Friday, August 31, 2007
I visited Matt at the house he is doing over on the other side of Brookfield for a computer guy and his nursing professor wife. Wow, the trim work and ceiling is beautiful. He kept telling me he is a "finish carpenter" and now I have to believe him. If I didn't spend all my money on my critters I might be able to hire him to do some fancy carpentry for me. When I ask him to do this, do that, he says, "If you've got the money, I've got the time."
The roads all around Brookfield are lined with flowers...blue cornflowers, Queen Anne's Lace, and some pink stuff I don't recognize. I marvel at the wildflowers here in Central New York. They are everywhere, and the cornflowers line the roads for miles and miles.
With her long legs and agile body Holly and get just about anywhere she wants to go. I found her napping on top of my sewing table this morning...not exactly kosher if you know what I mean. There are pins, scissors, and dangerous things that can hurt her AND I'm not crazy about my fabric smelling like WET DOG!! I have an old funky sofa, perfect for doggies, but it's often taken by other doggies. When my work room is ready there will be cabinets to hide the projects I'm working on. But for now...I have to get by with no closets, no cabinets, no linen closet. Everything is in piles. At least I am in a house (barn) with wood floor under my feet, and real walls and ceilings...and big windows to watch my sheep through. What a beautiful view.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The heat broke late in the afternoon and we had a pleasant walk. I took the doggies up to the pond around 6 instead of our usual 7 because of the thunderstorm forecast. I didn't want to get caught up top in a storm again. The air was much cooler and a gentle breeze was blowing. What a lovely walk we had. Bodie is healing slowly. Holly helped retrieve the ball again, but Bodie did a few of his own. I noticed the goaties way up high on the hill. Smart little goaties, there's so much grass up there. Trouble is, sometimes they decide to keep on going, up and over the ridge. I've been lucky, neighbors usually come and tell me when I have runaway livestock. They have plenty to eat, but the grass is always greener on the other side of the road or the ridge.
This is what the ridge behind my farm will look like in a month. For two weeks in October it is absolutely stunning and runs the length of my land. A glacier carved out the valley and left this rise of quaking aspens, pines, maples and many other trees. I love having something so beautiful to rest my eyes on.
Yuck! Hot and humid here in the hills. I am sewing, which I can do with the fans pointed right at me. I am putting together a couple of jungle bags. I have a big roll of this and love the animal faces. Pictorial fabric presents a challenge. You have to cut and sew it so the faces are appropriately placed and looking just right. Kelly saw this fabric and went nuts, which inspired me to make some bags out of it. The browns and reds will go with fall outfits. I wanted to make curtains out of it for Mia's Victorian apartment in Morristown, thinking that the Victorian era had Brits going to Africa for imperial exploits and they shot anything that moved, stuffed it and sent it back to the parlors in England. She didn't want it, so I will turn it into bags. Had some good luck last year with my jungle bags, we'll see if it works again.
This big fella is slipping through the fence to get at the goldenrod near the road. What a rack, huh? I just love this big bad boy and his pretty blue eyes. I have to get the vet over here to do the unimaginable. I can't have him breeding his granddaughters and can't send him to the unmentionable place, either...so his parts have to go. Shouldn't be too bad, he only has one of them anyway. This way I can keep him forever and he can live with the girls.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
You have to understand, I hate to get the mail. If it were not for the mail I could convince myself that I live in my own little world of my own making. But every two or three weeks I force myself to go to the post office and get the good news and bad news. You know, the phone bill that says pay up or else, the electric bill that says the same. The letter from the State of New York wanting to know how much my farm business made last year, farm catalogues, slick ads from cheap stores, on and on. Today, however, was different. My beautiful socks from SockLadyLynne arrived. They are perfect - light enough to wear with any shoes and just as colorful as the pictures she emailed me. They fit perfectly, too. I also got a lovely handwritten note from a lady who bought my Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme last May at New Hampshire Sheep and Wool. She ranted and raved about the creme and enclosed a check for two more. The order came at just the right time. I had been thinking Why in the world am I doing this? With over 2,000 hits on my web site I have only had four little orders. The New Hampshire lady and her order will keep me grinding away at the Cuisinart indefinitely. The BOCES school where I work sent me my back to school papers and class list. Seven old friends and two new victims. I guess they want me back again. Good thing - no job, no sheep. Matt would have the livestock trailer from the meat packers in here so fast it's not funny. As long as I can support them I can have them. School is a good thing, with good people. If Gretchen my history teacher friend keeps making me coffee every day I guess I can make it through another year.
They are just so gorgeous...all I will need for back-to-school are new jeans and clogs. The socks make the outfit. Best of all, Lynne will consider trading knitting for my fiber. Samples are on the way to her as soon as I can get them to the post office! Today's soap is Cinnamon Leaf. It's hot and disgusting in my milk room, still having drain problems, flies everywhere. I live in fear of a customer finding a fly in their soap, and watch constantly. Whenever I walk away I put a piece of screen over my pots and pyrex dishes. So far I think I'm okay. The Cinnamon Leaf set up so fast I could barely get it poured...that's the way I like to make soap! Sometimes it is runny and I don't know if it sets up for a day or two. I think it depends on the alignment of the planets and phases of the moon. We are on a downhill waning phase now after the brightness of the last two nights. That means the stars and the colorful planets will come back...nice.
