Friday, May 30, 2008

Still Cold

29 F. again this morning. I love it. The sheep love it. The flies hate it. Fine with me! I am giving little Summer a bottle to help Miss Mamie out. She is a rescue and I have no idea how old she is or what her birthing history is. I am not getting much out of her when I milk out her one teat. Supplementing with a bottle is "cheap insurance."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gorgeous Weather

The glorious weather continues. The grass is growing and many people are haying. I am still searching for someone to cut and bale. Doesn't look good. Diesel is so costly most farmers have all they can do to keep their own fields done. Meanwhile I have the sheep doing the mowing, but that doesn't help me in the winter. Have to have faith and keep on looking.

My Classroom

We are still under construction but have moved into the new wing at school. I have a big, beautiful classroom with all the trimmings - cabinets, a sink, sparkling new white board, new desk, etc. I confess I miss my closet next to the graphic arts studio with all the kids coming in and out doing their projects. The year is winding down. Tomorrow I go to Syracuse in the wee hours of the morning to take teacher certification exams required by NYS. I took these tests years ago but no good, have to do it again. I get sick thinking about it. Social Studies content knowledge in the morning, Liberal Arts and Sciences in the afternoon. I have to leave my animals all day. I know we will all survive and I should be smarter than I was all those years ago...but my brain just doesn't work as well as it used to.

Chicks Galore

I have been watching for two hens to hatch their eggs, but this one did hers in secret. I heard the familiar peep-peep-peeps and there they were, right in front of the chicken room. They are oh, so cute, but I'm terrified the cats will get the chicks. I have to figure out what to do. The chicken room has big roosters who will terrorize the chicks. Maybe I will put them out in the main part of the barn but Pavarotti (the resident senior rooster) will surely fight with them. Have to do some quick thinking...

A Sweet Surprise

When I let the sheep out yesterday after coming home from work, I noticed one Rambo didn't come up to the gate. Then I saw a tiny creature prancing around her. A LAMB!! I was so thrilled and surprised. I knew Miss Mamie had been bred by Horatio - I saw it happen myself - but I didn't think it "took." I had kept her in a pen for a couple of months, building up her weight with grain and lots of hay, but finally let her go. Lesson learned - with these great big sheep they may never look pregnant. I tiptoed down as quickly as I could, and took a look. The ewe lamb is quite tiny, but seems to be okay. I led them into the barn and the dog pen where I had been feeding the bottle lambs. Perfect spot. I can watch them from the door to my apt. Miss Mamie only has one udder working and I nursed out some colostrum. After a couple of hours I got little "Summer" on the teat and she nursed, not vigourously, but she nursed. It was all I could do to leave them and go to work today. I sit in the pen and hold her on my lap. The temp went down to 29 F. last night. Glad I had put one of Auntie Jan's sweaters on her. There's something so lovely about a spring lamb, born when the grass is green and the sun is warm...not when the air is freezing cold it will snap your nose off. I'm going to get them out on grass as soon as I can.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Insanity at the Pump

How the heck can people get to work with these prices at the pump? Bush goes to Saudi Arabia to ask King Faud to pump more oil and he tells Bush to turn around and bend over. So much for helping them out with Saddam Hussein. This is just wrong, wrong, wrong. In NY state where people earn less and have longer distances to travel this escalating gas cost is a catastrophe. Thankfully I only work 180 days a year but Matt has to get to Syracuse every day. Eric has been using French fry oil for fuel for a couple of years now out in Nevada. He had the right idea. People at BOCES have the right idea about what to drive to work.

Back to Work Tomorrow

I get so torn between work and farm. Once I get settled in at home it's torture to go back to work. Once I'm there I'm fine. I miss Mia something awful. She got stuck in the worst kind of traffic on the way back to Jersey. She's not on duty tonight and can relax at home with her roommate, Monika. I threw myself into bunny grooming to try and deal with missing Mia. Got six bunnies done and have a giant grocery bag of angora to show for it. Have to purchase some Rit on the way home tomorrow. Matt is going away again tomorrow. I am letting the sheep out to graze in the early morning hours and bringing them back in before work. Good luck! Then out again after work. Getting them in at dark is easier. The sheep prefer to be in during the heat of the day, then like to go back out again when the evening cools down. No more hay to purchase in Brookfield that I know of. Have to use the good green grass God gave us and pray that we can get someone to cut and bale across the street.

