Thursday, December 28, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 201 (the day after the solstice)

 I was walking through the barnyard with the plants for Keil and Salina’s gravesites when I heard the sound of several small planes approaching. When I looked up, there were three flying in close formation over the farm, and as I watched, they did a maneuver where they flew apart in three different directions in a quick and sudden movement.

It was truly spectacular, and as usual since October 25th, I view everything like this as a sign of Keil Bay’s passing. This was surely a little celebratory display to mark the planting of natives including blue-eyed grass, poke milkweed, and sweetleaf, aka horse sugar.

I managed to get a few photos after the planes did the spread and then began to come back to formation:

Friday, December 22, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 201 (winter solstice - the day after)


I had the most amazing experience yesterday and last night. As I ran a few errands in town yesterday, along the parkway like stretch of road between November Hill and town George Winston’s rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon came on and I suddenly had the visceral sense and visualization of Keil Bay galloping along beside me on the right and for the first time ever, of Salina galloping to my left. The two were whinnying back and forth, arching their muscled necks and buckling forward as their hindquarters gathered and pushed them into even faster forward motion. 

Since very early childhood I have had this experience with a big red bay horse and it was quite wonderful to suddenly have a black and a bay and feel the presence of these two equine spirits I have known and loved for years on end. 

Last night I went out in the later evening with a single lit forest green candle, a bag of carrots, and a paper with two poems written on it. I fed the carrots first as the candle burned in the center of the barn aisle. Little Man and Rafer were standing in their stall doorway, leaning in over the top, and directly across the aisle were Cody and Redford doing the same thing. I gave out the carrots one by one, alternating one equine at a time. Little Man was just up from a sleep in the new shavings, eyes still partly shut. Rafer stretched his neck sideways over the stall door in an effort to reach further than his best friend. Redford stretched his neck up high and Cody stood tall with ears pricked forward. 

After the carrots were gone I spoke a little about our year and our saying goodbye to Keil Bay. When I say his name their ears prick up. I mentioned Salina and how I feel the spirits of both horses with us every day. I read the two poems with great focus and fanfare. When I tell you that every one of these equines stood tall, eyes on me, ears up high, and listened with the greatest of attention as I made eye contact with each one, I am not exaggerating. It was a solstice ceremony and I don’t think I have ever been joined so completely in my annual ritual as I was last night. It was a gift and when it was over I took the candle out into the barnyard, to the spot where Keil Bay took his final breath, and I had a conversation with him and with Salina, and then I looked up at the night sky. It was a much brighter than usual longest night thanks to the waxing gibbous moon. I read that the moon is full this year on Christmas and it seems so very fitting that this first solstice after the passing of Keil is a brighter one. We all needed this light this year. 

Today I finally got the second batch of native plants for the gravesite. As I drove home Keil and Salina galloped alongside the car, and I smiled. We have sunshine today and a bit warmer weather than yesterday, and the light - it is brilliant and so very bright. 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 200 (a winter solstice edition!)

 First, happy winter solstice! I’m so happy to see this day this year. For me it is more about the longest night than the returning of the light that follows. 

Wendell Berry wrote a poem about this longest night:

To Know The Dark

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

I love the light but I also love the darkness, and its blooming and singing, the movement that happens there, the dark wings. 

This morning I ventured out early and fed the herd their warm wet tubs, and checked the troughs while they ate. 

This year Cody is in Keil Bay’s double stall, and I noticed he came in and hung his head over the doors into the barn aisle while I prepared the tubs, just as Keil Bay always did. 

I walked out to say happy solstice to the Big Bay and Salina, and their graves were quiet, peaceful, and blanketed with fallen leaves. It’s so peaceful there. The blue-eyed grass I planted is doing well. The new plants are still not here but when I put them in, it will be another moment of marking the passing of the Big Bay. 

In the front pasture the hollies are in full berry.

Yesterday my daughter took this photo which makes me very happy. The herd without Keil Bay is still a herd. He and Salina gallop the farm in their big bold spirits. 

Another favorite poem, this one by Robert Frost, which is the first poem I chose to learn to recite in the second grade, and which I’m sure I chose because of the little horse, who turned out to be a very big horse, red bay with a white star.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.


Monday, December 11, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 199

 I reached out two weeks ago to Keil Bay’s previous woman and the younger woman who rode him and introduced me to him, and got back very sweet notes from both of them expressing their gratitude that his passing was peaceful and their condolences. Last weekend K, the young woman, sent me this photo that is Keil Bay a few months before I met him and he joined our family. It was a gift to her from Keil’s previous woman the Christmas I found him, and she and her family were putting up their Christmas tree and hung it. 

