Monday, July 28, 2014

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Shepherd Mary said come on over and get some veggies from her garden.  Well, the garden is a wonderland of many varieties of vegetables bursting out of raised beds under portable greenhouses.  Mary sent me home with her own broccoli, two varieties of kale, beets, squash, Swiss chard, and some fresh cilantro.  I did not know this, but if you let cilantro go to seed you get coriander.  I never knew that.  Mary took me on a ride in her Kubota off road vehicle up to the top of her mountain where she and husband, Robert, have a camp.  What a fun ride it was, climbing up through the woods on the winding trail.  The camp has a lovely trailer in a field of purple wildflowers, with an outdoor shower, hammock, fireplace, cook stove and some mouth dropping, breath taking views of surrounding hills.  I came home convinced there is no prettier place to live on the East Coast.  I set about making some very delicious salsa, with crispy corn, red onions, lots of lime, jalapeno peppers, vine tomatoes (Mary's are not ready yet) and the cilantro I was so happy to receive from my friend across the creek.  We ate a giant bowl of salsa for dinner with corn chips.  I love the stuff. 

New York Blueberries

As I was taking down some art in the hall at school my friend, TJ Potter, said "the blueberries are here!"  Well, the mention of blueberries got my attention pronto.  It seems a friend of a school employee, and a relative of another (that's how it is up here in the mountains) raises blueberries and brings them to school to sell.  I dropped what I was doing and found the pickup outside with a crowd around it.  How could I have missed this epic event?  The blueberries were plump and beautiful.  When no one was looking I sneaked one and popped it in my mouth.  It burst open with sweetness and lit up my senses.  Alas, she had only brought enough for previous orders.  I asked if I could place an order for ten quarts - what was I thinking - and she said yes.  Sure enough, a big sack of boxes was by my desk this morning.  I ate one quart on the way home, and another after dinner.  I got all my pots and jars ready to can the rest.  The cool, rainy weather was perfect for all the required boiling of jars, simmering of crushed berries, and boiling of filled jars.   I got the syrupy essence poured after chores, and just turned off the canning pot now, 10:45.  The house smells divine and my head is swimming from all the hot blueberry jam I've tasted.  I just happen to have a quart of vanilla bean ice cream that was begging to be melted by hot jam.  I will sleep a fat and happy sleep tonight.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Matt went outside to have his morning smoke and called me through the window screen.  I could scarcely believe my ears.  Baby ducks!  I ran outside and there they were - marching behind Mama Duck.  I decided to catch them and put them in a cage for their own safety.  What a scene - a woman in a plain flannel nightgown and clogs chasing baby ducks around the barnyard.   I got them caught and caged then watched in horror as they tried to squeeze through the wire to get back to Mama.  I would have to catch her, too, but need a bigger arrangement.  I decided to leave it to later after coffee and chores.  They are so happy in the barnyard, marching around.  It's a cool, rainy morning.  Perfect for ducks.

Hay is Life

Thanks to Julia Berger's son, Paul, I have fifty lovely, fragrant round bales in the hay mow.  Paul mowed on Thursday and started feathering the rows on Friday.  By Friday afternoon, with the hot, breezy weather so perfect for haying, Paul started baling the grass.  I went to the market on Saturday morning and came home to find Matt and Paul's girlfriend rolling the bales into the mow.  This year's bales are smaller due to the new baler Julia purchased which rolls them tighter.  That gives us room to fit more round bales in the mow, which Julia will bring me from another field.  You can't have too much hay in the barn!  This morning I woke up to the sound of soft, rolling thunder and a gentle rain - just what a farmer loves to hear AFTER the hay is high and dry in the mow.  I will have fat and happy sheep and goats through the winter.  

Baby Bunnies!

