Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The flock is enjoying the last remnants of green before the snow flies. With the fields safe from hunters the sheep can graze peacefully. Fall lasted into December last year, with the first heavy snows coming in January. Who knows, that might have been the start of a weather trend that will do the same this year?
It was fun times at school today. Gretchen led the Global Studies class through the rigors of Ancient Greece while the Little Ones paraded up and down the hall trick or treating. There is no trick or treating on Academy Road, with the farms spread out so far...so I was doubly glad to see the costumes and merriment.
When I took the dogs out this morning I saw hunter's lights on the top of my hill. I rushed the dogs back in and jumped in the truck to get up there and run them off. There I was in the pre-dawn darkness parked in the middle of the field yelling get out of here...you can't hunt on this field...on and on. I saw a glint of light and shouted in that direction. Turned out to be my own dogs on the dead pile. When I got back to the barn and shook Matt awake he told me it was probably drive by spotlighters. They ride around shining lights on the fields to see where the deer are. I started posting Jan's land yesterday. Hunters ripped down all my signs last year. I heard a 12 point buck ran into my apple orchard and they were angry that I wouldn't allow them to come in and shoot it. Sorry! Thousands of acres around here - you can't hunt on my little farm.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
If I linger at school to get something done, then make a few stops on the way home, it's almost dark when I take the doggies on our nightly trek up the hill. Oh, I forgot, I make supper somewhere in there, too. It was cabbage and leek soup from the garden with wild rice added. Oh, it was delicious. I'm going to try to get more done on the weekend so I don't have to stop at stores on the way home. It takes so much out of me, and I like to get home with some daylight time to check things out around the farm. The dogs don't mind the dark at all, and stay close to me while I pick my way up the path we have worn over the months. When I throw the ball for Bodie I shine my miner's light on the water so he can see where to swim. Finn and Knut are always so happy to be off their lines for an hour and run around checking out coyote smells, sheep and goat smells and drink pond water. They almost always tiptoe back down the trail with me and wait at their igloos where they get their nightly meal. It takes me an hour more to get all the bunnies, kitties and chickens fed. I try to pick up every single cat and give it a snuggle in my ongoing effort to keep my barn cats docile. I have four whose mothers kept them so hidden I never had a chance to gentle them. It's going to be tough to get them in to the vet. I asked Matt to go up to the hay mow for me to throw down a bale of bunny hay. It's spooky up there enough, but on All Hallow's Eve? I started to drag garbage down the lane toward the dumpster but something about the wall of darkness stopped me. I have this funny idea about spirits drifting over from the cemetery. According to Chris Kupris, they are already here. Jan will be building her house next to where they are resting, over by the creek. Maybe she will draw them back over to her field. Fine with me!
Monday, October 29, 2007
More drama at work, drama online. I guess I better not take any pictures of local farms and put them on my blog. Long, tacky story so I will spare anyone who might be reading this little farm bulletin. Whew! People around here sure are touchy!!! Hard frost last night, 28 F. on the Milk Room porch. I got 6 Bundaflicka Bags off to Village Yarn in East Rochester. May they sell quickly so they will order more. A man from Saratoga who bought a bag said he took it to his knitting group and the members were all over it. He wants to order some of the lavender soap I put in there to make the bag smell good. I better get some more lavender oil in...and clove oil for the shaving blocks. From the feedback I am getting from sisters and mothers of the guys the blocks were purchased for, I will get some Christmas orders. I just sent Leslie pictures of bags then the Rochester order came in, so I will have to let her know. I don't have unlimited fabric of each because I buy closeouts and remnants to keep the prices down. Hector is very perky and eating his grain. I am not going to let him out until tonight when the flock is bedded down. Then he can wander around and smell everybody and get to know them. Better get to rattling those pots and pans...
