Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lake Effect

The snow machine over the lake is cranking up and sending that horizontal white mist out of the Northwest. Sometimes is comes floating down and I can see one tiny flake at a time and follow it all the way down. Other times the wind drives it through and I can't see where it's landing. The paddock where the sheep relax in good weather is drifted over and they stay in the barn all the time. I just listed Wooster, my purebred registered Bluefaced Leicester ram on Craigslist, a first for me. Libby mentioned she saw a flock of Cashmere goats on it and I thought, why not check it out. I know Mia found Monika, her roommate, on CL. Why not give it a try? He is bred out and I don't plan on using him in the near future. He comes from Kathy Davidson's Potosi Farm in Glen Rock, Pa. I want to find him a good home, but once you let an animal go there's no telling what's going to happen to him, something that always plagues my mind. I'm no good in the animal business. They are all children and totally dependent on me for everything they need. I stayed up late last night sorting through a fleece to put in the dye pot. Have to get the bottles out to the lambs. I'm cutting Larry and Lester down to two bottles a day. They are a month old and growing like crazy. I want them to eat more hay and corn. I still have mom and boys in the pen so I can feed Lilly without her having to compete with other sheep. She's losing her wool so I'll get a coat on her. I had hoped to have three Lilly fleeces to have yarn made for a sweater someday. She has the softest, prettiest variegated brown wool. Her mom, Blue Tag, is still with me. Blue Tag is one of my founding ewes from Ohio, a BFL Romney cross, and must be 11 years old now. She can't have many more years on this earth. I'm headed to the feed mill in Waterville this morning, my Saturday ritual. I have to get to the B'field PO before 11 am. Carol sent a package of fabric from her local discount store. Great to have a personal shopper in the fiber arts business. She knows what people will like. She's finished my bag and I will send her 5 pounds of wool for it. Love that underground barter economy. Nobody I know has any money to spend these days, and things are slated to get worse. Thank God for our jobs.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It's A Conspiracy

When events conspire against my getting work sometimes I have to give in. Granted there were drifts blocking the driveway, but the plows had gone by and I knew route 8 must be cleared. A half hour with a shovel would do it. But Matt had decided to "work from home" today and didn't get up to do his chores. By the time I got up and out to the barn to do both our chores and got back in I knew I didn't have it in me to get dressed for work and shovel too. Waking the bear when he's not ready to be awakened can be problematic. I also had to move Finn and Knut back outside after bringing them in out of the ferocious weather last night, jumping through the drifts on the north side of the barn with the big white boys in tow and connecting their lines. Okay, I said to myself, maybe it's the right time for a mental health day. Then the guilt set in. I spent the day making up for the fact that I didn't go to work today. Matt dictated some weatherization correspondence to me for typing so he could email it into the office. I got the 96 pounds of soap cut and set up for curing on the drying rack. I finished three bags (okay, they were cut out already) and oh, are they cute. Tomorrow I'll ask our graphic arts teacher if I can borrow a camera for the weekend to take pictures. I got a few bags up on Etsy and I see they are getting quite a few peeks (they keep count!) I'm hopeful. I priced them all $25 lower than show prices, so we'll see what happens. I always do better when people can see the bags in person and can walk away with them. Little Baby Jane is doing great and growing I think. Mom loves her and stands very patiently while that tiny thing finds the teats under that forrest of mohair. I've never known a goat that didn't want her baby, unlike sheep who can be flighty, nervous mothers. I've been giving the sheep 300 pounds of corn a week and some skinny minnies seem to be gaining. Sounds like alot but its really not with my size flock. I give a few yearlings a wink and open the door to the milk room so they can slip in and eat without the big girls knocking them out of the way. My Dinah bangs on the door when she's done. Runty Ruthie is back out with the flock. She wasn't happy in the milk room where I thought she might be able to eat and relax (and not freeze). Ruthie was lonely, even with some kitties and occasional hungry lambs to keep her company. I guess she's rather get trampled than be without her posse. She's so cute I hope I don't lose her.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Still Snowing

