Sunday, June 25, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 187

I think it’s safe to say I’ve officially lost control of the native plantings for the season. I have a few things to do in the beds but I’m not willing to go in for big work because the Monarchs have arrived and between them hopefully laying eggs and all the other butterfly and bee activity I just want to stay out of their way. 

My focus now is shifting to the removal of a few nonnative things a day from the farm, which is important and also one of those tasks that will never end. There’s a certain pleasure in it because what I’ve found is that often when you remove a nonnative, a wonderful native will pop up to replace it. 

Keil Bay has had a little “offness” - nothing major but I have doubled his Pergolide as we’re into the seasonal rise now and I suspect his ACTH is on the rise (beyond the normal range). I have the vet coming out to do some ACTH testing on the horses and pony, and we’ll check numbers. But it’s hard to get things under control once they go past the normal range, so I have gone ahead and increased his medication. I’m also giving him APF and cut back his pellets some - he has put on weight (what I wanted) but now I think we’ve gone too far. As if all that isn’t enough, I think he has a chiropractic issue and his vet is out of town and won’t be out until July 26. He’s on the cancellation list so maybe sooner. Meanwhile, he seems happier with a couple days of increased Pergolide and APF, and less calories, so I hope things are shifting in a good direction for the Big Bay.

The littles are so happy for each meal they get. Rafer Johnson’s ‘sprout’ caught my eye yesterday. These three are something else. 


Back to pollinator beds. This Monarda fistulosa (wild bee balm) is spectacular. You can see the empty spot behind it where I removed the final nonnative butterfly bush earlier in the spring. I’m not sure what to put there in its place but for now letting it simmer. 

Out at the gate I have a few low-hanging branches to trim and while perusing the shape of my “tunnel” of branches, which I love and carefully maintain, I noted this very cool bronze leaf on the sycamore tree. It is beautiful and like a tiny sign of autumn, which I need as we move into the heat of summer.

Another native pollinator bed, which I call the bluebird bed because of the bluebird box which is used every year. We’ve had a nest of bluebirds already and often they’ll repeat this one or two more times, so I keep an eye on the bed for the flowers and the birds.

Dear husband went up to the mountain house this past week and on his way in the first night sent me this stunning shot of Solomon’s Seal near our driveway. Who knew that night shots of natives could be so dramatic? I love it. 

We had gotten quite dry on the farm and have over the past week had daily rain which was honestly perfect - not too hard, not all at once, just a daily deep watering for the earth and the trees and the plants. It’s sunny today and I think will be dry, and I am sure there’s going to be a surge in growth coming, hence me knowing I have now totally lost control of manicuring! 

I’m feeling the richness of summer right now and hope for mild temperatures even as I prepare for the heat. Not to mention the f-i-r-e-w-o-r-k-s.


Please just do not set them off. Find other ways to celebrate. The planet, the wildlife, dogs, cats, horses, people thank you in advance. 

Friday, June 16, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 186

 I haven’t taken any photos in the past 10 days so have nothing to share today, but sometimes no photos mean life is busier, or good things are happening and I just sink into them to the point that I don’t even think about documenting with my phone camera.

Mostly it’s been a busy week and a half. We continue to keep an eye on properties, I’m in the process of working with a land conservancy who are interested in conserving the mountain land we own, and working as usual on keeping up with farm stuff. 

The holly trees have been nicely weed-eated and fed with mature compost. I had been planning to do a bit of limbing up but they developed a few yellow leaves and I don’t like to stress a plant or tree when it’s reacting to something - in this case I think they just needed the compost and we’ve been dry for awhile so a good rain would be helpful. They’re past the year point of being transplanted so I’m not doing regular watering. If we don’t get rain in the next 4-5 days I’ll give them each a good soak. 

Our farm helper did a weed-eating pass down the path to Poplar Folly and also on the inside and outside of the fence down there, which has made walking up and down much easier! He also cut a perimeter path in Arcadia, leaving the center area to bloom on with forage for the insect pollinators, including the honey bees. All the hives are busy and working hard. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have never yet leveled the empty hive box that lured its own swarm earlier in the spring, and for sure it will be a mess inside with bees building down as they do. At this point if I level it everything they’ve done will be crooked. This is not great beekeeping on my part! It will sort itself out at some point and mostly that means we will have a hard time accessing those frames without tearing things up. Live and learn. Or know and do in this case!

I have a lot of work to do in the larger pollinator plant bed near the house, and need to do some work in the bird haven area, plus in Poplar Folly. There are many native volunteers down there that I’d like to mark, and some invasive non-natives that need to be pulled. Also some buck-eyes that are native but there are far too many of them right now and we’re going to have to be thoughtful and cull 2/3 of them. 

What I have not yet done: washed/put away horse blankets, done a spring clean inside the barn, power washing porch, deck, camper, exterior areas on barn. I’m sure there are more things pending but at this moment I do not even want to remember more than what I just listed! 

This is writing weekend and I’ve also started my ongoing 6-week at a time writing class, so my mind is on that work and was also fueled by an acceptance of a piece of flash fiction. The horse folk who read here will enjoy it - I’ll link when it goes live which I think will be in August. 