While Bodie is healing, Holly has taken over the swimming role on our nightly pond walks. At first I thought it was a fluke, but now I realize she is doing it purposely. I throw the ball into the pond, with Bodie standing in the water near the edge. Holly jumps into the water and swims out to the ball, grabs it and brings it back to Bodie. Bodie grabs the ball with his typical big gulp, and lays it at my feet. I throw it again, Holly swims for it, brings it back to Bodie. I am really impressed with Miss Holly, who is so willing to do the hard work but is respectful of Bodie's role as Ball Dog. I told Matt about it and surely thought Holly would not cooperate when I brought him up to the pond to see the routine. Same scenario occurred, Bodie stood in the water by the edge, Holly did all the work, gave Bodie the pleasure of retrieving and giving the ball back to Mom. What an inspiring display of cooperation between pack members. The 8 month old puppy using her youth and abilities to help an old doggie feel part of the game. I'm so pleased with Holly. She's beautiful, kind and sweet.
Have cool morning air blowing in the apt. windows now before the sun moves to the other side of the barn. Matt told me I have to get the kittens moved out of the work room adjacent to the apt. and into the larger part of the barn. When I go back to work the dogs have to live in the work room while I am gone from 8 to 4. Poor doggies will wonder what they have done wrong. We lived together in the RV for almost a year and they are thoroughly enjoying their apt. I had a good sofa for them in the hay mow but Matt didn't move it away from the hay bale drop and the bales ripped the arm off. I was going to try to fix it then looked out the window to see it in flames on the burn pile. Nothing for the doggies to sleep on during the day! They might go into doggie depression. I wish I had a doggie cam to watch them from work, but that might not be such a good idea, either. Might jump in the truck and rush home - bye, bye job! I guess we all have to toughen up and deal with it...seems to be my theme song. Vermont is less than two weeks away and I have to get organized. A new batch of Terri Palmer Sheep Signs came in and they are just adorable. I love the way they look in my booth. Have to build some kind of ladder display device but getting Matt to do it will be the hard part. I am trying to get some fiber dyed and dried in this hot weather so I can drop it off to the mill people at the show. It saves a LOT of money in shipping and they can bring it back to me carded or spun at the next show I go to. Always trying to lower my carbon stamp. I can get lye in the grocery store here. Thought it was off the shelf everywhere so people wouldn't make it into bombs or whatever. I have it in mind to replace the coconut and palm oil with more olive oil in my soap, but I will have to make a test batch and see if it gets hard. Mind is racing...feel a lot of pressure but that's what makes me get the job done. Have lots of bags cut out to sew but better get some soap and other things done first.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
This is my last full week of vacation. I start back to school on Sept. 4. It will be good to see my friends at Career Academy but I hate to leave the farm. I have created this wonderland, however chaotic, an altered reality where I feel so at home. Last summer was a nightmare and I was determined to give myself some slack this year. I feel I haven't done enough to get ready for fall shows and need to keep real busy these last few days. Don't know how I am going to leave the little ones all day. Thor will be on duty, but the Sisters tell me he likes to sleep in the middle of the road!! Something else to worry about...
Went out last night to bring the sheep in and marvelled at the moon. It was as bright as daylight. The sheep were bedded down all over the hill, and I hated to move them, but I thought the light would bring the coyotes out. It's much easier for the dogs to protect them nearer the barn. I still can't trust Finn and Knut to stay close. Last winter I saw something odd at the end of the barn (inside) and found a giant hogs head they brought home from the farm down the road. It must have weighed 50 pounds. Izzy and Holly helped me get the sheep up and into the barnyard. Their "herding" consists mostly of running around and getting the sheep excited, but the sheep knew where to go. A lunar eclipse took place at 5 this morning. I set the alarm to get up and check, but a cloud cover had moved in to partially obscure the moon. Story of my life it seems...Beautiful sky, though, and I did manage to go back to sleep for a while. Woke up to say goodbye to Matt, who told me he let all the dogs out!!!!! What's that song,"Who Let the Dogs Out!!" The other story of my life.
Monday, August 27, 2007
I happened to have CNN on when you-know-who apologized to the world for engaging in dog fighting/torture/murder for the last five years. He said he found Jesus and asks forgiveness. The owner of the football team that signed him seemed a little wishy-washy about letting him go or keeping him, but when the manager got on and said they want $22 million of his signing bonus back I felt a little better. The owner seemed to say that they will listen to the fans. For a minute I thought I might have to get on a bus to an Atlanta Falcons game with signs and gear. I found my PETA renewal slip and will get that in the mail pronto. I heard the State of Virginia is going after him, too. Another football player with not quite a profile as Vick is serving a five year prison term. I hope this guy gets the maximum and is housed with a lot of dog lovers. While driving to the post office I saw, no kidding, two beautiful pit bulls in them middle of the road going into Brookfield. They were looking all around like they had just been dropped off. I slowed down and opened my pick up door and called to them. Ofcourse, they were hesitant. I would like to think they had broken loose from a fenced in area and would go home, but I fear with the recent publicity somebody might have decided to ditch their dogs. They were gone when I went home from the village. I saw another pit bull running down the road several months ago, looking desperate. I curse the slimey bastards who turn dogs into monsters. Dogs who only want to please their masters and do what's expected of them. There's a special hell for Vick and his kind, and he'll get there sooner or later.
I've been plying angora with singles I am finding around the barn. When I need a bobbin I wind off the yarn and sometimes don't get back to it. That's a ball begging to be plied with angora for bunny mittens. Jan and I plan on making doggie sweater kits, with her fabulous designer buttons to secure the neck!