It's still snowing hard here, big heavy wet flakes, as it gets dark. How wonderful not to have to get dressed all day. I got several bags up on my Etsy store - Wish I had a better camera but they look okay. Have to get my hand creme and soap on there next. Speaking of cameras, I had it in my pocket as I did chores last night and a milk bottle leaked all over it. Won't turn on now! Matt came home from Syracuse early and wanted to go to the little local diner, The Beaver Den. We drove 3 miles through the winter wonderland that is Beaver Creek Valley to Brookfield and found the restaurant open. We were the only patrons there and watched the owners decorate for Valentines' Day while we ate. The one year old grandson played with his toys. It was a tender, tasty scene. Back home in time for Larry and Lester's bottles at 4. I had a lovely conversation with Mia today. Caught her as she and Andrew were shopping for his tuxedo for the Rotary Club Ball at the Parsippany Hilton on Saturday. Mia found her dress at Bloomingdales after purchasing and returning one from our old standby, Lord and Taylor. She's such a Jersey Girl! Wish I could see them dressed up and ready to go. She tells me Andrew is taking her skiing for her birthday in February. There was a time when my twins spending their birthdays apart was unthinkable, but they are grown up now, boo-hoo! Time flies by way too fast. It's been ten years since they left home and I still miss them like crazy. That's why I keep so ridiculously busy.

Debbie Called

Debbie Zahn called, my friend from the Hamilton Market. Debbie is a farmer and terrific community organizer. She's very supportive of farmers and the arts. Debbie is starting a winter farmer's market at the Earlville Opera House, starting on February 14!! I'm so excited. It's a great way to see people and get energized for the upcoming season. It may be dark and cold in the barn, but the EOH will be bright and filled with colorful, fibery things. There are SO many talented people around here and Debbie will bring them out. Something else to look forward to...Jane Porter of Porter Studios is opening her Tangled Lair for an informal spinning/knitting/needle felting day on February 7. I'll bring my old Louet and leave Matt in charge of the farm for the day. Jane is a dress designer and textile artist. I've purchased some of her dress remnants for bag fabric and it's real classy stuff. I was thrilled to see someone open a fiber studio not 20 miles from me, complete with drum carders and wheels. I'm hoping to sneak over to Hamilton Whole Foods for lunch while I'm there and visit Candace, if she's not at the studio herself. So much to look forward to!

Lamb/Kid Sweaters

Jane asked for my sweater pattern. Libby is over in the Fingerlakes whipping up some lamb sweaters right now. Some companies sell cloth drapes for lambs but they are nothing like this cozy sweater. It hugs the baby around the neck and chest while draping over the back. The opening underneath allows mom to nuzzle the babe without restriction and the sweater doesn't get soiled. Here is the pattern:

Materials: Bulky wool (please don't even think about using acrylic!!)yarn, or combination of wool and other exotic fibers. I use two ply handspun yarn when I have it - one ply wool/mohair and one ply angora. Alpaca/wool is good too. You want the extra warmth of a hollow exotic fiber and the strength of wool or mohair. This is a great way to use up all the little balls of leftover yarn you have around the house.

Needles: I have used 10's through 15's, whatever the yarn calls for. You don't want to knit too tightly or the sweater won't "grow" with the lamb.

Cast on enough stitches to cover the lamb from behind the ears to the base of the tail. With my "fuzzy logic" I cast on enough to fill a 12 inch knitting needle - or hold it up to the lamb. You don't want the cape falling off the back of the lamb. Ideally it will cover most of the back.

Knit back and forth with garter stitch for 2-3 inches. A Shetland lamb will be smaller than a Cotswold. Use your own judgement for girth of the lamb.

