Tuesday, July 05, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 159


The confluence of coneflower, baptisia alba, and button bush made me really happy this week! And now that the July 4th weekend is over, I can breathe that sigh of relief. Sadly there was so much stress and horror yesterday, the firework booms took on a larger and more ominous meaning for me. Thankfully the herd accepted cookies and nasal gel easily and remained calm for the fourth night in a row of people exploding things. 

But back to the photo and the joy it brings.

We’ve had more rain and I’ve got plenty of projects to do around the farm as well as basic tasks that rotate around regularly, like weeding and mucking and composting and mulching. I’m trying to create (as always!) the perfect balance - actually who cares about perfect, just serviceable will do - of a few housekeeping tasks, a few outdoor tasks, time with horses, time with writing, time for family, and time for yoga/exercise each day. 

This defies my theory from years back that I can do three things in a day. When I fold in time at my mom’s, forthcoming client time, and pop-up things that just appear on the calendar out of nowhere, it’s a huge challenge and one I’ve never really mastered.

Right now I’m visualizing a sort of rolling and relaxed being in the present moment doing the things that I can do, focusing on the joy of each task, and not allowing my own very big desire to “get it all done” to derail me. 

Many days I can do this with some grace, other days I either err on the side of too much or too little, meaning I just cave in and see the things I never get to at all. Life is full. 

This summer my focus is on not rushing. Not trying to knock it all out in a day. And to be like someone riding a wave, going with the flow, accepting the rhythms of always having more to do than I can actually get done. I’ve placed myself in that kind of life, and in a way it’s a life of riches. Having so many things to do that I love and care about. Having support from my husband and my children, and the freedom to run my day the way I see fit. It’s a LOT of goodness. 

In the garden today I’m enjoying the very busy activity around the button bushes. They are like the super highways of the world when they’re blooming, hubs of pollinator insects and also birds flying, hovering, resting, gathering. Lots of productive tasks going on around the button bush. 

I’ve resisted the notion to set up a set of tasks for myself for today. I’ll do a set plus some by the time the sun sets, but I’m choosing to let the tasks come find me in the moment. Right now a very full laundry basket beckons, it’s time for breakfast, and my screenplay pages are waiting. Thanks to my daughter who fed the cats and dogs, and to my husband, who fed the horses. We’re a team. Everything that needs to get done, will get done. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Salute to the Big Handsome Bay

 Here’s the Big Bay yesterday after being out in the rain for a bit and then drying out, and after his acupuncture and Legend injection. 33 years old and still the King here on November Hill. I salute him. He’s the best horse I could ever have found to be my companion in riding as an adult and now my companion in aging well. He’s doing it better than I am, but he inspires me every day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 158

 Finally, some rain yesterday evening! We’ve been rotating around the farm with hoses, watering any plantings that haven’t been in the ground long enough to develop mature root systems, and of course the vegetable garden. 

Another wonderful reason to plant natives is they are generally very drought tolerant after the first year of regular watering. 

Even before the rain, things were looking beautiful. The bee balm in this bed is stunning right now.

The golden Alexanders look like constellations. And the prickly horse nettle behind is a native that I pull out of the planted beds, mainly because of the prickles, but it’s also aggressive. The bees do love it though!

The button bush is nearly ready to bloom. It will soon be a mass of white “buttons.”

The front walkway is also looking nice, with the transplanted rattlesnake master on the left also getting ready to explode into bloom.

I’m a little behind in garden chores this week. I still have a fair bit of mulching to do, and weeding, and continuing my work in Poplar Folly. Once again, I’m reminding myself that the goal is not to finish everything, but to have pleasurable, meaningful time working on the things I love. Framed that way, I will never run out of these tasks, right? Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have been brought up in a culture that places value on the doing of things rather than finishing them in an effort to have nothing to do, a completed to do list, and some intimation of perfection in one’s life because everything has been done and there is nothing left but to gaze upon it.

For me, this requires a shift in what pops first into my mind, and I take that step, always aiming for that step to eventually disappear from my mind altogether.

Today the high on November Hill is predicted at 84. What a relief for all the equines and for us humans working outside! There’s a stiff breeze blowing and everything has been watered by the rain, so from that perspective today’s pleasurable tasks will be less than usual this time of year.

Writing update: I’ve taken a turn this week and have shifted from novel format to TV series pilot episode. I had got a bit stuck and felt like maybe this story is more a visual one than the printed page. I’m giving it a try and we’ll see how it goes. 

I tweeted today that I’ve spent every July 4th for the past 20 years sitting with my herd because of fireworks set off by neighbors. I’ll do the same this year, but I’ll wear black while doing it. I’m not happy with the state of our country, with the Supreme Court’s decisions of late, and for all of my life there have been so many things I find wrong about the way this country works. Independence is in my opinion something to be celebrated by the responsibility it brings. None of us is free unless all of us are. Right now  the rights of many are being trampled for the rights of a few. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so ashamed our country. 