This says so much about Keil Bay and how special he was not just to me but to those who knew him before I did, and it makes me so happy to know he is hanging on K’s tree all these years later. 

I have begun the planting of his and Salina’s grave sites. It’s not a sad activity but a hopeful one, and a healing one. More plants are coming this week from the nursery owner who reached out to me with several of the rare and hard to find plants I’ll be putting in. 

This week Cody did a big and beautiful gallop up the entire front pasture hill, one of of those “spook just to have an excuse to run fast” moments horses sometimes do, and the first I’ve seen him in this mode since Keil passed away. He and Little Man are regularly playing their gave of over the fence tag in the mornings, and both Rafer and Redford are seeming a little happier lately. I think the herd is regrouping and moving on. 

We have had some cold weather and then some warmer weather and now today colder again, the typical roller coaster of temperatures that make it hard to have any sort of routine. Cody is now wearing Keil’s single weight blanket and it seems fitting that he has taken over that big and regal purple robe. 

On Saturday we went with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids to have brunch and then to the Christmas tree farm that is very near our farm. The tree I picked for our house ended up being too tall and after we cut the top off my husband put the star on. It looks to me like the star fell right out of the sky and into this tree, which in a sort of perfect way is fitting for this year. 

It’s maybe no coincidence that this notion fits with a “poem” I wrote in a writing group a number of months ago. We were playing with words and internal rhyme and also where to end lines, and this now seems like some kind of foreshadowing to this first Christmas after Keil Bay’s passing:

The Night The Star Falls From The Sky

I stand back and watch it shine, 

no longer a girl wishing on star’s light.

It’s as big as our house and bright,

but not blinding.

The horses are not frightened

but chew hay beneath the barn shelter,

blinking slowly as the star’s

twinkling spotlights the bent pine

who lies flat but not broken.

Perhaps she too dreams of touching skies.

I have hurried a life’s time wishing on stars;

never has one replied.

Take note, it pulses now,

we listened. 

Keil Bay and Cody on either side,

their warm breath matching mine. 

This isn’t really a fully finished piece, but take note that the star’s pulsing “we listened” refers to me standing between Keil Bay and Cody, two souls I absolutely wished for as a young girl. It feels like right now that Keil Bay himself was that big star that landed in my life. 

Right now I’m very much focused on living in the days as they come, following my impulses to write, putter, plant, and just be. It’s a good way to mark this passage of time, the things that have come this fall, and make my way forward. 

Thursday, December 07, 2023

A little writing news

A couple of my published pieces got some additional mileage:

Pacemaker Of The Heart has been nominated for a 2023 Pushcart Prize.

Journey has been included in Streetlight Magazine’s 2022 print anthology. 

Really happy these two pieces flew a bit higher this month! Thanks to the editors for these selections!

Thursday, November 30, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 198

 I was out yesterday afternoon giving hay and filling water troughs. We’re in a streak of cold right now and all the equine fur was puffed and they were happy to get the hay. Cody and Little Man have been in their single weight blankets each night. Cody’s single weight strap broke so he’s now wearing Keil Bay’s purple one, and it occurs to me he is filling Keil’s blanket, in the sense that someone might “fill someone’s shoes.” 

Of course no one expects Cody to fill Keil’s spot, but he seems to be contemplating the enormity of being the biggest horse in the herd, and still feeling the absence of his best friend. The expression on his face and in his eyes has changed. I keep waiting for it to go back, but so far it has remained serious and at times almost distant. I see he and Little Man playing tag over the paddock fence most mornings now, so I know he’s returned to at least that one habit and pleasure. 

The air yesterday afternoon was cold and still, and it was quiet. A prelude to real winter season, which usually does happen in NC but not always when expected. Before this cold streak we were having warm days with flies coming out. 

My focus lately has been on garden plantings, and I have plans for two new beds: one atop Salina and Keil’s gravesites, the other in the big barnyard. A helpful native plant person recommended, upon my request for something special and maybe rare for Keil’s grave, the Sweetleaf, aka Horse Sugar, Symplocos tinctoria, which is a host plant for the King Hairstreak butterfly, which is becoming rare these days and echoes my long-time nickname for Keil Bay - the King. I couldn’t find this plant locally and then a nursery about an hour away actually reached out to me to say they have it, and can bring it to me, and once again, Keil’s magic ripples out. 

