Saturday, December 13, 2014


I have two Wensleydale rams, new this year.  One was sought after, the other happened to me.  Louie is a very high percentage Wensleydale which is a rare British breed known for their lustrous, long locks and heavy fleeces.  Gipetto, three years old, came to me from a shepherd who was downsizing her flock due to unforeseen circumstances.   He is 85% Wensleydale and very handsome, the size of a small pony.  Louie is small for his breed but has lovely fleece.  Both are amazingly docile and get along very well with each other, something that does not always happen with rams. They are pictured above, on the right side of the feeder, standing together, waiting politely for the ewes to finish eating.   Gipetto took over the breeding this year.  Louie will have to wait.  That's okay - I like having another ram waiting in the wings.  The Wensleydales will put heavier fleeces on my Bluefaced Leicesters and help me reach my goal of fewer sheep, more wool.  Lambing should begin in March.  May the Force be with us.

Runaway Bunny

It's been a while since we had a wild bunny sighting.  This "wild" bunny appeared last spring, out of nowhere, sitting under a buck's cage in the barn.  That's why I think it's a "she."  Perhaps someone's pet was dropped off here after a child tired of it?  Happens all the time with cats.  All my bunnies are long-haired angoras.  This bunny has adapted very well to farm living.  She has moved into the hay mow for the winter, living in her own personal smorgasbord of grasses.  I worry about the dogs/foxes/coyotes getting her but so far she has eluded them. I've become very fond of this mystical, magical bunny.  I think she's blessed.  I worry about her finding water, etc.  She's done very well for herself so far, to look at her portly shape.  I think she finds me amusing, as she sat very still long enough for me to fumble with gloves and zippers to get my camera out of my ski pants.  I should call her Greta Garbo.

Home on the Farm

The world is going crazy all around me with Christmas preparations but I am strangely calm and content.  I'm wandering around the farm doing chores at my leisure, enjoying my animals and taking pictures.  Matt wanted to go to Christmas in Cooperstown but I asked if we could stay home on the farm - my favorite place in the whole wide world.  My own little world, in fact.  There is a gentle snow falling and the gray sky tells me it will continue.  There is so much I could/should be doing but it can wait.  Any day when I can stay home on the farm is a beautiful thing.  The goats are the only ones who ventured out today, and it took a little coaxing.  Then I threw down corn for the chickens and the goats decided it might be a good day to go outside after all.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Baby Bunnies

I fretted over leaving my three baby bunnies over the weekend.  The temps dove and I was worried I might have bunsicles in the box when I came home.  I asked Matt to bring them in Saturday night and give them back to Bunny Mama on Sunday morning.  I was greatly relieved to find them wiggling in the nest Sunday night.  I'm continuing to bring them inside at night.  First time mom is a big nervous but jumps in the box to feed them after I feed her the snacks she loves.  I should be collecting enough angora fiber to spin a few skeins for Maryland Sheep and Wool in the spring.  Angora is fabulous for blending with wool and is the first spun fiber to leave the basket at shows.   The buns are absolutely adorable.  I bring them inside and comb out their hair with a dog rake with them on my lap.  There is always enough left on the bunny to keep them toasty warm.

Show's Over

My last show of the season, the Plowshares Craftsfair and Peace Festival, went off without a hitch this past weekend.  I knocked myself out to get enough product made through the week and was a bit knackered by the time Friday came around.  Kim came from Kingston, Ontario, and helped me wrap soap.  Matt loaded the van.  It poured rain through the night and into the morning.  Kim slept in while I did chores and threw some last minute stuff in the van.  We set off in the rain to the Nottingham High School in Syracuse and managed to get the booth set up in the space of an hour.  This festival is delightful, with on-going entertainment, activist booths and top-notch crafters.  We heard Onondaga poetry readers, Celtic singers, African drummers, and watched belly dancers pull people from the audience to dance with them.  Stephanie and Dale put us up at their comfy home in Pompey.  Sunday morning we hit Trader Joe's and Barnes & Noble.  Sunday flew by and we loaded up under the light of a full moon.  I love this show and I also love the fact that it's my last show of the winter.  I'm a little frayed around the edges and need to "fall back and regroup."  Lambs are coming in March and I need to be in good shape for that marathon.  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Simon and Lester

