Sunday, August 31, 2008


Mia and Andrew took little Finn back to New Jersey today. What a lovely visit, and so nice to have a couple more pairs of hands to help with this and that. I love when Mia comes and hate when she has to go...but she always leaves many happy memories behind.

Mia and Andrew

Andrew saw Mia at a Barnes and Noble and decided to approach her. Smart man. They have been together for several months now. They have many similar interests and are both very outdoorsy. They're also very good at stacking bales and put a big dent in my giant hay stack. Now I have more room to dump more bales from the elevator. I was a little nervous about uncovering any unfortunate goat kids who might have been trapped. The only creatures we uncovered were three little kittens with their mother who seemed totally unfazed by the whole deal. I made a hay bale fortress around her.

Belly Dancers at the Market

The "Skyway Festival" got underway while the market was still going on. We were treated to a troupe of belly dancers and some local rock bands. Little Finn, Andrew's 5 month old puppy, got some socialization lessons from kids, puppies, and a pair of gigantic Newfoundlands. Finn had a fantastic weekend on his first farm visit. He hardly knew where to turn next.

Farmer's Market

After nearly being rained out, we enjoyed a lovely morning at the Farmer's Market. Mia, Andrew, Matt and I decided to have breakfast at the Hamilton Bakery and considered going home. I'm glad we stayed. A Colgate Mom from Texas bought 3 Bundaflicka totes - a first for me. What a jolt that gave me...and really made me want to get back on the sewing machine. Mia and I bought everything we needed at the market for dinner Saturday night. What a feast it was, with Jan and Dave joining us for their first night as residents of Brookfield. We moved outside under the Milky Way and watched as Matt built a huge bonfire with an old mattress and stuffed easy chair, long ago shredded by dogs.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Good Try, But Won't Work

Very crafty of John McCain to pick a woman as his running mate. She's very impressive, articulate and seems capable - and I like the idea of a woman in the top job...but the pro-life issue is a real problem for me. Nobody loves babies as much as I do, but I don't want the government telling me what I can and can't do with my body. It's a private matter as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dave's New Trailer

Dave bought a trailer to haul and house his favorite toy - a powder-puff Alfa Romeo. I wonder how many bales of hay you could haul in this baby?

New Curtains

I finally got my bathroom curtains done while watching the Democratic Convention speeches last night. I like Joe Biden! What a perfect choice for VP, and one that makes me feel better about the Team Obama. I've had this sheep fabric for some time. Mia and her handsome new boyfriend, Andrew, are coming to visit tomorrow and I used their visit as a push to get them done. I'm really pleased with the way they look. I think I will sew buttons on the panels to hold them open instead of ribbons for tiebacks. I love curtains, and I have to line them. Something about "prettier on the inside than the outside" like my handbags. I got five new bags cut out this morning while still in my jammies. That way I can have one on the machine all the time, ready to go, instead of having to pull out the fabrics. Matt says I have to clean up my work area for the weekend - not an easy task - and clean the apartment. I hate to clean but I like a clean house. If only I had a work area I could walk away from and close the doors. Dream on...if only I could clone myself. Better go out and check on the sheep. Everybody will be on their own all day starting Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More Musings

