Saturday, March 31, 2007

Goatie Express

We took little Santa to Fulton, NY, up by Oswego, where they have the most snowfall of any city in the US, to meet Kim Parkinson who took her home to Ontario. Kim was at at rabbit show, winning ribbons, as usual. It was so hard to hand her over...what a terrific dog. But I have to confess she is in a better home than I could give her. Kim has the picture perfect storybook family, two cute little kids, nice hubby, fenced in yard, stay at home mom, park down the street where all the neighborhood doggies meet to play, all the bunny manure she can eat, etc. Who knows, here she could have been run over by a tractor or eaten by coyotes, unlikely, but I have to say something to myself to feel better! Her name is Java now. Anyway, we stopped in Hamilton to get a California roll at Sushi Blues, picked up 40 bales from Mike Walker (farmers are never off duty) and rolled in to find the trailer rocking with five of my dogs happy to hear the truck. We also found two new goat babies in the barn! One of them was born outside and if Matt hadn't found them, well, it would have been a long, cold night. It took a while to get them all situated in different jugs, clip-dip-strip, moms crotched, babes on the teat, warm molasses water in hanging buckets so kids don't go swimming, AND all the other nightly chores. I got a heat light hung on our first little goat who is too little and trying so hard to hang on, God bless her. I expect more goats tonight and tomorrow. Matt gave up at 9 and went to bed and I've just finished chores at 11. Maybe I can make it another half hour to see Saturday Night Live, which I hardly ever watch anymore. I better get some shut eye, the goatie express has begun, and many more kids will be coming down the pike.

Friday, March 30, 2007

It's Friday!

There is something about a Friday that you just can't describe. Especially if it's Pay Day Friday. There is compensation for getting yourself to work and putting up with unbelievable bologna sometimes. I paid the phone bill, electric bill, and prevented myself from taking advantage of the Rainbow Meadow special offer on essential oils. I have a whole box full of essential oils still unpacked, waiting to be added to soap...Oh, do I need to make soap. With New Hampshire Sheep and Wool a month and a half away, I should make soap NOW. It has to cure and be wrapped. But tomorrow I am off to Fulton, New York to deliver little Santa to her new family. Kim and Company are coming south from Ontario to attend a rabbit show. YOu have to understand...Kim is big into rabbits! I am meeting her there. The exact plans have not been finalized. Do I want to spend the day on the highway? Not exactly...but when I think of her two adorable kids with their new doggie, a friend to grow up with, I get all fuzzy inside. The new goat kid, as yet unnamed (it's harder than you think - I try to find meaningful names) is still a little shaky. I don't know if she is nursing, which drives me crazy. Her mouth is warm, a good sign, but she stands hunched over and that worries me. Soooo I rolled mom on her side and put the baby's mouth on the teat - nothing. I nursed some out and made her swallow it (she acts like I am trying to kill her). The first couple of days are critical. When the baby gets stronger she is better able to chase the mom around for food. Matt's on his way home now from he can work a ten hour day then drive four hours, picking up pizza for me and the doggies on the way, is amazing. He is buying hay and working on the apt. tomorrow while I take Santa to Fulton. It's almost seven and the sun is bright in the sky. Daylight is a good thing, isn't it?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

First Goat Kid of 2007!

Okay, so I was going to get my chores done and get back to the trailer and lie down. As I was dragging bales out the East End door to the boys I heard a little baaahhh. Not like the newborn meep,meep that lambs make. This was different. I turned around and there they were, in the far corner, mommie and tiny, tiny newborn, very wet and dirty. What to do, what to do. I decided to get the chores done and threw down a few extra bales from the hay mow. I built a fortress of bales around them, as I had the stanchions to brace it. I got my newborn kit together, picked out a sweater or two, and went to fix them up. Mom was not happy about the idea. Why, oh why, didn't the two lady shearers get these goats done for me last week??? I have to cut enough mohair away from the legs and sides of the goat so that the baby can get to the teat. Easier said than done with one person. I decided to do something I only resort to in emergencies...I pulled her down on her side and lay on top of her. She butted, she bit, she kicked. She managed to get my sweater up in the back and tried to bite me. I was trimming matted mohair, not the easiest job, and wondering if I had a tetanus shot recently enough to work. I knew she had one! I got one teat exposed and squeezed out some colostrum. Tonya jumped on my back to help me and keep me company! Not a good time for playing with Mommy...the little doe kid didn't want to drink her milk and coughed and sputtered, with mom butting me. Kelly and Amber were here last night...would have been peachy if this happened when they were here. It's after 9:30 and I am going to bed. I will get up in the wee hours and get back in with mom to do the other side. I hope she's calmed down by then. In the meantime, the goats births have begun. No rest for the weary, but the cutest little creatures on four feet are coming into the world, on Maggie's Farm.