One More Goat

Mia helped me shear one more goatie before she left. The heat was building up and bugs were all over us, but the breeze made it bearable. Once the hair gets off them the goats bite and itch all the spots they couldn't get at. Mia took home two end tables and a lamp for her apartment ala tractor shed. We made plans for Lisa's bridal shower in August. Mia is her maid of honor and putting on the shower at Rachel's house in Morristown. I am in charge of favors and and flowers and will be helping with the buffet table. Mia hates corny shower games so I suggested everyone come with their favorite "Lisa story" to tell to the group. That should be meaningful and take up some time, along with eating and a couple of hours to open the gifts, and there's the shower. Mia, Lisa and the girls will be heading for NYC for some clubbing. Maggie will head back to Mia's apt. for some shut-eye.

Thistles Have to Go

Last year I admired the lovely pinkish purple thistles blooming in the field I just left them alone. Not very smart. The flowers turned into seeds which floated over the pasture and planted themselves everywhere. Now I have hundreds of prickly plants which the goats won't eat and I have to dig out. I won't use poison and don't want dead plants dotting the hill anyway. Digging them out is the only option as far as I'm concerned. Mia helped me until she had to go. What a wonderful, sweet, helpful girl I have. I adored every minute she was here. She could have been lying on the beach at the Jersey Shore but she came home to the farm to help her mommy.

Sleeping Under the Stars

After our Saturday night campfire Mia and I bedded down under the stars in the tent. The stars were visible through the top, as were the clouds floating by when the sun came up. What a joy to listen to the orchestra of birds at daybreak, and the calling of the sheep when they heard our voices. Mia made such a nice bed for me and I slept like a baby...only I kept sliding downhill right into her. She didn't mind and we loved sleeping late and having no idea what time it was.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Who Needs a Lawn Mower?

With all these grass munchers on the hoof, who needs a machine?

Big Boys

Matt decided to release Othello and Horatio. They didn't want to come out of their pen in the barn at first. I felt bad that they were inside so long they didn't want to leave their jail. Now they are happy and romping around the pasture - but they stick together just in case. They are badly in need of hoof trimming but it will take more than three of us to do it. At way over 300 pounds each, they are a bit much to handle...even with Nurse Mia assisting. I will wait for the shearer to come and tip them on their rumps for hoof trimming. In the meantime, they are bathing in sunshine and green grass.

Happy Holiday Weekend

What perfect weather...sunny, breezy and warm. Not too hot to be working outside, hot enough to keep the grass growing. Mia came yesterday afternoon and we spent the evening around the first bonfire of the season. Lots of junk wood collected just for this reason. No moon, sooo many stars collecting around the big black silos looming in the dark, eyes of our doggie family glowing all around us, cold enough to put on bunny mittens and snuggle into our Carhartts. I opened the big bottle of pink Zinfandel Jan brought up last visit. Mia and I sipped all night out of fancy wine glasses I dug out of packing in the tractor shed. We stayed up chatting and laughing until we couldn't hold our eyes open any longer. I went off to bed, Mia stayed up watching movies. Chores all day - putting up electric fencing, pre-permanent fencing - and shearing more goaties. I have some upset bellies and some runny BM's in the flock due to green grass, which is to be expected. Another fire tonight then Mia and I will sleep in the tent Jan gave me when I moved up here - long buried in the shed. Mia threatened to find it so we could sleep out under the stars and darned if she didn't dig it out. Tomorrow, more shearing, fencing, and plans to swim in Beaver Creek. Mia has so many hospital stories to tell and is so much fun I don't want her to leave...but she has to be back on duty Tuesday, as well as this teacher. Life goes on...

