Monday, April 30, 2007

Checking In with the Founding Farmers

When I got home from work Matt suggested we walk across the road and inspect the cemetery. The brush has not yet sprouted and it's much easier to see what's there. We counted over 46 markers, more than we had previously discovered. Many are children, including Peter Burdick, born in the 1700's and age 18 at death, and Polly Burdick, age 12 at death. They were the children of Elisha and Lydia Burdick, who both lived until a ripe old age. There are many baby markers, we assume, because they are so small and not written on. I was told the cemetery contains triplets who were scalped by Indians. I am disappointed the cemetery was not kept up over the years. The direct descendants went bust in the Depression and left for California where they started a vineyard and were fabulously successful. The Kupris family came from Lithuania via the Bronx and have been here ever since. The cemetery is on a round wooded rise just in front of the creek. I can imagine the waking vigil kept around the body in the house where Chris Kupris lives just next door to me, and the procession across the field to the burial place. How awful it must have been for them during the brutal winters here, and to lose the young people when their manpower was sorely needed. If only they had kept some record of their hopes and dreams and challenges. I wish I owned that field - I would clear the cemetery and raise the fallen stones. They need some treatment to remove fungus on many of them. Matt showed me the tool marks on some of the monuments, so carefully and lovingly crafted from large stones. Matt lowered his head and said a prayer for them and gave thanks to the powers that be who brought us here. A strong wind was blowing the trees around and the meandering creek was rushing by, glinting in the afternoon sun. The scene was mesmerizing and moving. We found a new born lamb in the barn after walking back from the cemetery. Life goes on...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Top O' the Hill on a Beautiful Day

The clouds blew away and a gorgeous blue sky with puffy white clouds moved in. We took the doggies, all except the white boys, up the hill to the upper pond. I brought balls to throw in the pond for Bodie. I am worried about his legs stiffening with age and thought that a swim would be good for him. The hike was just was Matt and I needed for our own legs stiffening with age! There are parts of my land I haven't explored yet, and we took them in on the way down. My farm is not what you would call the best for hay production, etc. The guy who got here before me with deep pockets got the best hayfields. But I have the heart of the farm - the barn - and the land around it has the most character. I love the ridge that rises up behind the barn, with big pines intermingled amoung the indigenous trees. It looks like Colorado to me. We checked out what will be goatland someday, and the many springs bubbling up from underground. My critters will always be able to find water. We checked out the lower pond which is full of frog's eggs. Whenever I rescue a turtle from the middle of a highway (the stories I could tell!) I bring it home to the lower pond, which is wilder and muckier than the upper pond. My camera card filled up before we got there, so I will save that for another post.

Barn Swallows

The barn swallows are trying to build their nests in the alcove by the milk room door. They built beautiful nests there last year and we were so thrilled about it. We bought this farm a year before we moved here, and they were used to not being disturbed. But now we use the milk room door all the time, and there are cats lurking around every corner. I feel awful about it, and wish I could tell them that when the apt. is finished we will be using a door on the hill side of the barn. They will have some privacy back, but there will still be the cats. The nests are up high enough, but the swallows come swooping into the enclosed area and a very energetic cat could jump up and get them on the intake. I am hoping the swallows find another spot, like inside any of the three fortress-like silos! They are creatures of habit and hate change, just like me.

We Have Soap

It's always a thrill when I open the box and see a new batch of soap, perfectly set up. One never knows...there could be a misalignment of the planets, or some bad karma that has conspired to offset the chemical balance required. The soap must be wrapped up and insulated for the first 24 hours to prevent quick cooling. For me, there is a certain suspense involved, following by a sigh of relief. When you have poured a $60 bottle of Patchouli into the soup, hoping it will turn into soap, you want it to work. Speaking of patchouli...when I went into town to get the NY Times (can you imagine, it is easier to get here than when we lived on the river, 70 miles west of NYC) I stopped at Joanie's Diner to get Matt his favorite breakfast sandwich. Joanie stood still and her eyes that patchouli that I smell????? I had put the last few drops from the bottle on the back of my neck. Joanie is crazy about it. I happen to adore the scent but it is not for everyone. It seems people either love it or hate it. Kathleen, my knitter friend from Peru, loves it, too. I will have to bring Joanie some soap and send some to Kathleen the next time I send her some yarn. (She is knitting some hats for me and I am so excited about that. They will have earflaps and braided tie strings - how cool is that?) Patchouli people need to stick together. I give away as much soap as I sell. Kind of like casting my soap upon the waters. Anyway, after getting home and set up for another round of soapmaking I decided I couldn't wait any longer - I removed the wool blankets from the double layered cardboard boxes to peek inside. Bingo! We have soap! My operation is as basic as can be. I pour the molten soap batter into paper milk cartons that I tear away from the block once it is hardened. I confess I have lusted after fancy molds and hydraulic cutters...but there is something cool about remaining so simple. It works fine for the Luddite in me as Gretchen would say.