Dragging My Buttinsky

Oh, Lord Have Mercy, I am tired. I picked up my new glasses on the way home from work. I had only been calling them every day to see if they were in and they came today. I didn't realize how squinting all week had made me tired. Now the new glasses feel like I have magnifying lenses over my eyes. I stopped at the market and got dizzy walking up and down the aisles. What is it about pay day tomorrow that lulls me into a false sense of security??? I bought naughty things like salsa and chips, Creme Brulee coffee creamer for Gretchen's coffee pot in school, candy, coke. The coke happened because of this queasy stomach I have. With all these little lambs running around with messy bottoms could I have gotten something from them? I wouldn't be surprised! I am waiting for the vet to call with the fecal sample. Some GOOD NEWS!!! I got a booth at the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival!!! Shari Mead, the vendor person, emailed me today saying there was a cancellation! Yippee!! They would not accept an application several months ago but said they would put my name on the list and they did! The booth is only $65 for a 12x12. I am thrilled. Now I am free from the Maryland trip. I finally got up the nerve to apply again and was rejected again, but was still going to go to drop off wool to the processor. After I licked my wounds I decided I didn't need more to do in May, since Miapet is graduating from nursing school in May, too. But New Hampshire is great - not as crowded but still a good show, and many sheep friends I would miss at Md. will be at NH. This Bundaflicka will be a busy girl. I have to make soap, bags, creme, etc. Luckily I have a nice amount of roving. Maybe I will bring some well skirted raw fleeces. My head is spinning and my body is telling me to lie down before I begin chores. I mixed bottles and got the little bottle bellies full. Little Tonya is standing at my feet as I write. She follows me everywhere, and scoots through the milk room door so fast I can't keep her in the barn. Steve came to do more work in the apt. Mattie is coming tomorrow night, driving four hours after working ten. He'll be here for three days then back again to NJ. With gas almost $3 a gallon here it is a costly trip. Oh, if only we were both retired and could stay on the farm...I don't see it happening any time soon.
There is so much "Drama" at work. I confess I enjoy it - mostly because it doesn't involve me this time. Who needs TV? I participate in a soap opera every day! I like the people I work with so much. They are my New York Family and I think they are fantastic. The one who tends to rub me the wrong way is easy to avoid. She's a terrific person but can be abrasive. I don't think she even knows it. Voorhees High School taught me to hide my true feelings for the sake of professional harmony, so she will never know how I really feel. They are all so human, and so genuine, and I have a lot of respect for them. I am so very grateful I found this job...well, they really found me but that's another story.

A Real Bed

What I would give for a real bed! The cot in the trailer is slightly tilted toward the wall. I wake up and find myself up against the cold metal wall, with a hole in it, and the one wool blanket I still have intact pulled off me. The dogs go to burrow under it and pull it right off. I make a mental note to find a place to send my wool to have blankets made. They are the only bedding my dogs don't shred. Anything with the least bit of fluff is bye-bye. Hard scratchy wool is not palatable to them. Yes! I'll fix them. It was hard to crawl out from under the dogs this morning. I usually have to push them off with my legs, like I'm riding a bicycle, yelling doggies out! doggies out! They are as groggy as I am in the wee hours. Then they are up, jumping against the trailer door, barking like crazy. I grab Pip and put him on a leash. He teaches them all to run away. I have threatened to put him in the stew pot many times, but Matt is crazy about that dog. He understands Pip's wild spirit. Pip is a Jack Russell terrier on steroids. I traded two goats for him because I had a terrible rat problem in Pa. When I met my friend, Dru Shepherd, on the Garden State Parkway to pick him up, I was shocked. There was a 10 week old puppy who looked like a full grown Jack. Uh-oh, I thought, here we go. I guess I won't be carrying him around in my purse! Have to get going on chores. I hope to pick up my new glasses today. I can't read with these drug store glasses and my old ones are broken. I got tired of all the remarks about the duct tape holding them together, and needed a new prescription anyway. Have you noticed all the typo's over the last week? The screen is fuzzy! Teachers do have to read from time to time! I've been squinting for a week. I have the bottles all made, big mug of coffee swallowed and here I go - lights on, bucket of warm lamb bottles. I hear the lambs calling now...tiptoe through the barn to look for babies first, then let the White Boys out of the pen. I have a screen across the big door so goaties don't go out and drop babies in the mud, and the White Boys can't run away. I don't want any incidents while Matt is away...Okay here I go - be brave!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bright, Cold, Windy Day in Central New York

What a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I took my 7th and 8th grade art class up the mountain in back of the school to a cabin the Conservation class built. The great snow melt is going on here and there were little streams running down the hill everywhere. Pine trees still have a bed of snow around them and the air is crisp and clear. I am not a summer person. I hate to see the sheep suffer when it's hot, and spinning wool is no fun when it won't slip through your fingers. I'm not crazy about spinning cotton or linen..The summer is for growing hay. Let's hope this summer is dryer. Last year was a nightmare for farmers trying to get hay in. Some were lucky and filled the barns. Others had a lot of hay rained on, and rain means mold that will make your animals sick. Hay is life, and the people who have barns full of hay now are making a pretty penny from people like us who have to have it, no matter what the price. There are no more lambs today. The goats are holding on to their babies for now. Maybe they know spring has sprung and the warm weather is on the way. Angora goats are from South Africa and love the heat. Texas is the angora goat capital of the US! I am still tired from yesterday. Matt left for work at 2 AM and I didn't sleep after that. I had to leave extra early to get to a meeting in Greene, NY, where most of my special ed. students live. The Greene district sent them to BOCE for various services and once a year they have a meeting to go over the Individual Educational Plan and discuss the student's progress. I found a dress to wear, the first this year, and actually put on panty hose. Ofcourse all that puttering over clothes after I did my chores made me late. I had to drive 50 miles and wasn't sure where I was going. I drove my little red truck like a demon, found the school, and ran across the parking lot. There was my teacher friend from BOCE coming out the front door to tell me our first meeting of seven that day was cancelled! I vowed never to endanger my life or my driving record again for a meeting. We went out to breakfast, and later lunch with a student and her mother, and had a nice day. Today, Wednesday, we are over the hump and on the downhill slope to the weekend. Steve is inside working on the apt. Oh, what a view I will have of my hill...dotted with sheep and a couple of lovely llamas!

