Monday, December 31, 2007

Smart Little Banty

This Bantam hen has found a way to keep her cold feet warm. Reclining sheep are perfect for burying chilly chicken feet in.

Wintery New Year's Eve

The flock says good morning but many of them are already outside munching on the round bales. The night's snow is waning, leaving a gorgeous, cold and blustery scene.

Snowing Into the New Year

It's snowing steadily and the round bales we picked up yesterday are covered. I got the sheep out to graze a little on the exposed grass on Saturday and they loved it. There is peace in the barn, no lambs or kids. I am trying to do as much as I can before work on Wednesday. Wrap soap, cut soap and get it on the drying rack, cut out bags. Woke up at 3:30, worried about lambs in the cold, worried about money. When I get up the dogs get up which means getting them outside before they do their business inside. Izzy hates the snow. He's so little it envelopes his hairless body, but I push him out anyway. I have Pip and Tanner on leashes so they don't take off. Without Tanner to run away with, Holly comes right back in. Without Pip to run away with, Jasper comes right back in. Oh, the doggie logistics! Somehow the dog run I have been asking for these last two years never got built. Will have to do it myself with a student when the ground thaws. Get the dogs back in and tiptoe through the barn to check for lambs. If I walk very slowly and speak quietly the sheep and goats don't get up. It's usually the llamas who jump up first when I walk past them. My old vet said llamas are jumpy as cats and I agree. No lambs or kids yet. Funny that one sheep conceived and had little Sparkle and the others waited for the next cycle, or maybe two cycles. As the year closes I am wondering how long I can keep up a business that hasn't made a dime in almost ten years. I'm too old to keep throwing money at something that only gives me spiritual satisfaction. Yesterday Matt said I remind him of an old girlfriend with a cocaine habit. Hmmmm, yes, I guess sheep are habit forming. Am I coming to my senses? I'm afraid so. I see some changes coming up.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Springs Preserve

The day before I flew home Eric took us to the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas - an expansive interactive science exhibition all about the history of water in Las Vegas. It was just fascinating and I hope to go back someday. We stood on a platform in the water room as a flash flood came crashing down a rock formation all around us. Hannah and Luke had a ball playing with the video games which included helping bees pollinate desert flowers, etc. The beautifully landscaped desert gardens were decorated with Christmas lights. I learned a lot about the water situation in LV, which means The Meadows in Spanish. Less than 10% is used by casinos and hotels. Over 75% is used by homeowners on their lawns and gardens! Hannah and Luke romped and played before we went to Mercado's for scrumptious Mexican food and Margaritas.

Luke's Friend, Eli

Luke has a "best friend" named Eli who lives on the cul-de-sac in his neighborhood. It's so cute to watch them play. They can run out the front door and be at each other's houses in seconds. Luke is such a social animal and loves school. They are off all next week and will have to go to day camp at the YMCA. Luke is looking forward to it because they have a pool. He's making terrific progress in kindergarten and read a Dr. Seuss book to me while I was there entitled "Snow." I ache because I can't go to school things and be the adoring grandma in the audience. Luke loves to come to the Farm in the summer. He told me he wants me to be sure to have enough "green (lime) popsicles" this time. I had some hidden in the back of the freezer for myself, as they are so much more expensive than the big box of rainbow pops and the kids eat dozens a day when it's hot. Last summer Luke got on a box and found where Omi was hiding the good ones. Pretty slick for five years old, huh?

Annie's Spinning Wheels

Annie has two wheels, a Jensen and a Louet. I used to think who would spin in Las Vegas in the desert? After this visit I realize how important wool is in the winter. I wore my wool sweaters, wool coat, bunny mittens and scarf the whole time I was there. I saw tourists freezing on the Strip, obviously uninformed about how cold LV can be in the winter. Annie is a pro on the drop spindle. I have seen her stand on a chair and keep a six foot length of fiber spinning. It takes a LOT of practice. I love the concept of the drop spindle, and own several, but have never been proficient at it. The bag hanging on the Jensen is one of two I made for Hannah for Christmas. I think I have overdone it with the bags. Annie and Hannah have several. I have to start sewing cute clothes for Hannah, or crocheted halter tops maybe?

