Thursday, March 28, 2024

November Hill farm journal, 207

 We are in the midst of three days of rain and today a new washing machine is arriving which means the delivery folks will be slogging through the soggy path into our back yard. I’m grateful I found this replacement machine - the exact same machine that has bearings wearing out at age 4 - in a very good deal online. The repair was going to cost $1300+ and the new machine was much much less than that. However, on this rainy day with animals sequestered during a two-hour window, and a washing machine that technically still works, I’m wishing I had a magic wand that would just keep it running instead of the hullabaloo of people tromping in and out with a new one. 

Cody and Rafer Johnson pushed through the un-electrified HorseGuard tape last night through the arena to get to the big barnyard grass, so that repair is on the docket for sometime today. Ready for sunshine and blue skies and drying out. It’s on my list to replace the tape at that end of the arena and on around to the barnyard gate with wood fencing, but that isn’t near the top of my list yet and they have lived with it undisturbed for 20 years! The boredom of rainy days in the barn, the lure of spring grass. 

Last weekend I went to a local pop-up native plant sale to get short-toothed mountain mint, which I’ve been looking for the past couple of years. I got there early and nabbed 5 beautiful plants, plus Wherry’s foamflower, woodland phlox, and Virginia mountain mint. We had two nights of frost warning so I kept the new haul in the garage until yesterday when things warmed up enough that I could put them outside. I managed to get one mountain mint in the ground during a break in the rain. Hopefully tomorrow I can get the rest in the ground and complete the prepping of the upper terrace for spring. 

I’m about 1/3 through the lower terrace removing some invasive non-natives but I’ve done enough to have uncovered the downy wood mint, curlyheads, and asters coming up. The patch of wild bergamot has grown larger and should be pretty spectacular when it blooms! Also pruned the beauty berry and button bush at the end of the terraced beds. I’m glad to be giving that whole area a needed sprucing up this year. 

On the other side of the driveway that bed awaits - all I’ve done over there is a little weeding and pruning of the very large button bush. 

All the viburnums I planted are leafing out, and in general, things are looking good, though I know at some point I’ll lose control of how fast things are growing and at that point I’ll sit back and just enjoy the jungle. 

Otherwise, life is busy but I am persisting in my effort to, as Cal Newport prescribes in his newest book Slow Productivity:

Do fewer things.

Work at a natural pace.

Obsess over quality.

It’s funny because I’ve been looking at my longtime goal to focus on three things in a day. He recommends this in the book, and it’s definitely fueled my motivation to adhere to this plan. The addition of working at a natural pace is helping too - just moving normally and not racing ahead to try to get more done. The book is good; if you’re like me and need some encouragement to slow down, I recommend it!

The delivery guy just called and they’re on the way so I’m going to meditate on that being almost done. The rain seems to have stopped so maybe this won’t be the big deal it feels like. I’m hoping their truck is not huge, as the last time they had to wheel the machines down the entire driveway! 


Had to add this in. Washer installed by two super competent young men this morning. And I just posted the following to my horsekeeping group. 

Today I was tending Keil Bay’s and Salina’s gravesites, after doing winter planting of some rarer native plants that seemed to be a suitable match for these two horses. I’ve been keeping the spring weeds that are popping up pulled on and around the graves and had the final plants in hand to put in for this spring. After getting them in the ground, and pulling the weeds, I walked over to the part of the grave where Keil’s head is and leaned down to say something to him. There was a Red Bird peppermint wrapper lying there on the soil, exactly where his muzzle is. 

For the past 20 years we have never been without Red Bird peppermints because they were his favorite treat. The night he died I fed him every single peppermint we had on hand, which was about half of a large bag. I never reordered because the remaining herd members do not really need those peppermints. We haven’t had any since October 25th.

I’m not sure where that wrapper came from but it sure made me smile to think that Keil Bay is at least in some way still getting his peppermints on this was rainy/now sunny spring day. :)

Monday, March 04, 2024

Dreaming About Keil Bay

 For the past month or so I’ve been having exquisitely detailed dreams about the Big Bay. In one dream we took him to a nearby pond for a therapeutic soak. When I unhooked his lead rope, he bypassed the “safe” pond and power walked to a further pond that was deep and steep and rock lined, and jumped into it. While I fretted about how we would get him out safely, he tried backing up the steep slope, couldn’t manage it, and soared out in a giant magnificent leap that defied all expectations. He was fine. He was happy. This woke me up smiling because it is so Keil Bay.

