Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Full Up

Eighty-six round bales in the barn, loaded in by Julia and myself as her husband, Andrew, dropped them off one by one at the hay mow door with a skid steer.  It took three trips by Julia's son, Matt, to bring the bales over from the field on the other side of Edmeston.  Somehow Julia got Clinton Tractor to drop off a skid steer to load the bales up in my barn.  Maybe something to do with the brand new $80,000 tractor she bought from them breaking down had something to do with it.  Nevertheless, around midnight Julia and Andrew showed up to get the bales that lined my driveway and barnyard under cover.  Rain was forecast for early morning and surely enough, it came.  The moon was high and provided us with the light we needed to do the work.  It's a good thing as the barnyard light had been blasted off the door of the hay mow a few years back by lightning.  Lukie lost my only working head light and I had not thought of hanging my sheep show booth lights in the mow while waiting for Julia to come back.  She put her phone on a post to provide us with enough light to get three rows going.  When it went out we did it by feeling our way in the dark.  Some of the bales were so heavy that Julia and I, pushing and heaving could not get them going.  Andrew would get out of the skid steer to help us get some momentum.  As exhausted as we were, going on 1 PM, we laughed and chatted about this and that and got to know each other better.  Julie has a dream, like I do, of making a struggling farm succeed.  She is very motivated to buy more cows, sell more milk, make hay for people, and make a future for her family.  Andrew is very supportive of her and their love for each other showed through the night.  They worked far harder for me than their bill showed.  At 1:30 they walked hand and hand down my lane to their truck to go home and get some rest before Andrew set out to work in the morning.  Julia would be up early to start milking.  I had to get ready for bed and last looked at the clock at 2 am.  I slept the happy sleep of a shepherd knowing I had a barn full of hay for hungry animals through the winter.  I  have good people behind me who are eager to help me when I need them.  I would be up at 6 to be on the road at 7 for work.  It was a bit of a hairy day as I'm used to six or seven hours but I was still high on hay fumes.  I almost paused to wonder if it was all a dream.  When I got home from work Matt and Luke were back from their two day trip to Manhattan to tour with Sean and stay with Mia in New Jersey.  Luke and I played our "round bale games" and ran up and down the rows on top of the bales with the dogs.  It was wonderful to see him playing like a farm boy, jumping and leaping across the bales, and climbing up on the balcony above the bales.  I cooked pork chops, white rice and corn for him tonight and he loved it.  Julia stopped by to pick up her money and looked her typical million bucks.  The farm life works for her, too.  Hay is life and the farm is forever.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Painting





The little ones love to paint.  It's magical to them.  When they ask if they can paint and I say yes, it's a big deal.  I don't think they get much opportunity to paint in their district schools.  They are so thrilled when I put pots of paint with brushes in front of them.  We painted clowns today for the circus theme our summer school is displaying this week.  Only four more days of school.  I'll let them paint every afternoon if they want to, after their academic work is done, and playground, and gym, and lunch, and therapies, and story time.  I'll miss the little ones.  I try to imagine their futures.  It's not an easy thing to imagine and, when I factor in their handicaps, not necessarily a promising one...but they have beautiful spirits.  I hope their spirits will see them through the hard times.  I hope I've bolstered their spirits a little in the few weeks I've had them all to myself.

Hay is Life





It's hot and breezy, perfect hay weather.  Farmers all over this area are baling, trying to take advantage of a season which has been rainy punctuated by short, hot windows of opportunity.  Julia made good on her promise to bring me more round bales.  I wasn't sure when it would be and took my time getting home.  I made stops to get gas, to pick up dog/cat food, to get my mail, etc.  Sure enough when I finally got inside and calmed my dogs down I heard the phone ringing.  I had forgotten my cell at home and there was a message on it.  Both were Julia trying to get in touch with me to tell me her son, Matt, was on the way with a load of bales!  What a thrill!  She offered me two loads and I said YES - who wouldn't?  I have room, God Bless My Giant Barn!  Matt came and unloaded the bales.  We chatted about his upcoming induction into the Marine Corps and off he went to pick up more bales in Edmeston, a half hour from here at least.   I called Julia to thank her and - nothing goes this well in farming - bad news.  She told me her brand new tractor had broken and would only go backwards!    Julia put a call into Clinton Tractor to come out and fix it right away.   Who knows how that will go?  With a forecast of 90% chance of rain tomorrow, and my bales lying out exposed (Matt was also going to load them into the barn) the nail biting begins.  There is a lot of nail biting in farming.  If everything goes well, and Clinton Tractor fixes Julia's machine, and Matt comes back with the next load, then gets the tractor to put it in the barn, I will have half again as much hay as I had last year.  I almost made it through the long, cold spring.  Hustling for local hay in April is not fun.   Matt Redmond and Luke are touring Manhattan right now and can't help roll the bales in the barn.  Let's see what the night brings.  In the meantime I'm going to fork loose hay out of the way of the new bales, and dream about the lambs I'll have in the spring, and all the beautiful wool I'll have to play with. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Market Puppy