Grrrrrrrrr....half my dogs have run away. I had a miserable night...sat up until 1 spinning then left the bedroom door open. Petunia had come back and I wanted her to be able to come into my bedroom. What I got was Holly, who has a body like a water heater, with four wooden broomsticks for legs, in between us and pushing me out of the bed all night. Finally at 7 I asked Matt to take the dogs out. He had to get up for work anyway. He opened the door and let them all out loose. Thanks, Matt! Oh, was I glad to see him leave for work. He's sick with a cold and I was tired of listening to the whining and complaining. Why is it that women suffer in silence and do their jobs, while men make everyone around them miserable when they are sick??? He came with me to get groceries, then went to bed around 2 in the afternoon, with me bringing him every form of comfort you can imagine (well, not that form of comfort...I don't want to get sick!) Glad he was well enough to back to work today. I need to make more soap, sew bags, sweep the barn, many other tidy up tasks. Have to check on the llamas. Those naughty boys ran away yesterday! I was rummaging through the tractor shed, looking for curtains for Mia's new apartment. Found all kind of wonderful stuff, including a bag full of black alpaca roving and many pounds of my own roving. I will probably have it made into yarn. I don't do enough shows to sell it all. It doesn't sell on the web site. Maybe I should announce a "destashing sale" on spin-sales. Would rather have yarn made. Anyway, someone drove up and told me my llamas were up by the trailer across the road from the tip of the hill, beyond the land that I lease next to mine. I couldn't believe it and jumped in the truck to go find them. Spoiled rotten boys, when they heard my horn they high-tailed it down the road, full tilt, a beautiful sight I must say, to see full fleeced llamas on the run, and back onto my land. OH, if only I had $10,000 burning a hole in my pocket for fencing!! I confess I do take pleasure in seeing them in the great expanse of the little mountain I live on. I rescued them from a pitiful little pen with hardened ground under them and nothing green to chew on. In the meantime, I found some gorgeous yellow, red and green plaid drapery panels for Mia's room. She painted it pale yellow. I am bring her a dresser and mirror my WONDERFUL friend Jan gave me to replace her kiddie French provincial one. It is dark oak and will fit in beautifully with the earthy tones they decorated the apt. with. I have another set of drapes for her but ofcourse they are lost somewhere and will only surface when I am not looking for them.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
It's tough work holding that sofa down, but Bodie is the dog for the job. If he gets off, the sofa might fly up in the air and hit the ceiling! Bodie loves his big hunk of cottage cheese (with his aspirin hidden inside), hmmmm, hmmmm. He is getting better every day, but is still lame and I want him to lay low for now. We got caught in a lightning storm last night. We had torrential rain and thunder for a while, but the sun came out and I thought it was okay to go up the hill with the entire entourage (sans Bodie and Matt, both passed out on the sofa). But when we got up top to the pond, another black wave rolled in. There was a ferocious lightning and thunder popping going on right over the barn. I couldn't believe Matt didn't wake up and hear it. I was afraid to go back down the hill, and was more afraid the storm would move a little north where I was sitting down in the wet field with my dogs. The White Boys stuck close to me, probably wondering why their Person was sitting in the grass, something I never do. We waited it out, with thoughts flying through my head the way they do when one thinks they are enjoying their last moments in this earthly realm. I thought the barn would be okay, as Chris Kupris had installed a very costly lightning rod system that runs the entire 240 ft. of the barn. Another reason to buy an old barn. I probably would have saved the 10 K and hoped for the best. But he didn't want lightning to strike and burn down this beautiful barn with 150 cows inside. I was working in a Core Physics class back in NJ and learned a lot about lightning. Mr. Wargo dispelled my life-long belief that sitting in a car saves you from electric shock because of the rubber tires. Wrong! The metal casing around you just sends the juice away from you. Luckily, the storm moved east over the ridge, not north where I was huddled with my dogs. We got up and ran down the hill into the safety of my big strong barn. I made a mental note to ask Matt to check the wires of the lightning rod system, making sure they are going all the way down into the ground, etc.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Yesterday when we took our nightly walk up the hill to the pond, I noticed Bodie wasn't in the mood to do a lot of water play. I always throw the ball into the pond as soon as we get there (he is waiting for me at the edge of the water) then he brings it to me and I throw it again and again. This time he took the ball out of the other side of the pond and went up into the high grass and ignored me when I called, "Ball here, Bodie." I played with Finn, Knut and Thor a while, Izzy was tootling around, Jasper and Velvet were there. I gave up on Bodie and started back. Bodie came running, anxious to play his other favorite game, throw the ball down the hill. That's how we get home, retrieving all the way down, with Izzy and Holly trying to snatch the ball from Bodie. I threw the ball down a step slope and Bodie took off. Suddenly, he stumbled and fell, turning awkwardly. He rolled down the hill flat out, like kids do for fun, only it looked awful. He came to a stop and I ran down the hill to him. He was trying to get up but his leg stuck out at a weird angle. He fell back down. I thought, oh, no, please - his leg is broken. Bodie didn't move from the spot. I sat down next to him and said, it's okay, Bodie, we'll just sit here for a while until you feel better. My mind was racing, should I run down to the barn and get the 4 wheel drive truck? How could I lift him, he weighs over a hundred pounds? I could get Matt, laid out on the sofa, to help me made a stretcher with a sheet or something, and take him to the vet. After a few minutes of waiting and worrying, Bodie seemed to want to get up. He started limping on three legs, slowly and painfully. We went down the hill to the barn very slowly, me talking to Bodie the whole way. I got him into the apt. and gave him an aspirin in cottage cheese, then felt his leg and shoulder. No wincing, no whining, no dulling of the eyes, no nothing. But Bodie didn't move all night, or all day today. I decided to coax him to get up, to see if the leg was broken so I could get him to the vet if necessary. Bodie got up very shakily, then put some weight on the leg, and walked across the room. I was satisfied the leg wasn't broken, and was greatly relieved! Tonight, Bodie stayed inside when we went up the hill. How I missed him, my big blonde Bodie. Holly swam out to get the ball, then let it float in the water. Face it, Bodie is getting old. I can't send him barreling down the hill any more. I will do a token throw, a few feet, but that's it. Bodie was trying to tell me something when he took the ball away up into the field instead of bringing it to me to throw over and over again. He is almost ten years old and feeling his age. I have to buy him some condroitin and glucosamine. Meanwhile, Bodie is on bed rest.