In another dream I brought him to live inside the house for total safety. Within about an hour he was jumping up on the kitchen island and countertops just like our cats do. Thankfully in the dream world the ceilings and square footage magically grew to accommodate him. 

Last night I dreamed that a repair person showed up unscheduled, managed to open our farm gate, and Keil Bay and Cody trotted down the driveway and out onto the gravel lane, where they began to gallop up and down. In a panic, I ran with halters and lead ropes to get them. Once they galloped back to me, I saw they had tacked themselves up and were fully ready for riding. However, they were still having fun galloping so off they went again. As Keil galloped past me for the third time I called out to him and he turned to look at me, then slid to a stop, going onto his side and skidding for what seemed like many minutes. I was sure he would be injured but he wasn’t, and we finally got them back to the confines of the farm.

I also dreamed I brought Keil Bay into the house again, for another round of safekeeping, and this time I made him a huge comfortable bed of blankets and pillows in the corner of our dream world’s huge living room. It was a holiday of some kind, and we had guests stop by. Keil Bay loved lying snug in his bed while people oohed and aahhed over him. 

Later after everyone left I was in the kitchen bemoaning all the dirty dishes. Keil appeared in the doorway and said “I’ll do the dishes!” And so he did. 

I’m not sure what it means that he’s becoming ever more human and that I am trying to keep him safe in my dreams. I’ve long had dreams of keeping our animals and farm safe from intruders, but these safekeeping dreams are about his comfort, not his safety so much. 

In any case, I welcome them. In every dream he is 100% Keil Bay, in body and in spirit and personality. It’s a joy to have him in a house that magically grows to accommodate him. I’m grateful for these moments of whimsy and time with him. 

In an extra note, we hung the owl box my daughter gave us for Christmas and I am waiting for an owl to move in. With several big owl meetings at Keil’s passing I think the appearance of an owl in the box will be a huge comfort, not to mention generally exciting! 

Friday, March 01, 2024

November Hill farm journal, 206

 We’ve had a rainy off and on week which has been helpful in keeping all the viburnums and other newly put in plants watered. I did some pruning today of one of the button bushes and the beauty berry that is just in front of it, on the lower native bed tier. 

The invasive mock strawberry (Potentilla indica) still needs to be removed from the two beds I started working on and doing that is how I got hold of poison ivy. I’m going to wait for some of my natives to come up and once I can see them and where they are, I’ll use a weeding hoe and clear out the nonnative things. 

There are a few larger invaders who I’ll dig out and remove individually. I really look forward to seeing these beds this spring, summer, and fall with this good clearing out done early on. 

In other news, the saddle fitter arrived today as scheduled and I cannot tell you how excited I was as she made the tracings of Cody’s back and then took me to her mobile fitting very large van where she set out a work table, three saddle racks, and a model “horse” for me to try saddles on. She brought out saddle after saddle and all I had to do was hop on, say yay or neigh (ha), and save the ones I liked. In the end the one that I liked best of all turned out to be a very good fit on Cody, in the reasonable middle range cost-wise, and oh, the comfort. We didn’t saddle Cody up today for the trial ride in the saddle I picked, mainly because he has dental care scheduled for March 11 and I’d like to get him on the other side of that before putting a bridle on. The saddle fitter agreed that was a good plan. 

I don’t even know how to describe how it felt to be sitting in saddles. I feel very ready for this new journey with Cody. He was cooperative and very curious about the saddle being put on his back. 

Of course the rest of the herd were clustered by the barn whinnying and braying for their own saddle fittings. 

The rain held off until the very end of the fitting, and I remembered days when rain came just as it did today during rides with Keil Bay, who always put on his best movement as the rain began, knowing that I would want to end on a very good note. Today he was absolutely with us as we went through this big step. 

My daughter captured this photo on my birthday and I love it. It felt like the perfect image for that day. 

The whole wide world pours down, as William Stafford wrote in his amazing poem:


By William Stafford

You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightning before it says
its names – and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles – you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head –
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.