Sunday Morning in the Barn

I had hoped by now I would have more outside pictures of the flock, but it is turning out to be a cold, rainy spring in Central New York. Okay by me. Anything that keeps the flies away a little longer. When I was a teenager I took a "roots" trip to Sweden and Finland. We were way up above the arctic circle visiting a relative who lived a lot like I do. It was the first time I saw anything related to spinning, as this auntie spun and wove all her textiles. Conditions were a bit primitive. The bathroom facility consisted of two tree stumps standing on end, with a board going across them. The board had two holes carved out - and this potty station was out in the middle of a field next to the house. Most of my bodily functions just stopped for the couple of days we were there. At least I have my trusty camp potty in the milkroom. But anyway...what I remember the most, other than sitting on a swing and reading in bright daylight at midnight, was the battle of the flies. Their horse was black with them and the farmhand would take a blanket and kill hundreds of them with one swat, then scrape them off the rump. I don't think I spent much time outside. They were having a heat wave that year (over 70 degrees F) and there was a lot of complaining about the butter not churning right, etc. The refrigerator was a hole in the side of a hill. There was a dowl running around the kitchen where bread with a hole in the middle was stored. They must have had pretty good teeth, as this bread got hard as a rock. I had tickets to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium that year, and I couldn't think about too much else. That trip that should have been a cultural treasure was lost on me. If I could only do it now! My Mia is going to Sweden in a month. I would love for her to visit the town where my Opa grew up, in Narke province - central Sweden - if she can steer that way. She and Jenny Brady are going to a wedding in Denmark. I hope she doesn't decide to stay over reason why I didn't move farther out into the way back yonder was to stay four hours away from Mia in New Jersey. But she is a free agent and wherever she finds happiness is fine with me.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Jackie the Beagle

Jackie came to live with us permanently six or seven years ago. He was the adored dog/child of my son Eric and his wife, Annie. Jackie was adopted from the Louisville Animal Shelter in Kentucky where Eric and Annie settled. They obtained Jackie to celebrate their engagement and the trio was ecstatically happy. Jackie's favorite pastime was playing with his male person and waiting for the mailman. He was very well trained and would sit just outside the kitchen door while the family was eating. I once observed him taking a piece of his kibble to his designated waiting place so he could feel like he was part of the family meal. Once when I was visiting Jackie took a lick of my coffee while I was lying in bed and went into convulsions. Eric, Annie and I rushed him to the animal hospital where large amounts of sedative could not prevent him from shaking. Everyone was horribly upset, including the vet, who sent him on to a specialist. Jackie recovered and he continued to be the adored darling of the family. There was some stress, however, when Jackie developed some spoiled child habits, like jumping up and removing all the magnets and messages from the refrigerator, raiding the cat box, and spreading any garbage carelessly left in the can all over the house. The human people were NOT AMUSED and would periodically ask the human grandmother person if Jackie could come and live with her. A calm would settle over the house and Jackie was once again loved and adored. Then a terrible thing happened to Jackie. His life would be forever changed by the birth of Hannah Margaret, his human sister person. Somehow there was no room for Jackie in the new family. They travelled east to visit the human grandmother person and her new husband, who observed Jackie's bed and dish being unloaded with the family's luggage. Jackie had a new home! It was tough going at first. Jackie was missing his family something awful. He would bite himself and trot back and forth under the bed all night. They tried everything, toys, walks to the creek, rides in the car, nothing worked. Jackie wanted his home back. But that was not to be. Gradually, Jackie settled in with his new family of two humans and a few dog, cat and rabbit friends. Jackie ate too much, perhaps because of his inner unhappiness, and grew very fat. At the present stage of his life, Jackie suffering from some structural problems and has to be assisted up stairs. The male human person and Jackie are best friends. He is a loyal, sturdy, and faithful friend to the humans, and has a lovely farm to roam when he is having a good day and feeling up to it. It was very difficult for Jackie when he first moved to the farm with his family. He was afraid of being abandoned again and followed the grandmother person everywhere she went, no matter how it hurt him to walk. The humans fear Jackie is not long for this world and hope they have made up for some of the unhappiness he has felt over the years. He is a treasured friend and will be sorely missed.

Patchouli...The Love Soap

I finally got organized and motivated to make a batch of soap. I had to wait until the karma was just right, or the soap wouldn't come out. It's happened to me before. Maybe it was the overwhelming flow of love Matt brought home to me last night, or Mia's graduation invitation that I received this morning. I got the courage to drag out all the stuff and get a batch going. Patchouli, ofcourse! One may think it is easy, but making soap is a very exact science. Everything has to be measured correctly and you must have the right temperature of all the very expensive ingredients before they are combined - or else you have a failed batch of gelatinous goo. Not a good thing...And New Hampshire Sheep and Wool is in two weeks. I was worried about myself. So much time and energy goes to the animals - but I need the soap to help pay for them. Therein lies the problem...but I think I have it licked, or should I say washed?