Knit 3-4 four inches, then cast OFF about 15 stitches. This is the leg hole for the lamb. You want him to have freedom of movement so don't make the hole too small.
Knit to end. Knit until you come to the place where you cast off the stitches. Cast ON 15 stitches. This is the top of the leg hole. Knit to end.

Knit back and forth for approximately 6 inches. This is the back/body part of the sweater. Knit 3-4 inches and cast off 15 stitches to correspond with the other leg hole. Knit to end. Turn and knit until you come to the place where you cast off. Cast ON 15 stitches for the bottom of the leg hole. Knit to end.

Knit back and forth for another 2-3 inches. Cast off entire row. Cut yarn leaving a foot of yarn. Sew or crochet sweater together, half way across, beginning on the end closest to the leg hole.

Put sweater on the lamb just as you would dressing a baby - head first then each leg through the holes. You can turn down the collar for a turtle neck for extra warmth. Pull cape over baby's back. Give lamb back to the mother. Happy, warm lamb and happy mother!

I have crocheted lamb sweaters using double crochets up and down - works great.
These sweaters save lives!! A warm lamb will nurse better and thrive. These sweaters pull off easily if the lamb is caught on a fence or nail. Wash them gently and hang by the wood stove for future generations. Felted or shrunken sweaters can be saved for multiples or preemies. Good luck and get in touch with any questions!!

Snowy Morning Musings

No School Today...what a gift! It's one of the best perks of public education. No boss somewhere far away saying, what do you mean you can't get in today? I always have so much to do this extra time is just so wonderful. I can type a little more on my blog, sew bags, cut up soap, play with my new baby goat, Baby Jane, on and on. Sometimes I sit down at the keyboard and nothing comes out but not this morning. That's what happened last night after chores. Usually I could go on and on ad nauseum about something, but not last night. No problem, I just vegged in front of the TV and watched Big Love, my favorite soap opera. Every woman wants a husband like Bill, but sharing him with two, maybe three other wives? Don't think so...It was late anyway, and the kitties were happy I was staying still for a change. There was no knitting on my lap and my Louet is so out of kilter it wiggles and sways when I spin. Matt, the former carpenter, doesn't even know where his tools are. When he doesn't feel like fixing something for me he tells me the tools he needs are across the street and I have no way of knowing if that's true. Very clever. I kick some of them on the barn floor. What's happened to my Master Carpenter??? He wears nice clothes every day and has brand new office furniture (including a 12 foot long L-shaped desk and "executive chair")in his new room in the training center. I told him he has some nerve getting new office furniture when half the country is getting laid off. I can't complain - my whole building is brand new and sparklingly beautiful. Yikes, when I think of the prison I went to high school in, with the wooden chairs that splintered and stuck to my stockings (yes, this is pre-panty hose when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we were not allowed to wear pants!!). Matt wants more new clothes for his birthday coming up. If he thinks they are coming from somewhere other than the Salvation Army or Walmart he better think again. If he's really nice and takes good care of my animals he might get the new set of teeth he wants someday. I personally think his teeth keep him humble...but he wants new teeth and I have the dental coverage. When he threatens to put all my sheep on a truck to the auction he loses points...but I let him rant anyway. When he's in the office he's happy, and Obama will likely keep weatherization funding coming in - thank you Democrats.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Baby Kid Doing Fine

Tiny little Baby Jane - hey, that's a cute name! - is doing fine this morning. I was afraid to look when I went out into the cold barn, but there she was. We had penned her up with mom so well I didn't have time to take the panel down to get inside with her. I kneeled down, reached in and felt her belly - full and firm, which tells me she's been nursing. I pried open her little jaw (goats are funny that way - it's easier to get inside a lamb's mouth) and her mouth was warm, also a good sign. Her back was toasty warm under the thick angora sweater. Big relief. Leaving newborns in the nursery to go off to work is never a good feeling but I think this pair will be okay. I guess young Hector (Hecky) did the deed. He is the registered white buck from Mary's friend in Cape Cod. I thought he was still too young and small, but I guess not! The does have been hanging around the fence that cuts off Tommy Boy and the rams from the females. TB bangs on the fence making snorting and chortling noises which must mean something like, "Hey, honey, just jump over this fence and I will take you to paradise!" Does are programmed to try and mate with the biggest, machoist buck around, and Tommy Boy is it. Sadly, he is bred out and we needed new blood. Maybe little Hecky sneaked up from behind and got them when their guard was down.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Doe Kid