Shearing Day

Well, it came and went and will come again because I have many more animals to shear. Nancy Meyers from Morris, NY called to say she had a cancellation and I couldn't say no. When the shearer says she'll come the shepherd says I'm ready! She brought along another shearer friend, Paula Decker from Unadilla. Shearing day requires supplies, organization and human helpers. Wranglers to catch the sheep (Randy and his cousin Greg), a bagger and sweeper (Mary the Long Distance Rider turned Shepherd) a hoof trimmer and shot person - me, oh, my achin' back, and a gate keeper. We had everyone but the gate keeper so I doubled. Everything went okay except for the pouring rain. Somehow we didn't get the boys locked up the night before and they were wet. Some girls got wet, too - how, we don't know, maybe rain blowing in through the door. Shearers won't touch wet sheep. They could get electrocuted and wet wool in a bag? Not a good thing. There was a bit of tension, Mattie yelling at everyone (that's how you know he's nervous)except the shearers. You never, ever, yell at the shearer. They have a status in the sheep world that I am in awe of. Good sheaers, that is. What constitutes a good shearer? There are NO second cuts, meaning the wool is taken off with one stroke, not two. That give you the longest staple you can get. The sheep shouldn't be cut, either. A can of Blue Kote is waiting (spray band-aid). And the shearer should be fast enough so the sheep can be done and on her way without too much stress. Nancy and her friend Paula don't do angora goats - a big disappointment for me, as there were lots of hairy goaties standing right there and the shearers packed up their gear and left without doing them! I thought for sure they would be tempted to want the cashola but no deal! So there will be another shearing day at Maggie's Farm. Matt and I were pleased with how fleshy and healthy the sheep looked, and how gorgeous the wool is. Now I will be a busy girl, going through each fleece, removing any tags and hay. If only I had my friend, Jan, here to help with the sorting! (Jan, where are you?)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Grain Room

This is my grain room. Remember, this farm used to support 100 cows. There are three huge silos which held everything from silage to haylage (pickled hay, I am told) and corn, along with other grains in huge metal feeders. They are empty now, as much of the land was sold off before I got here, and there will never be that many animals to feed here. I like the agricultural, architectural statement they make. I read about wealthy people having silos like mine transported to their new country homes to be turned into libraries, aviaries and the like. At my age with my bad knees and chest pains I will never get this farm going the way it was. If I was young and wealthy, maybe...but now I plan on scaling down from what I am doing now to spend more time with my grandchildren. I am missing too much of their childhood, and I can't see my son moving east, as he bought a plane and loves the wide open skies out there. One legacy of the big cow herd days I am taking advantage of is the grain room. It is a wooden fortress in the upstairs hay mow where the grain company augers or blows in grain. It waits there until I go upstairs and shovel it into a hole under which my wheelbarrel is waiting. We had to cut down some of the wooden stanchions to make a fence between that wheelbarrow and the sheep. Once I was swept down the barn and the rungs of the wheelbarrel broken as I was mobbed by sheep wanting grain. I used to buy grain in bags and it is much more expensive. I am always hemorraghing money in this business anyway, but the grain room helps stop the bleeding a bit. It's a bit spooky at night, as there is no daylight. I wear my miner's light and take my shoes off. The kitty is not allowed in there and is looking at me because he knows I am going to shoo him out. The Hay Mow Kitties have kept the barn empty of pidgeons and rats, so the grain is safe. In a couple of months the sheep will be on pasture and the grain room will be empty for the summer. My pocketbook and my aching back will say "thank you."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Kelly Comes To the Rescue

Kelly, my friend from BOCES, brought her husband over today. Stephen is a super handyman who can do anything having to do with building, soup to nuts. He is going to help Matt finish the barn apartment so we can get out of the @#$^%$ trailer. Speaking of the trailer, we figured out what that blast of noise was the other day. It was the trailer falling off the jacks after ice melted and the ground shifted under it. Now we are walking on a tilt. Bad enough that we have to turn sideways to pass each other in the is like walking up and down an airplane taking off. But not for long, with Stephen here to help. He is coming after work and weekends to GIT ER DONE! So while Stephen and Matt were cutting up sheet rock, etc. Kelly and I were playing with critters. She used to be a dairy farmer and milk 500 cows twice a day. So my crowd was no big deal to her. She helped me give shots to goats, bottle feed the lambs, get down hay and do the big grain feeding in the evening. As we were climbing the ladder to the hay mow, Kelly said, "You mean, you do this every day before you come to work???!!" I was incredily satisfied that she was incredulous at what I do. We wrestled outgrown lamb sweaters off the roly poly monkeys. She also helped me put a spinning wheel bag on ebay, and cleaned my computer of about a zillion bugs dragging it down. The rock is up in the Royal Throne Room in the apt, the room I am most interested in these days. I find myself fantasizing about the glistening white throne, untouched by human bottoms, in the Home Depot box in the barn. Unfortunately it has to go in the bathroom last, after the pine floor goes down! Matt built a bed and breakfast in Califon, NJ, which had five rooms and five toilets. They were considering selling it as a private home at one time, and Matt said, who in world would want five bathrooms to clean? Me! Me!! I said. I would pee in each one every day! Right now I would settle for one real toilet.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Graduation Time