Sunday, October 28, 2007
After getting Hector situated in his pen with food and water, we took the doggies up the hill. A storm blew in turning the skies different colors, with a cold blast of wind and a showering of little hale stones. What an invigorating walk. A rainbow appeared across the black clouds, very dramatic! I checked on Hector, who at this point was already doing little head butts with the visitors coming around to check him out. I like his spirit - and his curls!
My Lone Long Distance Rider Turned Shepherd friend, Mary, told some organic farmer friends of hers on Cape Cod, Mass., that I might be interested in an angora buck kid they were looking to place in a fiber farm. She made the connection and we talked it over by email. Hector arrived today with his owner, Jason, who was coming to visit Mary and pick up hay to take back to Cape Cod ($8 a bale on the cape!) He is such a cute little sparky goat, with gorgeous fine white curls. I am hoping he will put those curls on my babies. Tommy Boy is bred out and will live out his years being photographed for his gorgeous rack and blue eyes. I am keeping Hector is a lambing pen for tonight and tomorrow until I get home from work. That way everyone can look him over without butting him around. He is already making friends and munching on hay. I am so happy to have him and grateful to Mary and her friends, Jenifer and Jason, the Cape Cod organic farmers.
Jackie woke me up to go out at 6:15, and it wasn't such a bad thing after all. There was a brilliant moon directly above the barn, with bright stars and puffy clouds racing by, so low I put my hand up to touch them without realizing what I was doing. A cold wind went right through my cotton flannel pajama pants, reminding me that it was time to order more silkies - quickly. Last winter's pair were shredded by spring. I lived in them, pulling my jeans over them in the trailer to go to work. Got the dogs back in and snuggled under the covers for some short lived rest. Jackie decided he wanted back in the bedroom and did the banging thing, this time from the other side of the door. I gave up on sleep and flipped the coffee pot on. I always get it ready to go the night before. Maybe Santa Claus will bring me one with a timer on it! Anyway, I decided to turn off the New Age CD channel I sleep by and check out the movies. Guess what was on? BABE!!! The little sheep pig story I hadn't see in years. By the end of the movie tears were rolling down my cheeks in happy gratitude at the sheepy life I have here... Speaking of sheep life, I looked out the window to see the sheep and goats headed for the road in the dawning light. I woke up Matt and told him an escape was going on. He had a terrific idea...he said let's go sit in the truck, drink coffee, and watch the sheep graze on Jan's land. Haying is done for the year and it will soon be covered with snow anyway. We pulled on some clothes, grabbed the mugs and away we went. What a scene to make you gasp...the sheer pastoral beauty of it - the ultimate bucolic setting. I was overcome with the fact that I finally have a friend who cares so much about me to throw away her life in an upscale town in NJ to buy some of what's left of my farm and go into business with me. Jan told me at Rhinebeck she had done it mainly to help me with my farm. What a lucky ducky I am...
Jackie woke me up at 6:15 to go out. I was so snug in that bed and tried ignoring him and saying as softly and nastily as I could, "No, No, Jackie." Well, he kept scratching at the bedroom door so I rolled out. I have a high colonial canopy bed which I have to use a stepping stool to get up on and can roll out of and I am standing up. Once up, I am up...and all the doggies thought yay! she's taking us out!! Pip and Tanner have to be leashed and run out the other side of the barn so Thor doesn't try to eat Pip, which he almost did yesterday. Matt was walking Pip through the barn and Thor's line was just long enough that he could get a little too close to Pip, and Pip's leash was just long enough that he could jump Thor. I heard Matt's screams from all the way in the apt. and ran out to see Pip with his mouth around Thor's leg and Thor's giant mouth around Pip's head. I grabbed a board and started whacking Pip's rear end. He let go and Thor let go to look at me just long enough for Matt to yank Pip away. Now Pip might weigh 30 pounds, and Thor is about 125 but Pip doesn't know that. Thor's apt. with the vet to get clipped is Nov 28 but I think that's too long. My vet can't accomodate all the animals I need to get fixed so I think I will have to work with two clinics. A colleague recommended New Berlin Veterinary to me. He takes care of the elephants at the Syracuse Zoo so I guess he can handle anything I can throw at him...we'll see.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
We were treated to a light show by the sunset and a front coming through and pushing the storm clouds away. The pond was overflowing with rain water. It seems like a year ago that Hannah and Luke were splashing around in it, not three months. We won't have too many more warm, blustery walks up to the top of the hill. When the snows come and the drifts pile up against the hill side of the barn I won't be going out that side at all. Most of my photographs will be of the sheep and goats in the barn - not a very dramatic background at all.