Young Barack Obama was hanging out with the flock this morning...another sigh of relief. I am done in from the Great Monkey Rescue of yesterday, just can't wake up. I keep looking out the window to see if she was still here. She's very mellow, getting up to eat a little grass here and there. I don't know what scares me more, the thought of her listening to our activities for three days and wondering why she couldn't get up - thirsty and hungry - or Mia, Andrew and I finding her dead when we stack bales this weekend. I guess she ran to the back of the barn when the bales started falling instead of out the open door. What a silly little goatie. All these entities I am responsible for. So much I must do to get ready for fall shows. Choices to make - buy Femo clay for bag buttons or a new pair of shoes to start school in? Mia gave me back a pair I gave her years ago, so I'll wear them. I am lusting after a pair of Mary Janes in the LL Bean catalogue but they will have to wait. Better get to work, but my body says lie down, lie down. I hope Mia brings me some Harvey's this weekend. After we do hay and have our cook out with the brand new residents of Brookfield I am going to treat myself to a nice glass of sherry, with ice and a lemon twist. Yes, Jan is leaving her clamshell jacuzzi and miles of white carpeting behind and moving to Northern Appalachia. I'm not too concerned as there are fine malls a half hour away, and lots of neat artsy things will be going on with the holidays coming. It will be great having her here to hold goat horns for shearing and to go to events with. My third NY State Fair is going on and I have no one to go with. Not that I have the time to go anyway, but it would have been nice to visit the fiber arts pavillion and see the critters, especially the ornamental chickens. Jan is always up for another adventure. Who else could I call and tell to meet me at Maryland Sheep and Wool this weekend? She held the phone, turned to her astonished husband and said, Dave! I'm going to Maryland with Maggie for some sheep thing!" And we had a ball.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monkey is Found Alive

As I was filling a bunny bottle with water late this afternoon I was sweet talking Baby Thunder who was keeping me company. I heard a muffled goat sound right above me! I was sure I was imagining it, then I talked to Baby Thunder again and heard the little bleat again. My heart leaped but I was still cautious - but what else could it be? The hay mow was above me, and I knew it was filled with bales - but there was a live goat up there. It must be Monkey! I ran in the house and called Matt, who, as luck would have it, decided to get tires tonight. He had an hour wait in front of him, then an hour ride home. What to do, what to do. For some reason I poured a jug of water, climbed up to the hay mow, then realized I could barely climb over the mountain of bales with two hands and legs. I started climbing and lost the jug as the bales shifted and my feet fell into holes between the bales. The bales are up to the ceiling so I had to dislodge a bale to climb down the other side. The only way down to the floor, where I heard the voice, was a space against the wall. I slipped and slid with, incredibly, Holly and Izzy, climbing behind me (loyal dogs, or very curious). I got down to the floor and wondered how in the world I was going to get to her - but I just had to. There was some space in the corner where I could stand and pile bales behind me. I called her name and heard a murmur, and pulled bales away. I thought surely the whole mountain will come down on us, but they were piled so thick and high the weight held the bales together. But that made it harder to pull them away near the floor. It took some doing, with dogs sitting on bales beside me and panting on my neck, but I was able to reach her head. What a sight - those little black horns and tufts of curly hair sticking out from under a bale. My little Monkey. Her eyes were dazed but open. She looked pretty good considering she was buried under all that weight for three days!!! Now what to do with her. I pulled hard on both horns and she started to move. More pulling and she was free from her prison. After I hugged and loved on her a bit, I started pulling her limp body over the mountain of hay, back the way I came. It was quite a struggle, with my feet going down in between bales and Monkey bumping along. I got her out on the grass and stood her up. She fell back down limp. I ran to get her some water, and when I came back she was standing up! She drank a WHOLE GALLON of water! I got her some oatmeal, bunny pellets, and, her absolute favorite, dry cat food. She nibbled a little, then lay down exhausted. I sat with her a couple of minutes, but then I had to leave her to let the sheep out to graze and watch them. When last I checked, she was lying under the wool sorting table, nibbling on the greens around her. I am so thankful to have my Monkey back. She wasn't eaten by a mountain lion after all. I've discussed with Matt how important it is to check the barn for animals then close the barn doors before offloading hay. Now to find Barack Obama...


