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.  

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Roads Closed

As we drove home from New Hartford on Route 8 we had no idea what we were driving into.  At Leonardsville, half way home to the farm, we were diverted away from a fallen tree.  We turned around and started toward West Winfield and saw several large trees fallen on Route 20.  Turning onto the road to Unadilla Forks where I thought I could avoid route 8 it got worse.  We were driving over downed lines on the road, into ditches and around/under giant trees. The scale of the storm started to dawn on us.  What treacherous wind and rain had we missed driving in had we not lingered at Lowe's to look at freezers?  We headed west on route 20 and tried heading toward Brookfield on Blivens Road.  Several miles in a woman headed the other way in a Blazer waved us down with an arm covered in tattoos.  She said don't go that way it's no good.  You can't get to Brookfield on Beaver Creek Road.    We told her route 8 was closed and she uttered a very colorful expletive and zoomed off.  I was beginning to feel the same way.  We turned around and went back to 20.  I thought maybe we should go down to Hamilton but heard from another driver that Larkin Road was blocked too.  No good.  I decided to try Beaver Creek Road which goes straight into Brookfield from 20.  Maybe it was open.  No good.  Terrible devastation, trees everywhere.  Back to 20 then down 12 to North Brookfield.   Many trees down and wires everywhere, but something amazing was going on.  The little village fire department was out in force, along with farmers on tractors, cutting up the trees and hauling them off the road.  Mia said this was worse than what she experienced with Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, and that she was inspired to see how the people here were mobilized to clear the roads.  While we stopped and waited I saw hail on the ground.  It looked like broken glass until I saw how much there was, going down the road.  An older (than me) couple stood still and stared on the side of the road, across from their farm where the tops of silos were ripped off and the metal roof panels curled up on their barn.  I asked him, Was it a tornado?  He said it must have been and "I have never been so scared in my life!"  I believed him.   We struck up a conversation with two women who were waiting to drive into Brookfield.  One of them said where do you live?  I told her I had a sheep farm on Academy Road.  She said OH! Your husband pulled me out of my car when I had a wreck in front of your farm!"   Small world.  That's a story for another chapter, and a good one.  Let's just say it had to do with a little dog named Izzy, who ran across the road and caused this nice lady to swerve and end up sideways in a culvert.   Mia and I talked about how, if we had to, we could sleep in the Subaru as we had books and coffee but we didn't have to.  A tunnel was cleared through the mass of downed trees and we started on our way.  I looked across the valley off Ouloutte Road in North Brookfield to see a swath of trees with the tops snapped off going up the mountain.  It surely looked like a tornado to me.  Back to the farm to find it largely unscathed.  Mia and I did chores and settled down to watch the season finale of Nurse Jackie together when the power died.  After our ordeal of many hours travelling home we decided to retreat to Hannah's Celebrity Trailer and go to bed.  Friday morning dawned cool and cloudy.  Mia walked the dogs to the pond while I made her eggs and put together a care package of honey, eggs, veggie pepper for her boyfriend who loves to cook,  and sewed a button on an old Bundaflicka bag for her to take to the Caribbean.  She was flying out the next morning and wanted to go home and pack.  I hated to see her leave.  We never got to float on the pond, or sit by a campfire, but we shared quite an adventure together.   It had been a year since she came to the farm and she interrupted her vacation to drive four hours to spend a day with her mother and help out any way she could.   I miss her so much.  She's on her way to a week of beach, yoga and books - a well deserved rest from her busy life working long hours at the urgent care center and extra shifts at the hospital.  I'm so happy for her.  Yesterday I found two large trees on the front edge of my lower field toppled in and leaning on the telephone line.  They have to be dealt with but I don't know how.  With spouse still crippled with this rotten foot that won't heal, I'll add it to the list of a million things that need to be done on this farm.  With many people in Brookfield still without power, going on day 3, I'm relieved I don't have worse to deal with.