While I was giving the Boys their bottles I heard it. Convinced myself I was hearing things, then heard it again. Larry and Lester were sucking hard and I didn't want to interrupt their rhythm. There it was - the tiny little waaahhhh of a baby something. Holly ran down to the other end of the barn 'cause she heard it, too. I saw a black goat butt her away and knew she must be the mother. Sure enough, there was a tiny reddish doe kid, still wet, who had slipped through to the other side of the stanchion fence. I hopped over and found her. Mom had been staying close on the other side. I picked up the baby, she was light as a feather and very wet and cold, and gave her to mom. I ran into the apt. and found a fluffy angora sweater and put her in it. Amazing what happens when I put a sweater on a cold baby. She got very quiet and stood still, maybe thinking she was back inside mom instead of shivering in the freezing barn. I left them alone for a while so I could feed Matt, who just came home from work. I would need him to hold the mother while I trimmed her back end and nursed out colostrum for the tiny kid. After dinner we found a panel to shut them in together in their own pen, with feed, water and hay. Mom looked a bit surprised at the whole business, and wasn't sure about being penned in with her baby, but I told her she needed peace and quiet with her baby, not having to fight the other flock members for food. I went about taking care of everybody else and watched them with one eye. Goat babies are funny. They like to stand up until they fall down exhausted. I was glad I got her belly full of colostrum. It should be real cold again tonight, and I considered bringing the baby inside...but mom would freak out and the baby would scream all night. I think she'll be okay with the sweater on and hay to lie on. She needs to nurse from her mother tonight. Fingers crossed...

Another Storm Coming

When Matt came in from putting out hay I said is it very cold? He said not really. So I washed my hair. After all it was day 3 and I usually scrub the head every other day. Got dressed and went out the apartment door. It was like walking into a giant freezer, with crystalized windows and air so cold my hair went zzzziiiipppp and it was stiff as a board. I checked the thermometer and it was minus 10F. Yes, it was cold. The little Jeep protested a bit but turned over. If this car doesn't last I am in big trouble after giving away my Ranger, but I'm hopeful. Larry, Lester and Levi are not happy with me after finally putting the bands on their tails last night. It's been too long and needed to be done. I was able to palpate the testicles in their scrotums enough to get Levi and Lester done, but couldn't find the second one on Larry. If you leave one testicle up above the band they are still intact. I decided to wait until I could be sure. After holding three fighting, kicking lambs still Matt had just about had it. I gave them bottles right away to try and take their minds off the pain, but little Larry just couldn't suck. I felt awful about it but this morning he sucked with the same gusto as usual. I kept my runty goat in the milk room last night, along with a few cats I didn't have the heart to kick out. It's just so cold they hold their paws up when they walk on the icy driveway. I named my runty goat Ruthie. I found out she likes cat food, layer mash, rabbit pellets and corn best of all. I know she'd rather be with the flock but I'm sick of them running her over and leaving her flat out, besides it's just too cold. I got six bags cut out yesterday, and another fleece dyed yellow. I'm working on a nice big yellow run of BFL roving with colored angora interspersed throughout. This Sunflower yellow from Jacquard is very striking and should look great in the booth and in the sample packs I make. Home from school and popped a casserole in the oven. Love when I have some ready for cooking. Got a good fire going after walking the doggies and bottles are ready. Storm coming tomorrow and Wednesday. Like they say to me at work, welcome to New York!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sorting Things Out

