Friday, May 26, 2023

Stay At Home Writing Retreat

 I’ve had a great week of writing and digging in a little to a pandemic embroidery purchasing spree project. The hours in the garret doing creative work are great to balance out the psychotherapy work I do there (which is also creative, honestly), and last evening it was very cool, the wind was blowing, and there were many moments when it sounded like ocean surf outside. 

We all need this kind of time and I encourage people to take it, whether it is a week, a day, an afternoon, or even 15 minutes. Self care and creative time are things we need to flourish.

At the beginning of my week I pulled out printed copies of my TV/film projects - turns out I have 10, which is exciting. Of the 10, and nearing the end of my week,  I have 4 3/4 completed scripts and two pitch decks mostly done. While I’ve been focusing on writing for the screen this week I also noted that I have 6 novel mss that I have not done anything with in terms of getting them out into the world. I’ve been focusing a lot on short work the past few years and I’m not switching from one to the other, but I think it’s good to take inventory of my longer form material and bring one project at a time forward to get it fully finished and out the door. 

The projects:

The needle book project, perfect to practice different stitches and manageable enough to make good progress. Since the photo I have embellished the flowers quite a bit and will soon work on stems before continuing with the “book” structure. Please do not ask me how many kits I have stashed! 

When I go into something, I tend to go all the way, and without ever having done a single stitch, I purchased this magnifying lighted lamp thing that was “highly recommended.” And I can add my endorsement. It swivels to whatever position I need while I’m sitting comfortably in my chair and it takes the aging near-sighted woman to perfect vision land again. 

It’s nice to be learning a new thing and I’m really happy to have found the time this week to jump in the embroidery/stitching pool. If in doubt, there are wonderful YouTube videos on how to do the stitches. 

Today I’m spending time with my grandson and again tomorrow morning - tonight and tomorrow afternoon and on through Sunday I’ll be back to retreat time. Monday is back to client work and a very full schedule. For which I’ll be fresh and rejuvenated. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 183

 A few more photos from the farm this week. With everything blooming and growing, I can hardly keep up!

The volunteer elderberries, a wonderful native, have gone mad this year. This one has taken root in the compost behind the fallen tree that helps with run off after big rainfalls. I haven’t done a thing to this beauty. 

This one is in the middle of the upper pasture and the photo doesn’t capture how big it actually is. It looms above my head and you could easily climb inside and have room for several people to sit and talk. The birds love these shrubs.

This one has grown around the stump to an old oak that Salina became obsessed with - she chewed its bark and encouraged the rest of the herd to join her. They girdled it and it died. Since then we have wrapped the trees they have shown interest in chewing but I love that the elderberry chose this place to grow.

This is what I call the bluebird bed, due to the bluebird box that enjoys its proximity. I planted it here mostly because this corner is where an underground drain pipe comes out and the bed helps absorb the run off above ground on this slope. It’s a cheerful bed and I have some ideas about using the stone from the walkway to make it a little more visually interesting. 

The butterfly weed is looking really good this spring. I’m very happy to see it and am patiently waiting for the Monarchs to come. 

Many milkweed plants have popped up this year and this one is positioned by another patch of butterfly weed. I love these colors together - they’ll be even more striking when in full bloom. 

The first aster of the year blooms!

I love the purpling of the wild Columbine leaves, and find the layers of pale green to purple to tan so comforting to look at. I could see a sweater with these colors. If I ever manage my knitting goal, I will make one! 

The gardens are full of color combinations that make me want to take some courses in botanical illustration. 

This week I’m doing a stay at home writing retreat and spent many happy hours yesterday in my garret working on screenplay projects. What a joy to have that work punctuated by walks out to the horses, donkeys, pony, bees, and gardens. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 182

 I’ve taken a week off that started Thursday (my weekend is Thursday-Sunday) and runs until next Monday, so really 10 days total. So far I have just relaxed into the usual November Hill routine and we had a quiet, rainy day yesterday that was good for the earth and also good in its muted light because the weather shift triggered migraine symptoms. I will say that migraine on a quiet, rainy day with horses is better than a lot of other kinds of days in general, so I am not complaining. 

I have had a chance the past few days to get out and take a look at the farm. 