One of the most wonderful, beautiful, magical and gratifying things about being a parent is going to a graduation. I don't care what kind of graduation, but any recognition of a task completed satisfactorily is a cause for celebration. And this graduation is cause for a BIG celebration. My Mia is being pinned as an RN BSN, Registered Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. AHHHHHHHH, just the sound of it is music to my ears. What this girl of mine did to reach her goal is too much to tell...she changed majors three times before she decided to pursue nursing. Mia took a year off Rutgers to work at the bone marrow transplant center at Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick as a nurse's aide for a year to make sure this was the right decision. It became her life's calling. I confess I was a little taken back by the stories of my virginal daughter giving 300 pound men a bed bath, or the heart wrenching stories of how she helped two little girls give their dying mother a last shampoo, then wrapped the mother up for the morgue when she died. Mia passes courses I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, then berates herself if she gets a B. This time I have two months to prepare for the ceremony. Last year AJ called to say he was graduating from Rutgers College in two days, or something like that. Hardly time to get an outfit together, but still a joyous occasion. The US Army had delayed his graduation with a year's deployment to Gitmo in Cuba. He returned from Cuba and managed to finish his triple major of Poly Science, History and Theology. AJ is in seminary school in Nevada now while pursuing a master's degree in public administration at ULV. Did I raise these kids? Were all those years of running out to night school and sitting in class myself a positive example for them? I miss them like heck, and wish we lived closer. But we will all be together again on Graduation Day.

Hens Are Broody

You see those roosters? Well, they are fertilizing the hen's eggs and the hens are going broody. They enter an altered state where they sit on a clutch of eggs and stay there until they are hatched. I don't know how they survive it, but nature has provided them with the resources to go the distance. It's an amazing thing, but I am having a terrible time getting together enough eggs to eat. My friend at work, Katie, wants a dozen eggs and I am afraid of giving her some beasty eggs. I call them that because if you open a partially gestated egg, what you find is positively beasty. Two big eyes in a gelatinous, fiendish looking goo. I have to get the girls off the eggs and do the floating test. The eggs that float are not fertilized, the eggs that are fertilized sink down. They will be returned to the hen and counted, the others discarded. Now I know what eggs are freshly laid and ready for distribution to friends. I don't want to give anyone a shock when they drop a prehatched chick-like substance in the frying pan!

Storm Coming - Warm and Dry Inside

I still find it incredibly satisfying to have a dry place for my animals to take cover. I used to feel awful being in the house while my flock was outside exposed to the weather. I know, I know, plenty of shepherds keep their flocks out all winter long, but it just doesn't work for me. At my old place I would drive over to the pasture in the rain and find all the lean-to's full and whatever sheep could fit their heads in would do it, leaving their bodies out in the rain. Once I was in the field when a sudden downpour occurred. Frodo, a great big wether, arched his back when the big drops hit it, like he was being struck by something. We both ran for the lean-to. So if you ask me do sheep have to have cover to survive I would say no....but do sheep prefer to have cover? You bet they do!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Giant Snow Cone

As far as sheep are concerned, snow is a giant icy treat. They love to eat it. Not so much with the goats...they love their water, preferably warm! This mother ewe and her lamb are out in the dark eating snow late at night. Perhaps the lamb wondered why mom would leave the comfort of the barn to wander out in the dark, but she's learning all about snow.

Milk Room at Dawn

This is what I face every morning when I stumble from the trailer into the Milk Room. The Kupris family built this concrete fortress around a giant bulk milk tank, which we sold to another dairy farm last fall. That required dismantling one wall and all kinds of engineering involving three grunting and sweaty men...I stayed as far away as I could get! The room has a concrete floor with a drain in the middle - perfect for wet felting! But now it is crammed full of too many things, sheep meds, soap making supplies, groceries, fabric, computer, stereo, laundry, etc. The sink is where I wash lamb bottles, get warm water for my bunnies, and wash our dishes. The stove that I bought out of the paper for $100 turned out to be a good purchase - I heat this room with it and cook our food. The puppies live here along with cold lambs. Tonya thinks this is her play room, although I am keeping her in the barn as much as possible. The lamb sweaters are washed and are drying on some dairy pipes, waiting for baby goats...which I expect any day now. They are smart, waiting for warmer weather. Last night went down to below zero around here I am told. I hope that was the last hurrah for winter, although I love the snow. I moved to the right place for snow!

Bridie and Brandon

Here are the latest pics of Bridie and Brandon, Fiona's little darlings. Brandon is doing well on the teat, Bridie waits for me with her bottle. She gets excited when she hears my voice and nibbles on my chin when I pick her up. She must weigh two or three pounds...about the weight of my newborn baby girl Mia. I just adore them both.

