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.