Mia's Stormy Visit

When I look at the last time I wrote in my journal I am astounded at how much happens in the course of just a few days.  Mia arrived Thursday night, too late to swim in the pond but not too late to help me with chores and catch a few goats.  I had been dying to get my hands on half a dozen to get the now-ruined mohair off them and do hooves/worming.  I raise them for fiber so every lock is precious.  With Matt down and no second pair of hands to sit on a stool and hold the horns I can't do much.  In the most desperate situations I catch them myself and tie them to a post, but then I have to lean them against a wall and it's tough to move all around them and pick up legs.  Shots require two people or you are asking for trouble.  Mia is such a trooper and not afraid to get dirty...and she always has a smile on her face.  We chat away while I work about every silly little thing.  I love her.  We slept in the trailer Wednesday night and got a good nights' sleep. Amazing how much more farm noise I hear when I sleep outside.  Screaming roosters at 3 am (they cockadoodledoo at the slightest hint of anything amiss) and quacking ducks under the trailer at 5.  I opened the door at 6 to find sheep grazing in the mist all around us, moving among the overgrown thistles that are now trees.  With spouse still laid up with that rotten foot the 8N has not been turned on in two months.  I don't think I could even get it started myself, much less attach the brush hog.  If I had portable fence I would enclose the goats in the thistles and force them to eat the thorny bushes.  Spoiled rotten goats.  After morning chores on Thursday we loaded up my picked-washed-dyed-washed-dried wool in Mia's Subaru and headed for Staples in New Hartford.  After rolling all the boxes and bags into the store with shopping carts amid quizzical stares we were informed that their UPS computers were fried from the recent storm and they could not ship my wool.  Not to be dismayed we took it all out again and packed it back into the truck.  Mia needed to stop in Old Navy to pick up a few things for her trip to St. Barts and Anguila on Saturday.  I was so happy when she found several things that made her squeal with delight.  They had long, gauzy white gowns, cute paisley sun dresses and shorts, imitation Marquesite droopy earrings, and bikini tops.  She remarked that Old Navy had better stuff than the surf boutique at the Jersey shore where she had previously shopped for her trip.  We motored over to Barnes and Noble where we drank chai tea and perused the latest glossy fiber art magazines and Mia picked up books for her trip.  While checking out Matt called and told us to head home fast as the National Weather Service put out an emergency warning about a fast moving storm coming our way.  We could not go home without getting the truck load of wool shipped so we drove over to the UPS store across the highway by the Marquis Cinema.  It took some doing getting it inside, boxed, weighed and labelled but we got it done.  110 pounds of lovely wool that will come back to me in one pound carded balls ready to spin.  John Erlinger at Frankenmuth Woolen Mill will be gulping some coffee when he sees this load come in on Tuesday.  One green/navy blue/golden yellow run is still waiting for more color.  It is 50 pounds already and I am waiting for Bright Orange dye from Dharma.  Kimmie Cornerstone will be busy spinning this wool for years to come.  As we left the UPS store the wind was picking up.  I saw the Lowe's sign across the highway and asked Mia if we could stop in.  I need a freezer very soon for the hundreds of pound of pork over at Miss Tammy's.  As we looked at appliances we heard a torrent of heavy rain on the roof of the store.  We thought, uh-oh, we better get home.  The adventure really began from there...

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Gold Fish

A few years back my farmer neighbor Chris gave me his gold fish to put in the pond on top of the big hill.  She had outgrown her bowl and he wanted her to have more room to swim.  I delivered "Goldie" to her new home and she grew into a lovely big fish with beautiful fan tails.  I fear Goldie's size and beauty made her catch the attention of Madame Blue Heron as I no longer see Goldie emerge from the mud at the bottom of the pond in the spring.  Enter the Conservation students at my school.  They brought me a bucket of tiny gold fish from their pond which was overstocked.  I emptied them into my pond and they thrived in spite of the heron who comes from time to time to gorge herself on my fish.  There might be a snapper in there, too, but the last time I saw her was a year ago this spring.  Snappers love to eat little golden fish.  She might have moved on - fine with me - but I'm still not putting my feet down in the mud!  I was presented with another surprise when Kim came from Ontario to do the Bouckville sheep festival  and brought me a wonderful gift - a bag of goldfish, from her daughter, Lindsay, purchased with her allowance money. I took the dogs up to the pond this morning and stood on the bank watching the little golden glints of color in the sun, just below the surface, spread out over the pond.  What a thrill.  On deck for today after morning chores - collect some eggs for my breakfast.  They are spread out all over the barn but I know where to look.  My free range birds give me more eggs than the chickens in their own room.  What does that tell you?  Free range chickens are happier?   Mia is coming tonight!  I'm planning on meeting her in New Berlin for dinner, then back to the farm for an evening pond float and campfire under the stars.  It's been more than a year since she's been here.  I'll only have her for one day and two nights as she is heading out to the Caribbean on vacation this weekend.  Hurricane Arthur is coming up the coast and I'm fearful the fringe might disrupt my hay-making plans.  The weather report does not reflect it but with farming we expect the worst and hope for the best.  Only way to fly.