My grandson Luke is 6 years old today. I wish I could be at his birthday party. Don't even get me started. I am missing so much living so far away from them. If I moved to Nevada, Eric would probably get promoted again and the Boy Scouts would move him somewhere else, so that's not an option. Besides, it's no good for sheep. Navajo Churros would do fine, but not Bluefaced Leicesters from England! I miss Luke and Hannah and think about them ALL the time. I asked Luke if he would be my boyfriend and he said, "Well, Omi, you're a little bit fat, and besides, my mommy is my girlfriend." Smart man! Nice to know a male who is loyal to his mommy!" I sent him a box of school supplies, as he is starting kindergarten this year. I included some Transformer toys, his current favorite. He told me on the phone that I bought the Transformers that don't transform! They are fixed figures! Did I feel like a real dummy! Good excuse to make another goody-box for the grandkids, and try to be more toy savvy.
It's HOT and WET. Just turned on the weather channel - 95 in Boston, heat index (humidity figured in) 110. Okay, so it's not just me. When it gets like this I am worthless...but have to do something. I can sew while sitting still with the fan on me, but the heat from the light bulb on my hands makes me hotter. I sew anyway, just move the fan closer. Sitting at the computer is not bad, either. What else requires very little activity? Spinning! So I decided to get some angora spun for some bunny mitten kits. I found Mansfield Park, a Jane Austen flick, on the telly and parked my wheel and fan in front of me for a while. Kim Parkinson, of Cornerstone Fibres fame and one of the Canadian fiber artist bunnywomen/llama herder crew, has a whole lot of wonderful angora from her various bunnies. I have mostly German rabbits, but she has all kinds of bunnies of all kinds of colors. Kim brings angora to me at the NY State Sheep and Wool in October and we trade. Kim goes Christmas shopping at my booth and I go home with lots of gorgeous angora to spin. My white German angora always goes into the dyepot, but Kim's colored angora is too nice to dye. I spin it bulky, a sin for angora, but bulky works well for the mittens. Once years ago I was sitting next to a much older lady at a North Country Spinner's meeting. She saw me spinning angora, not even as bulky as I do now, and yanked some of it away from me. She quickly spun a delicate thread of angora with her Ashford traditional and handed it back to me saying, "THIS is how it's supposed to look!!" I smiled politely and thanked her. I still spin it bulky and it blooms amazinglywell when plyed with my wool/mohair blend. Sometimes I spin silk noils in there too, for a neat effect. Whoops, I got out of the fan wind for a few minutes and I am about to faint. I can work all day outside in the cold but the heat is a killer. Matt is working all day outside, up and down the ladder. He claims it doesn't bother him and he loves what he does. I tell him if he sat in the college classroom all the years I did he could have the summer off and work in air conditioned schools, too. He says no way could he do what I do. He's right, I know he would have his hands around a kid's neck and be dragged away by police pretty quick. Maybe he's doing the right thing after all.
I go up the hill at night to drive the sheep and goats back down to the barnyard. I couldn't find my flashlight last night, and realized too late that I had my flip flops on, and wouldn't you know it the sheep didn't cooperate. Almost all the goats had come in and put themselves to bed, but many of the sheep were scattered around chewing on the lush grass. Some were down a little gulley next to the apple orchard. Fortunately the moon is waxing, more than half full, and although there were misty clouds in front of it I had some decent light. Even though I whine and complain about pulling myself up from the easy chair and putting my spinning wheel up on the stool (dogs!)and hiding the fiber (forgot last night and when I came back in French angora was all over the apt.) I love being outside at night. My farm is on a gigantic hill overlooking the flat fields that go down to Beaver Creek across the road. There was a lightning storm going on at the top of the hill, with great flashes of light behind the clouds, while on the botton of the hill behind the barn the moon and stars were out. What a wild, thrilling scene it was. I had to let my eyes adjust to the dark so I could see little groups of sheep. I pound my staff on the ground to get them going when my gentle "Cooooooome Oooooon" doesn't work. At first the pounding worked fine, as they thought something strange was in the grass, but now they are on to me. They moved over a little on the hill and kept on chomping. Wonderful grass here, and the more they poop on this hill the better the grass will be. When you drive sheep, or any other herd animal, you have to get around behind them and start them going, or else you will be driving them away from where you want them to go. Sure I wish I had a Gator, but you know what? I hate anything motorized, and besides, a Gator would not have been able to get down into the gully like I had to do to get them out of the apple orchard. This is when I wish I had a good herding dog...but what I did have with me last night was so cute. Cissy, my tiny little calico kitty with too many toes, and her daughter, Callie, were trotting alongside me. I thought they were just playing, but they followed me all over the hill! It was very unusual behavior for cats, but calicos are very special, talented kitties! I picked them up and loved on them some, put them down thinking they would run back to the barn, but they stayed with me. Finally got them in, secured the gate, and checked out my llamas and white dogs, all under the big pine tree with little Velvet. Her own private body guards. Went I got back inside I realized I was all done in. I like to get so tired I can't stand up any longer before I go to bed...no problem last night.