There are a lot of things to do around here, but I am thus far sticking to my intention to move slowly into and through this winter season. I’m doing things but in a slower way, and often choosing not to do a thing because I know it will start the wheel turning for me toward a faster pace of life. 

Last week, before the cold and after the good rain we finally got, I mulched the leaves in the back pasture and seeded it, and overseeded the grass paddock and both barnyards. That was a joyful thing for me, as the repetition of patterns puts me into a sort of trance state which seems to reboot something for me. I was for awhile that day close to Salina and Keil Bay, and not long after I finished the task, I felt and saw Keil doing a fancy trot up the long stretch of front pasture, neck curved, head high, collected and powerful. He stays close when I need him, and he surprises me with gifts like this image, which is really his spirit moving around us. 

Today is writing day but I also broke my own rule and have one client scheduled, and then will head over to my mom’s - she was in the hospital for several days but home now and doing well. Over Thanksgiving a number of family members, including myself, had more minor illnesses, one Covid, one not Covid, another not Covid not strep, for me a mild UTI and possibly a kidney stone (!), so it’s good to be on the other side of that string of things. 

It’s almost December! Which feels impossible but also okay. 

Saturday, November 18, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 197


The light on this big oak near Keil Bay and Salina isn’t able to be captured with my phone camera, but each day as the sun goes low in the sky, it glows for a few minutes, and the quality of that light reminds me of all the times I’ve seen the two Hanoverian beauties in that same light, but also the feeling of the light they each cast throughout their lives. 

This past week I had a very tearful day where I was being nearly constantly reminded of Keil’s presence with me still - it was both comforting and hard - and many serendipities including a very very close encounter with a barred owl who flew inches from my windshield and made eye contact with me as I was having a very hard cry while driving. 

Yesterday at my chiro appointment, the first thing I said when she asked how I was doing was that my horse died, and she said “Keil?” and I told her the story of his passing. I cried, she cried, she gave me a big, long hug, and it strikes me anew how far-reaching Keil Bay’s life has been because of how very present he was and powerful he was in my daily life and in my heart. It’s hard to make sense of him being gone, on that deep emotional level where it truly does feel like he has always been with me. And of course he is with me, but the urge to hug him is strong. 

Here are a few glimpses of the native plantings this week. I believe these are the first catkins I’ve ever seen on the hazelnut trees in the potager.

The climbing aster is buzzing with activity even in November, which is such a good reason to plant this if you don’t have it and if it’s native to your area. 

A nest made entirely of twigs has become visible in the now bare huge elderberry that volunteered in the front pasture the past two years. I did some reading and it’s probably that of a house wren, and could be an actual utilized nest or it could be one of a number of dummy nests the males build each year. I suspect it was an actual nest, as I recall seeing many house wrens flying in and out of the fully-leafed out elderberry in the late spring and summer.

This is my growing and thriving oakleaf hydrangea. I planted three two autumns ago, the deer got one, one is doing poorly, but this one is thriving. Its fall color is one of the reasons I planted it. I’m going to move the smaller one and see if a new location might give it a little nudge toward better growth and health. 

And of course I’m not the only one mourning Keil Bay. The herd go to this end of the arena at least once in a day’s time to stand by Keil’s grave. Cody was there alone this week, clearly missing his good friend. 

I just noticed the F marker and perhaps it stands for Friend.

Amazing Keil’s Enduring Heart Continues Magnificently Beating (for his) Friends. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The Old Saint-King, Keil Bay

 I saw this someplace this past week online and saved it as it made me think both of Keil Bay and an idea to note how much he remains with us. A wood-cut plaque of his profile on the tack room door where he will continue his reign as herd and human guardian, which he very much already is in spirit. 

My week has been very busy but today, the day I marked as the beginning of a slow slide into winter, I find myself thinking of him and shedding more tears. The quiet times are when I feel him most, and he is leading me to that calm place he always offered in his presence. 

Yesterday in the final day of my EMDR training and in the final processing I did as a client, I was working on a very early memory in which I was 3-4 years old and in the hospital for a procedure. My mom was handing me over to a nurse and I was terrified at being left there. As that single image from memory that carried the most fear was in my mind and I was doing the eye-movement desensitization protocol with my group partner as therapist - note that this was virtual training online - a rainbow of virtual balloons began to flow upward on the big screen of my desktop computer. In that moment I felt the joy of synchronicity and then the very potent pain and fear of the memory. I completed the eye movement set and in the check in with the therapist, noted the joy and the pain, and there were very powerful tears related to the memory, then more eye movements. As I came back to the check in moments, and reported that the pain had lifted, the balloons sprang up again and floated up on my screen. No one involved could figure out how this happened, as neither of us were touching our computers and we were in a secure break-out room on the platform. 