4 F. this morning - crisp and clear on the farm. I have to carry a hammer around the Hobbit barn with me to knock the ice out of the buckets before I pour the hot water in. I've been sorting through fleeces and picking out hay, dirt and matted parts in front of the fire. My Bluefaced Leicester is deliciously soft and beautiful wool with the tiniest little crimps. But everything sticks to it and the tips become "cotted" (felted) easily. Rain falls on on the wool and the heat of the sheep causes it to felt. Still, there is no other wool that can compare to it for next-to-the-skin wearability...and the sheep are so nice. I pick apart the long locks before washing so the soap can do it's work and the dye can get in. If only people knew the blood, sweat and tears it takes to raise this fiber! I am drying wool in the apt. now, which requires cleaning off the big table, but that means removing the fabric and then where can I cut??? I will get some bags cut out this morning, store them in the big zip-lock bags, then clean off the table for wool drying. The heat of the wood stove makes the apartment the ideal place - except for the kitties who race in under my feet and find the wool oh, so nice for napping! Still have to get to the soap, but that requires cleaning off the drying rack. Never enough space for the busy crafter. It's Sunday and I have electric, firewood, and hot water. The big pot of chili I made for the weekend is almost gone. I have a cute little runty angora goat who has been hanging on for months with no real growth. Matt wants to put her down, but I think I can get her going come spring and green grass. I call her my "fainting goat" because I find her flat out on the hay as if she's fainted. I stand her up and she's fine! She eats hay and tries to squeeze in between the big sheep and goats to get corn. I can't see putting down an animal that is well enough to eat. I was giving her nutridrench and my own molasses mixture for a while but I didn't see any real improvement. She grows nice mohair despite her health issues. Mr. Simmonds alfafa mix hay is gone. Now he gives us some rather brittle first cut. Lucky lambing is over. Hurry up, spring, we need some green grass.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

One Fine Day

The temp soared to 34 here on the farm yesterday. It was positively balmy and the standing water in the milk room sink went down. Walking the doggies was a pleasant experience. This morning is gray, dark and cold again with horizontal snow blowing. I made coffee and ate one of the last remaining Annie's biscotti, taking each bite like the blessed sacrament. Got the fire going again. Let it go out last night after the horrendous wind that came up after midnight filled the little apt. with black smoke. I hunkered down with the doggies to finish my coffee and, as I hoped, the doggies went back to sleep. They will have to pee soon and the boys need their bottles, so I better suit up. We have to pick up hay this morning - won't be fun in this weather. The wood pile is at the very bottom of the driveway, as Jan's giant sports car trailer was blocking the better spot for Steve to drop the load. It won't be fun hauling it up to the barn, one wheel barrel load at a time. I'm still in shock that with her vast resources of cash and credit she didn't buy a tractor - not even a little utility tractor - and they live way off the road in the middle of 40 acres. Different priorities...

I have lots of fabric to play with today, and 98 pounds of soap to cut up...oh, that patchouli oil! REAL patchouli, none of that scent oil nonsense. Have to find some cute yellowish green cotton fabric to wrap all this Lemon Eucalyptus soap with and figure out how I'm going to get labels printed. Matt was doing it for me but is now too busy at work. My printer is shot. Might as well go to Staples and pay 10 cents a page and not cause myself more stress. Maybe they can do it with waterproof ink so the printing won't get smudged. Better get to work, whoops, it's Saturday! Still better get to work.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Fabric for Bundaflicka Bags

Oh, will I have some cute bags to sell this year! Carol Schwartzott of Crayon Box Designs in Freeville sent me some samples from Jo-Lee, a discount upholstery fabric store in Ithaca. She told me about the place last September when we were together at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival, but getting back over there during the winter was difficult. So Carol, kind person she is, sent me some samples! She knows what I like...and the samples happen to match some lining fabrics I already have - what luck!