With this glorious weather and only a few days of freedom left, I am jumping around like a grasshopper from one project to another. I got a lot done yesterday, and have to press to do more. It is show season and the shows wait for no shepherd. I have dye pots simmering, soap pots stirring, and cut up soap all over the place. This is my big chance to make the Farm pay for itself, and I have to work like my life depends on it (it does). The falls shows are the only chance I have to make my wool pay for itself. Getting Maryland in the Spring was a giant influx of capital after a long hard winter. When I work I don't worry. I sat up until 1:30 last night clipping sunburned tips off a fleece that I'll be washing today. Oh, it was heaven. What is it about those fibers running through my fingers that is so mesmerizing and delicious? I was lost in the locks. Have to get it out to the mill, or I won't get it back. It will be a miracle if they can do it for me. I wasted several days calling a mill two hours from me that never called back. Thanks, gang. I will pay a visit to their booth at Fingerlakes to check their situation out. My soap is coming out fantastically, thank you Higher Powers. I have enough bag fabric to make a good amount of bags, but need snap-frames, essential oils, beeswax, etc. If I do well at Fingerlakes I can get what I need for the other shows. Have debts to pay plus school tax, property tax, it goes on and on. I talked to Eric yesterday when I called for Luke's birthday. The cute house they are buying in San Jose is owned by a family who are selling it for less than the mortgage they took to buy it. Hard times all over, even in classy Northern California. Eric is moving there this weekend to go to work for the Santa Clara Boy Scout council. He is second in command, a nice promotion for him. I can't wait to visit that mystical magical No. Ca. There is an energy there I haven't felt anywhere else. LOTS of fiber artists there. I want to visit Morgaine Wilder of Carolina Homespun in San Francisco. She just had a nice write-up in Wild Fibers. Better get back to my own fibers.

Monkey is Missing

Have not seen Monkey (Velvet) for three days. It was Matt who first noticed she was not lying on top of the picnic table, or lounging under the pine tree with the dogs and her other goatie friends. He adores Monkey. With the frenzy of the farmer's market, and the sudden passing of Jasper, AND the welcome deluge of hay to get in the barn, her absence was not noticed. Matt is afraid she got caught under the bales being tossed from the elevator. On one hand I can believe it. When Matt first used the elevator he neglected to go up in the hay mow and move my sofa and precious stereo unit (I was living in there) and they were both smashed by cascading bales. On the other hand, the bales come in one at a time and Monkey was very quick on her feet. I can't imagine her letting one hit her, and, if it did, wouldn't she run away? I went up there yesterday and started moving bales, calling her name, listening for goatie sounds, but nothing. Just little Lincoln answering me with his own little bleats. I am almost certain she was picked off by a coyote, or a cougar (mountain lion). The Wild West Exotic Hunters next to me at the farmer's market told me they set up cameras to see what's roaming around their "preserve." They taped a cougar one night, stalking the bait they put out. They live just a few miles from me. The sheep stay in the middle of the field, but the goats love to go into the apple orchard and roam around the woods at the bottom of the ridge. There are thousands of empty acres behind the ridge. Little Barack Obama is missing, too. What the hell do I have all these dogs for????? Where was Chris? Probably gone to bed under the pine tree himself. I know, I know, I can't let dogs roam or I will be back in court again. The only thing I can do to keep the sheep and goats all together, with loose dogs in there to protect them, would be to get hard fencing. Not as much fun for the sheep and goats, but they will be alive. I went out to get them last night - no more all night grazing - and the moonless night was just perfect for picking off livestock. Poor Monkey, I hope it was over quickly for her. She would make a feast for a pack of coyotes, as fat as she is. I love wild things, and I love living where wild things live, but I have to do a better job of protecting them. I miss my little Monkey. She loved to walk with me up to the pond, that little head with the blue eyes moving back and forth with her clip clops on the path, stopping to nibble on this flower and that plant. She was so dear to me. I wrote about her story before, how she was born to my dearest Celeste, who rejected her in favor of her twin, who I still have but isn't friendly. Monkey was found lying cold and stiff on the barn floor, then warmed in a laundry basket on the over door overnight. She stood up on Easter morning announcing that she decided to live and where's my bottle? Eaten by varmints? Oh, please, let me not even imagine it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Luke!

