Thursday, February 21, 2019

Meet The Grand-pups!

Both my (young adult) children have new dogs and suddenly I’m a grandma!

(Trying to convince husband that our grandparent names should be Donk and Darling but he’s not keen on it - any ideas for creative grandparent names? I’d love to hear them.)

Ciro is my daughter’s German Shepherd who is joining us on November Hill tomorrow. He came from Germany and has received specialized training.We’re thrilled to bring him home and help him settle in to life on November Hill.

He’s a sweet dog and huge. It’s going to be an adjustment for us to have a dog with legs this long. Many years of Corgis have spoiled us for kitchen islands and countertops being out of reach. It’s going to be fun to have a big dog to remind us what it’s like!

My son and daughter-in-law went to meet Ciro and ended up falling in love with their new girl, Aria, a Belgian Malinois. She won’t live with us but she’ll be a regular visitor and of course part of the clan.

Aria is in her training now. We’re excited to get to know her over the next few months.

When I was young we had a white German Shepherd and my brother has had two German Shepherds as an adult so I’m familiar with the breed. Good dogs! It’s going to be fun to have them around.

Friday, February 15, 2019

November Hill farm journal, 69

Back home after writing residency and enjoying this week of sunshine and mild temps before rain sets in again. It feels like spring!

The pollinator beds are becoming active. I’m seeing green at the base of every plant and also a few weeds coming in. I’ll be removing the remaining growth from last year and composting it. Meanwhile the spring bulbs are starting their show.

So far no redbuds blooming but I’m keeping my eyes open.

The main work on the farm this past two weeks has been overseeding pastures one at a time, after aerating. We still have the biggest front area to do but happy to get this done early and then we’ll move on with my list. The stone projects are back in hiatus due to the rain we had and now are looking at again. But we’ll slide in one at a time until we finish.

Once we hit a dry spell combined with warmish weather we’re going to finally replace the interior fencing that borders what we call the dirt paddock. This fencing is the original black plastic fencing and posts that the donkeys totally ignore and climb through.

The dirt paddock is a long rectangle running from the back of the barn along the arena and then between the front and back pastures, so it serves as a corridor for horses going from barn. I have also used it as a dry paddock for chunky ponies and donkeys (though as noted, the donkeys escape it when they want to!). The far end of the dirt paddock goes to our property line on that side, and gates to pastures are at that end as well. I’ve always disliked the herd having to go all the way to that fence to enter/exit pastures, as that puts them near the neighbors and whatever is going on over there.

The new fencing will actually create a new enclosed area adjacent to the fence line where I’ll put in garden beds: vegetables, a few trees, and herbs. We’ll move the gates to the middle of the dirt paddock so horses will move from front to paddock to back pastures much closer to the barn than is now the case. The garden area at the end will also create a living screen between our property and the neighbors. Being so close on that side is really the only thing I don’t like about our farm. This plan will help.

Also on the docket is some work in the barn, removing some rickety stall doors and replacing with the mostly unused top Dutch doors which for whatever reason are larger than the bottoms. I figure we’ll move the tops down and get the use out of those. We never close the tops and since both sides of the barn have shelters there’s not much need to do so. I found replacements for our stall latches online and ordered new ones for every door. And we’ll install the smaller stall door on the donkeys and pony side so they can see over into the barn aisle.

While removing and reinstalling doors I plan to give them a good washing out in the barnyard and apply tung oil.

That’s as much as I’m putting on the list for the next few months. I have reserved my honeybee nucs for May and will FINALLY get started on my apiary. I’ve scaled down from 3 to 2 to start, in hopes that the third hive will come from splitting one of the two at some point. I’m excited (anew) about this project.

That’s about it. Except that we have our new farm resident arriving next Friday. Ciro, the extremely well-trained German Shepherd, will be here settling in and hopefully getting to know and love his new home and family. We’re very excited!

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Weymouth writing residency and a morning with horses and hounds

I’m at Weymouth this week writing and had the great fortune to see the Moore County Hounds gather and ride off from this historic home and property this morning. The Boyd family who lived here over 100 years ago started the hunt and this morning it could have been that long ago - what a sight to see the hounds and horses on the grounds as they would have been all those years ago!