I say all this because in that moment I had the thought that it was Keil Bay who had done it, and I share that because it illustrates just how much I love him and how much he gave over the many years he has been with us. He was a powerful and giving soul and it’s easy to attribute amazing synchronicities to him now. 

I’m happy to say that I completed the 50-hour EMDR basic training last night and we had a wonderful graduation ceremony. It completely makes sense to me that Keil Bay has woven himself into this new journey with a new to me and powerful way of treating trauma. I will think of him every time I do this work with clients, and as I move forward with a year of work toward certification. 

Thursday, November 09, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 196

 I was on writing retreat Wednesday through Monday and came home to a very full week, which I’m still in the midst of. Yesterday I finished my client work week and today I begin part two of the second three full days of EMDR training. Starting on Sunday I will happily enter what I’m going to call the slow ride into winter. I’m ready to hunker down a bit and putter and just feel all the feelings from this busy, and also sad, fall season.

I have put the flower arrangement our vets sent us in the window to dry and it’s continuing to be very beautiful and offers a visual reminder of how things that were beautiful in life can remain so after death. Keil Bay is never far from my spirit and it has occurred to me more than once that the bay horse who used to accompany me everywhere I went as a young girl is now very much still present, but instead of being unnamed, I know exactly who he is. Thank you, Big Bay, for continuing to share my journey. 

Writing retreat time was very good, though it took me two days to break through the crust of - not exactly resistance but more like a crust of inertia due to having been so in need of time away. Once that happened I was able to get into the writing again and worked on the novel (as opposed to the TV pilot) and I gave myself permission to leap far ahead in the story and write to the end. Sometimes this is what is needed to get rolling and it worked very well. 

Another part of writing retreat time when shared with other writers is reading one’s work out loud, and I was able to read the first half of another TV pilot I wanted to get some feedback on. And to hear a wonderful stage play read to me by my long-time writing friend D. 

It was good, creative, healing time and I’m grateful for it.

November Hill is turning colors this week and I can’t help but feel Keil Bay is reveling along with me as this happens. The herd remains in a state of processing. Almost every morning they can be found by Keil’s grave, and I think they’re drawn to him during the night when horses tend to cluster closely together. They do seem to me to be a bit depressed, though I’ve seen the donkeys play together a few times and also Cody and Little Man playing their tag game over the fence. I hope they find their playfulness again when enough time has passed. 

On Sunday I plan to complete the garage clean out so the Subaru can go back in. It’s very close to being done and so much has gotten donated and passed on. It’s good to feel some clearing in that way.

I don’t think I mentioned here that we made an offer on a farm the week before Keil Bay passed. The estate for the property accepted another offer due to our need to close in the new year, and this was the one place we’d really connected with, so it was a bit of a loss, though very quickly forgotten when we had the real and deep loss of Keil Bay passing. Right now there isn’t anything appealing on the market and I think we all feel like being here until we find the exact right place is the exact right place for us to be. Sometimes things work out in ways we don’t even know about, and sometimes never do, and I trust the process of synchronicity to set things in motion when the time is right. 

This morning this peace lily is opening wide against the autumn landscape outside and bringing me much peace.

Monday, October 30, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 195

 I’ve put off writing this because it joins the many things I’m calling “the firsts” - the first time I’ve gone to our barn since 2005 and not seen Keil Bay’s handsome face, the first time I’ve fed tubs and not heard his musical whinny, the first time I’ve made up supplement jars with his not in the line, the first time I’ve mucked without his manure droppings being there, on and on and on. And the first November Hill farm journal without him here in body.

This all sounds very sad, and it is, and some of these things bring tears, a few things bring little fits of sobbing, but one very happy thing is that I feel peace when I think of him. I have been to his grave daily and when I do the goodnight mantra (good night, you Kings of Chatham, you Princes of November Hill) I add (and goodnight Keil Bay, King of Everything, and Salina the Queen). I feel him around us, as I have always felt Salina, but I also have very clear visual images in my mind of Keil galloping with his buddies, the ones he lived with when I first met him, Brio, and Joker, and then later Maverick. I see the collection of his neck and its curve as he coils up to then uncoil in a big, playful forward burst of motion. And I feel okay then about him not being here in his elegant, athletic body.