Luke is seven years old today! Yikes, where did the time go? I called this morning at six Las Vegas time to be the first one to wish him Happy Birthday. I think I will call back tonight, as all I heard was a "TIRED!!" when Eric tried to get him on the phone. Luke is having a birthday celebration in school today. I remember when Annie was pregnant with Luke and Eric called to tell me they were having a boy. He was very happy to have a little gunslinger side-kick to raise up in the ways of the frontier with the Boy Scouts. Luke is named after a gun - yes, I know, but let me explain. Eric went to VMI, the Virginia Military Institute, in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. The legendary, and very religious, artillery officer, Thomas J. Jackson, was a professor at VMI before he went on to become "Stonewall" Jackson. There are four cannon on the green at VMI and they are named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Eric picked Luke's name from one of the guns he saw every day during his years at VMI. Luke is very smart, very verbal, and a shrewd analytical thinker. He soaks up new information and experiences like a sponge. He is very tough brave and courageous. While here on the farm, he was pushing a bale of hay through the drop hole, when it gave way. Luke shot through the hole and landed on a sheep, which quickly shot out from under him. Although banged up, Luke went into the apartment to shake it off, without coming to his Omi for stroking. I only found out about it later from Hannah! Luke is a real family man and loves his pets. He also loves his grandmothers, which I am very grateful for, because I absolutely adore my grandson, and love having him here on the farm. He may be growing into a big boy, but he still likes to cuddle and snuggle with his Omi. Wish I could be there to watch him blow out the candles. Maybe next year...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bodie's Special Talent

Bodie does a neat thing with his ball...he holds it in his paws and rolls it around. It's amazing to watch. I've never known a dog to use his paws like hands the way Bodie does...really getting into the zen of his ball.

More Kitties in the Wool

My little friends keep me company when I work with my wool and do chores around the farm.

Back to the Pond

The pond is very still. Bodie stirred up the mud a bit and sent the froggies swimming for cover. I don't think we will have too many more of these stretches of glorious sunny weather. This summer has to go down as the wettest I can remember. If we can just get some second cut in...

Filling Up the Barn

There are about 1,200 bales of hay in the barn - about a third of what I need to get the flock through until next spring. First cut hay has the dead grass from last winter still in it, but some good green grass, too. With luck we'll have some dry weather in September to get a second cut, with nothing but juicy green grass. What a good feeling to have those bales piled everywhere. Four hot and dry days did the trick. Thank you, Jan and Dave, for buying those hay fields and thank you, Mr. Spooner, for coming through for us with the mowing and baling. The elevator motor on the east end of the barn burned up (pidgeon poop dried on the track?) and we had to drop the bales in the middle of the barn. Mia and Andrew are coming next weekend, and we'll have a stacking party after the farmer's market on Saturday. What fun! Then we can swim in the pond to cool off, and have a bonfire at night.
My Jasper was lying in his box so I could say good bye all day long. I buried him tonight under the pine tree where Knut and Finn live so he would have company and would not be dug up by coyotes or other varmints. I don't want him scattered about. I watched the Olympic Closing Ceremony tonight. What a unbelievable spectacle. I'm so sorry the games are over. I've been glued to the TV for two weeks watching them. The Olympics have always been a big deal in our house. Mia and AJ went to an Olympic field hockey game in Atlanta years ago - so special because she was the Captain of her high school team. I watched the opening with Jasper and my other doggies. I know Jazz-bo would have loved this show, too...especially the part about licking my ice cream bowl. I hope Hannah and Luke have been watching. Luke is SEVEN years old tomorrow! Wish I could be there to celebrate with him. I saw the pink and blue floats, still full, ready for swimming, at the pond today. Gosh I miss them so much. I know the froggies in the pond are enjoying the quiet, but I'm not! Very busy tomorrow making Cinnamon Leaf soap and boxing up fiber to send to the carding mill. The mill two hours from here won't return my calls or emails. I don't think I want to bring my wool to a place that won't talk to me. I suspect they have so much work they don't want any more.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Very Good Beagle