Teeny Tiny Bridie

I fell asleep watching TV and some blaring disco scene woke me up around three. The frost on my nose told me I was in for a tough morning. One space heater shorted out and the remaining one wasn't doing the job. I wiggled out from under the dogs/cats and turned on the propane oven, with the thought of dying of some kind of poisoning in the back of my mind. I dismissed it and opted for heat...after all my southern relatives had gas stoves in the fireplaces of their ante bellum houses, didn't they? The temp is 5 F. outside and the hot water is frozen. I had gotten used to a hot morning shower but not today. The barn water is frozen up too. I have to get a better system in before next winter. With so many lactating moms I can't be without water. I mix the bottles a little thicker now, it fills up the bottle babies faster. I saw little Manny drinking water out of the tub yesterday, a good sign. Now he won't need his bottle as much. Temps should go up end of this week, maybe I will get my hot water back. Itchy head today! No lambsicles or kidsicles last night, thank Goodness!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy Spring

The first day of spring means I spent my first winter in Central New York in a tin can and lived to tell the tale. I didn't need antidepressants or alcohol, did eat a little too much ice cream (Matt's fault - he likes me to bring him a big bowl or two every night, and I eat some myself) BUT I did spend a ridiculous amount of money keeping these critters. One could argue they are the costliest addiction of all. I used to use the excuse that my grandkids live far away, we are all spread apart, the sheep keep me grounded, busy, etc...but it's gone beyond that. It's a way of life that keeps my pockets drained and prevents me from even going to visit my grandkids as much as I want. Not too many people have an open invitation and a beautiful town house in LV to visit any time. But now that I am in sheep - how could I ever give it up? I just don't know. When I wander through the dim light of the pre-dawn barn with my pockets full of warm bottles and say where are you little monkeys? and lambs jump up from here and there to rush over to me and get their bellies warm and full with delicious milk....well, it's wonderful. Chores took me three hours last night because I take my time and interact with the animals. That's the way it should be. And when I am doing that I am at peace with the world.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Horizontal Snow

From the classroom windows I watched with horror as the few little flakes turned into a driving horizontal snowstorm. I had turned off the heat lamp over Bridie, Fiona and Brendan's pen before I left the farm. I was too afraid of someone pulling down the light and causing a fire. I had not payed enough attention to the weather report and even turned off the heat in the trailer. For two hours I imagined coming home to a frozen lamb or two. I thought Brendan would be okay, he's a little bigger and was on the teat this morning...but Bridie and Paddy? I drove home as fast as the conditions would let me and pulled in. The dogs in the trailer hear the truck and the trailer erupts in barking and banging...there was Knut and Finn, wno had run away on me this morning, the bums. I opened the door to the Milk Room and there were the puppies, chubby and happy. I tiptoed into the barn and there was Fiona with Bridie and Brendan snuggled up against her. I saw Bridie's ears twitch and I breathed a sigh of relief. Paddy looked okay, but frail. Minerva saw the puppies with me and jumped to her feet, ready to defend her baby. Paddy took the opportunity to get that teat and nurse. I went back to the Milk Room to make bottles and fed Tonya, who stays in the barn with the flock now, Denzel, Forrest, Chip, Manny and Joe. This took time and several refills. I have GOT to get a hanging bucket! When they are young and frail it is important to know just how much they are getting - but when they are older and porky they can use a hanging bucket.
Matt called from Mendham, NJ where he is converting a barn into a swimming pool cabana and living area. He worked all day after driving four hours to get there and was headed for his favorite motel to bed down for the night. I have two hours of chores to do and plan on doing the same. No Big Daddy to keep me company, but plenty of four footed friends.

Thor Wants His Belly Scratched

Big Daddy is gone off to work in New Jersey. I think I remember getting a couple of big wet kisses in the wee hours and the trailer door closing. He set the alarm for me at 5:30. That gives me a half hour to drink a LOT of coffee and stare into space. I was in the barn late, at 11, doing bunny water bottles and didn't get to sleep right away so it will be a groggy day. I took some time off to watch Rome but missed the first ten minutes, rerun tonight. The babies are fine and little Bridie is fishing around under Fiona for the teat. Brandon's got it fine. I am pushing a bottle on Bridie because she is so very tiny and I will be gone for 9 hours. This could be bad but I don't want to take her to BOCE. I don't think I would get any work done for showing her off all day, and I am behind on my job. Many more responsibilities than I had in NJ and I'm just finding out about some of them. I clipped the wool from around Fiona's udder so Bridie and Brandon would see them hanging there and be tempted to try. It's difficult for those tiny mouths to get around those big puffy teats! She stand so still for them and wants to help, bless her heart. Paddy is not nursing as much as I would like and Minerva is lying down all the time. Enter the bottle...but he doesn't have the tongue coordination it seems. So much of successful lambing is watching and helping them get started. Once they are vigorous on the've got it. Off to throwing bales, toting water, getting dogs in, chickens fed, etc. Then off to work. Matt home on Friday.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tommy Boy

This is Tommy Boy, son of Moonbeam and Jupiter. What a rack, huh? He has the same face as his mother and the big body and horns of his father. I remember the day he was born. I got home from work and there was Moonbeam, just quivering with excitement and pride over her new baby boy. Moonbeam was my very first angora goat. He was a single, and big and has his mother's blue eyes - unusual for a goat. Tommy Boy is bred out now and has to be seperated from the goats. I have to find another angora buck for next year and it won't be easy to replace Tommy Boy and Black Jack. I will probably buy a white buck to put some soft genes into the mohair. Colored hair is usually coarser than white. In the meantime, Tommy Boy will just look handsome in photographs and live out his days grazing the rough field and wild apple orchard under coyote ridge. I know he could flip a coyote or two with those horns...

My Big Boys

My boys are gorgeous...just look at that wool! Most people don't keep the boys - they go for lambs. But if you can afford to feed them they give you ten years of great fleeces. They are neutered except for Legolas, who is saying hello to you in this picture. It reflects his friendly nature. He has never, ever butted...not too many people can say that about their ram. I bought him from Kathy Davidson in Pa. and my new ram is there waiting for me to pick him up. Just look at that tiny little crimp that is so very Bluefaced Leicester.