I think it's safe to announce that I have four chubby little English Angora bunnies in the nest.  My new doe purchased at the Bouckville festival is a fantastic mother.  I was not sure she allowed herself to be bred as she didn't immediately take to the handsome fawn buck I introduced her to.  I think she was just a bit shy.  These babies are so cute I can hardly stand it.  When I found one out of the nest on the wire I decided to take pictures.  They are almost ready to open their eyes.  For years and years I knitted "bunny mittens" with one strand angora fiber and one strand wool.  Hannah and Luke always had a pair to keep their little hands warm.  I adore angora/wool socks inside my cold, clammy barn boots in the winter.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Night

In from chores almost half past ten.  I've been working hard on my last few wool fleeces.  Much picking, washing, dyeing, washing again, more picking out the crap that I didn't get out the first time, spreading it out to dry in the sun.  This last run is Fire Engine Red and it's so pretty.  I'm racking my brain trying to figure out what colors to blend with it and can't really come up with anything I'm crazy about.  I'm known for my quirky colorful blends but this might be a solo red run.  I've got another 30 pounds or so to ship to the carding mill, making this fall's wool run the biggest I've done in a long time.  That's okay - it doesn't go bad and I'll spin until the cows come home.

Am very much enjoying the fresh blueberries I picked up at the farmer's market yesterday.  They come from Whitney Point and are delicious.  So delicious they are gone.

Spouse got back on the hrududu and ran the brush hog over a good bit of the field I've been calling Thistledom.  If I could have hitched up the brush hog and figured out how to start the very tricky double clutch 1946 8N I would have done it myself.  The foot is still a problem but he couldn't stand the looks of the field any longer either.  The spoiled rotten goats should have eaten the thistles but that would be cooperating a little too much.  Back to Summer School in the morning.  Funny how Summer School doesn't feel like summer at all.  Four more weeks but who's counting?  I'm falling in love with the little ones to be sure, but I love my summer on the farm even more.  


I think certain things remain so special to me because I have such little time to do them.  My handspun basket is looking very healthy these days.  If I want to keep it that way I better sit down and do some spinning.  I've been invited to put my hand spun in the Broad Street Gallery in Hamilton.  Kathy Herold is very supportive of the fiber arts and totally understands what I do.  The artists support each other and hold parties.  It's quite an honor to be a part of The Gallery but it comes with a time commitment.  I will have to work in the gallery a couple of times a month...but then, maybe I can spin wool while I'm there??? Wouldn't that be sit in that beautiful setting, surrounded by fabulous works of art, chatting with patrons, and producing my own art yarn?  Sounds like a plan.

Sunday Morning Musings

I thoroughly enjoyed the market yesterday.  The weather was perfect, and we got there at a decent time.  The traffic was not heavy, but a few old friends stopped by to say hello.  Funny, when I got set up and sat down behind my table I felt a real sense of peace.  I'm away from the farm so I can't see the chores I should be doing.  I'm not in my classroom hopping around getting ready for the kids coming in off the buses.  I was actually surprised when people started stopping at my booth.  Spouse came home from Buffalo Friday night, limping in heading for the sofa.  His wound is healed but there is still infection or some kind of damage in his foot.  It's still red and swollen looking remarkably different than the other foot.  He's going back to Bassett in Cooperstown to see the surgeon who SHOULD have operated on his foot, but who got tired of waiting for the pre-surgical prep to get done and went home, giving the operation to another surgeon.  What kind of hospital does this?  Don't get me started!  The morning went by and I walked around the market visiting with Candace Cain and others who I enjoy seeing on market days.  I'm making woolen dryer balls for Christy Abduhl and will be rewarded with one of her artsy tie-dyed tee shirt.  My large Gecko Bundaflicka Knitting Tote was on display but there were no bag ladies at the market yesterday.  That's okay, it really dressed up the booth.  I chatted with my booth neighbors and admired the incredibly beautiful pottery on display by Chris Pettingill, a ceramics professor at SUNY Oneonta.   I am such a sucker for pottery.  "Clay pots - so fiberesque," my Mia would say.  I was able to pick up what I needed for the farm at Tractor Supply, and some cod and salmon for us.  On deck for today - lots to do on the farm.  There always is.  I'm still dyeing wool and am down to my last few white fleeces.  Too bad, as I have a box of dyes I'm itching to use.  I never have enough white wool.  The remedy for that problem?  More sheep!