A Very Special Invitation

Look what arrived invitation to Mia's graduation from nursing school. We are thrilled and proud to attend. Word's can't express...

A Nice Surprise

I was sitting at my desk yesterday, enjoying the sublime pleasure of completing a whole week of school, when Gretchen walked in leading Big Daddy. Matt had never been in my school before. I knew he was on his way home, having been rained out of work in NJ, but I didn't know he would be paying me a surprise visit. Isn't it nice that a reunion after only four days apart can spark a kissing and hugging session and give me warm fuzzies that I haven't felt since the Vietnam War? Denise, my roommate, had to turn away blushing. I took him on a tour of BOCE, which included a lengthy conversation with the carpenter teacher. Matt lusted after the gorgeous building trades shop we have. He has plans to convert out pole barn into a shop for himself someday...fantasies are free, remember? We caught a fish dinner on the way home at Remember When in New Berlin. A couple, both Miami Florida cops, moved up here and renovated the old hospital into a Victorian era restaurant and B&B. It's adorable - and the gas fireplace was going. I ordered a glass of Zinfandel - cool and pink...what a treat. Then it was home to the farm and the chores. I forced myself to sit up and watch yet another WWII documentary on Gen George S. Patton (Matt's uncle followed him all over Europe) so I could catch Bill Mahre after it. Made it to Bill but promptly fell asleep during the opening monologue. Oh, well, I can tell you all about the Battle of the Bulge.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Night-Night With My Bone

Tanner loves her bone. I have to take it away in order to make up my "bed" and I say that word loosely. I have to make my night-night bottles and give them to the little ones, take a walk through the barn to see if anyone has decided to give birth or is caught on something or otherwise in distress, collect the dogs I have let out of the trailer while I was doing all this, fill any rabbit bottles that are empty, move Finn's lead from one end of the barn to another in hopes he will stop barking, nearer to Knut but not close enough so they will be tangled...make sure the cat food is out, lug water to the boys pen, fill the stock tanks, it goes on and on. I watched the democratic debate. Wouldn't it be nice if they could do all they say they are going to do? Hillary was great. President Obama??? Sorry, I just can't get used to the idea. Edwards? I don't know - he looks, hmmmm, hesitant. Richardson? Maybe. The others? I don't think so. I think Gore is the only one who could beat Hillary to the nomination, but he is smart enough to stay out of it. Off to bed am I...

Chris and his Little Friend

The little goat kids love Chris and Breeze. They are always dancing around them, or following their big brothers around. It's a delight to watch. I had a scare tonight when Bridie ate some rabbit food out of the bucket I put down for Lilly's treat. When I'm finished putting the pellets in the cages I give the sheep what's left. Matt started it, and they crowd around waiting for it. Most of them were outside grazing and the lambs got a chance. But Bridie started to salivate and rivers of drool were pouring out of her mouth. I was panicky, thinking she was allergic or poisoned. A half hour later she is fine, munching on hay, and taking her bottle normally. Whew, that was frightening. No more rabbit pellets to lambs. Matt called on his way to Jan's for dinner. Jan and I worked together at Voorhees and she and her husband, Dave, graciously have Matt once a week while he is working in NJ. He called to tell me work went alright today - threat of rain is always a problem - and the seatbelt bell was ringing away. He was probably going 90 miles an hour in the fast lane, too. I am afraid he is going to pull a "Corzine" one of these days and end up like the Gov. of NJ, lying in a hospital bed, or a morgue, with a dozen fractures. Matt met Mia for dinner last night at the Dublin Pub in Morristown. We are all so excited and happy for her. She is graduating from UMDNJ with terrific grades and 10 points already earned toward her Masters in nursing. Then she will really be our doctor. Mia is off to Europe with Jenny Brady, her childhood friend since kindergarten, in June. Then home again to do some serious job hunting. AJ gave his first sermon yesterday to a bible class at Univ. of Las Vegas. He said it was well received. I guess we have a preacher in the family now. Wish I was there to hear it. I'm trying to get done with chores so I can watch the democratic debate tonight. Go Hillary! I am thrilled she is my senator now! I always liked her and never understood why people react so negatively to her. I read her biography - she has always been a social activist and dynamite woman. Anyone who will try to get nationalized health insurance is fine with me. We can go into zillions of dollars worth of debt to wage a war but not to take care of poor people who have no benefits? Go figure!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Chickens Hard at Work