One thing I haven’t shared here is that I am doing EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) training this month and next month and will be moving on into the certification training in 2024. After years of referring out clients I felt needed EMDR, I decided it was time to add it to my own repertoire of modalities. So many people have trauma in my current practice, and with virtual therapy now the norm, it’s harder to know people to refer them to. 

Part of my training is to experience EMDR myself, and one of the core memories I worked with in two sessions was one in which my kitten was physically taken away from me (and kept) by an adult male neighbor and his teenaged son. I was 3-4 years old. I have discussed that memory in my own therapy previously, but when I reprocessed it using EMDR, I immediately felt the results in my experiences in the present day. I now see clearly how that early memory has impacted my experience of caring for and protecting my animal family.  I have dreaded for years Keil Bay’s passing because I knew it would be difficult beyond imagination. It has been hard, it has been sad, but thanks to EMDR it has not been devastating. 

My experience has been that I’m feeling the grief without the weight of that past memory pushing it into a much more intense level of emotion and powerlessness. 

At this point EMDR is being used to treat many issues, not just PTSD and trauma. I can now highly recommend it as a modality, and wanted to say that here. If you’re considering treatment, go to and look for certified clinicians for the best results. 

It’s fall on November Hill and it’s fitting that Keil Bay left us during this season, since this season is when we first came to our little farm. His grave is being slowly covered by falling oak and hickory leaves, and by acorns, and I’m sure he is happy about that. 

The herd continues to process this loss. Little Man and Rafer are actively seeking comfort from us. Cody seems a little distant and a little angry, but he allows comfort. Redford was the most distressed and it has taken him longer to process this. He is starting to get to his normal self but since he offered his constant companionship both two years ago when Keil went through his initial EPM bout and again recently, I think he is taking this hard. We’re offering Redford special attention and he is slowly moving through his own process. 

One other thing that has happened is I have opened up to the idea of riding again. Yesterday I got out my helmet and tried it on, and am actively thinking of working Cody and Little Man back into light riding time in case my grandson wants to ride. I haven’t ridden since Keil got EPM two years ago and retired, and I haven’t wanted to, I think because he has been my partner since he came to us and I just didn’t want to ride any other horse while he was here. We’ll see how this goes moving forward. 

The biggest thing I’m feeling right now is peace and relief that Keil Bay is no longer at risk of falling, that each day I wake up knowing he’s okay. That his life was long and it was good. That his passing was full of love and many peppermints. And that the bond we have will never be broken. His presence and his spirit are with me forever. That’s a lot, and what a gift from him to me. 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Grateful for our amazing vet practice, 3H Equine

 Yesterday I had a call from our local floral shop that they had attempted a delivery but due to our gated entrance, could not leave it, and we could either pick it up or they would redeliver today.

This morning I got a call saying it was on the way so I made sure to get out to the gate and got this:

We’ve been fortunate to have 3H as our vets for close to 20 years, and have always appreciated their excellent and compassionate care, both wellness and emergency. They helped when Rafer Johnson broke his leg, they helped with various and sundry horse emergencies over the years, helped when Salina was ready to pass, and most recently, helped us shepherd Keil Bay easily and with great care and compassion, to that special place beloved animal family members go. 

This display of kindness to us after that night means the world, and I have thanked them today twice. Once before I got the flowers and again after. We are so, so fortunate to have them on our team. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Horses Are Light And Air And Wind And Sky

 (For Keil Bay, 1989-2023)

Horses Are Light And Air And Wind And Sky

Are guardians who gallop alongside cars, always with you, always there. They are winged creatures, though their wings are invisible, carrying you away from things and also toward things. 

Horses hold space and energy, read minds, siphon insights that may otherwise be elusive. They move in rhythms that match pulses, heartbeats, breath, the alternating skip you do as a child, the way your brain processes neural impulses. 

A horse comes to you when you need him, carries you past a mirror which reflects your best self, lays his muzzle on your shoulder, lifts a 70-pound bale of hay in your path in his teeth and tosses it aside. A horse comes to you from dream time, from child time, from the time before you knew what time even was.

Horses sing and scream and snort, gaze without blinking into the deepest part of your eye, smell, and sometimes lick, your hands. A horse listens when you whisper, better than a therapist at detecting the things you do not say.