Little Perdita

Perdita was lost on the street in Louisville, Kentucky, when Eric and Annie picked her up. I just adore her. Perdita is an older Chihuahua mix and very spirited. She adapted very well to life in Las Vegas, and loves the heat. Those huge ears and big eyes are just adorable, aren't they?

Back on the Farm

Here is where I should say how happy I am to be home but I am utterly miserable. I miss Hannah and Luke so much and had such a good time in Las Vegas. Eric says he'll send me another ticket in the spring and it can't come fast enough for me. Hannah and I slept in her purple bed on my last night in LV. It was cold (went down to 27 F. at night) and when we jumped in the bed I said Hannah! It's freezing! She said very cryptically, Just wait, Omi, the green light is on. I had no idea what she was talking about until the bed started to get warm and cozy...there was an electric blanket in the bed with us! I woke up at 4 and had coffee with Eric and Annie before packing my things in the big mauvey pink suitcases. Annie had an early meeting (0700 hours - she works with a lot of military people) so Eric and AJ were taking me to the airport. Hannah and Luke had to come with us and it didn't go over well with Hannah, the Drama Queen. What a picture, there she was, so long and lanky and beautiful at 9 years old in her slinky nightgown (she's loved them since a little girl)lying on the hall carpet, crying her eyes out, protesting BUT I don't WANT to go to the AIRPORT!!!! They are always MAKING me go to the AIRPORT!!! WHY can't I stay HOME for ONCE!! I said Hannah, when you are a movie star you will have to get up early and fly all over the world. I DON'T CARE!!!!!! Wail, wail, wail. I had to force myself from laughing. We managed to get on some stretch pants and sneakers under the slinky nightgown and a sparkly dress-up coat. Wish I got a picture. Luke was up, happy and smiley and ready to go. We piled into the Mercedes and motored off, said our goodbyes, and I was off. I sat next to a lady who was also visiting grandchildren in LV. She was complaining about the lack of green, the Strip, etc. and couldn't understand why her son lived in LV. Too bad she didn't get out to the desert on a motorcycle the way I did. She said the desert is all brown. Is she blind? It's red, purple, pink and blue, covered with lovely flowers and vegetation at different times of the year. She wants them to move back to Maryland where they have a family home waiting for them. This lady also told me I was flying to Baltimore, a surprise stop. The flight was uneventful and the lay-over no problem because they didn't make me get off the plane. I have only good things to say about Southwest. It was 46 minutes to Albany and there was Matt. Good news - no lambs yet, the weak yearling wether is starting to stand up (big boys had been pushing him away from the food for longer than we realized) and my crippled kitty is looking stronger (more about him on another post). Bad news - the lady with the Victorian who wanted a bed and breakfast doesn't want to do it until next fall. There is no work, not even with the builder in New Jersey Matt worked for last year. I was choking all the way home. We need two steady incomes to keep this farm going and it's all on me now. This construction thing is for the BIRDS. I don't care what he does as long as it's steady. I paid a lot of money and sat in miserable classes for years so I could find steady work when I had to. Reality bites hard. I better start cutting out bags and wrapping soap and he better start pounding the pavement. Wish I could get back on the plane...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hannah's Room

I wanted to spend as much time as possible with Hannah and Luke but I also wanted to help out in some way. I asked Hannah if we could clean her room together. It was great fun, with Hannah pulling out a truck load of "stuff" from under her bed. The Ladies come to clean once a week but I think they push things under the bed instead of sorting through them. Hannah and I got the job done and I got to know my granddaughter a lot better by looking at her school papers and favorite trinkets. Now I know what she needs and doesn't need any more of. This is a girl's bedroom to die for, with a view of the Turquoise Mountains out the window.

Time to Go Home

It's tough to leave this beautiful setting, where the sun shines so intensely and everything is illuminated in a light we do not enjoy in the East. Eric and his family have a nice life here. I hate them being so far away but I do so enjoy coming to visit. I'm off to the airport in an hour and headed for snow and fog. Eric has promised another visit in the spring. I had a good snuggle with Hannah last night underneath her electric blanket. This house is stucco and doesn't hold the heat well. It's chilly and great for sleeping. Yesterday I sat outside in the lovely back yard garden where roses are blooming and cherry tomatoes are ripening in the cold and sunshine. Hannah showed me the ice in the bird bath and we threw the ball for Booker, Eric's English Pointer bird dog. I didn't want the day to end.