Friday, August 24, 2007
I have been looking for a couple of new blogs to follow. Every day I check in with several and am usually disappointed because there is nothing there. Okay, I realize most people have a life and aren't that anxious to share it with the world...but I like sending out these bulletins into space. That way I make sure certain people won't forget about me, and it satisfies the social historian in me to write things down. As I've said before in this journal, I wish my forebears wrote things down. If I came across something that Lydia Burdick wrote about life on this farm two hundred years ago...I would be thrilled beyond belief. But she didn't...so I am doing it for the person living here 200 years from now, long after I have become fertilizer. There are times when I am frustrated at the lack of response to my posts, but, hey, it is my choice to lay it all out, comments or not. So I look for other bloggers who touch something in me, and who are consistent about posting. SockLadySpins is one of them. This woman is doing incredible things, living in the true way-back-yonder where mail only comes twice a week and there is NO produce in the winter. Reminds me of my "roots" trip to Finland and Sweden, where we ate only potatoes and little fish deep fried whole for six weeks...oh, and VERY hard bread! Anyhoo, I found Ingrid of www.grelber.blogs.se in Sweden, who is just so entertaining and fortunately, there is an English translation after every paragraph! I can almost hear the sing-songey Swedish accent as I read. She gardens and spins and does all kind of other crafts I have only heard about. Okay, off to make soap. Thank the Goddesses of the Earth my soap is coming out okay. I had thought about not wrapping the bars, and Jan,my wrapper, concurred, but you know what? I love my wrapped bars of soap. Now I have to clean off a drying rack which is covered with #$%^ and drag it into the barn apt. guest room, the only cat and dog free space on this entire farm, other than the grain room. Be strong, Margaret, and just get the job done. Maybe I will find some surprises like I did last night...a basket full of thread! Thread is almost $2.00 a spool and really adds up the way I sew. I have started doing things like sewing multiple pieces together (a quilters trick) to save thread, and cutting the last thread shorter. This sometimes causes the thread to pull out of the needle, very annoying. Very hot today, have to tape the screens. Bad kitties, bad kitties!!! Matt is over at the Long Island guy's place finishing a big job where he will be all weekend. I have too much to keep me busy.
After several escapes and reintroduction into apartment life, Petunia has ripped open a screen and taken off into the wild. I will have to wait for her to appear again. I thought she was content in the house, with fishy snacks all day long and cushy chairs to relax on. The dogs were nice to her and she would snuggle up next to Bodie. No good, she wanted out. Life is tough for kitties in the big barn. There are little cliques that stay together and are mean to other cats (just like people!) Some cats are loners and I see them in the same area of the barn at various times of the day. I had hoped to have a special kitty or two in the house but we've had some problems...All three screens on my living room windows have been ripped open. All this time I have waited for a nice place to live and call my own, and I can't open my beautiful windows. Going up to 90 today, so I will try to gorilla tape the screens to keep the flies out. Winter is coming and it will be tough in the barn, but I will feed them enough to keep them warm from the inside out.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The leaves are starting to change here in the Northland. Fine with me. There is a hot, humid wind blowing today and the flies are awful. The pokeberries are turning purple and I will have plenty of dye, but with the milk room drain plugged up (probably with wool) I can't do any wool washing. One wash load floods the room and the milk room kitties have to get up on the tables or washer/dryer.
I think I will stop watching the news. Sometimes I like to have it on while I am working, but at times it gets me down. Michael Vick denies any involvement in dog fighting or animal cruelty, then confesses, and throws himself on the mercy of the court. If I were the team owner I would throw that slimeball off my team pronto. I hear students talking about dog fighting and do my best to explain to them that it is 1) ILLEGAL and 2) WRONG. Then a famous quarterback is caught promoting it. That's very helpful...
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I ran out of chicken feed and have been giving them all kinds of goodies until I can get to town and buy some more feed. Cat and dog kibble, rabbit pellets, sunflower seeds, swiss chard, wild bird seed, egg shells, on and on. But their absolute favorite treat is cooked spaghetti! You should see them dragging it around, clucking madly. It's good for them and so entertaining. Chicken feed will be so boring after all this.
Here I am in prime time sewing machine mode, trying to get some Bundaflicka Bags ready for show season, and my Janome decides to act up. I avoided disaster already this summer when I figured out how to repair the damage done when my Janome was placed on the floor in order to eat dinner when Eric and Annie were here. The doggies decided to chew off the thread holder. I was able to bend it back into place well enough to hold the spool while I sew. Now it's the bobbin apparatus. The bobbin thread is spewing out all over the place. I kept my cool, no seizing or hyperventilating...I took a drink of coffee, I took it apart, cleaned it out, peeked around, can't figure out why it's making noise and doing weird things with the bobbin thread. The only sewing machine repair person around here is a guy who picks up machines in Norwich at Sew Nice. I've used him before and he is a classic rip off artist. Luckily, I picked up a gem of an antique Depression-era machine at the New Berlin Quilt Festival for $75. It's one step up from the Singer Featherweight, and this one came with a cabinet. I got it threaded, and it's sewing fine. It's a bit like driving a tractor compared with a sports car, but that's okay for now. The guy I bought it from fixes machines but he's an hour and a half from here, north of Syracuse! I'm trying to do a bag or two a day now. I just can't be without a sewing machine. With me, it's like a cowboy with no horse. Omigosh, just looked at the floods in the midwest...and here I am complaining about a broken sewing machine. Thanks be to Jesus I am on HIGH ground.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
AJ called on Sunday to chat. He is finishing a semester at Fuller in Pasadena, Ca., a non-denominational seminary. AJ will be taking a physical fitness test before starting a Chaplain Candidate program. He can take three years to be ordained and won't be deployed in the meantime. Whew! What a relief...I have been on pins and needles about him being redeployed. He did one year in Cuba and that is enough. AJ feels as a chaplain he will surely be deployed, but hopefully we will be out of THAT place by then. A chaplain is a non-combatant. According to the Geneva Convention a chaplain cannot carry a gun and shouldn't be shot at. (Tell that to Al-Qaeda). A soldier is assigned to protect the chaplain. So he/she gets shot, too. I am hoping he is assigned to a US base to do counseling with the poor families struggling with a loved one involved in the senseless war. AJ has to decide what church to be ordained in for the Army to sponsor him. He has very definite ideas about what he believes in, which don't exactly conform to any established religion. I am looking forward to him performing any necessary preacher functions in our family, like marrying, burying, etc. And good news...he is flying home in September and will take me to Vermont Sheep and Wool. I'm thrilled to have help setting up, taking down, and someone to drive me there Friday night after work. Best of all, we will spend "quality time" together.
