Sunday, June 05, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 155

 We woke up to a break-in a few mornings ago. My husband managed to get video of the bandits:

He had left the chain off the gate between the little barnyard and the dirt paddock, and I had left the gate unlatched into the potager. We don’t know exactly when they broke in, but they were all caught red-hooved, on video, harvesting away!

Miraculously nothing was trampled and other than the tell-tale video and one manure pile, I would never have known they’d been in there. Though it did look like someone had weed-eated, which in the end, saved me some work!

This week I have started the project in Poplar Folly, labeling native plants, removing non-natives and invasives, and readying to begin marking the walking path. I had a blast doing this and can’t wait to get back down there. 

However, other gardening chores call, and I’ve been doing some Japanese stilt grass removal as well as watering (we’ve had no rain in over a week), weeding, and continuing the mulching of beds.

Bees are all good. I think our lured swarm, Mnemosyne, swarmed. We have not done any splits this year and I wish we’d done at least one since I have hive equipment in storage that could be housing a colony. There’s always next spring!

The herd is doing well. Cody’s a bit better and I’ve got three grazing muzzles cleaned and ready to go on this evening so they can all turn out together again. We’ll see if the muzzles fit properly and if so, whether they stay on all night long. 

Dogs are good, cats are good, and we’re all relieved at the break in the 90s heat yesterday and today. It was in the 50s this morning and humidity is very low. 

I still have gardening things to do today, so I’m getting back to them, but wanted to share this funny video of our very sneaky herd. 

Thursday, June 02, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 154

 I came home from the mountain house to a very hot week here on November Hill. Hot and jungle-like growth of grasses, pollinator plants, potager plants, and many chores to catch up on! 

The milkweed and butterfly weed are starting to get quite lovely:

I hope the butterflies lay lots of eggs and the resulting very hungry caterpillars eat their fill!

The sundrops aren’t as prolific this year as they were the past two, but they are still quite lovely. This full sun photo doesn’t show them off as well, but that’s when I was out there, so that’s all I have!

The coneflowers are starting to bloom and the button bushes are forming their tiny “buttons” so we have a lot to look forward to! The Stokes asters are out as well but I forgot to get a photo.

I am nowhere near done mulching and hope to get back to that task this weekend. I also need to put some fencing around both my shade beds, as the bunnies are snacking heavily on some of those plantings. While I was driving home on Saturday my daughter messaged that Clementine found a bunny nest near the upper garden bed and little bunnies ran in all directions. Thankfully Clem was on leash, and thankfully she listened when my daughter told her to DROP IT - she had a baby bunny in her mouth! It ran off with the others, so we presume it is okay.

The barn swallows have a nest full of babies, and a Carolina wren has a nest one the grazing muzzles hanging in the barn aisle. Lots of life happening here right now.

In the potager we have cucumbers in full bloom, tomatoes doing the same, and the lettuces and kale are ready to harvest. We have basil and parsley too. I’m very happy with the non-edible part of the garden. Everything is doing extremely well out there. And the hazelnut trees are thriving. I need to research when we can begin to harvest nuts. So far these trees are putting their energy into growing. 

A project on the horizon is to work on creating the permanent foot path in Poplar Folly so I can begin to ID the naturalized areas around the path and mark the natives that we need to keep as well as the things that need to be removed. There are some wonderful natives volunteering down there and I have permanent markers to label them so it will be easier to track things. It’s shady so not a bad summertime project!

Yesterday I watered the beds nearest the house and today I need to water the hollies and the cedars we put in, as well as give the potager a good watering. If we don’t get any rain tomorrow I’ll go further out still with a wheelbarrow full and a bucket. This is the first week in many months that there is no sure rain in the forecast, and with highs in the upper 90s, young plantings need some help. 

The bees are good, dogs living their best lives, cats are happy, and the herd are all nearly sleek in summer coats. Cody is having some issues with his hooves right now, and until the vet comes to do bloodwork we have him off the pasture and on the ECIR group’s emergency diet in case of laminitis. His hooves are not hot and I’m not feeling a pounding pulse. We’ll check insulin, glucose, and leptin levels and also do a tick-borne disease screen. I hope he is better soon. 

That’s it for now. I hope everyone is staying cool and hydrated as we move into summer!

Thursday, May 19, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 153

 Our temps are going up this week into the 90s here on November Hill, and then it looks like we’ll drop back into the 70s for a few days. I’m not looking forward to 90s in May, but I’m reframing today’s heat as a great opportunity for the first full horse baths of the season. They’ve been hosed down a few times already, but today I’m going to get out the shampoo and the scrubbers and give them a proper cleaning. 

In other news we have had to put a solar charger on the Horseguard tape protecting the holly trees from the herd. The donkeys were going through the tape and one section was torn down. It’s clear we’ll need to do the same for the tape going in to protect the cedars. They’re not actually eating the tree foliage, they’re going through to eat the grass in between and around the trees, and in the process they’re pushing against the trees, all of which are still in the process of developing strong root systems. I knew this was a possibility and we had the materials to install the tape, so now we just have to power it so this bunch of hooligans respect it! They are, of course, just doing what foraging animals do. Here’s a recent photo of the  morning sun worshippers after a night of holly tree marauding. 