Slip Sliding Down the Stairs

On Friday afternoon I was driving home after work and noticed a sign in front of "Remember When" in New Berlin. The building was a hospital for a long time and many local people were born there. Now it's an antique shop, bed and breakfast inn and a fabulous restaurant. The sign invited people to come in and tour the guest rooms upstairs. I thought what a treat and turned the truck around. I have been curious about the rooms for a while. A waiter greeted me and I told him I was there to see the rooms and climbed the stairs. After wandering around for a while and taking in the quilts, Tiffany lamps, wicker furniture, brass beds, hooked rugs and other period accoutrement, I thought I better get going back to the farm. I put my hand on the rail of the stairs and took a step. My Swedish clog shot out from under me and I went sailing down the stairs on my back. I kept trying to grab something to hold on to and finally got a rung at the bottom of the stairs, or I think I might have crashed into the front door. There I was, rather shaken, collecting myself and trying to stand up, when the door opened and a family came in for dinner. I staggered out the open door for fear of someone figuring out that I just fell down the stairs. I do have my pride. Somehow I crawled in the truck and got myself home. It was a very achey night. Nothing is broken but my old fractured foot got bent back and the ligaments pulled again. I am SO careful all the time at the farm for fear of getting hurt and not being able to do my chores or go to work. Then I fall down the stairs at a local restaurant! I think they are foolish not to have treads, or carpet pieces on the stairs. The wood was a slick as glass. I was glad I didn't sign up to help move the school on Saturday. Matt got me set up at the farmer's market, which was slow as molasses, and I was able to spin a while. The weather was gorgeous, cool and windy. Many admirers of bags, and sniffers of soap, but the Colgate people are gone and the locals are feeling stingey. They ask are you going to be here all summer? I tell them yes, but I secretly know that when the weather is blistering hot and humid I will wilt and start staying home and make stuff for the fall shows instead. Candace the jewelry maker asked for some fiber to spin. She used to work for a woman who made $600 sweater kits and went out of business (can't imagine why) and misses spinning. We'll see what she can do with my wool. Kristin Thomas who hired her to spin for the kits had her making one strand thick and thin bulky on an Ashford. I am used to spinning slightly fine two strand tightly plied yarn, the polar opposite. Can't loosen up if I tried.

NYSWDA on the Road

When Matt travels the state teaching construction crews how to weatherize homes he drives the NYSWDA Honda Element. It's a nifty little truck that would probably hold a few bales of hay, or a few sheep if necessary. You can tell where my priorities lie. Last week he taught classes from Batavia to the Bronx. He was one farmboy who was glad to get home to the critters.

Floating on Air

Manny, our CTE physics/math teacher built a hydroplane with the students. Denise takes a ride to check it out. Who says school is boring? Actually some very exciting things are going on in school this weekend. We are moving into our glitzy new wing. Next week should be very interesting...a lot of settling in and adjustments to make.

Gretchen Has a New Ride

Gretchen proudly introduces her new buddy, Byron, to the school staff. He's a brand new Toyota Scion who gets really good gas mileage. Gretchen is very happy. Long may they roll together!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Early Bird Catches the...

Matt is away so I am up earlier than usual to get out there and sling those bales. Thankfully, they are very heavy - not like the one hand lift bales I was buying last winter. These are green and I can hardly get them off the ground with two hands, arms, back and legs. I have to lift them high over the fence and throw them as far as I can over the back of the sheep, or else they land on the wool. Since I farm for fiber, this is very annoying. When I get them hoisted over, I climb over the fence and wade through the wooly bodies to try and drag some away into the barnyard. Once a sheep gets a nose in they don't relinquish their spaces easily. The goats are much more reticent about forcing their way in, so I need to get some hay to them. I reach in with one arm and find a strand of baling twine, pull it away with all my might, bring a couple of sheep with me, and snip the twine with my Fiskars. I then drag away some flakes and toss them to the goats. Sometimes the sheep in this group think I am giving something better to the goats and run over to claim it. All this takes 15 minutes or so, then into the barn for filling stock tanks, feeding chickens, kittens, checking for rabbit water, etc. I climb up into the mow to throw a bale to my Rambo and Merino rams, Horatio and Othello, and stop to admire the streaks of sunlight coming through the cracks in the walls. Climb back down and turn off the water so I don't flood the barn. All this takes another 15 minutes, then panic because I know I am late. So many little pairs of eyes on me, cats arching their backs hoping for a stroke or two, lambs rubbing against me. How can I leave this heaven?