Jasper has been carrying one leg in the air lately, and was having trouble jumping on the sofa. It took a big effort and once settled there he didn't want to get down. I didn't think too much of it since he is a hard running beagle who loves nothing better than to tear through the woods, singing at the top of his voice. Yesterday, a blistering hot day without a cloud in the sky, I was washing, dyeing and putting out fleeces. Matt was waiting on the neighbor farmer to come and bale hay, and putting it away when the wagon was finally full. I noticed Jasper sitting in the field, not too far from the house. I called him to come in, thinking it was too hot. He didn't budge and just gave me that "I don't want to come in" look. Knowing we would be home all day, I let him be. Last night at dusk, Matt called me and said Jasper's having trouble. He couldn't get up the hill to the door. Matt carried him in and set him down in the apartment. He was shaking a bit and I was sure he was dehydrated. I made him swallow some honey and water, then some chicken broth, but I knew something was not right. He just couldn't get comfortable, and kept shifting around. I slept on the sofa last night, after printing labels, wrapping soap, finishing up bags for the Farmer's Market today. I like to sleep on the couch, in front of the TV. It feels like vacation. Me on one sofa, doggies at my feet and piled up on the other sofa. Jasper wasn't breathing right. I was sure it was the dehydration. Then he woke me up at 6 crying. He was incontinent. I wrapped him in towels and lifted him onto the sofa where I could pet and stroke him better. Matt was calling to come on, we were late for the market. Suddenly Jasper became very calm and quiet, and I left. Matt was dropping me off and helping me set up the pop-up, then coming right back to move bales. I had a very bad feeling about going, but I had worked furiously for two days getting ready, and we need the money, and I thought for sure Jasper would be feeling better when I got back. I said goodbye to him and that was the last time I saw him alive. When Matt came to pick me up at the market, I could tell it was bad news. Matt has never been one to hold bad news and he let me have it. I tried to pack as quickly as possible and get in the truck. Jasper is lying in state on the coffee table he loved to sleep under. I was able to stroke those beautiful long ears and talk to him about what a wonderful friend he has been to me and how I enjoyed watching him grow into such a handsome, noble beagle. You see, Jasper and his sister, Georgia, were born on my Uncle Fred's farm in Sparta, Georgia, twelve years ago. It seems like an eternity. It was before my mother had her catastrophic stroke and could still talk to me, before I had to leave Morristown, while AJ, Mia and I were still living together in the house I raised them in. The phone rang and my mother told me about a litter of beagles born on her brother's farm. I was very familiar with Uncle Fred's beagle operation. There were several pens on the slope behind the house, filled with rusty steel drums and dogs. Twice I had brought home beagles, first Sparta, then Prissy. They were a pair and such a big part of our lives. This litter was in trouble. Their mother had been "killed by a rattlesnake" and Fred was tired of bottle feeding them. He had stood up in church and offered them to anyone who wanted to take the time to feed them. Although just born, and so tiny, they were still being kept in a wooden crate, out in the pen, away from the house, all alone. One puppy, hearing other dogs sounds coming from the adjacent pen, crawled out of the crate and through the fence. The young beagles kept in there "keeled it." My mother, born and raised in the South, had a hard time with those puppies being kept that way, and, in desperation, called ME, knowing I would have to do something. I got on a plane and flew from Newark, NJ, to Atlanta, rented a car, and went to get the puppies. By that time Uncle Fred had decided maybe he would keep them after all. They were surviving on three feedings of regular cows milk (?!) a day, and they must be "good dawgs." He let me pick two. I will never forget those wiggly little black and white worms, crawling around the newspaper. I picked Jasper, a bigger, more solid, puppy - and Georgia, the tiniest one, thinking she might not survive the harsh life of a hunting beagle in the Deep South. Georgia had a little kink in her tail, and people always thought I closed it in a car door, or the refrigerator. I thought later I should have called her "Flag," as the tail tip sailed behind her. My mother was thrilled that I came, and it turned out to be the last time we saw each other before her stroke. We could have a conversation, and I could listen to my mom participate in one