I read a poem this week that encouraged us to be seeds and wait for the water. To plant food and feed ourselves and those who need it. I believe in voting, in being engaged politically, in writing letters and making phone calls. I believe in making our immediate smallest circles, our homes, as peaceful and beautiful as possible for our own pleasure and comfort. I believe in advocating for those people and animals and plants and the planet who need people with louder voices and more privilege to make change happen more quickly than it otherwise might. I also believe that we are all seeds, and that water will come.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The Good Boys

 Cody is on an exercise regime to get him fit and hopefully back into some riding time as a part of that fitness program, and we started hand walking before his AM and PM feed tubs as a way to begin. He’s up to 16 minutes each time now, and soon I plan to put the saddle on him one of those times and ride. Eventually we’ll probably put the times together into one daily work-out under saddle. 

I have been leaving the gates open to the arena this week and I found it remarkably sweet that Redford came and did the walking with us the past two days. He marched every step with us, as if he wanted to keep us company. 

Redford stayed with Rafer Johnson at the end of Rafer’s broken leg saga, was a best friend to Salina when she was alive, and then to Keil Bay during his EPM time. He has daily play times with Rafer Johnson, and he gets on well with the pony boy too. Redford is a little more sensitive in personality than Rafer Johnson is, and in some ways more like a horse than a donkey, but the thing I love best about him is that he always seems to gravitate to the equine who needs him. 

This is just another example of that in a long line of instances. Thanks, Redford!

And here they are at the end of the exercise:

Friday, June 17, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 157, the bluebird bed

 When we moved the grass paddock fence to keep the horses from being right on the driveway when turned out there, we opened up a little space for a fire pit and seating area for us. I also added a small flower bed around the bluebird box we’d moved to its new location.

Some may recall my brilliant plant to put many multi-colored bird boxes on the backyard fence that provides a backdrop to my upper pollinator bed. It looked lovely but our cats were literally sticking their paws through the cracks in the fence to swipe at the bluebird parents as they tried to protect their nests. It quickly became clear that fledging bluebirds could easily fledge right into the back yard with the cats, so we moved it after the final fledging that year and much monitoring to insure no babies were injured or killed.

What I now call the bluebird bed is a sloping area that needed something similar to a rain garden to drink up the water run-off during rain events. In a grander plan that I haven’t worked on yet, my aim is to extend the bluebird bed along the grass paddock fence and eventually meet up with the front walkway beds, with the final goal being to have a large pollinator garden that wraps around the chairs and fire pit. 

I’ve learned when creating garden beds out of grassy areas, it’s best (for me) to pick a section and get it going rather than trying to do a more expansive project all at once. 

The bluebird bed is beginning to be where I originally envisioned it. This is how it looked after we moved the bird box but before I did anything else. This photo is from the front pasture through the grass paddock, but you can see that the bluebird box has been installed to what was grassy lawn on a slope. 

This next photo is how it looked after I prepared the bed and put in the first batch of native plantings. On this area, I used cardboard topped with compost, and after planting, I mulched it heavily. Unlike my main pollinator beds, this one wasn’t given a season to sit. I did it all in a weekend. I think if you have time to give a prepared bed a season before you plant, it’s easier, but I used a garden knife to cut holes in the cardboard for this initial planting. 

In hindsight I should have immediately dug a trench around the perimeter of the bed. The grasses are very aggressive and it’s taken a lot of effort to keep grass and other things from moving in. That first year I lost a number of plants to brown bunnies, and added a few things to fill in those losses. Last fall I tried to really fill the bed in and although I lost a few plants to bunnies again, it is starting to look like my initial vision.

As of this morning, I’ve weeded out some of the native plantain that seems to love the area right below this bed. All I can think is that the run-off and slope create an area that the plantain thrives in. Since the plantain is growing inside the front pasture just behind this, it is creeping up and into the bed. I don’t mind a patch of plantain in the front pasture, but I may have to get rid of it in this general area to make life easier with regards to maintaining this bed. 

What needs to be done still: fill in a long/narrowish empty strip that is left by some of the bunny munching. It would actually be a great place for a garden sculpture if I had something on hand, or perhaps a strip of stacked stone. I got a newsletter this morning from our feed store saying native perennials have been restocked and oh dear, do I really need to go buy some to fill in this space? Maybe, but I’m going to sleep on it!

Also, it’s impossible to see in these photos, but I have a small grouping of Indian physic in front of the bluebird box that I love. It’s tiny by comparison, but it has such pretty, intricate leaves, stems, and flowers. 

Now that the main bed is done, I can add in a few final touches as they come to me. But how nice to walk out and see this bed coming into its glory a bit!