The whole northeast is socked in with rain and fog. I'm going to get my rain gear on and take the doggies up to the pond anyway. Dave Beesmer, a BOCES student, is here stacking bales for me. This is his first day here and he's working just fine. Randy, my previous helper, got a job in a pallet factory and I miss him. I'm going to ask Dave to help me catch a couple of sheep for shots before he leaves...it's a tough initiation into the world of shepherding. I don't have a handling system so it's a bit like a rodeo. I would ask him to help me put coats on them but Matt would give me a hard time about it. Any surprise change in the routine throws him and he balks. The whole sheep coating business is very labor intensive and requires someone holding the sheep still for fitting. When Dave arrived, Matt immediately requested two cups of coffee to be brought to the men by the wench (me). It's a display of manliness to have a woman bringing sustenance to the workers, I guess. Later on when they came in for lunch, Matt went to the bathroom sink, which doubles as a kitchen sink and is always filled with dishes waiting to be washed, and said, "Let me clean this out so you can wash your hands, Dave...such is life with my wife." What!! Ofcourse, I was silent. Hmmmm...I think he is going to get cabbage soup for dinner tonight. That will teach him to complain about his wife.
I paid my school tax today - $1,274.00 - for the Brookfield Central School. 300 kids from K through 12. Ouch, what I would rather do with that money. And I'm a teacher, shame on me. There was a dairy farmer in front of me who wanted to talk and talk. He was lamenting the reluctance of his son to come back and help on the farm, even though he lives locally. At sixteen this kid announced he didn't want to be a dairy farmer. He is a high school shop teacher now...a hard job but not as hard as dairy farming. I can't imagine that kind of hard work. And I work hard.
I have to cut some more Bundaflicka Bags out. An upscale yarn shop in Rochester, The Village Yarn and Fiber Shop, placed an order for six bags. None of that consignment business, this is a real order. They will even pay shipping. I pray the bags sell in the shop so they will order more.
Friday, October 26, 2007
The zoo trip was wonderful, and a well needed light, stress-free outing for me. I still haven't de-escalated (how's that for a special-ed term?) from the Rhinebeck weekend and it felt great to chat with my teacher friends on the bus trip and walk around taking all the sights and animals. It went steadily downhill from there, unfortunately, when Loew's didn't have the 8 ft. cord for the dryer Matt had me buy after work on Tuesday (when he told me not to get a cord as he already had one-he didn't). I got the 6 ft. which wasn't quite long enough...which would spark the long-time-in-coming fight that's been brewing for a week. I made the pay-day trip to Tractor Supply on the way home and stopped at La Maison Blanc for goodies and a cappuchino. While driving through Norwich in the rain I saw the urbanites preparing for the Pumpkin Festival tomorrow. The forecast calls for rain all weekend - too bad, it looks like so much fun. Maggie will be working on the farm and can't get away anyway, but I love the spirit of the people of Norwich.
