Saturday, January 12, 2019

November Hill farm journal, 67

Winter evening sky, no rain!

We finally had a week with no precipitation and lots of sunshine, which has helped to dry things out. The past few days we’ve had nights in the 20s so the ground has been hard enough that even the remaining wet areas are not a problem.

What a joy to see horses out in their pastures again, and Corgis able to romp without coming in to an automatic bath to remove mud!

We’ve been enjoying a long and treasured visit with my son and daughter-in-law here since before Christmas. It’s been a treat for all of us, animals included, particularly the cats and Corgis who have absolutely loved being snuggled and played with. 

There’s not much going on in the gardens right now, though the daffodils are coming up and have been since late December. I think this is the earliest I’ve seen them. A number of balmy days triggered the blooming of neighboring trees and local beekeepers reported maple trees blooming and honey bees coming home with pollen baskets full. I found a honey bee floating in a water bucket last week on one of the warmest days, and rescued her so she could get back to her hive.

We’re about halfway through the back shelter grid project, and hoping to finish it today before a cold rain rolls in tonight. We also quite suddenly hired a crew to replace all our gutters and repair some rotting fascia board. They are here today working hard. We have opted for seamless gutters with guards and hopefully this means no more leaves in gutters. It was a needed home repair but not one that is very exciting. They went ahead and replaced the gutters on the barn as well - the ones we added a couple of years ago were seamed and already leaking, and with all the rain and snow we’ve had this past year it has added to the muddy areas near the barn. This time the barn gutters will be seamless and they are also running drains out to the fence line to carry the water well away from house and barn. I think we’ll see a big improvement.

Next week when it dries out after tonight’s rain I’ll be bringing in stone screenings to add to some areas that need them. That’s all that’s on my to do list for January, as I’m trying not to overbook myself and make sure I save days where nothing is going on except being at the barn with the horses.

This week I’ve cleaned the rest of the tack and it’s so inviting to walk in there and see it nicely clean and oiled. 

Mostly it’s a dormant time on the farm, which I appreciate and intend to enjoy. 

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Bringing Cal Newport’s concept of “deep work” to the barn

I’ve decided that in 2019 one of my aims is to build in two “deep work” days a week: one at my writing desk, and one in the barn.

If you haven’t read Cal Newport’s book titled Deep Work, I recommend it. He comes at it from a business perspective but I feel it’s a Jungian concept at its roots. In a nutshell, it’s giving yourself the space and time to allow your creative mind to do what I call “puttering.” Which means you’re not trying to do ten things at once, you’re not racing through a to-do list, you’re just letting yourself float, but with purpose, within a specific context of work.

With writing, it means ditching social media and email, the smart phone, house chores. It means settling in with your work in progress and staying with it for a good chunk of the day. Working, pondering, woolgathering, focusing. It’s what writing retreats provide easily, but I need to find a way to get that at home, for a day a week.

Deep work at the barn is somewhat of a puzzle. Just being at the barn generally thrusts me out of time, in that I feel like I’ve been there an hour and it’s been an entire day. I’ve lost that this past year, the luxury of just going to the barn without a list of things waiting for me in the house, or places I have to be, or getting caught up in doing a big barn chore and nothing else.

Today I started my deep work barn day. I went out there with no real plan, except to have fun. I ended up grooming two little donka boys, who were happy to join me in the barnyard and get some special donkey time. I had a pocket full of treats to share and that made them happy too.

After awhile the three big guys offered to join me in the arena, so we had some liberty play. Eventually Cody got tired of being bossed by the pony, so he left, then the pony got tired of having no one to boss, so he left. Keil Bay and I did some free lunging and he looks wonderful. Cody joined us on the outside of the arena fence and I shared treats all around.

Seeing Keil moving so well and feeling so good inspired me to go clean his tack. His saddle and bridle and girth and pad are now ready to roll. (A note: with all the rain we’ve had I expected to find a moldy saddle but happily, the Damp Rid bucket I put in the tack room apparently works! Not one bit of mold.)

The donkeys rejoined the horses and pony and got busy with their hay pillows. (Another note: if you need slow feeder options, Hay Pillows are the very best thing I’ve seen, and we now have 10 of them.)

The Corgis came out and helped me finish cleaning tack. We walked, we played, we enjoyed the 65 degree sunshiny day.

For the barn, for me, this was deep work. I got things done, I took steps toward a larger goal (riding), and I came in happy and smiling.