Some work needed to be done on this pollinator bed and since taking the photo, I cut back the goldenrod in the lower bed so the downy wood mint is more prominent, and my farm helper has removed the butterfly bush in the upper left bed. This is the last non-native that is in this bed and it definitely looks empty in that corner without it. Okay, I do have a cherry tree in the bed that isn’t native, but I’m excluding fruit trees I’ve planted! We have left the roots intact until I figure out what to plant there. Next I need to remove a lot of the goldenrod in the upper bed - possibly all of them - as this species is aggressive and best suited to its own larger space where the spread is a good thing. The plant itself is wonderful fall forage for pollinators and gorgeous too, so my removal of it from this small space isn’t a judgement on the plant but a correction of my own planting error. 

This is a view of the other side of the driveway. I’m pretty happy with this bed overall, and with the strip on the other side of the walkway I worked on last year. Everything seems happy and the only big things to do are transplant the non-native daffodils to an area I’m allowing them to be, on either side of the barnyard gate. They are cheerful in spring and frame that gateway so nicely. 

I love all the plants in these two beds, but I will say that if you want to plant one thing for a big pollinator draw, the button bush, which in this bed looks like a small tree, is amazing. It has grown quickly and easily and when it blooms, it will be a magnet for bees and butterflies and moths and all kinds of pollinator insects. 

Moving to Poplar Folly, I am mightily impressed this year with the elderberries we planted in live stake form a couple of years ago. This group is in shade during spring/summer/fall and while they are not blooming as well as those that volunteered in the full sun of the front pasture, they are doing well and also doing a terrific job of slowing and absorbing rainwater run off on this back slope. The benefit of live stakes is their very inexpensive cost (so you can get a lot of them for almost nothing) and because planting them in that form in the fall of the year means they will put all their energy into root systems, which gives you immediate assistance in controlling run off and erosion. 

Over the fence looking at Arcadia, the apiary area, I became enchanted with the patterns the un-mown grass made after all the rain. It’s hard to see with all the green, but in the foreground is one of the inkberry hollies I planted several years back. They have done very well and are getting tall enough to offer some screening back there, as well as being great pollinator plants and also wildlife and bird forage with their inky black berries.

More of the grassy swirl and one of my bee hives that I’d cleaned out after its colony died out last winter. My plan was to put this hive box on top of Artemis colony as a super, but it was quickly moved into by a swarm and we’ll see if they can build up enough before next winter to make it through.

Yesterday I was leaning in to see this interesting “coiled stem” when I realized it was not a plant stem but a very elegant and lovely snake. Such a beautiful coloring and obviously well camouflaged.

A longer view of the apiary area. This year we have had an influx of volunteer buckeyes in Poplar Folly and Arcadia. I will leave some of them and remove some, as there are too many in close quarters. 

Back to the front with a long view of the walkway. I am going to remove the stones and use them to create some interesting groupings in several beds, and see if I can find rectangular gray stone to make a more uniform and safe walkway that is less work to maintain. 

It’s hard to see here but I have put in woodland phlox and foamflower into an empty spot on the right. The tiny woodland phlox plants I put in last year didn’t make it so this time I got larger, hardier plants and am hoping they’ll thrive.

There’s so much milkweed and butterfly weed coming in this year! I’m hoping we get a bumper crop of monarchs. 

The two possum haws I planted several years ago have really grown into lovely shrubs along the barnyard fence. 

They too are good native pollinators and the flowers are quite lovely. As the summer shifts to fall, the leaves will turn a brilliant red, so these have many season interest value. 

It’s been a treat to have time to be among the plantings here on November Hill, and in some ways sad, because we are starting to look for a new farm closer to the university where my daughter will start her PhD work in the fall, with our goal being to find a larger farm, reduce her commute time, and avoid the development that is beginning to gain momentum on this side of the county where we live. We aren’t in a big rush, and have time to look for just the right place, but every day when I notice a certain plant thriving or the goldfinches flying, or any of the many joys this farm brings me, I feel sad. 

Change is hard, and we will have a fair amount coming up with this plan to move, but there will be new adventures to be had. November Hill has been a joy and a labor of love, and we’ll leave it much better than we found it, though it was lovely from the very first day we set foot here. 

Thankfully we will not be listing it while we’re here, so I’ll continue enjoying it and tending it and improving it until the day we hand over the keys and the stewardship responsibilities to the next people who I trust will find it every bit as amazing as we do. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Moving On

 Yesterday went well for the Big Handsome Bay so last night I decided to let him turn out with his herd for the first time since last Sunday. We did not put any hay out but let them all graze, as he’s been getting grazing time all week and doing well with it. 

He was happy this morning but also hungry, and dear husband said he took a lead rope off its hook from instead his stall and tossed it into the barn aisle while waiting for his morning tub. 

