Wednesday, March 16, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 148

 Whew, it’s been a hectic couple of weeks here. My mom is in rehab and I’m thrilled to say she’s doing very well. She’s been such a champ, working hard in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and navigating the routine being in a facility with a roommate. She is so lucky to have a wonderful roommate who’s 94 and dealing with a broken hip and all the work that comes with that. I hope I’m as strong and determined as those two are when I’m their age!

The herd is doing well, managing our ups and down of temps and rain and a few snowflakes last weekend. I’m so ready for full-blown spring and I think they are too. 

Today we had 20 American hollies and 6 eastern red cedars delivered. I was nervous about the equipment and the chaos and how the horses might react. I went out as they finished up their breakfast in the barn with a pocket full of horse cookies and a packet of Confidence EQ gel. I never halter any of them to move them to different areas of the farm, but I put Keil’s halter on, gave him a cookie and some gel in his nostril, and walked him to the back pasture with the hay. The donkeys ran and bucked and Little Man marched out. Cody pulled away from my husband and had a little runabout in the big barnyard, but then he too calmed down and they all got cookies and gel and that was pretty much that. 

The original landscaper we’d contracted to do the planting backed out a month ago and our order was canceled. Thankfully our arborist took the project on and we’re so happy with the work they did today. The only downside was that our original order was canceled and the 11-foot hollies were released to someone else. What we got isn’t as tall but they look great!

The cedars are in a holding corral until our next planting day in two weeks, so we can give the horses a chance to settle in with these new trees. The cedars are going in the back pasture. 

I’m relieved this first planting got done so well before the rain rolled in this afternoon, and really happy to have this first phase over and done with. Now they just have to grow! 

In other news, I just had a flash fiction piece accepted by River Teeth Press for the third volume of their Awake In The World anthology. Will post the info here when it’s printed and ready to order! 

And we have some birthdays coming up! Will post some birthday greetings soon. 

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Pacemaker of the Heart is up at failbetter

 My flash fiction piece, Pacemaker of the Heart, is up at failbetter today. You can go HERE to read it. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 147

 We’re in a bit of a holding pattern as we wait for spring here. Our weather is going back and forth between super warm for this time of year and cold again, so there can be blankets one day and flies the next. It’s not unusual I guess but I’m finding it especially frustrating, as some of the things I want to move on with doing can’t be done until we hit an actual “real” spring! 

A good time to focus on writing and other things, right?

On Friday I had a little (okay, big) scare. Keil Bay’s chiropractic vet was on the way for a regular maintenance adjustment. I opened the gate from the front pasture into the little barnyard to let Keil and his  ever-faithful buddy Redford come through. I’m not sure what happened but when Keil reached the barn aisle doors he suddenly went down onto his knees. He hopped right up and seemed fine, though a bit spooked, and we stood in the barn aisle for a minute and I talked him down. A minute later, he and Redford were in the big barnyard grazing as if nothing had happened.

When his vet arrived I shared what had happened with her and she looked Keil over and started the adjustment. He has been being very clear with only a couple of “usual” adjustments needed each month, but on Friday he was out of whack from his atlas joint all the way to his tail. We don’t know if he had things out of whack before the fall, or if the fall itself created these issues. The only other thing is that he had been looking so good I backed his Equioxx off to every other day the week before this fall happened. I noticed nothing different in his behavior or movement with that dosage, but we agreed that I should put him back to daily and I also added his Duralactin back in.

On Saturday he looked better than he had before the fall and after the fall, so I was very grateful for that, and today he had his acupuncture + Legend injection and when I told the vet what had happened Friday, she asked if I could halter him and walk him out for her. The vet tech offered to do it and he ran from her! Ran meaning his big lovely trot in a nice 20m circle, so when the vet saw that, she said, never mind, he looks great. 

Keil is keeping me on my toes for sure as he approaches his 33rd birthday! 

We have another birthday boy celebrating this week - Redford! I’ll share a birthday photo on his day.

This afternoon I’m working at the desk in the bedroom, and the biggest benefit of this location in the house is seeing my herd hanging out with me while I work.

As much as I love my writing garret, that’s the only room in the house with no view of the pastures or barnyards, and sometimes I consider moving it to the other side of the house. Then I think about how much stuff I would have to move and that is that! 

Otherwise there’s not a lot going on here. We’re starting to move compost from the grandfather compost pile to the shrubs and trees that we’ve planted over the past two years. After that I’ll start putting compost on flower beds and the potager. In March I’m going to do some leaf shredding with the mower in the pastures and then we’ll use the rest of the compost to feed the pastures. And then, as everyone with horses knows all so well, we’ll start adding to the compost pile again, and before you know it, we’ll have a mountain of it back there. 