Got my electric bill for January. The wood stove is definitely helping - only $258 for the month of December. Not bad considering the State made me remove the hay I was using for insulation above the apt. I waste a huge amount of power in the uninsulated milk room. Hope to remedy that by next winter. I keep some lights burning all the time in the barn and I use a lot of hot water in the claw foot bath tub. Washing my dishes by hand wastes hot water, too.

Matt says unemployment in NY State jumped a record l% last month, making the jobless rate 9% here. Hard times...

So they did the oath of office over again. I'm not surprised. Obama is keeping his promises and closed Gitmo and the secret CIA prisons. Glad to hear it. My girl Hillary received a rousing welcome at the State Department today. She's so lovely, poised and capable. I was so hopeful that she would...oh, well, she'll knock 'em dead in this position and maybe run again in 8 years. We'll see.

I have a barn full of hungry thirsty critters to take care of. Matt came home and we went throught the dinner ritual...he sits on the sofa staring blankly at the news on the TV while I place the hot steaming plate on the table in front of him. Last night I decided to deviate from the routine and hand the plate right to him. He ignored me and pointed to the table. Tonight I made stir fry onions, broccoli and chicken over perfectly steamed white rice. It was soooo delicious. I even got a grunt out of Matt - then I know it must have been good.

10 pm and just came in from chores. Oh, my sheep and goats are so cute. Sometimes when I'm waiting for the gerry cans to fill I play with the fleecy locks and wish I had more time to work with my fiber. I'll do some picking, washing and dyeing this weekend. If only I had more time to work on my wool...

Drizzle tomorrow, what fun. Today I went 12 miles on icy roads without passing a single car in a cell dead zone...and I don't want to say how fast I was going. I really have to leave earlier, but there's always one more container to fill with water, or one more scoop of grain to toss, or one more kitty that needs to go out of the apartment, on and on. The sink is full of dirty dishes and I'm too tired to wash them. They'll have to wait until Saturday. I have hay to last through tomorrow, then have to make a run Sat. morning. Living week to week is awful. If there's a bad storm we can't get the hay. Hurry up spring.

Cold Dark Wet

The apartment is bright warm and cozy...books, magazines, newspaper, fiber, fabric scattered everywhere. Makes me feel right at home. Whenever I go into a house where you don't see a magazine, book or basket of yarn I think, yikes, what do these people do with themselves? Tidy up all the time? Watch TV in the bedroom? Different strokes...I hate to go out into the cold and dark but duty calls.

Speaking of duty...Obama and Roberts had to do the oath of office over again. Roberts didn't study and forgot to bring notes. Can you imagine??? Some people say he screwed up because O. didn't vote for him to be Chief Justice. Still, why would someone with such a distinguish position want to sound so incompetent? Hillary is now Secretary of State. Maybe now we have a chance to get some impossibly difficult situations straightened out. Bubba will charm the ladies and Hillary will talk turkey. What a team.

Enough politics. Off to do morning chores and get to school. The sink froze in the milk room because I turned the heater off to dry my jeans in the dryer and then went to sleep. Now I have to carry water from the apt. out to the sheep. My arms hurt so much I can hardly turn over in the bed. There's got to be a better way. I wanted a sheep farm in upstate New York???

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Over the Hump

Once Wednesday is over I start cruising toward the weekend. I'm still musing over yesterday's events. I tried to stay up and watch excerpts from the festivities but gave up at 11. Up at 5 when Holly gently pushed me so close to the edge of the bed I was almost on the floor. Camped out on the sofa watching more news. Oh, what I would have given to be at the ball where Stevie Wonder performed my FAVORITE SW song, Sign Sealed Delivered. It came out when Eric was a baby and it's still a great tune. I didn't like Michelle O. at first, but I'm a fan now. I loved her textured quilted suit and later, that long white dress with her statuesque beauty and When I saw her bending over to fix her younger daughter's shoe buckle, well, that won me over. She's a mommy and she's always done everything right. Normally I would make a sarcastic joke about Affirmative Action, but now I don't care. I like her. All this comparison to Lincoln, I don't know. I heard an interesting commentary on NPR yesterday. Eric Foner, the Columbia professor whose books every US History student has to read, said it's not an accurate comparison. Some of his comments I recall:

1. Lincoln never belonged to a church in his life.
2. Lincoln did not have any clergy make an invocation at his swearing in ceremony.
3. Lincoln believed passionately in the separation of church and state.