My vegetable soup was so delicious and I had so much of it I took a pot over to the Sisters. They were busy making their own soup - leeks in chicken broth (no wine, ofcourse). It was a cold, rainy soup kind of day. Sister Grace is looking better after they stepped up her anemia medicine. The home dialysis is going smoother, and the garden keeps her going. The St. Elizabeth Convent in Utica still has her working but her Mother Superior has her on a reduced schedule. She was working as a home health aide, but now she visits the old ladies and prays with them. Sister told me that when she is waiting for her dialysis to finish she prays people out of purgatory. I recently heard the Church has discontinued purgatory but I didn't dare say that. Anyway, I went back to the barn to work on several bags I have cut out. I am making them two at a time now. With Vermont looming large I have to step up production. Matt came home and I showed him my wonderful soup and told him how it took me an hour or so to chop everything up and wouldn't he like a taste. He looked at the veggies swimming in the broth and his face fell. Matt is not a soup person. Not my soup, anyway. If it comes in a can he will eat it, but my soup is a little too, well, wholesome and home made. Sorry, I was raised on soup like that! I was ready to the disappointment and had a hot steaming plate of cornbread in the oven. That cheered him up quite a bit and I buttered a big chunk for him. It wasn't long before the phone rang and Sister Grace asked me to meet her at the Milk Room. She made Fried Green Tomatoes for us! Wow, were they good. Really crunchy and dripping with oil. I have spent a lot of time in the South, but never knew you could eat tomatoes green until I saw the movie. I don't do garlic so the doggies got the big chunks that accompanied the fried tomatoes. I gave Matt a cup of soup along with the FGT and he took a few sips of the broth. He did not come with me to walk the doggies to the pond. Was it the soup? Nah, he hates to walk with me. Jan is gone so I can't make her come anymore. So it's just me and the dogs. They think I am just peachy and the White Boys are all in love with me, so I don't get depressed. I poured my veggie soup over their kibble after our walk...no wonder they like me.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Mr. Haygood found his way up the big pine tree in the barnyard. What a brave little kitty. Once he got up there and surveyed his kingdom he was a bit nervous about getting down. Jan wanted to get a ladder, but I assured her Mr. Haygood would run down just the way he came...and, eventually, he did!
When Jan comes, we cook. That's just the way it is. This former corporate ace and business owner turned special ed teacher is a true Domestic Goddess. Yesterday it was a truly scrumptious spaghetti sauce. Today it's a giant pot of vegetable soup from the garden. Don't know what I will put it in to freeze it...and I don't have my big freezer plugged in yet. It is still full of rolls of fabric. Speaking of fabric, this morning I put together this little bag from a scrap I found. The fabric is terrific, and I glad I managed one more little tote from it. I got eight little pockets inside with perfectly matched orange lining. Even if someone uses it to carry their drop spindle around, or a water bottle and energy bar, it's a cutie.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
The sheep are looking wonderfully healthy and robust on grass only. Oh, if only it would last. The grass is there on the ground and they graze and graze. When I bring them in at night their bellies are bulging from all the grass and forage they eat. The wool is growing back nicely. Randy will come next weekend and we will get them together for worming. The lambs and kids need another vaccination booster and I will trim the goat hooves. We will seperate the boys from the girls. I don't want any January lambs this year. Last winter was ridiculous, and since I don't sell lambs for Easter dinner, I don't have to breed early. I have some older girls I want to retire, and a couple who had mastitis last year. I also have a purebred BFL who prolapsed. Don't want to breed her again, either. The 2007 lambs are really beautiful and I'm very pleased. Some of my hard work paid off...
On the way out the door to the Farmer's Market, I bumped into Chris Kupris, and asked him why he never told me about his meeting with Lydia, the first owner of my farm. He explained that one has to be careful about sharing that kind of experience with those who might think he's crazy, etc., and he's not sure how Lydia would like her appearance reported to others. Chris added some details to Sister Bernadette's rendition of the story. Chris turned around from his computer to see a woman, dressed for bed in a red nightgown and white cap, sitting in her bed. Chris's bed happens to be in the same spot as Lydia's bed, apparently. It was interesting and somehow validating to hear Chris telling the story himself. There was a suicide by hanging in the barn years ago, he told me. Oh great, I thought. My barn was built in 1930, after the original barn burned down...but still, a hanging is a hanging. Jan and I were in a hurry, but we thanked him for chatting with us. The clouds turned to rain and we decided not to set up at the market. Another Saturday missed...but Jan said she didn't think we would sell anything anyway, and thought we should save our energy to go home and get things done. One nice project Jan insisted on was to straighten out my "kitchen." I don't have cabinets, just a stove, refrigerator and a folding table. Jan bought me a red stacking grid, which helps organize my pots and pans. She put it all together while I was out in the milkroom making soap. What a lovely surprise to come back inside to find this nifty arrangement! Jan then made a pot of delicious spaghetti sauce, which we will enjoy after we let the dogs go and hike up to the pond. The clouds blew away and the day turned sunny and beautiful. Hot again next week, so we'll enjoy it now.