Ahh, the Sidecar

I was hoping Eric would take me for another ride in the side car and he didn't disappoint. We bundled up and off we went to the desert, my favorite part of the Las Vegas scene. It was a cold ride and we were good and stiff when we pulled into Borders for hot chocolate on the way back. Eric got a look at the new issue of "Shotgun News" and I found "Quilting Arts." Uncle AJ took Luke back to the house in his car while Hannah and I jumped back on the bike with Daddy. I love the attention this camoflauged Ural bike gets, especially while stopped at lights. People just can't believe what they are seeing...especially with a beautiful girl on the sissy bar and grandma tucked in the side car.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

See the Sites

We motored down the Strip in Las Vegas last night on the way to see the Christmas arboretum display at the Bellagio. Traffic was stopped for some time right in front of the performing water fountain display. They played Andrea Boccelli and Sarah Brightman singing Time to Say Goodbye, one of my favorites, to the dancing fountains. It was so lovely...and so was the Bellagio foyer and holiday decorations. We tootled around there then went for dinner. While driving back to Summerlin snow flurries flew. Hannah and Luke were thrilled. I've worn wool sweaters and my wool coat the whole three days here. Who'd a thunk it!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Family Time

Annie makes world-class biscotti and home-made egg nog so good we drank two gallons of it like there was no tomorrow. The gifts are all opened and the floor is littered with games, clothes, toys and gadgets. We watched Harry Potter on Christmas night and crawled off to bed with full bellies and sugar plum fairies still dancing in our heads. Mia had to work the night shift and MMH and reports that the night was swimming along fine with the staff wearing Santa hats and a party atmosphere until...a lady took a turn for the worse and family members went nuts. Poor people with loved ones dying in the hospital at Christmas! Lucky they had my Mia and her angelic healing hands and ways to make the goodbyes as smooth as possible. We missed her terribly but as Mia said just the other day, "My nursing career is a gift I gave myself." She hardly realizes she is the gift for the stricken and hopeless - a ray of light in the darkness of misery and death. Now it's the day after Christmas and we are still in our jammies. I actually slept to 4:30, Las Vegas time, and will be perfectly adjusted time-wise when I go home day after tomorrow. Annie had to work today at the Yucca Mountain project. She takes scientific reports written by the nuclear people and edits them before they go to Washington and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This girl is so smart she can tell the PHDs what to say and how to say it and they listen. Eric is going to the Boy Scout office to do some work then we'll tootle around some this afternoon. The aftermath of Christmas is one of the best parts for me. I'm watching Hannah and Luke and having fun being an Omi, toasting their bagels and tidying up the piles of toys. Luke wants me to put together his new Legos, but I might ask Uncle AJ to do that while I sneak a peak at the Frank McCourt book Annie gave me, Teacher Man. It's an amazing book and totally relevant for me working in education with a challening population. I loved his Angela's Ashes which I read before I saw the movie. I'm not allowed to show the movie in the house with Matt, who is very sensitive to the Irish cultural issues involved. When Angels's Ashes was on HBO I couldn't flip away from it fast enough without hearing a yell Get that S--T off the television!!! Don't tell me Frank McCourt doesn't touch some sensitive Irish chords!

Christmas in Las Vegas, Part Two

For years I put on Epic Christmases, with trees so big they took up half the living room and so many presents they were piled halfway up the ceiling, with carefully choreographed music and decorations inside and outside. I would spent days on a ladder, circling little white lights around every single branch of my giant weeping cherry tree. I would drive up the hill of my development and peer into my living room windows from the road to see if everything was placed properly for maximum effect. You know what? I had entirely too much time on my hands. Now my life is so full of meaning and drama, it's a miracle if the top of a felled tree on my land makes it inside the barn apt. to be tied to a beam. I like it much better this way. I walked right into Christmas where there is no chance of snow, but it is cold and the desert wind whistles past the window where I can look out on the magnificent Turquoise Mountain range. I snuggle under the covers with Luke, who is 6 and thinks his Omi coming for Christmas is just wonderful, and beautiful Hannah puts her arms around me and gives me big hugs because she likes me here to share the most important holiday of the year with them.