A Brilliant Day

The sky is a brilliant blue and the glare on the snow is blinding. The driving wind is keeping the sheep and goats inside for the most part. I still can't get over how great it is to be insulated from the weather inside the barn, after being out in it for five years. Once we get a decent amount of hay in the mow and get some broken windows replaced and build a new door we should be in good shape for next winter. The down side of the sheep living in the barn is the floor piling up with hay and manure. It will have to be cleaned out with a small tractor or skid loader in the spring. We need a manure spreader to chop it up and spread it out on the fields The list of what we need goes on and on. No wonder so many people have gotten out of farming...what it doesn't take out of your pocketbook it takes out on your body. But it is sooooo good for the soul! When I pick up little Bridie and she nibbles on my ear I forget how crazy all this is.

Minerva and Paddy

While we were dealing with Fiona, Bridie and Brendan, Minerva had quietly given birth to her ram lamb and had settled down with him. Where Fiona did not even lick her twins off (essential to bonding) Minerva had hers all taken care of. Last year she had twin rams, and I was really hoping for a ewe from her. She is part Cheviot and very athletic. When she was a lamb herself she would fly through the air in great bounds about the field. It was wonderful to watch. Minerva's fleece is long and beautiful. I sure hope I get a ewe out of her next year. While all the lambing drama was unfolding the phone rang. It was Nancy Myers - known around here as the "Shepherd's Shearer." I must have called her forty times last fall and never got her on the phone. She had a cancellation and was wondering if I could fill it in. Now, I have been terribly remiss in not booking a shearer, for various reasons, and to get one at this late date, and a popular one like Nancy, is a miracle. She is even bringing another female shearer to help out and get it done faster - always a plus for the sheep, who think they are about to be killed. Really, the sheep are pampered all year for the most part. They are fed, watered, grazed and left alone to grow wool and get pregnant. When they are sheared they get their vaccines and are wormed again, along with hoof trimming. It is important to get the wool off of them, as it degrades the longer it is left on. The lambs jumping on the mother's backs doesn't help, either. When the weather starts to get warm, the heat of the sheep's body, combined with any moisture from rain or the field, causes the wool to felt on her...not good! So I got three new lambs, and a shearer fell out of the sky on St. Patrick's Day. Fiona is muttering to Bridie and Brendan, a good sign, and she is not butting them away. Yesterday she wouldn't look at them. We'll see.

An Eventful St. Patrick's Day

After doing my round of morning bottle feedings and chores I went to town with a list of things to pick up in anticipation of Mattie's leaving to work in NJ. He was lowering one wall of old wooden stanchions that runs the length of the barn on each side. That way I could pass feed through the slats without being mobbed. He was making a heck of a lot of noise with saws and a nail gun. I went to the dollar store and bought him a trac phone with 300 minutes. We'll see how long they last...Matt LOVES to talk to clients on the cell phone and we gave ours up for budget reasons. They don't work in Brookfield anyway and he never spent more than 60 seconds on the phone with me! Then I got propane, filled up the truck with gas ($2.73 now - and we are dying for the Arabs every day - how can OPEC do this to us?) and went to Wal-Mart to buy myself some underwear. My Silkies hang in shreds under my jeans. There was no silk in Wal-Mart but I got some stretchy nylon work-out tights. I couldn't help but linger with the masses and took more time than I thought I would. Bad Shepherd!! Bad Shepherd!! When I got home Matt excitedly told me Fiona had her babies out in the snow! We think she was upset by the noise and went out of the barn to give birth. There was a cold driving snowy wind all day yesterday and it could have been disastrous if Matt hadn't found them. Now Fiona had a bad experience last year with birthing. She had been locked in a pen with the rest of the flock all night waiting for the shearer to come the next morning. She had waited her turn to be shorn, which took a few hours, then after being shorn went to the back of the field to give birth - with neighbors and their kids watching! Poor Fiona, she had not had food or water for almost a whole day and had a prolonged twin birth with all those strangers watching. No wonder she dropped those babies and said "I'm outtahere!" It looked like she wanted to do the same thing this year...but I think it might be okay. She wouldn't follow Matt and the twins, one of each, back to the pen so he had to bring them in and then drag her over. I found them still wet with Fiona totally ignoring them. I did my clip, dip and strip and we got Fiona nursed out. Her udder and teat configuration is not advantageous to nursing. Fiona is short and her teats hang very low. The babies would have to bend down to suck in the teat and nurse. I got a belly full of colostrum in both of them - Bridie and Brendan - but was worried about little Bridie. She's soooo tiny and didn't stand up. I decided to take her inside for the night. Brendan is bigger, stronger and was already searching for the nipple. I laid Fiona down and got that big swollen teat in his mouth so he would know what it's for. As I was doing that I heard a "meeep, meeep" coming from behind me. I turned to see Miranda lying next to a newborn! There had been two births while I was gone shopping!! I got her jugged up with her new little ram lamb - Paddy (after all it was St. Patrick's Day) and did the routine all over again.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dark, Cold and Snowy in New York