Fast forward a bit to the amount of spring green we have and the metabolisms of ponies and donkeys, and what you get is too many calories and too much sugar. We’re moving everyone off the front pasture so it can rest, and I decided it was time to add board fencing to the two sides of the arena still using the plastic fencing, which the donkeys climb right through. This was finished on Tuesday, and for the next month night-time turn-out is Keil Bay and Cody going into the back pasture, and Apache, Rafer Johnson, and Redford going into the arena. There’s a little grass in the arena but it’s sparse, and we can give them their hay in the hay pillows to more easily control the amount they’re eating. Since the dirt paddock and back pasture wrap around the arena, they’re all close to one another and no one will feel too stressed. It’s either this or grazing muzzles. I’m sure they were shocked to realize they could not climb through as they usually do!

I’ve been doing pollinator bed weeding and starting to work on getting the beds mulched for the summer and fall. I’m doing a little every day and it’s going to take a bit of time, but that’s fine. So far I’ve lost a few things to nibbling wildlife: one of my oakleaf hydrangias has been I think killed by its leaves being eaten completely off, two shrubs in the bird haven bed have seen the same fate, and something is eating my coneflower tops off in one area of the garden. I know there are a number of brown bunnies coming in and also a few deer. It’s just one of the consequences of sharing the land with all who live on it, so I’m not going to fret about it. There are some things I can do to protect these plants and see if they can come back from the heavy browsing.

Poplar Folly is a wealth of things both planted and volunteering, and I am going to have to put some energy into figuring out where I want the walking path to go and then keep that part cleared. There are some invasive non-natives which need to be removed, but unfortunately with all the other things to do we rarely get to that enough to really knock things out. It’s an ongoing battle, and we just have to what we can. 

The bees are doing well. I think Callisto, the new nuc, really took off in their hive box and may have already swarmed. We had other things going on and in the spirit of letting the bees do what they do, we let them go. Swarming is the honey bees’ way of reproducing. The existing queen leaves with many of her workers, who have scouted out a new home, and the workers left in the hive box rear a new queen to take over. This not only creates two hives in the place of the one, it also gives a brood break - a time when no eggs are being laid which means there are no larva in cells for the varroa mites to breed in. So it’s actually a good thing if you’re looking at beekeeping from a Darwinian perspective. If interested, read Tom Seeley’s work on Darwinian beekeeping. 

Clementine is doing very well. Her tumor was removed, the histopathology report was the best possible results, and for now she is not getting additional treatment other than the homeopathic protocol our homeopathic vet has put together for her. 

It’s the time of year when I have to shift into my own conservation of energy mode. A couple of outdoor chores a day during the cooler times, and keep up as best I can with the summertime jungle November Hill becomes. 

I’m also working on the new novel again, and very drawn into this story and world. 

It’s not my favorite season, but I do enjoy the privacy all the trees offer when they’re fully leafed out. I feel their protection and their company. 

And I forgot - the laundry room work is finished! Well, okay, almost finished. The ceiling is done, which was the big thing we had hired in. I have one more matching shelf to install, some hand-made tiles I found which will make a small but serviceable back and side splash for the sink, and a matching washer/dryer “countertop” (that will enable me to remove those two towels) is on the way. 

It’s difficult to capture in my photos, but the interesting thing about the ceiling is that on the recommendation of a home renovator I found online, I used Benjamin Moore Pearl finish paint instead of flat ceiling paint. The very light touch of luminescence in the paint allows light to reflect more off the surface and it creates the illusion of greater height. It’s noticeable in person. I am so pleased with how it worked and plan to use that same paint in the living area and bedroom ceilings when I get to them. 

Our contractor had to do some special work to install this bead board ceiling. It’s not a thin panel of bead board but individual boards. It was beautiful unpainted but I think even more so now. 

With the summer heat starting early and the need to do some budget tightening in this economy, I’ve called a hiatus on renovation work. I have about 8 projects to do myself that I already have the materials for, and I’m going to focus on getting those done, clearing out some storage spaces, and be prepared for the end to the hiatus when it comes. First in line will be the already bought and paid for stall windows for the barn. The installation will best be done in the fall when horses are on day-time turn-out, and when we can hopefully have some barn siding replaced as they do each window. I’m glad to have the stall windows - they will be almost maintenance free and should last for many, many years. The existing ones are constantly needing either painting or repair. 

But for now, welcome, summer! I’m going to complain about the heat, the bugs, my sweat, and who knows what else, but for today, I am feeling gracious and happy to see this season coming in. 

Monday, May 09, 2022

My Beautiful Things micro-essay is up today

 You can read it HERE

Inspired by Salina and Keil Bay, the two amazing Hanoverian horses in my life, and of course by H, massage therapist extraordinaire.