Friday, August 17, 2007
After coffee and conversation with the doggies, Jan and I set off for Wal-Mart. She decided I needed an organizer for the folding table which acts as my kitchen counters for the time being. Some kind of cabinet or shelf unit that I could put my few kitchen dishes, pots and other necessary items on. Jan always looks for ways to make my life easier and more pleasant. Don't worry, she said, and assured me that she keeps a running tab like more nights in my barnhouse guest room with the doggies. No problem for me. We set out to town, Jan driving and me knitting. We got what we needed and wanted from Wal-Mart and stopped at my favorite lunch stop, Le Maison Blanche, next to Wal-Mart. The owner of this patiserrie has a bakery in Manhattan. She had a vacation spot here in Central New York and decided to open up a second bakery here. I had smoked salmon, Jan had chicken, and we picked a delicious chocolate dessert to have later with dinner. On the way home we stopped at the cottage Matt is renovating for a man from Westchester County. It's an adorable little place that is what we call a, "Matt Redmond Special." Once Matt gets through with it, it will be absolutely adorable. I got a chance to see what Matt has described as "Guido Tile." I liked it just fine. Once home, Jan and unloaded our goodies, took the dogs out, then went to the Sisters garden to get some vegetables to make our Corn Chowder with. I took over a block of my Eucalyptus, Tea Tree and Lavender soap, which she was thrilled to get. When I introduced Jan to Sister Bernadette, I told her I was showing Jan around the farm and fields. Sister Bernadette then made a statement that had us staring at each other with wide eyes. She said, "Have you seen Lydia?" Now Lydia is Lydia Burkhyte, the wife of Elisha Burkhyte, the founding farmers of this farm. Sister told us "Lydia Rose" wanders the farm and watches the goings on. If she approves of what we are doing, and thinks we are taking good care of the farm, she shows her approval. If not, she becomes angry. Sister told us that her brother Chris was sitting at his computer in the upstairs bedroom. He turned around in his chair to see that the room had changed configuration and a woman in a long dress was standing there smiling and nodding at him. He did not recognize the room, and who was this woman? He nodded back, then turned around and started turning off his computer. When he turned back to the apparition, it was gone and the room was changed back to his own again. So Jan and I are taking all this in, and I exclaim, "Why has Chris never told me about this?" Sister said he was reluctant to report sightings and experiences like this, concerned he would not be believed. Chris also has had feelings of being watched, suddenly looking over his shoulder while milking his cows. He smelled pipe smoke at various times, too. So Jan and I listened as long as Sister Bernadette was willing to talk. She assured us that as long as Lydia Rose feels we are doing right be the farm then we will be okay. Jan and I gathered up our vegetables, and went back to the barn. I started cooking while Jan started assembling the cat play house she bought for my kitties. We are consumed with what we had just heard, yet busy with our respective activities. Why has Lydia not revealed herself to me? I was here alone all winter, doing chores alone in the barn, lonely as can be at times...I could have used the company! Maybe she is taking her time, waiting to see what I will do with her farm. I am open to any visitations from a kindly spirit. Maybe it's only a matter of time.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Hannah was very patient the day we visited the garden and found Chris Kupris outside about to leave for work at Wal-Mart. Chris took over this farm with his brother after their father died. The brother had a heart attack and Chris went under due to a variety of circumstances. I love listening to his stories. He is a wealth of information about all kinds of things having to do with the history of the farm and agriculture, along with local history (and his philosophy of life, civilization, etc.) Today Chris told me the man who purchased the farm from him when Chris was in a pinch, and who turned it over to speculators prior to my coming along, was trying to sell it to an outfit which would turn this farm into a race track!!! They wanted it for the flat areas for a round track and the hills for obstacle courses. Heaven forbid! The thought of it makes me shudder. The racing outfit decided they didn't want it because the farm is too far off the beaten track. Thank Goodness! Then I came along and bought the heart of the farm - the barn and surrounding land - and a real estate speculator from NJ bought the rest and best land for farming. He got here before I did, and fortunately didn't want the barn! Wish I had it all, but have to be content with the idea that this beautiful land is still being farmed...and the barn is alive with the bleatings and baaaing of beautiful, happy animals. I asked Chris this morning if he is relieved not to have all that hard physical labor to do every day, milking 150 cows twice and day and raising all their food. He tells me that hard physical labor made him stronger than any other person his age that he knows. When there is a tough job to be done at Wal-Mart they always say, go get Chris. I hope all this physical stuff I do serves me well in old-age.
I took my binoculars up to the pond last night. It was fun looking at the far away silos and checking out my neighbors across the valley. I had another use for them in mind...I wanted to look at the big froggies that watch me as I play with the dogs. I see their big round eyes above the water line, and occasionally a little of their heads. They stay far enough away to be safe from the dogs, and seem to know I am not a water entity and won't bother them. However, last night, one of the bigger froggies came very, very close and wasn't afraid of me at all. I was sitting on a lawn chair and thought surely he would move when I stood up...but no, he just sat and watched as I slowly walked over to him. I was able to slip a stick under him and lift him up for a picture. You can see one of the tiny frogs that Hannah and Luke would catch next to him in the water to get an idea of the size difference. I have always liked frogs and hate to see them splayed and dissected in science class. They are great bug eaters and don't bother anybody (besides the bugs). And they make lovely music in the pond.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
My guest room is the only place on the Farm where I can safely dry fiber. The other day this motherlode of dyed angora was blown all over the grass outside. Kitties were having a field day with little tufts of blue bunny hair in their mouths, running around with wild eyes,as if they had captured a soft little creature.