Friday, July 18, 2014


I think my dark hay mow is very spooky.   The barn yard light was blasted off the wall above the door by a bolt of lightning several years ago, as if it was being marked by some supernatural  force.  It was screwed on very tightly, and now hangs by a wire, still waiting to be repaired.  The ceiling inside is very high and the rafters crisscrossing  are perfect places for spirits to hang out and watch the goings-on of humans and animals.  The hay mow is huge, I mean, really big.  It held thousands of bales back in the day, when the farm was 350 acres and there were a hundred cows underneath in the lower part of the barn.  There are lights up on the ceiling which I can't use as the bulbs have burned out.  Sister Bernadette used to change the light bulbs once a year when the bales piled high allowed her to climb up and put in new ones.   That won't happen anytime soon.   When I first moved here I was living in the little trailer just up the hill from the barn on the north side.  There was no room to sew in the trailer, especially if I pulled out the sofa to lie down on it at night.  I set up my sewing machine in the hay mow and sewing my Bundaflicka totes in there, with just one standing lamp next to the machine.  There was a wall of blackness all around me.   I landed here in August and Rhinebeck was in October.  I had to work at night or I wouldn't have anything to sell in the fall.  It was pretty darn scary let me tell you.  I'm easily spooked as it is.  I forced myself not to look up and around me, and just keep my eyes on what I was sewing.  I needed a flashlight to get back to the trailer, just a few feet away.  It was darker here eight years ago when I moved here.  Now light polllution from the massive Chobani yogurt factory has blocked out many of the stars and lightened up the area for miles around.  My sewing situation has improved quite a bit,  although it is still quite basic and cramped.  I have lights all around me and above me and a TV in front of me with every movie channel known to man.  Two sofas hold sleeping dogs who keep me company.  My sewing and spinning of wool has taken over my life and my living space.  I really need a second space to live in so this can be my studio.  I have the perfect spot, just above me, in the second gigantic hay mow that is never used.  It is closed off and empty.  There is a sturdy metal ceiling above it, nailed on by the Kupris sisters before they were Sisters, and jousts underneath.  Spouse, ever the naysayer, puts me off every year, saying he needs huge funds to begin the building of my studio.  He is used to building for wealthy people in New Jersey who provide him with ample funds at every step of the way.  Not gonna happen here.  In the meantime, I continue to sew, and dream.  Fantasies are free.  I stay away from the hay mow at night as best I can.  When it's dark at 5 pm in the winter that is hard to do.  I've been told someone hanged himself in there years ago.  The human drama of this farm is daunting.  Someday I will endeavor to write it down.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wool Work

I've been spending a bit of time on wool again, after my dyes were delivered from Dharma in California.  I'm really liking the colors.  I'm dyed some wool with Extreme Blue and Blazing Orange.  The citric acid mordant works fantastically well making the dye stick to the wool.  We want our dyed fiber to be as colorfast as possible.  That's how I met my friend, Carol Crayonbox.  She got in touch with me to tell me some wool she purchased from me was not colorfast!  The cats love when I put wool out to dry in the sun.  Even though I put a length of fencing over the wool to keep it from blowing away in the wind, the cats think the warm fiber is very comfy cozy. The coziest spot of all is on the dye stove.  Tonight I had company when I was stirring the boiling wool.  In the winter my cats sit directly on the stove, incredibly, between the big pots, and keep warm.  