One night about a month ago there was a knock on the door.   A young Amish man was on the porch.  He asked if I had any pigeons.  I was a bit taken aback by the question.  I knew I had pigeons in the barn at times but the cats had chased most of them into the silos.  I told the young man I thought there might be some in there still but why?  He said someone offered him $3.50 for each pigeon he could provide and that he was going around to local farms asking if he could catch their pigeons.  "That's good money, he said.  Not wanting to discourage this young man's entrepreneurial spirit I said, let's go take a look.  I took him to the silo room where I thought I heard some coo-ing at times.  The silo is sixty feet high and I wouldn't trust the rusty ladder going up to the top where the pigeons roost.  The young man said he was going to get "another fellow" who turned out to be Simon, waiting in the buggy with the horse in the driveway.  I thought I should let Matt know what was going on at that point and went inside to tell him.  Well, Mr. OSHA Instructor came out pretty quick to see what's what.  I was relieved when he said, very nicely, that it might not be such a good idea to climb to the top of the silo to catch pigeons in the dark.  He said it was not the fall he was concerned about but the sudden stop.   The young men were very polite and said if we had any work they could do to please let them know.  Lester handed me his father's business card.  They live near my friend, Julia, who owns Button Falls Farm.  I showed them a strip of barn floor that runs past the milk house door and chicken room.  Years of dropping hay and animals pooping on it resulted in a packed tight layer of mud that prevented me from opening the milk house door properly and annoyed the heck out of me.  Visitors wanting to "help on the farm" never managed to get it done.  I totally understand as it's back breaking work to chip it up then haul it outside in a wheelbarrow.  The boys left and I wondered if I would see them again.   They have demands on their time at home I'm sure.  Last night around seven there was a knock on the door again .  It was Lester and Simon saying they were ready to work if I was ready for them.  Ready?  I said, sure, but did they want to haul manure out in the snow?  They said "We like it that way!" very enthusiastically.  They went to work and boy, did they work - hacking, chipping, shoveling and hauling.  I went about my business with the bunnies, goats, sheep and chickens.  I was thoroughly enjoying the show.  I could get used to this, I thought to myself....young men working feverishly to get the job done.    An hour and a half later I could sense they were thinking this is enough for the night.  I said why don't you guys get going as you must have school tomorrow.  Oh, no, we don't go to school anymore, we're Amish, and we only go to 8th grade.  We're finished.  I paid them and they promised to come back to do my chicken room when they were able to get away.  Lester and his family of eight milk 21 cows, twice a day, by hand.  I offered to pick them up next time, as I was keenly aware of the poor horse standing outside in the snow.  They said that would be fantastic.  It was great walking on a concrete floor last night.  I'll try to keep it that way.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Love in the Barn

I have been very frustrated with Spikey, my purebred Nubian buckling, and his unwillingness to take on the big, fat Nubian girls I want him to breed.  Without babies born, goats don't produce milk.  Just like most other mammals.  It's not Spikey's fault.  If he was a full grown Nubian buck he would "persuade" the girls to give it up.  Spikey is young and rather runty.   When Fancy, Matilda and Janey kicked sand in his face, Spikey turned his attention to my angora goats who are smaller, sweeter, and more cuddly.  Not a match made in heaven.  A dairy goat bred to a mohair producing goat is neither here nor there, and I love my mohair.  We caught Spikey several times "out of bounds," that is, out of his pen and in with my "choke" angoras.  I can barely talk about it.  I just hope nature did not take it's course.  We had to resort to desperate measures and tie Spikey in the Nubian goat pen on a long lead.  It took a bit of getting used to, but he adjusted, grudgingly.  I was about to offer Spikey to the local Indian restaurant when I witnessed a beautiful thing night before last.  I was feeding my English Angora rabbits when I saw Matilda, big three year old Nubian doe, standing very still next to Spikey.  To my delight, little Spikey reached up as far as he could, stretching himself to maximum height and length, to mount Matilda.  She didn't move and turned her head to look lovingly behind her, at Spikey.  He jumped down, then repeated the process at least SIX times before I went back in the house.  I noticed yesterday that Spikey was looking very tired and lying down in the hay.  Fancy, my other purebred Nubian doe, was standing next to him, as if to say, "It's my turn."   I suspect I will be having Nubian babies around the beginning of May, and lots of goat milk.  Lambs will come starting in March.  I will be a busy girl.  The barn will be full of life, as it should be.


Friday, November 28, 2014

My Tree

When I lived in New Jersey I would go out and pay a LOT of money for the biggest Christmas tree I could find for my development house living room.  I would spend a month devoted to decorating my five bedroom, four bathroom, Dutch Colonial with the perfectly manicured 3/4 acre lot.  I had a large weeping cherry tree that I would wind Christmas lights around every branch.  I drove up and down in front of my house at night to check the decorations people would see in the living room as they drove by in their cars.  My fireplace mantle was a top priority, with imported nutcrackers standing at attention, in graduated heights, among candlesticks and fresh pine boughs.  My children's stockings were sewn by myself and hand quilted, of course.  My life has changed so dramatically over the last few years and it's taken some getting used to.  I have no idea where my imported German nutcrackers are, and I don't have a mantle.   I now live in a tiny apartment, with only one bathroom - horrors! - and a teeny tiny kitchen.  My beast of a wood stove is on a slate slab with fireproof wall covering behind it.   What I do have is the most gigantic and wondrous BARN where my beautiful animals live.  Front and center in the barn yard is the most magnificent Christmas tree in the whole wide world.  Who needs Rockefeller Center?  I adore this tree.  She gives me beautiful pine cones every year and shelters the birds who come back and forth to the feeder.  I can tell the weather by looking out the window and checking the sway of her branches.  This tree shelters Knut, who lives under her in the summer, and me, when I sit at the picnic table and sip my coffee.  If I had money to burn I suppose I would get a cherry picker in here and string lights from the lovely branches at Christmas time.  Maybe not.  She is perfect just the way she is.