My booth neighbor, Jojo, brought her 8 week old Papillon/Teacup Chihuahua mix puppy to the market with her on Saturday. What a cutie.  Luke and Colleen, my other booth neighbor's daughter, were enthralled.  The puppies paws hardly touched the ground the whole morning.  Vendors are not allowed to bring dogs to the market but this dog is hardly a dog at all.  He's hardly even a puppy, he's so small.  The little guy was being delivered to his new owner.  Lucky for Luke and Colleen the man didn't arrive until late in the market day.

Plenty of Grass



For the second year in a row the lower hillside is lush with grass in August.  Not so two years ago when the hillside was dust by this time.  The sheep and goats are loving it.  They still sneak up to the upper field where I am hoping to grow a second cut.  That would be wonderful, but I doubt it.  We are having some cold nights and the leaves are starting to change. When the sheep and goats see me coming they start filing back down to where I want them to graze, like naughty children with their hands caught in the cookie jar.  But then, the grass is always greener.... I have another week of summer school, then two short weeks to celebrate summer on the farm.  I'll have to make the most of it. 

Baby Bunnies



My baby bunnies are absolutely adorable.  This weather is perfect for raising babies.  No worries about them getting chilled.   I used a large feed pan as a nest box and they hopped out when they were ready.  They live in a hanging cage next to a barn window where they can see out into the barnyard and watch all the goings-on.   I haven't checked the sexes yet.  I adore fawn colored angora as it blends no nicely with cream colored sheep wool.  I'll have plenty of angora hand warmers this winter.

Sewing Again



It  feels so good to sit down at a sewing machine and work for a couple of hours.  With summer school and farm there is little time for it, making sewing something very enjoyable to me.  I sewed some Bundaflicka totes with this lovely beach tapestry several years ago and could never find any more of the fabric....until I check Ebay of all places!    I found a precious few 5 yards and here is the first tote.  I lined it with the luscious 100% linen from New Orleans.   The button is courtesy of Kimmie Cornerstone herself who works magic with old sheep and cow horns.  This button is even shell-shaped!  This tote is available at www.bundaflicka.etsy.com.  There will be more to come as time allows.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

A Man Who Cooks



I love a man who cooks.  It's such a blessing.  Tonight I was treated to a wood fire grilled dinner by my only grandson Luke.  The timing was perfect.   A storm was rolling in from the Northwest and drops were sprinkling our plates as we headed inside.  I'm not sure if I'm going to give Luke back to his parents in two weeks.  Alas, he starts school on August 25, a week before I do, and he turns 13 on August 26.   I've never been with him on his birthday.  With his family travelling around the country while his father blazed the BSA career path, and me tied down to the farm, we've missed so many meaningful events.  Life is flying by at breakneck speed.   Have to cherish every moment.

Luke Loves the Baby Bunnies



Last summer Luke said he wished I had some baby bunnies as he thought they were the cutest of all the farm animals.  This summer I am happy to comply with his wishes.  I have the cutest litter of four babies from my new doe brought home from the Central New York Fiber Festival.   This little one fits perfectly into Luke's shirt pocket and seems quite content.  

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Rainy Day Swim





We had a lovely swim in the pond last night.  There is something magical about immersing oneself in spring water filtered through a mountain of shale.  The surrounding beauty of the hills contributes to the feeling of complete relaxation and serenity.    We had to go back for more today.  The forecast said rain but with the lovely morning weather we didn't believe it.  When we waded in the air was hot and sticky.  Not for long.  Dark clouds rolled in and the rain began.  It's an odd but not unpleasant feeling to be rained on while swimming in a pond.  The rain and pond water temperature felt about the same.  The dogs, who had been swimming in the pond with us, were not amused.  They hid under the picnic table.  We decided everyone had enough and walked slowly back to the barn in the rain.  Swimming in the pond with Luke and Mia made it finally feel like summer for me.