Population Explosion

I don't need anymore chickens.  I've been trying to pick up all the eggs I can find to avoid any broody hens hatching them, but the ladies are very clever and my barn is enormous.  20,000 feet enormous, on two floors.  Lots of space with nooks and crannies for hens to hide their nests.  Today I gasped in horror and amazement when I found a mom on the driveway with TWELVE newborn chicks.  This presents many challenges.  I can't put out pans of water for the chickens higher than an inch high garbage can cover.  Chicks love to jump in water pans and drown themselves.  I rescued a lone chick from a pan yesterday when I got home from work.  The mother only has one chick and she is very devoted to it.  The pan of water was in the sun on the north side of the barn, near Thor's Door.  The water had warmed up significantly and kept the baby from being chilled even though it was thoroughly soaked.  I rescued it and dried it off with paper towels, then decided I would put it in a cage with the mother.  After cleaning out an old rabbit cage and running around for a half hour or so catching mom I was a bit knackered.  Low and behold the chick squeezed out and I gave up.  As of today they are okay, wandering around the barn, picking at the floor.  Tonight while doing chores I heard some peeps and thought OH NO!  I looked in a garbage can partially filled with wool scraps from shearing day and there they were - another mom with chicks and broken egg shells, sitting on more eggs.  I gave her some water and a tiny dish of feed, and put a top on the can to keep curious cats from jumping in.  I'm a sucker for motherhood.  Fingers are crossed there are more hens than roosters.  Nature likes to spread them out evenly.  One can only hope.  At least they are good fly catchers.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Super Moon

The Super Moon was covered by a hazy sheet of clouds last night.  I saw the glow on the tips of the pines on the ridge at 9:24 and waited for the show.  I was busy with feeding and watering and checked a few minutes later.  Not as brilliant as the night before but still beautiful and more golden.  I have the perfect vista for moon viewing, with this dramatic piney ridge lining the farm to the east.  When the moon gets higher up the tops of my silos glow so beautifully, reflecting the light from above.  I can climb the hill, sit on the grass and take in the breathtaking view.  I thought I might be a bit freaked out by the previous night's visit from Lydia, but I was surprisingly calm and content.  I don't think she meant to scare me.  I was more like, well, it's finally happened.  I can't be afraid of my own barn, it's so much a part of my life.  I picked another fleece, must have been Margot's or Margareta's, and got it into two big pots of Electric Blue.  It is a Dharma color, and a lot like the Cobalt Blue which was discontinued by Jacquard.  The citric acid mordant made the wool soak the color in so nicely.  I'm looking forward to getting it on the drying rack today.  After the woman  squealed with delight and skipped over to my Gecko Messenger bag yesterday I am anxious to sew the one cut out and waiting on the machine.  I have a new Wensleydale ram waiting for me in Vestal and would like to get him over here.  I have to keep him separate from the sheep but allow the girls to see him for 17 days.  The ovaries will be stimulated and produce eggs which will result in multiple lambs.  Multiples are easier for the sheep to give birth to as they are smaller.  Keeping multiples alive can be more work for the shepherd but the sheep come first.  I should have my new-to-me vehicle week after next.  I'll keep the old bucket of bolts for farm work.  The Honda is lower to the ground and will be easier to load sheep, etc.  Spouse is on his way to Buffalo to teach weatherization for a week.  Don't think his foot is up to it but off he goes.   He went to Bassett last week and the surgeon eluded to the possibility of more surgery.  The drama goes on and on.  I'm enjoying the wild flowers on the hillside.  They are so beautiful and plentiful as the fields have not been mowed yet...another thing to worry about...but not right now.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I thought it would happen at some point in time and it did.  I better talk about it before I convince myself that it didn't happen.  I keep telling myself it's stress, I was tired, annoyed, distracted, whatever.  Nevertheless it happened.  I was doing chores and had opened the door to the milk room steps to throw out some cracked corn to the driveway ducks.  Suddenly I heard a female voice say, Maggie.  That's it.  Maggie.  It went right through me as if it came from inside me, but it was an unfamiliar voice.  There was nobody behind me.  Nobody in front of me.  The only person home was Matt who was lying on the sofa inside.  It had to be Lydia, the spirit who has haunted this farm for 200 years.  I'm a little shook up just thinking about it.  I was not afraid, or really shook up...just surprised.  I went about my business with the attitude of, okay, now it's happened.  I was glad I was not on the hay mow ladder where I might fallen off, but somehow I don't think I would have.  The voice was not malicious, just friendly but in an intense way.  Like, "I'm here."  Lydia made contact with Daryl and Kim Parkinson when they were farm sitting while I went to Mia's wedding.  They were working in the barn when they heard a light and lilting, "Hellllooo."  Each thought the other had said hello and asked did you say something?  They thought perhaps Sister Bernadette had stopped over and called in the barn door, but no, there was no one.  When I returned from the wedding Daryl's face told me something scary had happened.  He was still shook up a day later and said he is NOT going out into the barn in the dark!  I lived here for a year before Chris, old farmer who still lives next door in Lydia's house, asked me if I met Lydia.  I asked him why he waited a year to tell me and he said he had to be careful of who he tells for fear they would think he was a "crackpot."   His encounter was much more dramatic.  According to Chris he was sitting at his desk in the upstairs bedroom when he turned around to find the room transformed into another era.  There was Lydia, all suited up in her night clothes and cap, sitting up in her bed, looking at him.  He turned around, then looked back and she was gone.  Chris went downstairs to swallow some black coffee and that was the end of it.  One and only sighting in the 50 years Chris lived in that house with his family.  Sister Bernadette and Sister Grace, Chris' siblings, believe Lydia appears when something is going wrong with the farm, like the time some farm hands were smoking in the barn and were visited by a reproachful spirit.  Maybe Lydia was sensing my feeling of being overwhelmed and "touched" me to let me know I was not along.  Lydia's grave is across the road, owned by others.  I would love to visit her resting place to pay my respects....but then, Lydia is not resting.  She is here.