I want to build a chicken yard adjacent to the chicken room, so the chickens can walk down a ladder to play in the grass. I have a layer of hay in their room for them to dig in, but it's not the same as green grass. Grass is very good for them, and makes their eggs taste even better. It's lovely to see a chicken gracefully run her beak along a blade of grass and slide the seeds off. And they eat any insect or grub they can find. I often wondered how greatly improved the world would be if people let chickens free range on their lawns instead of pouring tons and tons of pesticides on them. All those chemicals kill our dogs and cats, and the run off gets into the water table and eventually kills us. I lived in a fancy development and put absolutely nothing on my lawn. Neighbors had teams and teams of landscapers in regularly to pour everything imaginable on their lawns. Mine looked just as good, only mine occasionally sprouted a pretty little flower. My next door neighbor had a pesticide truck come in with a powerful sprayer to reach the tops of the trees. I had nesting cardinals in my yard. Big mistake. I "persuaded" the truck to leave and called Trenton, N.J.'s state capital. I learned that they could do whatever they wanted in their yard, but it is incumbent upon the neighbor to prevent one drop of chemical from floating over to my yard. I explained that to them and the homeowner was not happy...but that was to be expected. I was very misunderstood in those days. I am in a much better place now.

Old Friends

I need to catch Dallas Alice, my old Texas goat. She has a prolapse and I need to push it back in. Doing it alone is next to impossible. Even if I caught, haltered her and tied her to a fence I couldn't do it with her swinging back and forth. She prolapsed last year before she gave birth, but this year had a normal pregnancy and birth. Now the prolapse is back. I need to wash it off and push it back in. I will give her a shot of oxytocin, the idea being that a uterus that is contracting won't prolapse. We'll see if it works. She should not be bred again, either. I can see I will have a pasture of mature, non-breeders. I don't ship out sheep after I have gotten lambs from them, or if they have grown older and have a defect of some sort. That wouldn't be a very nice thing to do to a friend. For all I know they could be on a ship to Saudi Arabia, where they would have their throats cut in some religious ritual! No thanks! When a sheep or goat joins my family they are here for the duration. They give wool and mohair forever and are always contributing to the farm somehow. And they are still pretty to look at, in a matronly sort of way. Could I ever part with my Lonnie? She is a Bluefaced Leicester/Romney cross and has a rather odd looking face, but is very beautiful to me. She developed a big lump on the side of her neck, which the vet says is no problem and can't be operated on. Her ears are torn from old ear tags that got caught on things. Lonnie has absolutely beautiful lambs. She got sick about midway in her pregnancy this year and lost her lambs. I was lucky I didn't lose her. I think she will join the retirement flock soon, too.

Rainy Wednesday

Came home to find everyone alive, no dead bodies, no newborns mewing in the rain outside. With so many bodies in the barn a sheep or goat will go outside, even in bad weather, to be alone when she gives birth. It started to rain while I was at work and I thought, uh-oh. I have Knut and Finn tied up in the barn with metal cords. They are not happy, but I can only leave Thor loose while I am gone and even that makes me nervous. While changing poles this morning because I didn't want them to get bored on one end of the barn (what a fool) Knut made a run for it and mashed my middle finger when the cord tightened around the pole. Man, it hurts. The infected finger next to it is finally healing and I mash another one. I hate to hurt my fingers. Hauling hay bales around with crippled fingers is challenging. Oh, well. Little Velvet took a whole bottle just now - a first for her. Now I have three on the bottle, not too bad. I brought home a sack of cantaloupe, pineapple and melon peels for the chickens from the BOCE kitchen. What a treat. I have to motivate myself to make soap or I will be in deep-doo-doo when the shows and market starts. When it is rainy, cold and dark like it is now I just want to get the bed out and pile the dogs around me and watch TV. There is no room for my spinning wheel in the trailer and the puppies won't let me knit. In my old house, when I had a house, I would have a fire going and about two dozen candles on the mantle. I miss my mantle. I would decorate it for the holidays and always have too much on it - pottery, dried things, candlesticks, family pics, etc. It's a wonder I never burned a house down. There will be no mantle in the barn apt. but when we build our "house on the hill" I will have a mightly mantle - probably a giant old beam over a massive walk-in fireplace. Well, fantasies are free, right?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Zero Tolerance

I am starting to worry about myself. I am developing an attitude problem. It must have something to do with age...I have a hard time sitting still and listening to other people's bull%#$^. When we have meetings after work, as teachers often do, I either start falling asleep or I get the uncontrollable urge to make faces at the people sitting across from me. Like I'm trying to crack them up or just break their concentration. I work with some very committed young people who are relatively new at the teaching profession. They are taking all this very seriously. I have not been in teaching all that long, but long enough to know that the only time worthwhile is the time you spend with the kids. And then lunch after that. Lunch is a good thing - chow down on food the kids made in culinary and chat with the teachers. That's when you find out what's going on anyway, over lunch. These after school meetings are almost more than I can take - but it's part of the job. All I can think about are lambs crying for their bottles, or somebody caught in a fence, or a dog run away and causing neighbor problems, or the trailer dogs chewing out a window, etc. Matt calls my teaching job a "farm subsidy." I better subsidize my body with some sleep right now...I groomed my bunny for tonight - I'm trying to do one bunny a night - and found directions to make a Cinco De Mayo pinata with my art class. The sheep are upset that I am taking them off grain - they are fat and I don't want to buy it. There is a lot of complaining going on out there as I type. I bought them extra minerals, supplement blocks to chew on, and I'm giving them extra hay. I wish somebody would put me on a diet...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Night Blues