When I went out to feed breakfast tubs to him and to everyone else, he took his halter off its hook and spun it around and around in the air building momentum and then let it fly. I’ve seen him do this before but it’s been awhile! I tried to get some video footage of him but he decided once was enough, I guess. 

I’m not sure the video has loaded properly, but I gave it a shot!

Trying to move on but also still monitoring his intake and output, and of course stressing any time frame without manure, which is not altogether reasonable. 

He’s happy for now and we’ll see how things go. 

Monday, May 08, 2023

Need Jingles For Keil Bay

Hopefully a final update: 

This morning Keil Bay had dropped four good manure piles in the arena where he spent the night, with his herd wrapped around him in the paddock and back pasture. He is in good spirits and has had very good heart rate and gut sounds while eating and drinking and pooping and peeing. The signs of a healthy, functioning system. 

We’re continuing his simple, small, very wet meals through this evening, and will gradually dial back the soupiness level toward what we normally feed him, which is wet but not soupy. I’m putting just one hanging water bucket with plain water in his stall today so I can insure he is back to drinking normally from that, and we’ll continue monitoring heart rate and gut sounds and gum color. He’s also getting short grazing sessions, but no hay yet. 

I’m not sure what caused this - the vet thinks something caused him to stop drinking water - could be as simple as a change in weather, a tooth that hurt, some small thing - so now the impaction has cleared, we just need to do some detective work to make sure he is taking in water the way he normally does moving forward. 


24 hours after the previous update below, the Big Bay has dropped many piles of manure since last night’s first pile. We have monitored him like hawks all day, and celebrated every new pile. By mid-day today, he was whinnying for food, and by the late afternoon banging on his stall door. Around 6 p.m. he had been drinking water and dropped a huge manure pile and the vet approved the reintroduction of small soupy meals of timothy balance cubes soaked to the point of being soupy mush. He’ll spend another night in the arena but tonight he’ll have a tub of soup with him. Small and frequent wet meals for another 24 hours. Unless he knocks the barn down first. So grateful for his coming through this. 


 UPDATE: It’s 10:48 p.m. and when I went out to check on the Big Bay, I found a single horse apple in the middle of the arena. Then kept looking found a small pile of 12 more! Wet and shiny. Possibly TMI for the average person but my horse folk will get it and rejoice. :))) He needs to do this three more times, but it’s the best news of the day! Before I came in earlier this evening I walked over to the A marker behind which Salina is buried and I talked to her and asked her to watch out for Keil Bay tonight. It wouldn’t surprise me if she did her boss mare thing from beyond and got things moving for him. 


This morning he wasn’t interested in food at all and seemed off - thankfully our vet was able to come almost immediately. He has an impaction colic - no manure today yet and he’s not drinking. Vet has administered nasogastric fluids around noon today and again around 7 p.m. He’s had pain med injection x2 and honestly doesn’t seem to be in pain. Still very interested in peppermints (I made peppermint water, Aqua Aid water, plain water, water with ice cubes, and water from hose, water in different buckets, water in troughs. He’ll lick my hands and lap up some but what we need now is manure to drop and him to start drinking so he doesn’t have to be tubed. Yes, he can smell the peppermint I have in my pocket and has been rooting for it. 

For tonight vet has approved him being in the arena with his herd in the paddock and pasture adjacent so they can be close but we can tell if he drops any manure through the night. Dear husband is on his way home with a stethoscope so we can monitor heart rate, which vet says is a very good way to monitor how things are going for him, along with checking color of his gums.  

His massage therapist has given me some techniques to try and when I do it he yawns repeatedly, closes his eyes, and then goes and lifts his tail - so far nothing has come out but he’s trying! I’m also using a homeopathic remedy that might help. 

His heart rate is good and not increasing and he has just a few gut sounds on one side only (good that there are any at all but we want more!). 

He is interested in food which vet feels is a good sign. But we just do not know how things will go tonight and tomorrow. At his age (34) we won’t be sending him to the vet school. Thankfully our vet lives 15 minutes from us and he is amazing, so Keil Bay is in good hands through this. I hope for the very best outcome for him, but we do know he’s had a long and very good life, and while it will break my heart if this doesn’t resolve, he has been and will remain The King. Best horse ever in my life, dream horse, heart horse, and a joy to all of us. 

Send some jingles his way and I’ll update when I can. 

