Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I'm Here

My intrepid grandson, Luke, has inspired me to keep writing.  He was here to visit me for one short, glorious week, this summer.  I noticed he would duck into his trailer every once in a while.  I asked what he was doing.  Taking a nap?  He said, no, he was writing in his journal.  That really touched me.  My farm is a story that deserves to be told.  I should keep telling it.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Bagged Up

Coco is not the only thing bagged up around here.  Bundaflicka Knitting Totes are being born as well.  There are a few new bags hanging from the barn beams, the only safe place for them in this barn.  I am having a lot of fun sewing them, but never have enough time as I would like.  With my premier spring show, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, fast approaching I'm going to have to find the time. 

Coco is Having a Calf!

Coco was very unhappy and SCREAMING all day long.  I mean, really screaming.  The drive to breed is very strong in dairy cows.  They know what their purpose is.  Mr. Tim Powers, local cow inseminator came to our rescue.  Mr. Powers and his wife, a local high school physics teacher, are across from me at the Hamilton Farmer's Market.  His phone has an interesting message, "All calls received before noon will have their cows serviced that day."  Mr. Powers showed up at the farm and handed me a halter to put on Coco.  We had not put a halter on Coco up to that point but she cooperated nicely and we tied her to a post.  Now, we had been warned that this would be a difficult process.  Someone told us to tied her front to a post and her back legs to the tractor.  Not necessary.  Mr. Powers, a consummate professional, walked up to Coco, lifted her tail and in he went, up to his armpit (it seemed).  I gasped at the profound gesture and watched Coco lift her head up, nose to the sky.  Out the arm came and, I swear, Coco never screamed again.  Not at all.  It was the true meaning of "settled," the term farmers use when the females are bred.  Now it is nine months later and we are waiting the blessed event.  Coco is happy, calm, sucking up her warm sweet feed slop twice a day, munching on hay, and enjoying life.  Dr. Parfitt came out and looked at Coco.  He said there is no reason why she wouldn't do just fine birthing this calf.  The weather this April has been a roller coaster.  The early warmth and greening of the hillside has turned back to wintery snow and ice.  We built stalls in the barn for Coco and her buddies, the steers Rocky and Blacky, but they like to be outside.  When a hideous cold wind whipped up a couple of weeks ago, Coco slipped into the upper hay mow when I wasn't looking.  She wanted to be a warm, dry, safe place to have her calf.  I fenced her in to keep her there, with the big doors still open so she can see outside.  Monkey and her baby, Velveteen, are living in the hay mow along with baby angora goat wethers Bernie and Benny. Coco never gets lonely.  Yesterday I noticed a little discharge and checked her female area. It is puffy and soft.  I think we will have a calf this weekend.  I sought out my neighbor, Chris, who owned this magnificent farm back in the glory days when it had a hundred cows in the barn and 350 acres surrounding it.  He has birthed over a thousand calves.  Chris gave me a half hour tutorial on what to avoid, etc.  If Coco gives birth standing up the calf can break its neck falling to the floor, which happens when the cows are on concrete.  Coco is on a soft wooden floor covered with a few inches of clean hay (except for the intermittent cow pies).  He advises separating the calf from mother as calves will butt the bag and injure it.  I had hoped to leave the baby with Coco, as she had one calf two years ago that did not survive.  Her previous owner told me how grief stricken Coco was at the time and how she tried to give Coco another calf which did not help.  We'll see how it goes.  Chris said I can put Coco in a stall and tie the calf nearby but I would have to milk Coco to feed to the calf.  Doesn't see right, but this cow thing is new to me.  With Matt roaming around Texas in search of adventure I am on my own.  We'll see how it goes...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Chicks!

I heard the peep-peep-peep- and there they were.....a clutch of newborn chicks with their mother hen.  My long barn has many nooks and crannies where free ranging hens can hide their eggs from me.  It doesn't matter to them what time of year they hatch chicks.  Surprisingly, many do survive.  I put tubs on top of the rabbit cages and some of them lay eggs on a daily basis, even at the darkest time of the year when a dedicated room full of spoiled rotten chickens with regular meals aren't laying eggs at all.  I don't feed the free rangers.  They live off all the spilled grains from the rabbits, sheep and pigs.  There is always plenty of food around for them.    I love these mother hens.  If all mothers were as protective and devoted as these little chickens the world would be a better place.