Horses find the girls who need them. Horses tell the truth and keep their promises. Horses surround you and lift you off the ground to keep you with them. Herd mind. Herd hooves drum-beating time.

Sometimes when you stand beside a horse’s shoulder, hand on wither, hand on barrel, he turns and curls you into the space between his head and heart, a small circle of protection, impenetrable circle of safety. 

When you dream about a horse you’re not dreaming, you are galloping through another galaxy, exploring deep space, tracing neural networks, resetting your vagus nerve. 

When a horse leaves, you send a piece of you with her, and she leaves a piece of her with you. The conversation you started never stops. The partnership you forged never flags. Sometimes you see her galloping the perimeter of the farm, keeping time intact, opening windows into other places, other ways of being, places not yet named.

When you ride a horse you carry that forever in the skin of your calves, feet hanging weightless, a lifted back bearing you across boundaries of time and space, faster than you think you can go, to a place you came from but don’t remember until he takes you there again.

-Billie Hinton

Autumn Into Winter 2023, Daily Readings 4 and 5 (a Keil Bay edition)

 Yesterday’s card, which I didn’t get around to posting:

Ladybug and Sweet Pea are happiness, good fortune, a journey. I felt the joy of this card yesterday morning when I pulled it randomly from its deck, and honestly I feel it this morning even after last night’s huge loss, because when a horse goes peacefully, I think all horse women feel the happiness of that journey. I can say this morning that without question, my journey with Keil Bay has been one of happiness and good fortune, from the day I met him until now. 

This morning’s card brought me to tears and then quiet sobs. If an illustration were Keil, this is it:

Modest fortitude, the benevolent king, that is who he was and is. And brilliance of mind, body, spirit. When I pulled this card and turned it over, I wasn’t surprised. This is the kind of presence he has in the lives of those who love him dearly. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Goodbye, Our Beloved Keil Bay


Keil Bay had a flare-up of EPM this past week and was on treatment for it since Friday. His right hind fetlock was puffy and we think he may have had an abscess brewing. He had his favorite body work, chiropractic care, on Saturday that helped and then acupuncture and a Legend injection yesterday, and his day was good as was his day today. Although not moving normally, he foraged for grass, hay, and acorns with his herd. 

Tonight when we went out to feed dinner tubs he was lying flat out in the grassy barnyard, very still and peaceful. He got up about 15 minutes later and was calm but not really able to walk forward. When he tried to walk he was only able to go in a circle. 

He had most of his dinner tub, many peppermints, and his vet arrived 45 minutes after that. He was surrounded by me, my husband, and both my young adult children, who grew up knowing the Big Bay and loving him. 

Moments after he took his last breath, the barn lights went out for a few seconds and the big bang of a transformer blowing in the distance sounded. Later, after the vet left and we were still with him, as he lay with a peaceful eye and covered in flowers my husband picked from our beds and his blankets, an owl hooted from the big oak tree at F, five separate times. 

The stars were bright in the sky. 

I know it was the right time and I feel grateful nothing that could have gone terribly wrong did. I’m going to be crying for months I’m sure, off and on, as we all try to reconfigure. Cody, Little Man, Rafer Johnson, and Redford stood silently watching as all this happened, and after he was gone they whinnied and brayed. It’s hard to say goodbye to a horse who was so good and so present in our daily lives. 

We love you, Big Handsome Bay. You’ve been my dream. We’re grateful you lived 34 amazing years. I wish I’d been with you every one of them. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Autumn Into Winter 2023, Daily Reading, 3

 PATIENCE. Needed this today and it has helped to have this card front and center all morning. 

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Autumn Into Winter 2023, Daily Reading, 2


Key words: faith, patience, light and dark in balance, creative solutions. Here’s to bringing this to all areas right now. I am worried about the Big Bay but he is out foraging in the barnyard and while he is clearly off in the hindquarters, he seems pretty good. 

If you appreciate the art of these cards as much as I do, support the creator/artist by purchasing HERE.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Autumn Into Winter 2023, Daily Reading, 1

 My good friend Kathleen gifted me the most amazing deck of oracle cards this week, called Woodland Wardens, by Jessica Roux.

They are so beautiful! 

I’ve decided that now and to the end of the year I’ll pull a card each day and feature it here, along with a little “where I’m at” and “how this might apply” as a way to keep track of my own journey into autumn and on into early winter.

