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. 


Grey Horse Matters said...

Everything looks lovely. It’s going to be hard leaving a place with so many memories. You’ve all put your heart and soul into November Hill and are leaving it better than when you moved in. But life has many changes and as you say new adventures to be had in the future. Good luck in finding the perfect place for your next chapter.

Kathleen said...

Such a beautiful place. I know how hard it will be to leave, but the excitement of a new home to make your own sounds fun too! The prospect of leaving a place certainly makes one appreciate the little, special things even more.

billie said...

Yes, Kathleen, I am finding myself noticing every little thing. I tend to do that but it’s become more poignant the past few weeks. A new space with more room inside and out will be nice, for sure, and both places have ponds, which exponentially increases wildlife. One is also boundaried by a river along one side, so I think there will be plenty of new adventures to be had. I am considering trying to put November Hill into conservation trust. It’s not likely to be developed but there are some new angles that could preserve it as a farm which I think would be good.