Wanted to collect my thoughts before I get to work. Saturday mornings on the farm are wonderful. I forget the alarm clock and let my internal one wake me up. Today it was 5:30. I made coffee and played with my trailer cats before coming out to the barn. Since I don't hear anyone screaming for their bottle yet I am going to sneak a few minutes at the keyboard. I have to get a Premier milk bucket with nipples. I can leave it hanging for the lambs while I am at work. Funny how I forget that it takes a few days for things to come after I order them. Tonya slept in the barn with the sheep last night. Matt went out to check on her and she had bedded herself down with the flock. I am worried about those bad joints in the damp air but Matt said to leave her. Today is St. Patrick's Day. I used to go to the parade in NYC and just loved watching all the banners go by, displaying a particular area's patron saint. It was ethnic overload and such a happy time...but NYC is 250 miles away Matt says...and I can bearly leave the farm for 8 hours to work everyday. Matt is Irish, as he grew up in Newark where every block had it's ethnic identity cleary defined and was proud of it. I grew up in a rural area - yes, in the 1950's and 60's 35 miles from Manhattan was still rural - and just thought of myself as American with a grandfather who talked funny. We sang Happy Birthday in Swedish and ate a lot of fish, meatballs and funny crisp bread at Christmas, and drove to Brooklyn a lot, but I didn't think too much of it until later. My Finnish grandmother took me on a very expansive six week trip to Denmark, Sweden and Finland, where I didn't hear English spoken the whole time, and where I got my first kiss from a Finnish pig farmer named Matti Sarkiyarvi. He was absolutely gorgeous and 25 years old!!! I was 13!!! We didn't make much conversation, though, and I was anxious to get back to the States to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium. What a great cultural experience that was, but totally wasted on me at the time. Now I wish I had listened to more personal stories about the old country. Like the time my Opa and his teenage friends hauled a nasty neighbor's wagon up into a tree and left it there. Or when they peed on his windows so it would freeze and stay there. I am trying to find out more about theire lives now but the Scandies are all dead...too late for first person history! I know they were all farmers and when they got to this country they wanted nothing to do with farming and settled in Brooklyn. They became craftsmen and domestics and liked living in the city. I listened to some folks at work talking about their party/drinking plans this weekend. Matt says if you want to celebrate the life of St. Patrick you should go to church not the bar. After all, he did bring Christianity to Ireland, and probably wasn't a drinker.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Losing My Right Arm

Okay, okay, I can do it. Matt will get another load of hay before he leaves on Sunday to go back to NJ. He will be back on Friday, then leave again on Sunday. It's getting lighter every day. A Nor'easter is headed here as I write, and I am off to work. Just the idea of nobody to call if I get stuck on the road, or stuck at work and I am cut off from the animals home on the farm, is terrifying. And I am still scared of the dark. Matt says how can someone with a Master's Degree be afraid of the dark??? Typical that blue collar people have more respect for people with education than they deserve. Just last night when I was climbing down from the hay mow in the dark I thought I felt a hand grab mine...very freaky. I have got to get over this...

Big Daddy Leaves the State

Okay, I should have seen it coming. Three months of active job hunting and nothing...I mean nothing. The only lead he had on a job was snafued by a ticket he forgot to pay in Pa. before we moved. Then desperation set in, and a lightning bolt from NJ. A big shot builder Matt worked for a couple of years ago called with a job. A woman with "deep pockets" - a construction term for wealthy - wants her historic barn restored inside and out. The job could last from 3 months to a year. Matt has a good reputation for saving old structures that are hanging on by a board or two...and once the structure is saved they find other things for him to do. The builder is even offering him a room in the historic Bed and Breakfast in Long Valley that Matt rebuilt a while back. It's great to have Matt working again but it means Maggie is in charge of the farm. I did it from August to January and at times I was the one hanging on by a board or two..but this means I can finally get out of the trailer and into the barn apt. My friend from work, Kelly's, husband is coming over to check out what needs to be done. With Matt making NJ wages we can afford to hire someone. But that doesn't help with the enormous responsiblity of getting a couple of hundred animals fed and cared for properly. Just getting the hay out is hard work, twice a day. I better stock up on Advil. Matt is cutting down old wooden stanchions today and will construct a wall that I can pass feed through to the sheep without getting mobbed and carried away. We got bulk grain delivered yesterday so I can auguer it down through a chute instead of hauling bags. Nobody will be home with the bottle babies during the day, so I will have to hustle home. They will be screaming for their milk by that time. I will leave Tonya out with the flock and hope she is not butted around too much. She's too old to leave in the crate all day, but with no mother to protect her, she is vulnerable to any ill-tempered ewe. Even so she seems happier with the flock. I type this as I am waiting for him to get up and catch a ewe with mastitis that needs a shot, and the drain in the milk room is overflowing with washing machine water and flooding the place. We will all have to make do...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Chip has Found a Friend

Mocha, Chip and Fudge are out of the jug and members of the flock now. I found little Chip snuggled up against his big buddy Breeze last night, feeling safe and protected. Mom is standing by, just in case. The lambs seem to want Breeze more than Chris, the big red llama. Maybe it's because Breeze is white like so many of them, and smaller than Chris. It's easier to jump on Breeze's back. It rained all day yesterday and today it snowed all day. More snow expected tomorrow - fine with me. I love the snow, and don't want it to stop. But summer has to come to grow the hay because hay is life itself on the farm.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thoughts of Last Summer

