the way. 

It’s difficult to capture in my photos, but the interesting thing about the ceiling is that on the recommendation of a home renovator I found online, I used Benjamin Moore Pearl finish paint instead of flat ceiling paint. The very light touch of luminescence in the paint allows light to reflect more off the surface and it creates the illusion of greater height. It’s noticeable in person. I am so pleased with how it worked and plan to use that same paint in the living area and bedroom ceilings when I get to them. 

Our contractor had to do some special work to install this bead board ceiling. It’s not a thin panel of bead board but individual boards. It was beautiful unpainted but I think even more so now. 

With the summer heat starting early and the need to do some budget tightening in this economy, I’ve called a hiatus on renovation work. I have about 8 projects to do myself that I already have the materials for, and I’m going to focus on getting those done, clearing out some storage spaces, and be prepared for the end to the hiatus when it comes. First in line will be the already bought and paid for stall windows for the barn. The installation will best be done in the fall when horses are on day-time turn-out, and when we can hopefully have some barn siding replaced as they do each window. I’m glad to have the stall windows - they will be almost maintenance free and should last for many, many years. The existing ones are constantly needing either painting or repair. 

But for now, welcome, summer! I’m going to complain about the heat, the bugs, my sweat, and who knows what else, but for today, I am feeling gracious and happy to see this season coming in. 

Monday, May 09, 2022

My Beautiful Things micro-essay is up today

 You can read it HERE

Inspired by Salina and Keil Bay, the two amazing Hanoverian horses in my life, and of course by H, massage therapist extraordinaire. 

Sunday, May 01, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 152

 A busy week on November Hill. Clementine only has four days to go until her staples are removed. We have the routine down at this point, still keeping her separate from the Corgis to avoid the excited play that  she and Baloo do when together. She’s now taking walks on leash out on the larger farm again, and I’m starting to cut back on the calming meds to wean her off them. We’ve actually needed them more the past few days than initially, as her healing has progressed and her energy getting high again. But overall she’s doing very well and we’re so happy about that!

I got the veggies planted in the potager this week, and used my electric weed-eater to tidy up a bit. We also now have a blackberry trellis and vines planted, and I’m hoping to put in a blueberry bush soon. We have two blueberry bushes in the back yard that I’d transplant if they weren’t so large. The potager is a nice place to sit and relax in the mornings and late in the day. 

The pollinator beds and the bird haven area are all growing like mad. I did some tidying in the bird haven yesterday and last week removed more goldenrod and rattlesnake master to transplant to another area. The upper bed by the garage is much tidier now but I still have work to do. Our load of mulch was delivered and that’s the next chore to be done this week. I love this long view of the baptisia in the upper bed, with the layers of beds flowing out beyond. The upper bed, lower bed, then across the driveway to the front bed, the walkway strip, and if you look all the way to the birdhouse in the distance that’s the very front bed along this line. Over to the far left out of the photo is another line of developing beds - a naturalized area with paw-paw trees and other perennials, the shade bed, and then further down the driveway, the second shade bed. The long “wildflower” strip beyond that is remaining naturalized, though I did plant some turk’s hat lilies along the wooded edge - will see how they do. 

Poplar Folly needs a lot of work right now. Chickweed is taking over and while I know it will die back soon, if it isn’t pulled up it will just be worse next spring. So a big chore this week is to remove the chickweed in there and to remove any poison ivy that might be coming up. Thanks to my farm helper most of the poison ivy is removed on our farm, but every year it tries to come back. Getting it before it gets too entrenched is the key to keeping it away. A note about poison ivy though - it is an important native pollinator for bees! Apparently in the untouched forest, it grows high into the trees and blooms in early spring, and some say the big nectar flow here is actually poison ivy vs tulip poplar. I am not interested in removing it beyond the perimeter fencing on our property, but inside that we do remove it, as I have become very sensitive to it the past few years. 

In the apiary this week we have a new nuc. Because scout bees are intently checking out the empty Callisto hive box, we’re installing the new nuc into a new hive box which I’ve named Atalanta. So we’ll have Hegemone, Mnemosyne, Callisto, Atalanta, Echo, and Artemis after we install today. 

There’s no photo but our farm helper used a machete and weed-eater to clear the very fast-growing grass in Arcadia. Now that this initial cut is done, we’ll just maintain the area around each hive, keep the inkberry hollies clear of grass, and keep a perimeter path clear. But the remainder will be allowed to grow through the summer so all the wildflowers can come in and provide forage for the bees. We also needed to clear the area along the boundary fence not shown here so we can plant the crossvines there. 

Yesterday we had a very special celebration - my daughter’s birthday. She’s one of the joys of my life and we’ve created an annual lemur cake tradition to mark her special day.

Another joy is my mom, who at 88 and after a broken femur has recuperated so well. I hope I am as beautiful and happy as she is in another 30 years!

Today my husband is mouse-proofing Delphine, our camper. We’ve had some mice coming in and we’ve been humane trapping them and relocating until we could get the materials on hand to some closing up of entryways. I need to do a post on Delphine’s updates that were done last fall. She had the blackwater toilet and tank removed and now has an amazing composting toilet. This spring/early summer I’ll be working to replace the mini-blinds with curtains and getting new cushion covers to brighten her up a bit. I’d like to get to removing all or at least some of the upper bunk - was thinking remove entirely but then saw a video on a way to remove part and leave a shelf going around the wall, which means you don’t end up with the inevitable nail holes where it attaches. This will be a bigger project but it will make the lower bed so much more open and accessible. The projects never end. 

Our cold spell ends today and we’re back to the mid-80s. The herd enjoyed the break from this early heat but thankfully their barn and their fans keep them comfortable on these hot days. Which reminds me of one more spring project we’d like to do. I’d like to install a shelf along the feed room upper wall so we can put the third large fan up there, facing toward the donkeys/pony stall. They get a breeze through the open stall doors usually but this will create a nice steady flow of air for them. 

I’m bringing this to a close before I come up with any more “things to do.” Time for some breakfast and then onward into the day.