It was fun to see a few old friends from when my daughter rode with the hounds. I’m missing Keil Bay but having a wonderfully productive writing week and am grateful to Weymouth for hosting me and to my family at home who are holding down the farm so I can be here. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

November Hill farm journal, 68

We’ve had another weather pattern of warm winter days, then rain, then a sudden drop to very cold temps, with another very warm day predicted for Wednesday this week. Last night it dropped into the teens, with windy conditions and a gorgeous moon, and today we’ll barely break freezing. One more frigid night and then we start the warm up.

I was here on my own for the weekend and enjoyed a couple of days of warm sunshine before that rain hit on Saturday. Thankfully I had a helper to do the mucking (stalls, paddocks, a good dent in the back pasture) and to stuff 10 hay pillows. What a luxury to go out Sunday morning and simply serve the pillows to waiting horses and donkeys!

The wind was so brisk yesterday I kept the horses near the barn with their hay while I worked on getting the two paddock water troughs cleaned, refilled, and ready to plug in for the cold night. They enjoyed having their hay in the sun while the wind blasted. Roofers were next door wrapping up the roof job and I worried about them up on a very high roof during the gusting wind. Thankfully they managed well.

On Saturday the dogs and I took a romp before the rain came. Even so, it was still damp and they got muddy and needed half-baths when they came in! But when we first headed to Poplar Folly, Baloo took off like a rocket and was barking his head off, to the degree I thought someone was down there. I saw nothing until I saw Baloo looking up and when I too looked up I saw a huge raccoon in the tree, hiding its face. I calmed Baloo down and told the raccoon we had no ill intentions and he or she gradually turned and looked at me. We finished our time in the way back and left the raccoon to get back to its shelter.

I’ll be happy to get to more steady high/low weather. The up and down is wearing on all of us. We have it easy compared to those getting feet of snow right now, and I send good thoughts their way. My son reported at least 18 inches for he and his wife. I’m glad for them they don’t have barn chores to do!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Backing out of a bad idea

A year ago I did a lot of research and purchased a batch of stable grids to raise and level the shelter floor on the back side of our barn. Between being busy in general and having one of the rainiest, wettest years on record in our area, we just got around to beginning this project a week ago.

When the grids first arrived I didn’t like what they are made of - a hard plastic. I thought when I ordered them they would be more rubbery and would have more give than they do, but figured they would still work and once covered the stiffness I didn’t like would actually do the job these grids are meant to do.

The shelter floor was difficult to level and I think my original idea of how to proceed with this project would have worked better than what ended up getting done back there, but hindsight is 20/20 and since I was unable to do the work myself I can’t complain much.

This morning I surveyed the quarter of the work that was done and made the call to abort the entire project. It wasn’t working well, and would be hard to undo if we went further. I spent an hour and a half undoing the work that had been done and still have another hour to go, but I think it’s the right decision. I’m going to pack in more screenings and get the floor leveled and to the proper height and then I’ll decide how to finish it off. The screenings are great for loafing but I like to be able to serve hay under the shelter on rainy days, and I don’t want the screenings dust getting mixed in.

History has shown that putting down mats that don’t totally fill the shelter lead to problems so we either need to cut the mats to a custom full-shelter floor fit or look at other options. The mats are easy to sweep and clean and are definitely comfortable for horses so maybe that’s the best plan overall.

When removing the grids that had already been put down and filled in I broke a number of the tabs that hold them together. The small pieces that broke off were hard and sharp and a hazard in my opinion. I suppose if snapped together and buried under stone they would be fine but I really didn’t like what happened as I tried to take them up. I have a large stack of them and now wonder if I want to use them at all in the barn area.

Another plan for these grids was to create a well-draining, non-muddy wash area for the horses. I suppose that would still work. I could also use them to create level, stable water trough areas. I’ll figure it out. Thank goodness I started with one smaller project instead of ordering enough to do the entire barn - stalls, shelters, and aisle - which I almost did.

Again, I do think they would be useful but probably best to use them when initially building a barn and shelters. Installing them as the base and filling from there would be fine I think and make for good level drainage underneath everything. Trying to incorporate them into space already built and being used hasn’t been as easy as I expected.

Thankfully most of my projects work well. It’s not fun backing out of one and even less fun to see that big stack of grids growing back again. I am so ready for them to be underground where they belong, or moved on to someone who needs them.