New Life

What better way to come back to my journal than with a birth announcement?  Yes, it's a surprise but maybe not so much of a surprise when I recall how late I pulled the rams out of the flock.  There must have been one night when a hint of coolness triggered the hormones in the ewes and there it goes.  I pulled Luna from the flock when I became concerned about her weight.  My sheep get all the hay they can eat, along with green grass late into the fall, but other factors can come into play.  I pulled another aged ewe, Magnolia, out with her, along with Ole' Momma and her pal, both old ladies.  Last year Ole Mama surprised me with a set of ram twins, Castor and Pollux, named after the staI rs.   When Magnolia grew round with a swollen udder I knew birth was imminent.  I was forking hay yesterday in the mow and heard that distinctive "Mommy chatter."  Sheep talk their lambs out of the womb.  Lambs know their mother's voices before they are born and can distinguish mom's call in a crowded flock.  I ran downstairs and sure enough it was happening.

  Thank goodness I was hear as the lamb was stuck at the pelvic bones with the shoulder joints preventing them from sliding through.   I could see the little front feet on either side of the nose, peeking out from her behind.  When I was sure the labor was not progressing, I washed up.  I cupped my hand around the lambs head with my right hand and pulled one leg forward.  The one leg extension unhooked the shoulder and allowed the lamb to come through.  It took a bit of pulling on my part and pushing on her part, but soon the long yellow torpedo slid out.  She began licking the ram lamb and I knew we were going to be okay....or so I thought.
Magnolia has plenty of milk but is reluctant to let her lamb nurse.  I've experienced this situation in difficult births when mom realizes the baby had something to do with the trauma she suffered.
  She loves her boy and carries on when I pick him up but no amount of coaxing will make her feed him.  I held her as best I could - she is a big sheep - and squeezed out enough colostrum to give him a good start last night and again today.  I'm hoping she calms down and changed her mind.  I love this little Winter Solstice/Christmas lamb.  I can safely predict more lambs in the next couple of weeks.  Isn't it nice I'll be home to receive them.  The farm is all about new life, and new life in the new year is just lovely.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Friday

It's finally Friday.  I have the Hamilton Farmer's Market tomorrow and then, glory be, I intend to stay in my pajamas until at least nine in the morning.  I count 13 days going full tilt.  I'm still catching up after NY Sheep and Wool.  I went to bed early last night after grooming my nightly angora bunny.  It was ten pm and the TV remote wasn't working - low batteries - and I thought I may as well give in.  I love to stay up late at night as it is truly "my time" all to myself.  Trouble is, ten pm is too early for me and at 4 am my body told me "you've had enough rest."  I dawdled around making coffee and playing with the dogs and cats.  Got myself bathed and ready for milking.  Spouse met me down the hill where our "herd" lives and told me I was on my own as he was giving a test early in Syracuse and had to be on his way.  I got the job done without too much trouble (as in Rocky nosing around Coco's udder while I'm milking which Coco doesn't like) and was walking back to the barn when I saw Ole' Mama calling into the woods on the ridge.  Matt had put down hay to the sheep in the barn, or so he thought, when I became suspicious.  Why isn't she with the other sheep in the barn?  Well, there were no sheep in the barn.  Guess who - me - had forgotten to close the gate after grazing the night before.  I quickly suppressed the panic rising and checked the time - 7 am.  I still had to feed the pigs, rabbits, rams/bucks in the back and chickens along with bringing kibble inside for the dogs.  I called Reba and she immediately recognized the urgency in my voice, as if I was saying to her "we have a job to do right now!"  She saw me grab the keys and ran with me to the van.  We raced up the hill - no time for hiking up - and there they were.  Phew!  What a pretty sight they were, spread over the upper pasture. I parked and we ran up the embankment.  GET 'EM UP!  Reba ran across the field as the sheep hesitated.  What?  They are coming after us now?  After letting us graze out here all night?  They got the idea when the speedy hound, long ears circling with her rhythmic strides, came dashing toward them.  I saw the whole flock disappear down the hill and I ran back to the van.  Sure enough, Reba chased them all back in the barn.  Now, I don't approve of running sheep, but this shepherd has a job, with critters to feed and water before she leaves for work.  I got everybody taken care of with water jugs all topped off.  The hand full of comfrey leaves I picked for one bunny off her feed was dropped along the way but if that's all I forgot, well, I'm okay.  I think a little sofa time is in store for me after I get home and check everything out.  Some of the sheep are looking a little rotund.  Lambs on the way?  Did Louie get his last licks in before removal to the pen behind the barn?  We shall see....before the real cold weather hits I pray.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Coco in the Dark