This is him a few minutes ago:

Friday, May 05, 2023

Good time to repost this: What Happened When I Stopped Trying To Do Everything

 Oldie but goodie post from 2017. We had to take a break for 9 months this year from our farm and house help, but recently restarted it for a day every other week. We’ve had two days now of the same amazing people coming in and helping. We pay a very good wage, what they more than deserve, and we get relief from some of the things we find it hard to get done. Win/win. I’m so grateful. I bolded the paragraph that I need to clearly remember! 

What happened when I stopped trying to do Everything

A few months ago my husband and I decided to hire someone to come once every other week to help us get the fenceline on two sides of the farm clear for the fencing that will be done in November. Through a serendipitous referral we found the exact right person to do this job, and quickly realized that a number of my projects could be expedited with his help. He started coming one day a week and then two days a week.

What happened next?

The nightmare of honeysuckle, wild muscadine, and trumpet vine living under our front porch was dug out and cleared out of the beds around the porch.

The beds were cleared and prepped for planting.

The farm was weedeated on a regular basis.

The mowing was done.

The fenceline, a total thicket of poison ivy and other invasive things, was cleared.

The pastures were cleared of fallen sticks and weed patches.

The very back wooded area is about 2/3 clear now, with stacks of firewood and kindling waiting for the woodstove if it ever gets cold this year.

A month ago we decided to have someone come help me with cleaning inside the house once every other week.

Every room but the master bath has now been deep cleaned and kept that way.

For years I've said I can do three things in a day. Barn, house, family. Ride, family, house. Pasture, family, house. Family, writing, house. The bottom line is that family, which includes the 11 animals we currently live with, is always going to be one of three. That is as it should be. But what it meant was I never got to everything, because there are really 5 things that matter to me: family, write, ride, house, barn/pasture/farm. So I was forever juggling it all, making bits of progress, then losing it again as other things piled up.

Now what happens is a couple of amazing people do one of the things while I do the others, and at least some of the time, I see projects getting done much more quickly than they otherwise would.

I'm an introvert at heart so some of the time I go through a half hour of stress about having someone here, but once that passes I appreciate the help and am grateful that at this point in our lives we can afford to make the choice to put some resources toward getting it.

Yesterday while the downstairs was being managed by someone other than me, I sat in my garret and reduced three piles of paperwork to nothing, checked about 6 things off my to do list, and prepared the sleeping set-up to accommodate having the attic AC/heat unit inspected and two rooms painted. It's amazing what I can get done when the pressure of trying to do it all is removed.

The message beneath all this is not about hiring people to help, although that is part of it. At its core, the message is about me allowing for the fact that I can let go of my own desire to Get Everything Done. It's something I have worked on for years but hiring people to help has not only helped get some needed work done, it's shifted my mobile, to use an analogy I often use with clients. When we change something, just one thing, it shifts everything else around. So often we think we have to make huge changes to see a difference in our lives, our relationships, our selves. But many times just making one change results in a whole new way of being. Like a mobile hanging in a room. If you touch just one part, the whole things shifts.

And that is what I've done.

Monday, May 01, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 181

 The first day of May! Which means our busy April has come and gone, with many birthdays celebrated, including Apache Moon, Keil Bay, dear husband, and dear daughter, whose cake has become a tradition for all of us:

We’re so proud of her graduating this week and moving on to her PhD program in the fall. She earned the honor of Outstanding Senior in the School of Sciences and these two birthday lemurs showed up to commend her. 

In other news, the herd had hoof trims on Saturday and the trimmer said she thought Keil Bay was the most stable she’s seen him, so I’m very happy that was noticeable to her. Overall he’s doing well and the biggest challenge to the herd these days is our see-sawing weather. Rain, heat, chilly, you name it. 

This week we had two very big rains and our garage flooded - not totally but it’s been awhile since we had this happen, so it was not a great surprise. Drying things out with fans and have reached out to see if we can have some waterproofing done. 

Am continuing to work in the garden beds and enjoying all the blooming things. I added a couple of new native species to my front bed - foam flower and woodland phlox - and will update my native plant series soon. 

Spending time at the desk Mondays - Wednesdays with a plan to soon get to spending some time there Thursdays with writing work. I enjoy my space and the work I do and I also love the joyful things I have arranged there to give me little breaks and good energy:

I found this pony figure at a craft fair several years ago and the name of the studio? Fat Pony Studios. I could not resist. 

It’s time, in my personal opinion, for a calm and easy month of puttering and working and enjoying the season. May you have that too, in whatever form makes you happy.