The dangerous thing about not being able to do some of the things I’m ready to do is that I fall into internet rabbit holes for things like horses and mules. Yesterday I found a gorgeous Welsh-x mare for my daughter and a handsome riding mule for me. Local, great prices, and then I stopped myself. Whoa, Billie. I’m not sure we’re ready for two new herd members right now. 

Just remembered the thing that went on early this week - landscaper with huge deposit in hand to install the hollies and cedars suddenly backed out of the plan, so I have our arborist looking at this project on Friday while he’s here to see if he can take it on for us. I had already checked that off my list! Back it goes. Hope we can get at least part of it done if not all this season. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 146

 Post snow we have had some warm days - one of them 60 degrees, which gave us a chance to check the bee hives. Four of the five were active, two of those extremely so, with orientation flights happening, which means the queen is already laying to build up the population in advance of the early spring nectar flow. There’s the chance these colonies will build up too fast too soon and then have many new/young mouths to feed before spring really arrives, but the bees do what they do and I’m going watch closely while they do it! 

Sadly our captured swarm combined with the queenless hive has died out. They were both small in number and while they were very active during the summer and early fall, I should have removed their top hive box before winter as it was too much space for them once the summer bees died out. I had hoped they would make it through winter and have a chance to build up properly this spring. However sad, I suspect with the other four hives I’ll be in the position of doing runaway splits and if that is the case with all four, we’ll go into summer with 8 colonies total. More than I really need, but we’ll see if we can manage that many, and if not, may move some up to the mountain house, which will be a whole other kind of beekeeping, since we’ll need to put them inside an electric fence to keep black bears out!

Our holly and eastern red cedar tree installation has had to be delayed due to the snow and wet ground. We’re getting another round of rain/snow this weekend, so it looks like we’re a couple of weeks out at the very least before the trees can be moved in and planted. I took advantage of this delay to call our gravel guy, who miraculously had a cancellation and came right over with a load for our driveway, with a second load to come on Friday. I’m glad to get this done before we start moving the trees in, and grateful we have someone who does such a great job with it. 

The horses and pony and donkeys are all doing well. As much as I fret about inclement weather, they seemed to love the snow and they are all good sports about wearing their turn-out blankets when needed. We’re aiming to get the second bit of finish work done to the barn this Friday and then when our contractor returns he can go ahead with the next stage. We’ve decided to replace the Hardie-board on the barn one side at a time, starting with the back side which he just worked on. This is of course deviating from my original spring work plan, but it makes sense to go ahead now that he’s got the foundation boards replaced. I’ve done a series of four sketches of what I want done inside the feed room, since this is best done during the time of year the horses are in daytime turn-out. I have no idea how long this will take, but we’re taking the slow and steady work pace so that I don’t get totally burned out!

I walked the farm yesterday to check all my plantings. Everything is in dormant mode still, which is good - I don’t want the scattered warm days to set off buds too soon! In mid February I’ll start the process of trimming back the dormant growth from last year to make room for the new spring growth, and will try to get started with mulching. I’m considering investing in a tool I didn’t even know existed until yesterday - a vacuum mulcher for leaves. The NC Botanical Garden uses leaf mulch in many of their beds and we certainly have plenty of leaves every year. My hope is that by March any insects nesting in the leaves will be starting to emerge and I can use the leaves (without killing the insects) to mulch and top off all the beds.

Our cats and dogs are all happy and enjoying life. They are such great reminders to appreciate the small joys, and to live in the present moment.

In my writing life, it’s being a busy and productive new year. I have three short pieces coming out in various places between now and May, and have many other pieces out on submission. I’m working on a nonfiction hybrid chapbook and also on the novel in progress. I did a fairly intensive garret tidy right at the new year and it has really rejuvenated my writing practice. The space is clear and clean and fun, and that’s conducive to creative efforts. 

I meant to take photos yesterday as I was marching about but of course got so caught up in looking that I never even took the phone out of my pocket. However, here’s one shot I took a few days ago, mostly to document how well the inkberry hollies are doing behind Poplar Folly. A good reminder that if you plant and give things a few years to mature, you’ll see the good results of that effort and patience. 

These were quite small when planted, and they’ve grown and matured nicely. The deer have total access to them but do not touch them, so they’re perfect for this space. They flower in spring to provide terrific forage for the bees, and produce ink black berries for wildlife and birds. These aren’t done growing, and as time passes they’ll get taller and fuller and provide a very nice screening between Arcadia and Poplar Folly. This is one example of a native planting decision that has worked out very well.