Christmas in Las Vegas

My ride to the airport was uneventful, blissfully so, considering Matt had started the truck while I was still in the bathtub. There was no time for throwing down hay or giving Baby Thunder a scratch on his chin. I ran out of the house/barn with Mia's pink high school luggage filled with handmade gifts and goodies, and enough homemade soap to clean all the Mormons in Nevada. On the way to the airport Matt said with deadly seriousness, Look at are MY wife and in case you think you are going to RUN OFF with any wealthy rancher out there you better think twice 'cause ALL your animals will be on the one way TRUCK real quick. Okay, honey, no problem, YOU are the one and only and I would never think of doing such a thing. (I have to deal with this at my age????) The check in was so smooth, the sky was so blue, and the flight was so uneventful, I thought this is just too good to be true. Flying over the snow tipped Rockies, over Aspen where I skiied as a wild young downhill racer 30 years ago, was just beautiful and put me in a dream-like state. The young steward kept bringing me cranberry juice and peanuts and I read three magazines more thoroughly than I ever do at home. The flight came in 40 minutes early and there were my three pink suitcases off the ramp, 1,2,3 in a row. I took Eric by surprise getting in so early and had to wait a half hour or so for them to come and get me, but there were the Little Ones, running to me with outstretched arms and squeals of delight. We piled into Eric's big four door lime green Mercedes sedan and motored off to the Turquoise Mountains outside of Las Vegas to start Christmas in Heaven.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Packing for Vegas

The country bumpkin farmer gets on a plane to Vegas wearing jeans, clogs, hand knit socks and the thrift shop duffle coat (which happens to be a fabulous coat). Oh, well, what you see is what you get. I just don't go anywhere which requires dressing up. I left that behind in New Jersey. I washed my favorite green flannel jammies for Christmas morning. The two giant pink suitcases that belonged to Mia are packed with presents (unwrapped!). I'm making a lambing kit for Matt and boiling last year's tubing apparatus in case he has to use it. I'm making him promise to check the barn OFTEN for lambs. Not too cold right now. Hope they wait til I get back. It'a a BIG job taking care of all these critters. Eric and Annie have cats and dogs, even a tiny little chihuahua mix named Perdita. I won't suffer for lack of doggie and kitty company! But I'll miss my Holly, Izzy, etc. I'll be calling to check in...

Christmas Presents

I love presents, especially thoughtful, personal presents. Gretchen always looks for gifts that are just right for people. I can just see her wandering the aisles looking for something with a sheep on it for me. Or maybe she just happened upon these cute little sheepy items. She was so tired on Friday in school, as she had been up until one that morning wrapping presents for staff members, and finishing Laurie's hand knit sweater. I adore my plate and sheep figurine. The plate is going on the wall and the sheep on my primitive oak cupboard. Thank you, Gretchen, for your thoughtfulness and your friendship. Happy Christmas to you and your family!

Christmas on Maggie's Farm

Matt cut down the tree that was planted a foot away from the wall of the tractor shed years ago. It was severely mashed up against the wall and we could almost hear a brief sigh of relief before it fell. The tippy top is our Christmas tree and the rest is Christmas buffet for the sheep and goats. They LOVE evergreens and ran toward the branches when they saw the tree coming. Mia tied the tree top to the barn beam in the middle of the apt and voila - it's Christmas! What a priceless evening we had together, decorating the tree, eating cheese enchiladas ala Stouffers, doing chores together, playing with Sparkle, making soap, picking out fabric for a Hannah bag I will make today, and otherwise enjoying each other's company. Warm this morning - 39 F., rain expected. Snow showers tomorrow for the ride to the airport. I can check in online. Big disappointment! The airlines won't allow wrapped Christmas presents. Mia and I were going to wrap all night last night. I will be wrapping in Las Vegas instead. I thought I would open up a big suitcase of colorful packages and put them right under the tree but no-can-do. Thank you, 9-11.