This is the face I see waiting for me every day in the pre-dawn hours.  Coco is enjoying her lush little pasture by the tractor shed.  Rocky and Blackie, the two bull calves that came with her, keep her company.  We get about two gallons of delicious creamy calcium-rich raw milk every morning and night.  Raw milk is calcium rich and contains all the good enzymes that pasteurization removes.  The kitties get the morning milk and I strain and bottle the night time milk for us.  I make yogurt and mozzarella cheese with it but haven't quite mastered the butter yet.  I adore the yogurt and swear it is habit forming.  I'm not surprised as raw milk yogurt raises your seratonin levels.   Milking requires a lot of work as in washing and bleaching bottles, buckets and pots in addition to caring for the cows.   Matt has really taken to the dairy man role and supervises the care of the herd.  He gets us set for milking and is in charge of "teat dipping" which prevents bacteria from entering the teats.  Matt does not want his cows to be in icy rain or snow and has built stalls with a milking stanchion in the barn.  It will be a lot easier for me to get to them once the barn yard freezes over.  I won't have to slide down the slope to their field with buckets of water and grain.   Having my own cow to milk is a dream come true.  I always wanted it but put it out of my mind due to "hay issues."  Now I have a reliable farmer filling my barn with hay.  Coco comes with her own dramatic story, which I will relate another time.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Yarn Pockets

My "Yarn Pockets" seem to be taking off.  They are my alternative to the expensive ceramic yarn bowls that are so popular right now.  Ceramic bowls would not last long in my house.  One swish of Bertha's tail and there goes $80-$90 bucks.  I make fabric bowls to match my Bundaflicka Knitting Totes and the patrons are catching on.  They are great for keeping your knitting tidy inside a larger tote instead of the ubiquitous but vulgar plastic shopping bags.  Yuck!  I store sewing notions inside mine and have several on the shelf.  Mia keeps her make up inside a Yarn Pocket in her bathroom...but then Mia has always been very clever and neat about her things.

Bundaflicka Buttons

I'm still making Bundaflicka Buttons for my totes.  They can't compare with Kim's natural horn buttons but I'm having fun with them.  Sometimes I bring a sample of fabric in to the craft store to pick out several colors of clay to combine for a custom button.  Sometimes I just use what I have in the house and mash clay together to see what happens.  I always use them at some point in time.  People marvel over them and ask what are they made of?  If only they knew how simple these buttons are to make...

Kim's Caps

Kim knits the cutest hats.  I love this sheep pattern which is very popular in the sheep world now.  Kim uses hand spun wool and angora yarn for a very warm hat.  I have several of Kim's hats that she's knitted for me over the years.  I like wind through my hair but I don't like snow melting on my head.  Kim has made sure that doesn't happen and I'm very grateful.

Shepherd's Friend

My Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme was a big hit at NY State Sheep and Wool.  The weather turned cold and brisk, reminding people how important it is to take care of your hands now before they chafe and crack. 

Peter Rabbit Sheep

I was delighted to see some Herdwick sheep at Rhinebeck this year.  Herdwick sheep were the favorite of Beatrix Potter of Peter Rabbit fame.  She supported a huge flock of them in the Lake District of England where she purchased and donated thousands of acres to the National Trust to save the land from development.

Farmhouse Goat Milk Soap Blocks

It's hard for people to wrap their heads around my Farmhouse Blocks.  They look at them curiously and ask "What is this?"  I explain how I collect all the end pieces and trimmings of my big blocks of soap and put them in a pot.  When the pot is full I melt them down and pour the soap into cardboard boxes.  This process takes several days with much mashing and scraping of the sides of the pot, being careful not to suck up the scorching fumes.  I love the way they look, each one different and interesting, with bits of soap throughout.  Even though the soap has been boiled for several days there is a lovely lingering scent of all the various mingling essential oils.  This is the best soap I have to offer, as "milled" soap is harder, denser, and creamier than other soap.  People use them for felting and bathing.  

Knitters and Their Totes

Sewing is my first love.  I've been sewing all my life and now I've hit on something that I love to make and is functional and beautiful.  I managed to snap some shots of a few of my Bag Ladies as they left the booth with their new Bundaflicka Knitting Totes.  They were happy to oblige me and I got the feeling they know I put my heart and soul into every one.

Rhinebeck 2015

NY State Sheep and Wool has come and gone for 2015.  This magical show should be called "Farm Aid" as it clears my hay debt for this year and basically validates everything I do to support the farm.  Kim and Daryl met me at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds and helped me set up my shop.  It's no easy feat to pack and transport a farm store in a mini van.  My faithful friends did most of the lifting and toting.  We wrapped soap in the motel room Friday night after stopping at WM to buy another folding table.  I forgot how much room I had in my booth.  Not a problem for Daryl and Kim as they love to shop stateside and bring the loot home to Canada.  Saturday morning dawned cool and sunny.  The crowds came and I sat at the little table full of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme and watched as  my hard work of the past few weeks was picked up by my patrons and carried off.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015


  The colors are spectacular with breathtaking vistas every where I turn.  My 25 mile commute to work is just gorgeous....but nothing can rival the beauty of my little farm with my own sheep grazing in the field.