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. 

Friday, September 15, 2023

Monarchs and Argiope

 This week and especially today we are getting fall weather, finally! I also had a wonderful experience this week finding numerous Monarch caterpillars in my raggedy front bed, and this is why I am not in any way trying to do gardening chores right now. This Argiope spider is the only one I’ve seen this year and I almost planted my face into her web because she is so well camouflaged!

Sunday, September 10, 2023

November Hill farm journal, 191

 We are still very much in summer mode here, though yesterday’s big rains came in and have given everything a deep watering before this week’s predicted cool-down. The tulip poplars are yellowing and leaves are falling and the dogwoods are changing over to their autumn colors. 

The fig tree is still producing and the figs this year are the biggest they’ve ever been, much larger than the usual figs one sees locally or in the grocery store. They’re delicious and I’ve done nothing but eat them as they are. 

The potager has slowed down some. I think the cucumbers are done and the tomatoes are mostly done as well. We have eggplant and basil and sweet potatoes still coming in. It’s almost time to plant fall vegetables if we want to do so. 

The pollinator beds are a jungle - I should say the two original “main” ones are. I’ve removed some huge burnweed (native but prolific if left to spread) and also cleared out a largish area of stiltweed (nonnative and the bane of all gardeners in the southeast). There are plenty of things still blooming but they’re not as visually lovely as they would be if I had kept up with my weeding this year!

I’m hoping this week’s cooler weather and the soft ground post rainfall make it easier to do some tidying. 

In two weeks we have the basement/garage work being done and I’ll be both happy and relieved when it’s over. Because the storage room and wall along the back side of our garage have to be completely clear this is going to force the garage space clean out I’ve wanted to do all year. We’ve done bits and pieces but this pushes the whole job getting done. This is one of those repairs and chores that are using up a lot of resources and it’s not one of the “fun” updates that you see every day and enjoy. But it means I do not have to worry every time we get one of the increasingly common torrential rainfalls that water is seeping in through the foundation walls. 

We’re all doing pretty well - humans, horses, donkeys, pony boy, cats, dogs, honey bees. It’s been a long, hot summer.

I’m looking forward to fall and some increased energy for writing and also for being outside more.