Tuesday, December 29, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 115

 While Christmas was nice for me, I’m relieved to have it past us, as that means all my close beloveds are home, moved and settling in, and we are in the process of staying quarantined for the most part as we tighten our pod. Little Will joining us outside the womb is a huge incentive to doing that. 

I’m thinking of a pod of whales, maybe orcas, and love the idea of swimming out at sea, diving deep, breaching the water, and staying safe until we all move past Covid, a slow but hopefully steady progression back toward the way our lives were before it started. 

November Hill is for me like the ocean. I can putter for weeks here without even the thought of venturing out, and I personally do not feel alone at all, thanks to my human and animal family, my friends and writing colleagues I see via Zoom, and iphone messages that have become ongoing conversations. Technology sometimes drives me crazy, but this year it has been a blessing.

It’s winter in all the ways we mark it in NC. While we have some warm days, the foliage is gone on many trees and plants, the pasture is mostly dormant now, and after rainy days I always look at the ground and think that nothing will ever grow there again. It always does, come spring. 

My pollinator gardens are also mostly dormant, except for the birds, who are devouring seeds left over on the brown plants which I’ve left to overwinter. The bees are taking sugar patties and holding their own. Artemis hive is lower in population than Hegemone, who seem to be a very solid colony. My hope is that we can get a swarm trap up in the early spring and lure a swarm from them to replenish the Echo hive and capture Hegemone’s good genetics. 

We purchased inner covers for these two hives that have screened mesh openings in a row and the rest of the cover is glass. This is amazing - we can take the tops off the hives and see right through the glass into the top box of frames. We can put small sugar patties in the mesh circles during the winter months, and in other months if we need to feed syrup, we can invert mason jars there. I’m very happy we discovered these. I need to get photographs but for whatever reason, I just don’t seem to be focused on photos lately.

Cody destroyed a second blanket, but to be fair, these were two old ones whose straps had dry rotted. His new one is arriving today. This has effectively cleaned out my blanket stash - the pony has his new sheet and a serviceable mid-weight blanket that fit well. Keil has his new mid-weight and a nice fleece, and Cody as of today will have a new mid-weight. I need two new sheets for the big boys to round out their wardrobe. 

Keil Bay has finished his third month of Marquis and we’re giving him a couple of days before moving on to the Rebalance we have on hand. He is holding his own - and I feel like we will get through this with some more time for neuro-regeneration. EPM is a terrible disease and I wish there was more active research focusing on prevention for horse owners and their horses.

Dogs and cats are happy and healthy. Clementine is scheduled for her spaying early in January, and her Penn Hip testing. She’s so grown up. 

A large part of what happens here is me writing, or trying to (I need 36-hour days), and I’m sad to report that my 8-week ms clinic via Zoom wraps up tonight. It’s been such a pleasure to work with the instructor and the 5 other women who are in the class. Next week I’ll start the next incarnation of the Writing In The Dark course, which I’ve done through most of this year, also on Zoom. These six-week sessions focusing on short work have really been a silver thread running through this year. 

It’s hard to believe we’re nearing the end of it, and if you’ve never seen Chris Guillebeau’s outline for doing an annual review for yourself, google it and rejoice. It’s a great way to assess the year and how it’s gone, and to think about how you want to create the new year in terms of time, energy, focus, and yes, goals. But really, his format is more than just goal setting. I’ve been doing it for a number of years now and highly recommend it.

In case I don’t get another post in before January, happy new year to all. This is definitely a year I think most of us will be happy to leave behind, but I also know that the difficulties we’ve been through, and continue to go through, have also offered us a new and very sharp lens through which to look at our days, our country, and our flaws. Sometimes that can be a good thing. We can move forward with new perspectives and hopefully, solutions. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Book Review: Jo Ann Beard’s forthcoming Festival Days

I discovered Jo Ann Beard’s rich, riveting work when a writing teacher assigned her essay The Fourth State Of Matter, which appeared in the New Yorker in 1996. That essay so wowed me, I couldn’t wait to read more. This forthcoming book, Festival Days, is a potent treasure, jammed with perfectly-observed details and a rhythm that tumbles forward like a song. Beard chronicles the commonplace and the unusual with equal beauty. Her ability to make time do what she wants is impressive. She can make it drag, while simultaneous pulling the reader forward, in The Tomb of Wrestling, and pushes it into quick leaps as if choreographing a fast-paced dance in the title piece Festival Days. As she so often does, each piece, and the collection as a whole, come to a smashing final beat, more than the sum of its parts, both separate and connected. A beautiful book, highly recommended

Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas morning, November Hill

 My daughter and I are here with the animals until this evening when the rest of our family arrive in town, so we’ve done our own thing. Watched Little Women last night, woke up with nice Christmas music and a few gifts, and managing a very cold day for the herd today, after yesterday’s 65 degrees and pouring rain. Thankfully the sun is out, but the wind is blowing and it topped out at 34 earlier - we’re going down to 19 tonight. Blanketing has been a challenge, but I found an almost brand new pony sheet in my storage bins that I’d forgotten, so now the pony has a sheet to wear during this cold windy day and can give his heavier blanket a rest until later tonight. Keil has switched into his fleece for the day, and Cody’s getting Keil’s old Schneider’s sheet which will give his (not that well fitting) warmer blanket time to air out. I am ready for his new one to get here!

The dogs got new stuffies last night and provided quite the show for us, new dog chews this morning, and the cats got a new cubby/house, toys, catnip, and treats. They too provided quite a show. My daughter and her amazing photo skills captured this fueled-by-catnip play:

Happy Christmas, all!

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve day, November Hill

Yesterday was so lovely. I started the very dry morning watching these three crows enjoy what remains of the final Halloween pumpkin.

 Today, it is pouring down rain off and on, and we just had a very intense wind gusting for a few minutes, but nevertheless, we are warm (it’s 62 degrees outside) and hopefully I can get the pony dry before the temps go down to below freezing tonight. There are some dire predictions for parts of North Carolina, so I hope everyone remains safe.

The beginning of the stream that runs through the front pasture when we get big rain. I’m happy to see that it’s flowing nicely, in between the row of alternating elderberries we put in last winter. While not yet big up top, under the ground their root systems are securing the banks on either side of the water. Allowing the leaves to remain on the ground also helps with run-off water.

This is what happens when your farm helper thinks he’s doing the right thing by removing every single autumn leaf. I saw this today and remember last week when it rained and no water collected - the leaves were still there. I raked out the leaves he’d banked around the oak tree and put them back where they were. This area is the back of the donkeys and pony’s small barnyard paddock outside their stall and shelter. They put the manure on the leaves along the fence, which are then easily mucked. Today, they couldn’t even get over there. The one small pile was before the rain started early this a.m. After I put the leaves back, this standing water was quickly absorbed. I’m not even entirely sure what magic leaves perform, but after years of living here, I’ve learned that taking them away is detrimental in horse-keeping and in water run-off control. Leave the leaves! 

The horses and donkeys are hanging in there - yesterday was beautiful and 55, so I let them stay out until 8 pm knowing they’d be in all day today. They did some galloping, Keil Bay included, and they all seem peaceful and content hanging out in their stalls and shelters and paddocks in this big rain.

The dogs went out dressed in their rain coats. Is Bear adorable or what?

This shows how much of his body is actually fur! He looks so slim and trim with the fur pressed down by the jacket!

Baloo ripped his brand new rain jacket off and tore it up within minutes of being outside. Sigh. However, he won a Twitter photo contest and had a prize portrait painted from the photo, so perhaps we will just call the ruined rain coat a wash. 

Tomorrow will be cold but sunny - a wonderful combination for Christmas Day.

Be safe, be happy, celebrate whatever you celebrate this time of year! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Winter Solstice 2020

 I had grand ideas of what I would do to mark the winter solstice, but in the end, I went out just before sunset to help get the herd in, give Keil Bay his Marquis, and do a little work with my husband on one of Redford’s hooves, which seemed to have a sudden growth spurt (or wasn’t quite trimmed all the way in his recent hoof trim) and was in need of adjustment.

It was a quiet and sweet time, and afterward, we looked for the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn but couldn’t yet see it. 

I peeked out later and spotted this wonder, and overall, that was my solstice celebration!

We have a big week ahead, with my son and daughter-in-law moving their household from north to south. My part will mostly be waiting and holding down the farm here on November Hill. That’s a harder role for me than being actively involved, but it will be sweet and I hope as quiet as a December morning before anyone is up and about. 

The shortest day, the longest night, and now we’re tipped over to increasing our days bit by bit. It has been a dark year in some ways, so moving to more light feels like an important part of this year’s journey.

Happy Winter Solstice!