Monday, May 19, 2008

What Are You Doing?

I had little pairs of eyes watching me shear goaties yesterday. Sugar and Spice were very curious about the goat with her neck in a brace, way up high. I got three black goats sheared. Wish I had a shearing stand years ago. Most of the goats I've sheared so far took it quite well. Tess, red #4, whose favorite pastime is getting her head caught in the barnyard fence, was not very cooperative. She kept trying to get her head out of the brace to bite me. Tess is Mia's goat. Mia was babysitting the farm when Tess was born three years ago on the Fourth of July. She found Tess and held the teeny tiny little doe kid in the palms of her hand. So very tiny at birth, she grew up to be a big, beautiful, very, very black doe and a terrific mother. The doe pictured here is a little more silver, but has very glossy, lovely mohair. Tess is a bit coarse - perfect for rugs if I could get my Glimakra floor loom up and going. 30 degrees on the farm this morning...fine with me. Every day the flies are delayed from hatching is another day to enjoy on the farm.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Life in the Rafters

The barn ceiling is the perfect place for cats to play and hens to roost. This little hen made a nest in the same place as last year. Luckily I found the chicks before the cats did. Hope I get there in time this year.

Hidden Treasures

Once in a while I find eggs in strange places. It's always a nice surprise. My Olde English Bantams, a gift from Mary the Long Distance Rider turned shepherd, are very busy girls around the barn. So tiny but they still put out the eggs with a big, hearty yolk.

A Goatie Adventure

Typical of goatie behavior, a few of my does took off to go exploring. There is always something greener and juicier over the next hill. I was worried about them getting into trouble - always a likely scenario - so I followed them. They saw me coming and ducked into the wild hawthorne grove and doubled back. I guess they wanted me to think it was their idea to go back home. I have never gone into the grove and it's just delightful. On the way back I got a picture of my barn, badly in need of paint, and the old cistern the Kupris family put in for their cows. I surprised a frog living in the pool. Nice, clean water. This field will be for the goats in the future. I need to put in a pond someday to dry it up a bit. I fear another attack of the dreaded meningeal worm, which thrives in wet areas. Chris Kupris tells me the earthquake of 1986 rerouted some underground streams and made the field soggy. Perfect for a pond.

Green Grass At Last

At long last the sheep are out on grass...well, for short periods of time. I have to watch them in true shepherd fashion. The fence is still not up and if I left them alone they would head for the road. I was helped out by a rainstorm that made them head for the cover of the barn, but they got about two hours of grazing in. It seriously cuts down on making product to sell at the Farmer's Market and at shows this fall, but I do enjoy watching them graze and listening to the munching. It's not a good idea to let them eat too much green grass first time out. Bloat is a horrible thing - and I could tell you stories but I'd rather not. The goats nibbled their way over to the bushes, which goats prefer over grass anytime. If I had managed to get their long coats off it wouldn't be a problem. Not only can the mohair be ruined by the brush and my months of time and money lost, they can get caught on a bush and not be able to move. If I didn't find them they would starve. Luckily last year the goats who were caught screamed so loud I knew right where they were. I will shear some goats today while Matt works on the fence. There's never enough time or enough hands to get what I should done on this farm. Mia's coming next weekend to help me put up fence. Matt will be gone for the next two weeks, doing his weatherization thing, saving energy and helping people keep warm.