Can you imagine a presidential candidate who didn't belong to a church at all? He/she probably wouldn't be elected now days.

With regard to the new book by Doris Kearns Goodwin on Lincoln surrounding himself with a cabinet of "rivals" to keep himself sharp...Foner says Lincoln hardly had a cabinet at all. He met with individual cabinet members sporadically not collectively. Obama will likely not operate like Lincoln. I don't mind him admiring Lincoln but I'm sure he will be his own man. It's all very interesting.

Back on the Lilly is losing her hair along her backbone. The stress of carrying those big twins at her age, and God knows what else... I adore her. Lilly loves rabbit pellets, so I give her some on top of her corn when I'm finished feeding the bunnies.

Morning After

I could have stayed up all night watching the First Couple dance. I can't help but feel that the country is in good hands, watching the warmth and affection between this powerful pair. They will support each other and give the job all they've got. Speaking of support, Matt goes out to walk the dogs, throw down hay and slop the pigs. I make sure the fire is blazing, and his hot tub is waiting with fresh towels, and his travel cup is filled with hot foamy cappucino when he comes back in. Better skadaddle out with my bottles for the boys...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sparkly Evening

Washington may be sporting glitzy gowns and weighted down with bling, but here on the farm life goes on and chores must be done. The sheep, goats, rabbits, pigs and chickens have no idea they have a new president. Wouldn't it be nice if universal health coverage could allow me to stay home with them??? We'll see what BHO manages to accomplish in that area. Tried to rush through chores so I could come in and watch the festivities but still took an hour and a half. With the milk room flooded I have to wear my rubber boots, slightly uncomfortable since I bought them half price two years ago and they're a half size small. I'll get the water swept out again tomorrow night. I went down to the tractor shed to make sure the shed kitties had food in their pot and discovered a pretty snow had been falling and the stars were out! My head light sweeping over the barnyard made the snow sparkle like little diamonds. I have to stop and take it all in. After the boys get their bottles and I rub cheeks with Lilly - sometimes she gets into it a little too enthusiastically and I get whacked upside the head - I come back inside to chill out and watch some more Presidential dancing (how are they still standing?) and listen to commentary. I'm so enjoying this. Have to get some product on my Etsy site. I hauled my dress form and bags outside yesterday and got some pictures. The light was failing but soft and pink. There are some snow flakes on the bags! That's unique!

Remaking America

Okay, so my work ethic wouldn't let me stay home and watch the whole deal, soup to nuts like I wanted to...but I had faith that one or both of the history majors in my department would play the swearing in of our new president, and they did, but I was on CAFETERIA DUTY!!!!!! It was torture as I was watching the clock, knowing what was happening and I was missing it. Didn't see Aretha sing either. As one other teacher on lunch duty said to me, someone has to run the society while the others celebrate. I couldn't let it damper the euphoria I felt over being free from the abysmal leadership of the last eight years. When I got back to the classroom the speech was on and I caught part of it. Now I'm home and watching the parade between mixing bottles and running out to the barn to do my pre-chore chores. I want to see VMI marching, Eric's alma mater. I thought I saw them, but it was West Point. The lining of the VMI capes are red, as they are the only military school to be blooded as a corps of cadets in the battle of New Market. All 1,700 cadets are participating. The dogs, used to having me home for three days, chewed up pillows and pulled down coats from the nails (no closets) to gnaw on...always a lovely homecoming. It's really cold and damp outside - must be getting ready to snow. Tanner yanked the leash out of my hand and has run off with Holly. Hopefully they will come in when they see Matt's truck. I've decided to take Hannah and Luke to Washington DC this summer for a long weekend to do the sites and museums. AJ is going to DC on Thursday with his seminary to do a march for life (is this my son????). Okay, at least he's not a Moonie with a shaved head and a tambourine dancing at airports. I'm so happy for America right now, it would be okay. As I watch Barack watching the parade right now, looking fresh and relaxed, I'm thinking everything's going to be alright. God willing...