Back to work today...I like my colleagues, I like the kids, but being stuck inside a building all day - I don't like that. I took my art class out to sit on the grass and watercolor, but three boys started a dirt bomb fight near the "Dozer Trail" where the kids learn how to operate heavy equipment. It looks like so much fun - like playing with real full sized Tonka Toys. Anyway, Denise came out and rescued me by taking the dirt bombers back inside so the rest of us could dabble with paint in the sunshine with the gentle breezes blowing. Something feels weird about 80 degrees in upstate New York in April...hmmmm, is it global warming? Big Daddy is leaving to go back to work in NJ. Bummer. The good part is that he runs around like crazy helping get things together for me during the coming week. He picked up hay, fixed the water problem in the entry way, tried to get the outside lights to work, and couldn't, but he tried. If the moon is not out I have to feel my way down the barn stairs and follow the trailer lights. He has to leave at 3 am, and work a 10 hour day on some rich lady's barn turned pool cabana and apartment, and collapse in a motel room. I guess I won't complain too much...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Taylor's Tack and Field Auction

I almost bought a horse today. I saw the sign for Barb Taylor's auction in the Brookfield General Store about a week ago. I made a mental note to try to attend. Barb was real nice to me and the grandkids last summer when I took them to ride at her place several times. I think she's terrific and I love her stables. There was a good crowd there and, guess what?, she was auctioning three horses. Now I have been looking for a horse for Hannah and Luke and thought I might have found one. But when the auctioneer starting blabbing I didn't quite understand what he said, or believe what I was hearing, and I hesitated, and it was over just like that. A mother bought him for her teenaged daughter for an unbelievable 175!! He was only three years old and green broke, and I hadn't checked with Barb before hand to see if she had room at her place for him, time to train him for me, etc. If she was full I would have to bring him home to the farm and we don't have a stall built, etc. Besides, Matt would probably have the fit of all fits...Oh well, maybe next time. But here he is and isn't he beautiful. You snooze, you lose...

Ahhhh, The Round Bale

Matt surprised me with a round bale yesterday - a real treat. A round bale is equal to 15 bales of square hay that I don't have to climb the ladder and throw down, then spread around. The critters love it because they can stand around it and eat to their hearts content. Unfortunately it requires special equipment not only to bale it, but to use it on your own farm if you buy it from someone else. You need a tractor with a special spear, or pincer unit to pick it up and carry it to where you want it. You can't throw it down the hole in the floor like I do. Actually, I have to lie down on the floor and carefully throw flakes of the bale into the hay feeder or it bounces out all over the sheep and lands on the floor. Other bales I throw down then drag out to the boys. Round bales can be dangerous, too. A shepherd I was acquainted with went out to the field to put out some round bales and never came back. Jimmy was found dead underneath one that night. Another shepherd I know likes round bales because when placed on a bad spot of pasture it will improve the ground over the next couple of years. Our barn is not set up for round bales. The hay elevator Chris Kupris purchased for a cool $14,000 shortly before he sold the farm is a square baler. It is unlikely that I will be set up for round bales in my lifetime, but I wouldn't mind having them delivered and placed in the yard for me. Sure does save a lot of wear and tear on these old joints.

Tandem Mommies

Two of my cats gave birth within a week of each other. I put the kittens in cardboard boxes in the milk room up on a table. I learned the hard way how tomcats kill kittens. And then there are the dogs... I know cats are good at hiding their kittens, but then they grow up wild. If I am going to feed and care for them I want to play with them and watch them grow! Well, the moms decided to combine litters and raise the kitties together. It's just wonderful to see both moms washing and nursing each other's babies, just like a pride of lions would in the wild. I can smooch with the kittens all I want and show them off to visitors.