Today I’m feeling good. Keil Bay is having a flare of EPM and we decided to treat him with Marquis and the protocol I used two years ago. That kicked off yesterday. He had chiro today and had some big stuff needing adjustment, and his acupuncture will start up in earnest again on Monday. He’s in great spirits and I hope this sets things right for him so he can go into winter feeling great again.

I pulled this card:

This feels so on target today and in general. Being cunning, nimble, and adaptable are all things that will get us through this obstacle. 

On another note, it’s writing weekend and this feels true in that area as well. 

If you appreciate the art of these cards as much as I do, support the creator/artist by purchasing HERE.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Saturday, October 07, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 194

 It’s been a beautiful week here on November Hill as the autumn season is really kicking in. We’ve had cooler temperatures, the leaves are changing and blowing in the breezes, and the horses are growing in winter coats. The temperature tonight is going down to 39 if the predictions are accurate, and can you guess who has NOT YET laundered horse blankets from last winter? Sigh. But I’m going to do Keil’s single weight sheet today and let it dry in the house since there’s no sunshine and a decent chance of rain. He likely doesn’t want the blanket but if it’s clean it will be nicer to put on if he ends up needing it.

The swamp sunflowers are so prolific this year. The terraced beds are amass with their flowers. 

The passiflora incarnata is HUGE and has grown from the ground to the roof of the house this year, as well as over the tops of the three hollies in front of the porch. There are many maypops hanging on the vines too. I’m still waiting to see if any gulf fritillary caterpillars and butterflies show up, as this is a host plant for them. 

This week was sport cut time for Keil Bay and Cody. Little Man removed himself from the barnyard so I’ll catch up with him another day. The donkeys have year-round sport cuts already! It’s nice to be doing these early autumn tasks. 

This week I’ve also been busy submitting flash nonfiction and brainstorming a third book in the Magical Pony School series. I’ve been working on different writing projects like a honeybee going to different flowers lately, though not with the same focus and intention the honeybee brings to her work. Still, the start of fall has given me a boost of energy and excitement about creative work and I am so relieved to be out of the summer doldrums.

In other big projects, it’s time to continue the process of sorting through the garage bay that is full of stuff that was in the garage storage room. This week I did an initial culling and sent one truck bed load away. The next layer is stuff we’ll keep, so it needs to be wiped down and moved into the storage room. I’m replacing the 27-year old fiberglass insulation with new wool insulation, but as always seems the case, that is not going to happen all at once and immediately (which would be so much easier and satisfying) as I have to order it and do it in sections. At least it’s a better time of year for doing that task - summer was absolutely not the time.

In one other big chore, the custom barn windows I ordered a year and a half ago were delayed for several reasonable reasons but are now at our feed store awaiting our pick up. I have no idea how hard the process of installing them will be, but our contractor will be doing it, so I’m thankfully off the hook for figuring anything out. There are only four of these windows in our barn so I hope it will be a reasonably quick job. They’re a big upgrade from the existing wood windows and they will also add a slightly different look to the barn. I hope it turns out well. 

We’re still searching for the new home but thus far there hasn’t been anything that really said “this is us.” I think with horse farms there are so many factors that need to align: the house, the barn, the land. And while we’ve looked at houses with no barn with the intent to build exactly what we want, the positioning of the house and the land all have to fit. We’re not looking to clear forest to build a barn, and that adds a level of complexity to the whole search. That said, we’re fine here for now and as I have promised myself, we will not get into the limbo of not doing work here because we may be selling in the near future. We’re fully here until we’re not. 

In my therapy world, I’m excited to say that after many years of referring out EMDR work with clients who need it, I am doing the training this month and next to be able to do EMDR myself. The training is intensive, but it’s virtual, so I will be holed up in the garret next week soaking in and practicing new skills. 

Life is good. 

Saturday, September 30, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 193

 A cooler week arrived, making some outdoor activities much more pleasant! 

The lady’s tresses (Spiranthes cernua) that volunteered in my pitcher plant and equisetum container last year returned and multiplied recently. They are so beautiful and I think create a perfect combination. It’s a joy to walk by and see them together along the walkway to our front door.

This corner of the bi-level pollinator bed remains one of my favorite autumn combinations, with beautyberry, swamp sunflower, the foliage of threadleaf bluestar, and the purple flowers I’m forgetting the name of right now. 