Katie Perry, our Science teacher, briefs the bus on the rules of the trip today to the Syracuse Zoo. We had a terrific time and I didn't lose a single student in my group. I thought I might find one of them swinging from the branches in the monkey exhibit. It was very tempting for me and I'm sure it was for them. The rain held off until we got back to the school, an hour and a half trip. The scenery was stunning driving through Central New York this time of year. I was knitting on a sock cuff but could hardly watch what I was doing.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The dogs ran away on their nightly walk and I am waiting a few minutes for them to come back before I go to bed. I am pretty doggone tired and not in the mood to wait for them. I had another sheep escape today. Looked out across the field to find a bunch of them across the road on Jan's field. What a pretty picture. I went inside to get my staff and Izzy, figuring he might help me round them up. As I was hiking down the road to where the sheep were I turned to see a line of kitties following me! What a sight! I guess they were curious about where Mommy was going. A car stopped by the sheep, a neighbor who knew they shouldn't be there. My sheep do have a way of getting me acquainted with the neighbors. This neighbor, Jake Spooner, lives about a mile down the road and I have often been curious about who works that farm. Well, now I know. As I was coming up on the sheep I yelled, "IZZY! GET 'EM UP!!" That's his command to push the sheep. Izzy was more interested in who was sitting in that car and ran up to it barking like crazy. The sheep panicked when they heard me yell for Izzy to go to work and promptly stampeeded back across the road. I thought, wow, just the sound of his name does the job! Farmer Spooner wanted to know all about the new owner of the best hay field in Brookfield. He said, you mean, Weaver won't get this hay now? Aaron Weaver is a local farmer who was mowing the field and taking all the hay. I said, nope, he won't. The hay will be sold to anyone Jan wants to sell it to. I wonder if there was bad blood between Spooner and Weaver. I have a lot to learn about local people politics. Hay is life, remember, and land is the precious provider of hay. I said goodbye and turned to go back to my flock and chores but he followed me in his car. I got the feeling he had been wondering about me for some time and now he had me captive. He talked about how magnificent my farm had been when all the land was intact...and how sad it was now that it was all broken up. Tell me about it, I said to myself. Mr. Spooner said his father just passed away and now he and his three siblings owned the 153 acres he had been farming. If he was to keep it he now had to buy it from his sisters. Good luck I thought, this land is a bit more valuable than he is probably aware of. I wonder if he will be embroiled in a property dispute the way I am with my brothers. My mother's house is still not on the market because one brother refuses to leave. Family business is the most difficult and complicated kind.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The ride home is very beautiful this time of year. I don't mind the 25 mile drive going to work, but driving home can be very boring after a long day. I try to focus on the beauty of the area. Here are some of the pretty sites I see before my own farm comes into view.
This 100 year old farmhouse was for sale when I moved in here. It is right next to my land and has a beautiful four way view, mature shade trees and sits on one of the prettiest spots in Brookfield. I begged my successful son to buy it as an investment and let me live in it until I could get my own house built. He flew out from Las Vegas to look it over, but didn't like the spongey beams in the basement. It sold for $55,000 to the Pig Farmer, who fixed the beams and is doing it up very nicely. Now I get to listen to the sound of baby piglets being shot in the head. I nearly froze to death over the winter in that trailer. I'm in the barn apt. now but still dream about that little house.
Monday, October 22, 2007
There's no place like home...Mia did a fantastic job of taking care of the farm. The apt. was tidy and clean and everyone was fed. She spent most of the weekend outside, taking in the glorious landscape. Mia made me a cup of chamomile tea and tucked me into bed. Today she went back to her new career as a nurse in New Jersey. Lucky patients!
NY Sheep and Wool was a terrific success. Many repeat customers for soap and shaving blocks and I sold about the same amount of bags as last year. It's a heady experience to watch someone look the bags over, try one on, peak inside at all the pockets, etc. and hand over the $$. My two mega-bags sold, and the bag I sacrificed much needed sleep to make on Thursday night sold. Two sisters, one of whom bought a bag last year, came back and bought matching bags. Wish I got a picture of them!
The festival people squeezed in many new vendors and competition was stiff. But the glorious weather brought out thousands of customers. Everything I made was validated in some way. I only recall selling two farm photo note cards but plenty of people looked them over.