I’m closing in on my first embroidery project’s completion, and I will tell you now that the blanket stitch has mostly defied mastery for me. I do the same thing and it looks awful, then suddenly I hit a streak where it looks good, and I cannot tell difference in what I’m doing to have such varied results! However, in this endeavor I am practicing the philosophy of “not letting perfect be the enemy of good enough.” I’m learning, I’m enjoying the process, and honestly, if I do not look too closely at the stitches I love the little needle book I’m almost done making. It will be a very cheerful way to store embroidery needles and every time I open it I’ll see the first project and can thus mark progress as I hopefully get more skillful at this work! I have another project that will let me continue learning and practicing stitches before I move on to some of the more traditional embroidery kits I have accumulated and am eager to complete. 

It’s amazing to me that it’s June already. The summer solstice will be here soon and around that time the horses will get their ACTH tests and I’ll see if they need an increase in Pergolide as we move into the seasonal rise. Right now all are well. Little Man looks truly fabulous - very handsome and somehow perpetually clean and groomed even though we are not doing it for him. I remain convinced he has a team of pony fairies who come and attend to him daily. Keil Bay is good, very happy with his meals, and moving well, and Cody is hanging in there. He got an abrasion on his upper right front leg and because of a couple of episodes over the past year or so where he’s developed cellulitis, we started antibiotics and avoided a repeat. I’ve been having dreams of galloping and keep thinking I need to get him back into light work. The donka boys are also looking good. Between the dry weather and us cutting back some on hay amounts they are a little sleeker than they were, and for Rafer especially this is a very good thing. 

There’s an endless accounting of all the things happening here but this is enough for today, I think! 

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 185

It’s a beautiful week on November Hill, with the foliage feeling like it has really hit its lushest volume and  the sense this year that we really do have a haven of privacy here. The cedars and hollies we planted have grown and are healthy and offering food and shelter to birds and pollinators, and screening for us. On Sunday we decided to remove the HorseGuard tape that has kept the hollies safe from nibbling equines, and my hope was that they would do some weed-eating work for us between and around the trees. In one night they cleared out the grass and have subsequently finished off the rest of the palatable green things growing. Now it’s ready to be tidied up with a weed-eater and we’ll leave the tape off and start to do the first round of limbing up - my goal is a lovely row of hollies whose trunks are kept clear of branches up to about 4-5 feet, which will encourage them to grow fuller up top and eventually grow together. Perfect screen, great for wildlife. 

A few glimpses of the garden beds:

And the view from the potager corner of the upper front pasture. The pastures are not lush this spring and we have not done anything about that, with our herd of easy keepers. They get their 10% or less sugar/starch hay and we rotate them through the barnyard and the grass paddock periodically so they get some grass. In the fall we will spread lime and then compost and grass seed. 

I’m so happy to see the button bushes gearing up for their spectacular mid-summer bloom time! 

(Some may wonder - will I even be able to sell this farm? Some days I think not, and imagine it being a writing retreat, a guest farm, but still in our lives. An investment? We will see. I will continue carrying out my plans until I drag myself away to a new home.)

We had a special day on Sunday - my husband and I celebrated 29 years of marriage and Bear Corgi turned 13!  My husband worked hard on Sunday planting vegetables in the potager, first weeding the empty beds, then hauling up November Hill compost from the big pile. I have not spent much time sitting on the potager bench so far this spring/summer but it is on my list to take a break out there this week. 

For some reason Sunday morning struck me out of the blue as the perfect time to apply the annual tung oil to the front gate, posts, and the mailbox. I hadn’t even thought about this until suddenly the cool weather, cloudy day but with no rain coming, perfect tung oil opportunity, presented itself. I finished all but the cross bars and the large posts. The gate and mailbox look wonderful and fed. 

I had aimed to do some mowing over the weekend but when it came down to it, there were many bees of many species foraging the wildflowers and the clover, and I decided to let them go awhile longer. We will mow a path around the side strip area and will mow in front of the front pasture fence, and a path around Arcadia. The little bit of lawn we have our fire pit area in needs mowing in full but it can wait another week. 

On my list - power washing the front porch and back deck. It’s actually a satisfying task to do but we have to feed a hose through the front porch cat fencing and it’s just enough of a pain that I’ve put it off. A hot day is a good time to do it, so I’ll wait for one of those that fall on a free day. 

And, oh dear, horse blanket wash, sun dry, and pack away time. I have sworn to do it before the month is out after leaving it last year to the last minute in what was it, October? 

Otherwise I have done a little embroidery work this week and submitted several pieces of writing, and I’m now, at this moment, gearing up to start my work day with clients. All is well. 

Friday, June 02, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 184

 It’s a prolific year for milkweed on November Hill. The first three photos are the butterfly weed and daughter’s capture of some very bedraggled native bees in last week’s rainfall. 

This morning I walked out to the common milkweed going totally nuts and this is just two of the plants among many in this bed. It is the biggest milkweed show we’ve ever had since I started the native plantings. 

In a different but still beautiful vein, today’s artwork by my 2-year old grandson on his first exploration of my iPad Paper app. He used tools I didn’t even know were there. I love the colors and the lines, and now that this is adjacent to the milkweed photo above, isn’t it interesting/fascinating? He has created an abstract of my garden bed. 

It’s another lovely week on November Hill. I’m back to work in my garret with clients via telehealth, working on writing projects, and enjoying time with the herd yesterday and today as well as time with my grandson. There are of course about 2034 projects that need some attention, but nature and writing will wait for those who love them, right? I’m soaking it all in.

Life is good.