Hay, Hay and More Hay

Mia helped get in another load of hay. Merry Christmas everybody! It was a beautiful day to work outside and Mia loved it. Maggie loved it, too.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mia is Here

Mia surprised us with a visit tonight and brought Christmas with her. How wonderful it is to have her here. She brought our presents, including a copy of December's British Country Living, my favorite magazine. It's hard to find, and I never thought I would see a December issue, which is filled with gorgeous Christmas decorations in country settings - all the things I wish I had time to do! We ate stollen from our favorite bakery in Morristown, and heard hospital stories from the night shift she has been working. Tomorrow we will get packages ready to mail, make gift baskets for our neighbors, pick up hay and get it stored in the hay mow, and I will get ready to go to Las Vegas. Weather should be mild enough for us to get to the airport with no problem on Monday. I got cat-dog-chicken-rabbit food in tonight so Matt should be okay. We'll set up our Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the apt. tomorrow too. I'm so glad Mia is here to participate. Heard from AJ, he thinks he passed his Army physical and is on his way to Las Vegas to join us for Christmas with Eric's family. Can't wait to see my grandbabies!

Ups and Downs

What a I am sitting at my desk with scraps of wrapping paper and ribbons all around the piles of books and papers. Gotta love this BOCES bunch. No matter how hairy it gets around here (remember our population) we pull together to support each other and shower ourselves with little gifts and goodies. Tuesday I was supposed to have my second observation. Planned with Laurie, the English teacher, read the book all night, wrote my notes, memorized notes, somehow got to school at 8 am for my pre-observation interview with my supervisor (a super lady, by the way), got all the objectives and standards written out on the form, was a nervous wreck for the next two periods, got to class, started teaching with one eye on the door for her to come - and guess what? She never came in to watch me! There was an "incident" in the C-wing that called her away. I was a wrung-out rag after that. Laurie even cleaned up her room and had the vice-principal remove the worst kid so he wouldn't act out during my observation. Oh, well, my boss apologized and said we would do it after Christmas. I really have to learn not to get so gosh-darn nervous about these things. I've survived observations after all these years and should be okay with them by now! The frustration stayed with me all week. Last night I was feeling the holiday despondency but today I am filled with Christmas spirit and happiness. Just called Matt on the Farm and caught him about to set out to find a Christmas tree (yes, Christmas, not Holiday) on our own farm. Gives me warm fuzzies just to think about it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Played volleyball with the kids for an hour in school before they went home. It was so much fun, wish we could do it every day. I am so lousy at it but I can serve decently so I wasn't too much of a liability to my team. Went to Wal-Mart to get the presents for the underprivileged family assigned to me. Got some cute things for Hannah and Luke which I can carry on the plane without too much trouble. Crowded stores give me the creeps around the holidays and I left feeling very stretched to the limit. Long, lonely drive home with deer jumping out from every bush and cars riding up my rear (I'm told I drive like an old lady.) Matt got home from New Jersey last night with eggplant for me and flowers for our anniversary, along with my all-time favorite drinkie-poo, Harvey's Bristol Cream. I just adore it, tastes like nuts and berries and always takes the edge off. Matt has been bone-dry for twelve years and never joins me for a night-cap, but doesn't mind me taking a nip. Heard from AJ, who is on his way to his Army Chaplain physical in Phoenix, Az. He passed the 2 mile run (under 14 minutes) and scored okay on the rifle range, so this will be the last obstacle to his goal. He lost 25 pounds in preparation for this test...I am praying for him. If he passes he will be working for the Nevada National Guard, holding a coveted full time NG position, recruiting new chaplains and trying to keep soldiers in the Army. Good luck with that! My prayer is that he stays stateside and doesn't go to Iraq. Have to wrap presents for tomorrow. No more lambs. Hope they keep their legs crossed another week so I can get home from my visit to see the Little Ones in Las Vegas. Nighty-night!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Snow

It's snowing again here in Brookfield. I love this lake effect snow, little flakes falling gently all the time. It's not even Christmas and we've had several weeks of snow. We can expect possibly four more months of it. I love the snow...brisk, fresh, invigorating air, the Milky Way, twinkling stars and NO FLIES!