Yesterday my grandson was here and he and Baloo had their very first playtime together outside. Baloo and W have had a blossoming friendship which continues to grow. Baloo is our most active dog and in some ways he is a force of canine energy, but he tolerates the active, curious energy W brings at age 2.5 well and they have worked out a good relationship together. Yesterday Baloo stayed with W the entire time and controlled his herding instinct admirably. 

It’s amazing to behold a 2-year old here on November Hill. My two children were 8 and 9 when we moved here and the farm is a real paradise for a toddler’s curiosity. Now that cooler weather has arrived, we’ll be exploring more of the outdoors.

W found a newly-emerged Monarch yesterday, in the grass below the pollinator bed and in front of our garage. Because it was at risk of being squashed, I gently moved it up to the top of the bookcase (on its way to Habitat after the garage clean out) so it could dry its wings and fly. The entire body was soft, damp, and malleable as I carefully moved it. It flew about half an hour later.

W loves caterpillars and butterflies and talks about the “life cycle.” I’m so glad he was able to be part of this rescue effort and admire the wonder of the Monarch.

In other news, my creative nonfiction flash piece Remedy For an Excited Amygdala has found a home with Streetlight Mag’s Street Talk. I’ll post the link when it is published. 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 192

Very relieved to report that the big garage project was completed yesterday just in time for the rain rolling in this weekend. For the past year we’ve had random flooding happening in the garage/basement storage area that came from water seeping in through the cinder block foundation walls on two sides of our house. It wasn’t happening every time it rained, but the last time it happened it was a lot of water and spread across the entire basement, which it had never done previously. 

After a lot of research I found a reputable company and we got an assessment and quote. In order to do the work, the large storage room and one side of the garage had to be completely cleared out, our HVAC unit in the garage storage room had to be disconnected, moved out for the work, then reconnected, and the hot water tank had to be turned off. We initially planned to move it out too but that ended up being so much plumbing work the plan changed to route the work around it. 

I coordinated with the basement repair company, electrician, our HVAC company, and the gas company to get this all done in the right sequence during the two-day project. I’m very grateful that it went very well and is now complete. We have a drain system going around the interior walls, a waterproof shield up to the ceiling of the two walls, a huge pump system to route water out and away from the house, and a dehumidifier to keep the entire basement humidity level low. 

Thankfully this work didn’t involve anyone coming upstairs, so managing the menagerie wasn’t part of the coordination. Though the jack-hammering of concrete meant I had the TV and air filters on the entire first day to mute the noise a bit!

Part two of this project is sorting through every single thing that was in the garage storage room prior to being moved into the other garage bay. My goal is for less than half to go back in there, but with the rainy weekend upon us, this chore will have to wait until next week.

I have two more large projects to complete this year: one is having a new walk-in shower installed in our upstairs bathroom, and the other is having new stall windows put in at the barn. Other than that, I’m going to do a little interior painting, get back to gardening once the Monarchs and other butterflies have moved on, and that is it for 2023. 

Of course, the power company who told me they would be doing tree removal along the easement at the back of our property in December showed up two days before this big basement project. Thankfully the one tree they’re removing on our property is still slated for December as I had requested, but many trees on other properties that I have no jurisdiction over have been removed and a huge and very ugly “road” has been made for all the machinery they used to do the work. It is awful, but they at least left the native plants that are currently feeding all kinds of insect and bird life, including Monarchs. 

I won’t get onto my soapbox about what an environmental fiasco this is when they do it, but suffice it to say, there are better ways than what they did, but they didn’t butcher everything in their path this time, so I suppose that is a small victory. 

Meanwhile, the natives on November Hill are going wild. This ironweed has a pretty passiflora lutea climbing through it. In years past I pulled the passiflora not knowing what it was, but it has many benefits for pollinators and I’ve been leaving it the past few years. The larger passiflora species I planted in the front bed to replace the non-native clematis is growing madly this year, all the way to the roof of the porch! 

A little fun inside the house… my grandson inspired me to get some Play-doh and tools to play with it in advance of his next visit. I’m as excited as I think he will be to have these colors and tools to work with. We are going to have fun on Sunday!

I was taking photos of figs early in the week for a writing project I’m doing. The figs this year have been beautiful and the biggest I’ve ever seen them. Most of them fill my palm. And are still ripening, though we are likely nearing the end of their season as the temperatures cool down.

I think all of us are ready for fall days and the end of horsefly season. Those too have been plentiful and BIG this year. 

A little writing news - a flash nonfiction piece called Swallows has been accepted by JMWW for publication in October. I’ll share the link when it’s up.