One More Chick

As I was roaming around the barn like I do, checking on this one and that one, or just taking it all in with a silly smile on my face, I heard another peep-peep. Could it be another chick that hatched after I put mom and chicks in the chicken room? I searched the drain pipe where I thought they must have hatched and nothing there. What gives? The peep-peep continued but I couldn't find the peeper! Suddenly I stood up and saw the source of the peeping - inside a rabbit cage! The hen had been jumping up on a ledge between the barn rafters to lay her eggs, over the bunny cages. When the eggs hatched the chicks must have fallen, one by one, down from the ledge on to the floor of the barn. How she managed to keep them all together is beyond me, but the mothering instincts of hens are legendary. I retrieved the chick from the cage and carried it to mother hen in the chicken room. She was busy keeping the other chicks warm. I put it down next to her and nothing happened. I moved it to the back of her tail and the chick scooted under her feathers through the back door. I got a chair and found the nest - three more eggs! What to do, what to do? I knew they needed warmth or the chicks inside would die, if the eggs were fertilized, that is. I stashed them in the warmest, safest spot I knew - my sports bra! After carrying them around all day an unfortunate accident occurred when Holly jumped up and planted a paw firmly on the eggs. One cracked and revealed a dead chick. I decided to put the remaining two eggs in a bowl inside the propane oven in the trailer. The pilot light keeps them just the right temp without cooking the contents. The door is partially open so I can hear any peep-peeps. We'll see what happens! I have hatched abandoned eggs before with a light bulb and a cardboard box. It's so much fun to listen for the little muffled sounds inside the egg, then watch the tiny beak break it's way out - to a cold, dangerous world!

Too Nice to Stay Inside

...but work has to continue on the apt. or we won't be ready for Hannah and Luke this summer. Sometimes I think it won't be finished be next Christmas, but one has to keep a positive attitude. Last weekend our friend Steve brought us a paint machine which had a secret trick to turning it on. After getting all suited up and everything taped up in the apt. Matt spent several hours trying to get it to work and never could. A whole week lost. He managed to paint some yesterday then ran out of paint. Another trip to Lowes and painting resumes today. I am trying to be optimistic.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Spring Surprise

While I was feeding the lambs I thought I heard a peep-peep-peep. I wondered, what kind of bird is that? Heard it again and went looking. A chicken I haven't seen for a while hatched six little chicks! I couldn't believe it. I think she must have been in the old drain pipe under the rabbit cages. What a miracle of life a new chicken mother is. They have incredible mothering instincts, calling their chicks inside, under their wings every few minutes so the chicks don't get chilled. The life lessons start immediately, how to scratch for food, etc. Matt and I put a hat box over them, slid a piece of cardboard underneath and transported them to the chicken room. I don't want cats getting the chicks, or sheep stepping on them. We sat and watched to see if any of the chickens bothered her. One did, and mom fought her off. We were going to let nature take it's course, when the same nasty hen jumped into a nest box and broke open an egg to eat! I guess she is jealous because she doesn't have any chicks! We decided to toss her out of the chicken room and let her roam the open barn for a while. I adore baby chicks. Only had one little chick last year and it turned out to be a big beautiful rooster, who has since run his father off to the far end of the barn. Life is tough in chicken land.

Hard Lesson Learned

Thor and Knut tangled with a porcupine last night. Knut had a paw and nose positively filled with quills. Thor luckily had a few big ones in his nose....I wonder who was the aggressor here? It was quite a wild time getting them out. Knut let me pull out a few with my tweezers then decided it hurt and stopped being cooperative. Matt held him for me and I got them all except a few inside his mouth. When the jaws started snapping I figured it was time to quit. I hope the saliva will soften them up and they will come out. If not, I will take him in to get fixed and ask them to look in his mouth while he is under. I love my big white boys and they love me BUT they are busted once in for all. No more midnight romps. It's the chain gang for them.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Night Wrap Up

Spring break week is over. Came in like a lion and is going out like a lamb. The sky tonight so crystal clear with a new moon and Venus right next to each other. The stars are so vivid I think I can reach up and pick one out. Should be a lovely weather weekend. Matt came home at 9 and brought me shrimp Siciliana...hmmm, good. I ate well today, with my teacher friends and now this. Have to end this love affair with food with summer coming. Annie called - my Easter package was a big hit. She made my day by calling as Hannah and Luke were ripping open their presents. I bought Eric some new Boy Scout type hiker Muck boots and he likes them. He was wearing ten year old cast offs from AJ so I think the boots were a good idea. I love to buy Eric shoes. A soldier appreciates good shoe leather and he is always glad to get them. Annie liked the soap and ribbon yarn. We talked about the kids coming this summer. I get so excited just thinking about it. Can't wait to get Hannah and Luke back on a horse. They have a natural ability and no fear. Mia's graduation next month - Hannah and Luke coming, AJ finishing his masters in public administration - I have so much to be thankful for. Better get to finishing my bunny chores and night-night bottles so I can watch TV with Matt in the trailer.