Swedish Pancakes


Luke asked for Swedish pancakes for dinner tonight.  No problem for me as I have plenty of my own fresh farm chicken eggs, Meadow Butter, and a jug of NY State maple syrup.  My Swedish Opa made pancakes for me ever since I can remember.  Luke was pleased with the huge plate of pancakes I put in front of him.  The heavenly aroma was the perfect primer.   Here is the recipe:

Opa's Swedish Pancakes:

Ingredients:

One dozen farm fresh eggs
Two heaping tablespoons of all-purpose flour
One can of evaporated milk, or a cup of whole milk
Tablespoon of cinnamon
Teaspoon of nutmeg
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
One stick of real butter

Directions:

Melt the stick of butter in the frying pan, reserve
Crack the dozen eggs into the blender container
Add flour, spices, salt and pepper
Add milk, turn blender on low
While blending, pour in melted butter
Cook pancakes by pouring small amounts of batter in the pan.  Batter will be runny.  Flip over and encourage the pancakes to curl up.   Douse with maple syrup, enjoy.  Swedish pancakes can also be served with jam, yogurt or sour cream.  

Jammin'

I received another delivery of delicious blueberries from the Oxford lady.  Mia was thrilled to have plump, sweet, delicious fresh berries to munch on during her brief visit this weekend.  She came up to check on Matt's progress post second foot surgery and visit with Luke.  I got up this morning to put up a few more jars of blueberry jam.   The inch left on the bottom of the pot was perfect for a breakfast of kefir - warm yogurt with hot blueberry sauce.  Oh, it was positively sublime.



Still Spinning

A few hours at the farmer's market gave me the time to get a big skein of Mother Fiber plyed.  Plying is not my favorite part of spinning but I love plied strands of hand spun.  The yarn is much more interesting with the different colors lying on top of each other.  They yarn is also stronger and warmer with extra loft.  I'm going to wind this bobbin onto a niddy-noddy, then wash it to set the twist and rinse out any dye residue or chaff from the hay.  This natural black Bluefaced Leicester with colored kid mohair blended in will make a lovely yarn for a scarf and matching hat or mittens.


My Buddy is Back

Luke is here and it finally feels like summer.  Eric flew him into the Hamilton Municipal Airport while I was working the farmer's market.  I left my booth and drove over to the airport to pick him up.  We watched Eric check the engine on the Ercoupe and get ready to take off for the return trip to Maine.  He had to get going and stay ahead of the weather.  I brought Luke back to the market where he went to work at the booth while I went shopping for my usual purchases of Jake's cheese and beeswax candles.  It was hot as Hades as I was glad to have help packing up.  Once loaded we drove over to Tractor Supply and Price Chopper where our earnings were put to good use.    Eric made it back to Portland, Maine, with 6 hours of flying time. Driving would take 14 hours, round trip.  We returned to the farm and found Mia waiting for us.  My weekend was looking better and better.







Friday, August 01, 2014

Blueberries

Friday night and I'm in from chores at ten pm.  The waxing crescent moon is stunning, hanging there, dark gold in color, peeking through the dark blue cloud cover.  Knut has the best view in his igloo under the pine tree.  I came home with another crate of blueberries.   I can't help myself.  I want to put them up this weekend.  They are just delightful, all perfectly round and sweet with no stems or bad ones, loaded with anti-oxidants and vitamins.  The farmer from Oxford brings them to my school and sells them to us for a good price out of the back of her car.  My ride home was very delicious.  While driving through New Berlin I met up with spouse who was at the pharmacy picking up his pain meds on the way home from Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown.  We got dinner at the pizzeria to celebrate his home coming to the farm.  The "picc" line is rather gruesome, entering his arm at the bicep and going into his chest.  I suspect he caught the staph infection from the first surgery on the foot but here we are.  IV meds were delivered by a very confused man, driving a little ambulance, who I found standing in the driveway staring at the barn.  Yes, we live here.  A visiting nurse is coming tomorrow to inspect the picc line and teach him how to medicate himself.  Nurse Mia is coming from NJ to make sure everything is okay.  The Land of Poo is not the best place to fight any infection but this is where we live.  I prefer to think of it as a place where we are developing the best immunity to a variety of things.  I'm making a few jars of Shepherd's Friend tonight to take to the Hamilton market tomorrow.  My production has been seriously cut short this summer due to working summer school.  I'm a month away from the start of the fall show season.  Two more weeks of school.   I'll miss the kids something awful.  They are really growing on me.  Would love to bring a couple of them home with me but I'd be accused of using them for cheap farm labor.  Thing is, a stable life here on the farm would be a wonderful way to grow up.  

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.