Some good memories of the show:
My friend Jim Shelley coming to visit and pick up creme for all his friends. He wore a scarf made of yarn he bought from me last year. Jim started the online knitting forum, Men Who Knit. He brought me all the fabric wrappings from the soap he bought last year!
Staggering out of the building where my booth was and seeing my little trailer, all lit up with lawn chairs by the door, parked by the goat pen.
Finding Lisa Merian of Spinner's Hill, just starting to unload a big truck and a UHaul trailer at 11 PM on Friday night, when I was about to drop from setting up my booth. Wish I could have helped her but I was done in. She looked chipper as can be and when I saw her the next morning she looked great.
Sitting with my Garden State Sheep Breeder friends having breakfast at the 4-H booth.
Going out to dinner with Kim Parkinson and her husband, Darryl, on Friday night. Kim is a riot and so much fun to be with. They hung with me most of the weekend, as Kim had bunnies in my booth. She has story after story to tell and a wild sense of humor. Kim brought me a very classy imported German Angora buck who will be my new Big Bunny Daddy. I have been looking for a buck for two years and Kim really came to my rescue. Sugar Bear was owned by none other than Leslie Samson, co-author of the angora breeders bible, Completely Angora. Sugar Bear has already been with two does as of this writing!
Watching the angora goat show. Wow, what gorgeous specimens!
Watching Jan showing her marketing prowess with customers. She had so much fun she didn't know what to do with herself...kissing llamas, stroking sweaters. Jan bought herself a beautiful hand-knit-by-the-shepherd-herself Leicester Longwool sweater. I look forward to do many shows with Jan. She's so full of fun and adventure and loves my products. Jan went home with one of my best and latest bags with a fall leafy pattern.
All the compliments on my terrifically fun Monstersockens knitted by Sockladyspins. When the temperature hit 80 degrees in the building I reluctantly took them off. Can't wait to wear them to work!
Some not so nice memories of the festival:
Rushing over to the long-awaited Wild Fibers Dinner to find the affair had been moved and we didn't know where to. We were tired after a long day of work in the booth and found ourselves running around the vast fairgrounds in the dark looking for our dinner. Finally, after running around the racetrack and climbing fences we spied a big white tent with beautiful lights. Sure enough, the Wild Fibers Dinner had been moved to the opposite end of the grounds, tucked away between two buildings. I was pissed off and disappointed. I had called for reservations last summer and was really looking forward to this. I am Linda Cortwright's greatest fan. Last year I was recognized at the dinner as the person who encouraged her to go ahead with idea for a fiber magazine and received a gift. How could she do this to me? I made a bit of a scene as Linda explained that a blanket email went out to the guest list. What email? I didn't get an email? I know she has my email because I got a confirmation of my reservations. Matt stormed off when I acted ugly. Jan and I sat down and drank the wine and ate the cheese and crackers. The food was long gone. We watched the slide show of Linda's trip to Uzbeckistan, then left to go out and get ourselves a ruben sandwich at the restaurant across the street. I am still waiting for an apology from Linda. There was nothing in the email today.
I had been trying to get in touch with Moonbeam's owner. Moonbeam was my first goat. She came with baby twin doe kids, Venus and Star. Making a long story short, when we were moving to yet another rental, and Matt talked me into giving Moonbeam to Sally Campbell, who wanted Moonbeam before I owned her. Now that I have the farm I wanted to buy her back. There are many complex and sensitive emotions with regard to this issue that I am too tired to go into here. Suffice it to say that getting her back became very important to me. Well, I didn't hear from her owner, Stacey Bonus, Sally's friend. Sally had promised me that Moonbeam would never be moved and that she would keep her forever. She didn't keep the promise and gave her to Stacey. There I was, in the booth trying to be happy, carefree vendor, when my thoughtless and careless husband came in and told me Moonbeam was dead. She died two weeks ago. I was not happy and it kind of threw me into a tailspin.
I'm home now and soooo tired. Work today was okay, but I was pret-ty darn sleepy. Better hit the hay.