Give it a try. Wipe the mundane tasks off your plate for a day and let yourself get to the good stuff.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Happy holidays from November Hill

It’s being a wonderful holiday for us here. I hope everyone is enjoying time with people you love, good food and drink, and lots of (healthy, safe, happy) antics with animal family. If you will, share your favorite holiday moment thus far. There are more than one for me, but I really loved waking up Christmas morning and having eggs benedict prepared by son while enjoying the wait with my husband, daughter, and daughter-in-law while all the cats, Corgis, and equines surrounded us inside and out. It was sweet and perfect. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

the astrophysicist and his star

This was the wonderful thing I have been waiting to share. My son and daughter-in-law were married after Thanksgiving and we were there for a perfect weekend. They created an intimate, gorgeous ceremony in a historic inn that provided a lovely ambiance and also gave us the chance to spend time with the parents of the bride. 

We’re so happy for this couple and so proud of them for being the young people they are. I’m looking forward to spending the upcoming holidays with both of them! 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 66

I’ve been very busy and overwhelmed with the sickness of our cat family the past few weeks, and I still want to write the happy post I’ve got in my pocket, but I decided to update the sad news first.

Mystic is home and recuperating, and Pippin is home and recuperating, but sweet Osage was not able to recover from her battle with Panleukopenia. She was 12.5 years old and although alert until the end, she just couldn’t make it. The vet school hospital staff gave her excellent supportive care, including five blood transfusions, but it simply wasn’t enough to stem the blood loss she was having in her GI tract. She passed away this week, in the arms of her human family, and is now home and buried in our back yard.

It’s been agonizing and we are heartbroken. Pixie remains healthy, and the kittens, Violet and Isobel, are healthy now too. We’re still having to give many medications and Mystic is not yet back to his normal routine in terms of being able to go outside, but we will get there. 

Osage, aka Muffine Eloise, was one of the original three kittens who came to live with us here 12 years ago. She came with her littermate siblings Keats and Dickens, and the three of them were pure joy as they grew and learned how to be indoor/outdoor cats. They all loved the horses and the barn, loved being inside with us, loved the front porch and their freedom. More recently Osage has loved her sunny chair on the front porch, and she has kept us laughing at her insistence on being the center of attention during many movie and TV episode watching. She was sweet and engaging her entire life, a cat who loved having her tummy rubbed, who loved being combed and fussed over, loved butterflies, and would play like a kitten up to the week before she died. I miss her so much. 

In other news, Baloo Corgi was neutered last week, a scheduled event we decided not to postpone. He came home wearing a plastic cone and with instructions not to “play, jump, or run” for 10 days. I knew that was going to be difficult, but by the next morning Bear Corgi had broken Baloo out of the gated bedroom, Baloo busted through the dog door with the cone still on his neck, and while I drove into town hoping to buy a donut collar, daughter texted that he and Bear had gotten the cone off and things were much calmer without it. No licking, less activity. So we went with it. I stopped trying to keep him absolutely still and without the collar and pain meds he resumed his normal behavior. He is now a week out from the surgery and doing very well. I’m considering taking him outside the back yard today for the first time in a week. I’m sure there will be an explosion of activity when I open the gate and invite him to come out. 

We had six inches of snow over the weekend and a few nights of low 20s which has kept it around until yesterday. We are nowhere near dry outside and now the forecast says rain Friday/Saturday/Sunday of this weekend, so I’m dreading the mud. I would like a nice dry month with maybe just enough rain spread out to keep the plant life happy. Santa, are you listening?

Most of the leaves are gone from the trees now and I’ve managed to keep enough of them mulched so the winter grass can maintain itself. My farm helper has done a valiant job keeping all our waterways clear so the water can flow without clogging up at the fencelines. 

There was one day last week when all three cats were sick, we were monitoring the ones who weren’t very closely, and I was on the phone with the vet at the ICU while texting Keil Bay’s vet because it seemed he was having a mild choke episode. She encouraged me to give him time to clear it, and I was watching him, still texting her, talking to the feline vet, and I walked over to Rafer Johnson to give him an ear rub with my free hand. When I touched his ear my hand came away covered in blood, and his ear was totally bloody. Thankfully daughter was home that day and she came out and helped wash the blood away so we could see what was going on. We initially worried it was a bite of some kind, but a series of clues suggested he had gotten the ear hung up in the hard plastic stall grids I have (still!) stacked by the barn. A rabies booster was discussed and the vet, helpfully already texting me, said she felt antibiotic ointment was all he needed. I think that was the day I realized we just have to let go and deal with things as they come. I felt like the domino had tipped. Days like that are when I just have to stop trying to retain control and admit I operate most days pretending I have it when really I do not. It’s a humbling realization for someone who is most comfortable managing things tightly.

Now, I’m focusing on doing all the things that need to be done while enjoying the moments as best I can. There are so many lovely moments! It is at this moment still and very quiet here on November Hill, and after the past few weeks that itself is the best thing ever.