BOCES Comes to the Farm

My teacher friends from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services came to visit today. What a great time we had. Those girly-girls are the greatest. They brought all kinds of goodies with them including wine, pastries from my FAVE bakery, Le Maison Blanche, etc. I had the lamb bottles ready and we went straight to the barn to feed the bottle brigade. It was great fun to watch Gretchen do double duty on two big black lambs determined to pull the bottles right out of her hands! Laurie's nephew, Elijah, just fell for little Bridie, who followed him all the way up to the top of the hill (when she wasn't being carried.) Her son, Tommy, had so much fun with all the dogs, he didn't know who to play with next. Kelly's son, Brandon, overcame his fear of the wild horde of sheep and goats and was romping in the boy's pen by the end of the afternoon! We ate lunch outside and let the sun warm our faces. Hard to believe we had just braved a Nor'easter at the beginning of the week. I was sorry to see them go but we will be together again on Monday. Big Daddy is coming home tonight. The cycle of life goes on...the wheel goes round and round.

Having Company

I must be insane, but I invited some friends from work over to see the babies. I just had to share the cuteness. They all come from farming families so they know and understand what I am trying to do. There is nowhere for guests to go to the bathroom...we gave back to portopotty because it froze and couldn't be emptied. If I had the equipment I would have dug an outhouse by now. I spent all my money getting a septic put in for the apt. I can't even live in. Doesn't seem like I ever will...but I am trying to remain optimistic. I, who lived in a center hall colonial with 4 bathrooms for 18 years, emailed them to remind them to use the potty before they come. The millions of things I wanted to do to get ready for them is not happening...had to clean the trailer last night and shovel some mud away from the barn entrance. They know to wear boots. Sometimes I can't believe the turn my life has taken...and it's ALL my own doing!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Feeling Better...

When I need to calm down, I stand in the middle of the East End, the biggest part of the downstairs barn and listen to the sheep and goats chewing their cud. It's a very soothing sound to me. While I was doing this, I felt a head rubbing on my back, then coming around to nuzzle my hand. It was Lilly, my favorite sheep. She hasn't done this in a while. But maybe I haven't stood still long enough for her to approach me? She is the mother of Denzel and Forrest. I worry about her, as she had a lump in her udder which I feared might be a tumor. She still is a little thin. I secretly let her into the silo room where I keep the rabbit food and let her snack on a little. It's 18% protein and loaded with alfafa. I'm trying to fatten her up a bit. Most of the others are too fat. I also love to watch the bellies of the pregnant ones. I think I have just two left - I think. The lambs do gymnastics inside, and the belly undulates. The weather is gorgeous. I have to get a couple of orders together and run out to mail them. Hated to put the doggies in the trailer, but they were out all morning. When the apt. is done they will stay in my workroom and lay on the cool concrete floor. There will be a doggie door to an outside pen. Life is good.

Feeling Overwhelmed...

Okay,so I am about to go postal - or should I say Va. Tech? Bad joke...I know, shame on me. I can bearly stand to watch the news but at the same time I am riveted. I don't get back in the trailer until nine-thirty or so but the news is just repeated over and over. I think about my kids and what if...The NY Times says they recently did a study on mass murders and found that most of them are carried out by educated white men, only a third were Asian men, I forget the rest. But no women! for thought? What do we do when the going gets really rough? We DEAL WITH IT!!!!!!!!! I found myself having what we call in psychology "approach avoidance." I wanted to go in the barn and couldn't. I stalled, did the bottles, checked the email, played with the kittens, while the lambs were screaming in the barn. They heard me and wanted their bottles. I needed to check on Moira and Murphy Brown, and Velvet, and the pregnant sheep and goats...but couldn't go in. I stood at the door, my heart started pounding. Okay, do your breathing...Thor came home dragging sections of a deer and wanted back in the barn. I rounded up the other dogs and locked them in the trailer. Then I dared go in. Matt says to feed the bottle lambs at the gate. That requires me to stand in the pool of muddy water. Tonya always manages to get through the gate and gets muddy. Little Bridie gets trampled into the mud by the other bigger lambs. He called this morning and as usual, his seat belt bell was ringing and I know he had a cigar in his mouth. When he hears something he doesn't know how to answer he just acts like he can't hear me and says, what? what? It makes me crazy? All this can be solved by management. My management stinks right now. If I had built my ram pen when I first got here I could have controlled the breeding instead of waves of births, giving me no time to fall back and regroup. I finally built one myself when Matt was laid up in the trailer with a bad back. Waiting months for him to do it was a big mistake. I got Randy to help me catch them...thank God for Randy. He has no fear of being crippled or maimed and is quite the sheep wrangler. That cut down on the ketosis issue due to big fat wethers stealing feed from the ewes. It also gave me a date after which there would be no more births. That would be June l!!! Oh, My God!!! The shearer found three more wethers that Randy and I missed. Matt hates wrangling sheep now. I just have to face the fact that Matt is getting old and is no longer ten feet tall and bullet proof, like he used to tell me. I found him a deep tissue masseusse from a BOCE friend, but he doesn't have time to go, with working in NJ. Okay, so I got all the bottle babies fed, dealt with the white dogs, wrestling Finn into a pen, getting Thor chained up, and letting Knut go. I only allow once loose at a time, that way they don't decide to tour the county together and get themselves shot. Finn is an escape artist and I had to wire the pen shut. Forgot his water, had to take it all apart and do it over. No new babies last night but I found one skinny yearling ewe with something swimming in her belly...she's pregnant! Legolas got her before I pulled him! Can't use him again next year because she is his daughter. I bought a ram from Kathy Davidson and with moving I never had time to pick him up! I am cutting down on grain for the others - a minimum bulk delivery is over $700 now and I can't spend more than a week's pay for a delivery. Moira's medicine I picked up yesterday was over a hundred dollars. How do people do it? I just can't do the three 50 pound sacks a day anymore. I used to sling them over my shoulder like nothing. Now it hurts. Okay, what to do, I know, I will put her in a jug and feed her seperately. But the other will go crazy. They have already destroyed my good wheel barrow. I am using an old mason wheel barrow, and I need something to scrape the mud into. I put down hay to soak up the water, but it turned to mud. Okay, take deep breaths, go get a plastic garbage can and get to work. And get your butt to Lowes to buy a short hose with a nozzle on the end to reach over the entry way and avoid spilling water there. Use my head, keep calm, and get busy. Maybe we will all survive another day on the farm.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Snow on the Fields