Nathan and Butterscotch

I know Nathan and his family from the Hamilton Farmer's Market.  Recently Nathan's mom saw a picture I posted of my angora rabbits.  She told me her son, Nathan, is looking for a buck to breed with his beautiful angora doe from Pamela Kurst of Dancing Bear Farm.  There are not many English angora rabbit breeders around here.  Fortunately I have a buck, all the way from Wisconsin, who is perfect for a match with Butterscotch.  Nathan and his friend, Tom, brought her over for a date with my buck.  We decided to leave Butterscotch overnight, as we did not see a real mating take place.  My buck was doing his best but Butterscotch, sweet little thing, is shy.  Nathan came back to get his baby, took one look at her and said, "She's a MESS!"  Apparently, my buck was working on her through the night.  Let's hope Butterscotch was receptive to his advances and will give Nathan a litter of kits in a month's time.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Walk With Mia

Mia loves to walk the land.  I love to walk it with her.  After a night of eating delicious food and drinking whiskey and egg nog, we needed to hike the hill in the cold, fresh air.  Gentle snowflakes were all around us.  I think this is the loveliest snow that we've had in a long time.


Goaties Love the Snow

Monkey and her friends enjoyed the snow today - unusual for goats who tend to stay under cover in bad weather.  Monkey is the Grand Dame of the angora goat herd.  I have one goat who is older than Monkey, but she doesn't have nearly the AT-TI-TUDE that Monkey has. The sheep love to eat snow and I was surprised to see them staying in the barn for most of the day.  I only saw one sheep venture out to check the weather.  I'm not surprised as they have all the delicious hay they could possibly want and room to lie down and relax in the barn.

Thanksgiving 2014

Mia arrived in the wee hours Wednesday morning.  We cooked all day and had a great Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday evening.  In between food preparations, we did chores together, mucked out the barn and wrapped soap.  The meal was huge considering we were only three people, but that's okay.  We have food for days and days.  Mia prepared her first turkey and made the stuffing with apples and red onion - fantastic idea which I never would have thought of.  She made the perfect gravy and treated us to her own apple crisp for desert.  I had her all to myself for a little over 24 hours, which seems to be the most any visitors stay on the farm.  Everyone has their own busy professional and personal lives.  Mia had to be in New Jersey today, Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, to pick up her brother, Captain Father Aaron, at the airport.  They would be spending the rest of the day with their NJ people.  When Mia leaves it's always tough for me to see her go.  I have a million things to keep myself busy, and many, many little, and big, friends to keep me company.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Storm Coming

Snow is forecast for the Northeast, just in time for Mia's visit.  I'm not worried about her driving here tonight, but she might have to pick up AJ at Newark Airport on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, which might be a bad day to be on the roads.  AJ has plans to spend the holiday with family in New Jersey and I won't see him this trip.  We will meet in Maine to spend Christmas with Eric, Annie and the kiddos.  Such is life when we are spread out all over the place and have professional/farm/military obligations.  I think Thanksgiving dinner will be a small, intimate affair with several doggies at the table instead of humans.  I have a plethora of projects and creatures to keep me company.  I hear my co-workers talk about their large, local family gatherings and always become very envious.  Such is life.  I cut up a giant batch of Peppermint soap last night, and washed with it this morning.  Who am I kidding?  I can't find soap like this anywhere - so creamy and luxurious.  My soap is more than superfatted, with honey, oatmeal, shea butter and castor oil...and I don't know anybody who spends more on essential oils than I do.  Or anybody who wraps their bars in quilt fabrics.  Maybe I'll keep making soap for a little while longer.  We'll see.  The sheep are adapting nicely to their life in the barn.  The old girls - the ancient ones - come running to the rail next to the rabbit cages.  I make sure the oldest ladies - the bag o' bones - get a mouthful of rabbit pellets every morning.  I have one little black angora wether who has a slight curvature of the spine.  I make sure he gets a treat, too.  I love the fact that I don't sell any live stock.  Selling live stock means you have to cull (kill) the odd balls and ones that don't make the grade.  I like to keep everybody.  I'm expecting a blessed bunny event this weekend.  This doe is gorgeous - from the Wisconsin bunnies - a gift from Molly Colesgrove.  She is running around the hutch with hay in her mouth.  I have a large water pan in there for her to build a nest in.  It's still warmish but not for long.  I hate to move her inside as she is happy where she is in the barn, but any kit (baby bunny) that misses the box coming out will surely freeze.  Rabbits can't carry babies around the way cat and dog mommies do.  They stay where they fall.  Some times mom doesn't realize what is happening and the first baby pops out.  She figures it out and jumps in the box to put the rest in the nest but the first one is out of luck.  I've revived many over the years, if I get there in time.  I adore angora rabbit fiber.  When blended with wool it turns the most mediocre fiber into something marvelous, more than alpaca or cashmere can do.  I plan on bringing some bunnies inside for grooming while I relax on the sofa watching TV.  The dogs always find that very amusing.