When we first moved here I was living alone during the week. Matt would come up on weekends. When there was no moon I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. It was scary at first, and still is, when I walk around the hay mows in the fact I try to have all the chores done before dark and hunker down in the trailer for the night. When I had my sewing machine in the hay mow and I was really pushing to get bags done for the Oct. 20 Rhinebeck Festival, I would find myself looking up into a vast empty black space, and get a little freaked out. I thought surely there were spirits floating about, drawn to my life force. There is a cemetery across the street where the founding Puritans, the Burkhytes are buried. Why wouldn't they come over to see what's going on? Matt says leave them alone, they are at peace in Heaven! They must be as they've never come to visit. Not yet! Some nights I would tiptoe out of the trailer and lie on top of the picnic table and stare straight up to the stars - and there were plenty. I would see comets galore with my proliferal vision, and once thought I saw a UFO. I told my kids, who got a little worried about their mother out in the way-back-yonder by herself. They were probably aircraft from Fort Drum. No flight path to Newark Airport here! I became quite the star watcher, and read the New York Times star report regularly. No smog or glare in Brookfield to block the view!

Have We Made It?

Have we really made it through our first winter in Upstate New York? People told us were were crazy, we would freeze our ______off, did we realize what the winters were like?, etc. etc. etc. Now it is almost April, and the signs of spring are here. WE not only made it, we made it in a tin can. Hauling it down off the hill and tucking the trailer in below the giant silos on the south side of the barn helped. I was getting rocked like crazy up on the hill and when the hard fall rains came I was leaking like colander after pouring out the spaghetti. I had pots all over the floor. They tell me this was a mild winter. When it started getting cold and I was on my way to work, I would take storm gear with me. I had rubber boots, extra coats, mittens, scarves, hats, etc., along with candles and matches, cell phone charged, the whole deal. Thought I might be trapped in a surprise raging blizzard. Then I would get to work and the girls had on their flip flops and the teachers were still in tee-shirts. But I was ready, just in case. It's not yet March 15 and the teachers at BOCE have their sandals and capri pants ready for the first hint of spring weather. I think I will still keep the storm gear in the truck, just in case.

A Spring Tease in Central New York

The temperature outside my barn door in the shade is 66 but the sun says 75! Snow is melting like crazy and I sink in when I make my way to the trailer. There will surely be flooding in low lying areas. I am relieved to be on high ground, and although we may be muddy, we are not flooded. I moved here from a town that was underwater three times in a year and a half. I moved here while one flood was being born up river, here in the Susquehanna which poured into the Delaware and sentIt' the flood all the way back to Riegelsville where my neighbor lost two cars and I was cut off from my sheep. AJ was driving the F150 back to Pa. when a raging river poured over route 81, the road we were travelling on. Cars were being carried away while we bombed through it and continued on our way. AJ says that truck saved our lives. I believe it. It's all part of the grand scheme...we got the Sign that said go out and buy that truck - and we were in it when the flood came! They say one foot of snow equals an inch of rain, so all this melted snow should be pouring into the Susquehanna right now, and headed back south to the Delaware. Glad I am here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy Birthday to Big Daddy

Today Mattie is 51 years old. He forgot that today is his birthday, and I almost forgot. Fortunately my little Mia (who has saved me a million times in so many ways) called to wish him Happy Birthday as I was on my way out the door to work. That is what the stress of lambing and so many little lives depending on you can do. I stopped at Homestead Feed on the way home to pick up more lamb milk replacer and bought him a new pair of Muck Boots. He's so easy to buy presents for. I buy them in this order #1 - power tools, #2 - Carhardtt clothes, #3 - boots and socks. It was time for #3, as his old Muck boots were shredding. They come with a nice set of treads now. I finished a pair of socks I had started for Christmas, which made a nice homey wifey kind of gift. It almost seems sad to put these socks on those gnarly feet - but he is my Big Daddy and it is his birthday. Oh, what those feet do for me in the course of a year on the farm! He spent the day fixing the water in the trailer - again - so I could get a hot shower tomorrow and is out picking up hay from Mike Walker's farm in North Brookfield right now. I brought him fried calamari and hot wings from Frank's in New Berlin and he seems to be happy with that. No news on the two job interviews he had recently - bad news - but he has another interview with Loew's in Norwich as an installer scheduled for Wednesday. Please, oh please, oh please let a job come through for him. A man out of work is not a good thing. The masculine provider thing comes into play and it's just not good.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Running the Sewing Machine

The afternoon goes on while I am working on my second Bundaflicka bag of the day. When life gives you a lot to handle - sew bags to contain it all! The first Bundaflicka bag was born when I was teaching knitting and quilting in a summer program in Morristown, NJ. Yes, George wintered over there, in the cozy Ford mansion while his army froze across town at Jockey Hollow encampment. My kids grew up playing in the reconstructed huts. Well, my assistant, Mia's best friend, Lisa Palmer, was going to Mexico on vacation and needed a new tote bag. There we were with mountains of fabric, machines and cutting tables. I whipped up a bag for her and she said it had to have some kind of closure. We had femo clay in the classroom and the signature heart button was born. The rest is history. Since I have become a fan of the movie, "Signs," (M. Night Shamalamadingdong's story of the kid who had asthma so the aliens couldn't kill him with the poison gas? You know the movie?) I have come to believe there are reasons why we do things like start making tote bags, soap, taking pictures for notecards, etc. When the going gets rough I sit down and sew. By the grace of god, people have been laying down money for my bags for six, eight years or so! Last year at Rhinebeck there was a constant flow of bags out of my booth. That money was used to start my barn apartment, which is about half done. I pray it is done soon because the melting frozen pipes have flooded the trailer. The reality show goes on and on...