I finally got the Easter package off to Las Vegas and the grandkids. I hope they don't think I bought the Peeps on sale. Eric sent me pictures of Luke and his tee-ball team. Oh, he is the cutest one by far! I hate missing watching them grow up. What a slouch I am...if only I were as diligent about other things as I am about my blog! What I could accomplish! Pulled over to take this picture of my farm. Wish I got it before the snow melted...but they say we have had snow on Mother's Day here. When I am living in the barn apt. I will have a nice view of this hill. I rented a scary movie at the Brookfield General Store...might not have been such a good idea. Maybe I will save it for when Big Daddy comes home. The only thing he is scared of is running out of ice cream.

Rowena Looking Better

Went to get Moira's medicine from Leatherstocking Equine. They are quite the fancy place, with beautiful horses and their foals outside. I had my barn vest with my camera in the pocket, so I took these pics. It's cloudy and they were behind a fence...but I was enthralled. Got M.'s meds, Banamine, like Tylenol I think, Salix, a diuretic, and Dexamethasone, a steroid. She also gave me a "white linament" to rub on her udder. Another patient! Murphy Brown squeezed out of the jug again. Not a good sign. Mom is not feeling like mothering right now. I hope the treatment helps. I am trying to nurse out and give needles to a great big 200 ewe by myself. Not easy. Hope the treatment works. I gave MB a bottle of milk replacer to fill that empty belly until mom is working again. Good news is that Rowena got up and started butting another goat! Good sign! She looks terrible but still has her spirit. I gave her Vitamin B complex and some banamine, along with her vitamin drench. Hope she makes it..we've got this far, who knows! It's 50 degrees here, cloudy, wet and muddy. The barn has some water problems from a leaky spicket and clogged drains and everyone has wet feet. I am filthy from all the little hoofs jumping up on me, or rubbing against me when I pick them up for bottles. Have to go to the post office for the first time in over a week - always a scary trip. I must look like the goatwoman from "Cold Mountain." When I first saw that movie I thought, yep, that's me!

Kids Basking in the Sun

It's time for the sweaters to come off and be lovingly washed and put away for next year. Between Auntie Jan and I we managed to keep the babes covered and toasty warm. When I pull them off the little ones jump around and play, feeling so good to be naked and free! Soon they will be romping through grassy fields...that's when I will lay down in the sun myself and say thank you, thank you, thank you, we made it through our first winter on the farm and the first lambing. Many hard and bitter lessons were learned, add them to the Book of Life. Like my soldier son says, "Put them in your rucksack and keep on marching..."

Hay is Life

This section of my barn with the cavernous hay mow was built in 1926 after the original barn burned down. My farm (doesn't that sound nice?) was founded in 1813 and I plan on having a party when it is 200..won't be long. Another gigantic hay mow was built in the 1960's by the Kupris kids to house even more hay. Without hay there are no cows, sheep, whatever. They would back the horsedrawn haywagon into the barn and pick it up with this hook and slide it over to where it would be stacked. When the stack got up to the ceiling, Sister Bernadette would climb up and change the light bulbs. I am still wondering how I am going to do that. I was blessed to find Mike Walker, a dairy farmer in North Brookfield who kept me in hay all this winter at $2 a bale. Some of the bales are so heavy I can hardly lift them...and no mold. The sheep, goats and llamas are crazy about his hay. There are a variety of grassy fields in the bales, so the critters don't get bored. The only way I am going to make it in farming is to grow my own hay. Remember the PBS frontier family? As hard as they worked it was determined that they would not have made it through the winter on the frontier for one reason - they didn't get in enough hay. If the critters don't eat, the settlers don't eat.