Back to the Market

I started out to the market last Saturday but was so late I gave up and said forgettaboutit.   I worked on the farm and sewed a couple of totes with the gorgeous Gecko fabric I've had for a while.  I made two messengers, one a tiny mini tote, and lined them with the luscious mustard lime green heavy linen from my friend, Sally, in New Orleans with the high-end slip cover business.  I managed to get up at 5:30 this morning, my precious day-off but not a day-off Saturday, and get myself out the door to the market on time.  I was a little embarrassed by my no-show for a month, but with Matt's surgery, sheep show, piggies, shearing, etc. etc. it just couldn't happen.  Francis, the market manager, told me he was about to put up a For Rent sign on my space.  It was great to see my market friends, plus BOCES people from work including my Summer School boss.  I had a visit from Linda Jeans (wife of Lee Jeans) from Rhode Island, who loves her knitted tote, created by Carol Crayonbox, with my yarn.  I love hearing from people long after the purchase who are still enamored by the product.  As I was thinking I could get some spinning done business picked up.  Along came a woman who looked at the Gecko Messenger.  I saw her mouth open as she looked at the bag, looked at me, and said WHY is this still HERE?  I said, because I just made it and brought it.  Well, it went home with her.  I have another one on the stove, with just enough lime green lining for another one.  Thank you Sally Newhart, who takes the time to pack up the scraps from her high-end fabric houses and send them to me.  These are silk/linen blends, chenilles, and lovely, artsy designs I never see in fabric stores.  I've started quilting with them and making my little "Yarn Pockets."  I purchased my veggies, cheese and meadow butter, putting my earnings right back into the local economy.  Tonight I will attempt to make some tomato salsa, something I've never done before.  Love the stuff....but forgot the chilis.  I was thinking if I had a smart phone I could have looked up a recipe in the grocery store.  Maybe it's time.  

One Week Down

I've finished my first week of summer school and it's going to be okay.  I was concerned about the list of kids as I'm used to more high school age students with emotional difficulties. Sure I've had younger kids for art this past year but they come with their aides for half an hour and leave.   My summer school kids are 8 - 9 with a variety of issues ranging from blindness, to seizure disorders and I have them all day long.  I have three fantastic aides who are a tremendous help to me.  I'm getting out of the house on time, a miracle, and getting out of school a little earlier.   Everything is going fine and, although I'm exhausted when I get home, I'm enjoying the little ones.  I have to do a song and dance all day long to keep them happily occupied.  The extra time I have in the afternoon is used to take a nap before evening chores.  I wish I could have stayed home on the farm this summer, but I'm buying a car, a freezer, haying the fields, cleaning out the barn, and putting up fencing.  All this costs a chunk of change and money doesn't grow on trees.