I meticulously gathered it all up, shook out the ground debris, chased the cats down for what I could recover, and brought it inside. The overhead fan gently blows it dry. Matt opened the door this morning to check the guest room for Jan's visit this weekend and had a FIT. WHAT is THIS??? he exclaimed. I promised him it will all be hidden when she comes. Jan is totally understanding about my fiber habit, and enjoys participating in the insanity. I love it when she comes...it's like a dear Auntie is arriving with goodies and treats we wouldn't ordinarily enjoy. Where else could she open the front door to find cute little lambs and goat kids staring up into her eyes?
While rummaging around in the giant tractor shed which contains the remnants of my Life Before the Farm, I found my very first handspun sweater. What a treasure. I was afraid I lost it. It must have been spun on the fold from raw Romney fleece, plied with angora. It's rather bulky, with the striations from the naturally colored fleece. I love it...it's like a cherished kindergarten drawing. I wore it to Borders in NJ once and was standing in the coffee line when I heard a voice, "Excuse me, did you spin your sweater?" I was floored, a spinner right here in the book store, who recognized my handspun sweater! We struck up a nice conversation. She was a self taught spinner who didn't realize she could ply two strands together. What a lovely experience. This sweater is so HOT due to the angora content, I could hardly ever wear it. I have a feeling it will come in handy this winter...on Maggie's Farm in Central New York.
My Olde Colonial Apple Orchard is bursting with little tart apples. Sister Bernadette tells me the orchard probably dates back to the founding farmers, Lydia and Elisha who are resting across the road. I will leave the delicious little morsels for the goats, sheep, and deer on the run from hunters. There is no hunting on my farm. Part of the reason why I am here is because I couldn't take the blasting going on all around me on the rented pasture I left behind. There is less shooting here than I experienced in western NJ and on the Pa. side of the Delaware river in Riegelsville. A man from the house across the road from the last pasture came over to see me in the field. He found a hole in his little girl's wall and window, made by a rifle bullet. He wanted to know if I did it!!! I found a bullet hole in my bird feeder on the front porch! Yikes! History is full of stories of gun accidents. I didn't want to be one of the unfortunate victims. Sure there is hunting here, too. The locals depend on that meat for food. My helper Randy shot 28 deer last winter and his family ate every morsel. But NOT on MY land. Will, the Pig Farmer, saw a 12 point buck run into my apple orchard and asked me if he could come and shoot it. No Way Jose. I told him just how many little baby deer that big buck would make for them so why shoot it? NO, it had to die he said. Sorry no deal I said. Not on my land. I heard the big deer snorting out in the back some nights. Sadly, he moved on and was probably shot on the next farm. What a magnificent animal he must have been. Sometime later all my big yellow no hunting signs were torn down...I wonder who did it? Sure I can understand shooting deer for food - but what is this blood lust they experience? It's so much FUN for them to take the life of a beautiful wild animal just trying to survive. Matt has hunted at various times in his life, but not now. He says being married to me is much more fun and challenging than hunting.
Summer is drawing to a close and I am cherishing every day. The pressure is on to "make things" to sell at the few shows I do, which are all in the fall it seems, so my days aren't totally free...but it's still so liberating to stay in my pajamas a while, cut out a bag, spin some wool, wander through my big old barn with my coffee cup and ponder how in the world I got here. I know how I did, just grit and gumption and elbow grease. It took a lot of nerve to quit my tenured job at the upscale high school where I worked at my age. (I was replaced by a 22 year old.) But I knew if I wanted to stay in sheep I had to do something drastic. I haven't looked back. My only regret is that I didn't do it 9 years ago. I wasted so much time and money trying to be a farmer in the tri-state area. But I didn't know this slice of affordable heaven existed (enter Lisa Merian from Bainbridge who told me to look in Central New York.) This time last year I was sitting upstairs in the haymow, fighting off flies. The guy who came to attach the phone and computer line couldn't find me. He said he wandered around for an hour (why didn't he blow the horn?) and charged me an extra $40 to come back and do it. The trailer was still up on the hill, and I had a sofa and computer table in the hay mow. I was bathing in the stock tank, then washing my clothes in the bath water. Hannah and Luke came to visit last August, but Annie sent Eric here to make sure everything was suitable for two little kids. These were Boy Scout people (Eric is a career Boy Scout) who are used to roughing it but they were still concerned. The kids had a ball and we survived the flies. Matt kept telling me that I had to go back to New Jersey and get on the unemployment line. After all, I paid into it and I earned the benefits. Finding a job here was easier than doing that. I made one call to the beautiful new high school down the road, and they were full, but they called BOCES and told them there was a special ed teacher looking for a job. BOCES called me and I had a job. I love the girls (and guys) I work with and hope the job lasts. Enrollment is low I hear, and I am keeping a positive outlook. One side of me wants to stay on the farm, but until we have universal health care (go Hilary!) people like me have to work. It's good to see my friends at the school every day. They care about me and want my farm to be successful. I remember thinking if I fell off the hay mow ladder the BOCES people would be the only ones to realize something was wrong when I didn't show up for work. The health benefits I left behind at Voorhees would cost me $1,200 a month!! Matt is always getting sick or hurt and uses my benefits more than I do. It's a big responsibility to keep this place going, and my job is a farm subsidy I am not getting from the government. Poor farmers have to do it all themselves. I better get to work subsidizing Maggie's Farm.
Lynne of sockladyspins.blogspot.com finished my beautiful socks. They are absolutely gorgeous. Just in time for cool nights here in Central New York. I have to buy a new pair of clogs to go with my artsy socks - open back, ofcourse, to show off the intricate stitches and bright colors. I have five sheep shows this fall and always spin in my socks at my booth. I try to wear something fibery and handknitted at shows, but with all the packing and loading and unloading I forget about myself sometimes. I will be sure to remember these very lovely and precious socks.