of those fabulous rapid fire Southern conversations with her sisters and brothers, all talking at once. I called the airline and found out what I needed to do, purchased the box at the airport, and walked them through the exray, holding each puppy in my palms, up against my chest as directed. I bottle fed them on the plane with admiring flight attendants and passengers looking on. By that time I had purchased some puppy formula and correct bottles for them. When back in Morristown their little paws barely touched the floor. Never have there been such adored creatures, and so different you would never know they were from the same litter. Dr. Padover weighed Georgia in a little gram measuring scale, as she did not yet weigh a pound. Her fontanelle had not closed and she had water on the brain. The vet said she might always be a little "dizzy" and that was right. I bottle fed the puppies for months - longer than I had to. My mother was due to come for Christmas to be with us and see how the puppies were growing. The call came that she was in an Augusta hospital, sticken down with a stroke that left her aphasic and crippled. She lingered for two years. I always thought it was Jasper and Georgia who brought us together that one last time when Mom was a whole, happy person. Those puppies were the cutest things in the neighborhood. Neighbor kids would come to play with them and I was crazy about my doggies with the silken black ears and the atypical big brown eyes. My uncle had bred some Blue Tick hound in his beagles, and mine had some lovely spots on their legs. Jasper was large and long legged for a beagle, while Georgia was tiny, shy and demure...but when they were hot on the trail of a rabbit, oh, could they sing. They ran away once, crossing two highways, and leaving Morristown and Morris Township. I had three police departments roused looking for them, and went all around looking and calling through the night. Georgia was taken in by a couple who gave her a BATH and called the number on her collar. I went to pick her up and the woman was rocking her in a chair! When I got home with Georgia, Jasper was barking at the door. This young dog had gone miles and miles away and still found his way home. My uncle always said if a dog couldn't find his way home, he didn't need it! But that wasn't suburban New Jersey, 30 miles from Manhattan! When we lived on Creek Road, in the middle of 68 acres, Jasper would roam the land, scaring up herds of deer and chasing them forever. He could run like the wind with those long legs, singing all the way. I would watch in amazement as he would run, round and round the little shack I lived in, with his feet barely touching the ground. I could go on and on about my puppies...I lost Georgia four years ago to pancreatic cancer. I think Jasper had a tumor growing near or on his spine, causing him to hold up his leg and restricting his movement. Thankfully, I didn't surrender him to a vet the way I did with Georgia, who opened her up a second time just to show a visiting vet her cancer, and who put her down without calling me first. I'm still angry with him. Jasper died at home in his own barn, with his pack around him, and with the taste of honey in his mouth. He would have hated going to the vet in confusion and pain. Last time I took him in, it took three women to give him a vaccination. I have other dogs to love now, and I love them passionately, but the loss of my Georgia beagles signaled the end of an era. They were a link to my mother, my Georgia people, my house in Morristown, my kids while they were still home and we were all together. I always left a little ice cream in my bowl, a little milk from my cereal, a little food on my plate, for Jasper, and I could put it down without even looking to see if he was there - he just was. Matt says he would never have lived this long in Georgia, living in a rusty barrel. I know he is singing his way through a grassy field, hot on the trail of a rabbit or deer. I know there are so many sadder circumstances to think about, like the stories I hear from Mia about the little girls washing their dying mother's hair, or the bodies of little babies she sees wrapped up in the morgue, lying alone on a table - but nothing can make me feel better about losing my Jazzbo right now. I think I better go out and wander among my sheep, play with my dogs, feed my chickens and bunnies, and pick through a fleece, or sew a bag, or make Mattie some dinner. Yes, that would be nice.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chicken Dishes

Jan gave me some cute chicken plates, bowls and cups. They're so perfect for my little barn kitchen - no wonder Jan couldn't resist. She found them in the drug store! They're tough, too. I'm hard on dishes and these plastic plates should go the distance.