Good Luck #44

2 degrees F. this morning. I keep thinking it's getting warmer, but I am getting more acclimated to the cold. When it's 40 I will feel like fainting. The sheep are staying in the barn and wandering out to lick snow during the day. The door is frozen open so I couldn't lock them in if I wanted to. Just hope they run out in the event of fire - something I always worry about. I've seen three dead rats this winter. Surprised they braved the Kitty Cadre to come in and try to get some grain. Rats chew the insulation off wires and cause fires, among other nasty things. Enough about rats.

I'm off to do bottles, feed chickens, cats and get into work. I hate to leave the inaugural coverage. I love to listen to the commentary and see the pictures of the crowds. I hope they have TV's on in school but I can't count on it. Most of the teachers are young and don't remember segregation, but they are smart/educated enough to know how important this election is. It's one thing to get into office and another to make change. Let's see what he does with all this power. I was very moved when O. talked about hearing his mother argue with insurance companies as she was lying in a hospital bed dying of ovarian cancer. Let's hope he stops the ridiculous spending on war and gives us health coverage and early childhood education...and brings some industry to our poor New York State where there are no jobs for my students when they graduate. I know so many people playing Russian Roulette with their health. If you have a job you and no coverage you are going to have to pay for that hot appendix to be taken out. How many times have I heard "Oh, I feel great, I don't need health insurance." The local free clinic is not going to take out your appendix. I better jump down off my soap box and get to my job.

Monday, January 19, 2009


How exciting - hope for our beleagured country. We'll see how it goes. He's stepping into a no-win situation, but at least we have HOPE. The last guy didn't give us much of that - he gave us shame and embarrassment, torture and bankruptcy. Our infrastructure is failing, bridges are collapsing, and trillions of dollars have been wasted on countries that don't want us there. Unemployment here might reach 20% and 3 million foreclosures have left people on the streets. I wonder what Bush thinks, looking out the window and seeing the cheering, surging crowds, all there for Obama. We've had two baby-boomer presidents and what did they leave us with? Clinton left us with a surplus budget but set the stage for millions of jobs going overseas. If he had not cast a scandalous dark shadow on the White House I think Gore would have been able to get himself elected. People were angry at Democrats and the Neo-Cons slipped in and took us to war. It's a weird feeling to have a president younger than I am. Yikes, when did I get so old??? Speaking of old, "On the Beach" was on TV today. It's a 1959 movie with Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck about the last survivors of a nuclear holocaust sailing around in a submarine and landing in Australia where the radiation hasn't hit yet. They kill themselves rather than die of the sickness. I read the book as a kid, during the time when we really thought something like that was going to happen. It's a reminder of the awesome responsibility of a president and how important it is to use diplomacy to solve international problems...something W. did not know anything about. OH, Hannah and Luke, I'm so relieved you have such a smart, talented, creative and caring President. It will take years to turn the country around but with O. it just might happen.

I'm having fun watching the inaugural festivities from my little kitchen. I got 48 pounds of Lemon Eucalyptus and 48 pounds of Patchouli made. So much work - pots, scales, containers, spoons - oh, what a mess. I don't like to have the lye around the kitchen with dogs and cats under my feet but I can't use the milk room. I'll be glad I have soap come May. Let's hope it sets up correctly. I hauled my dress form outside to take bag pictures for my Etsy site, but the sun was going down and don't know if they will come out okay. A pretty little lake effect snow was falling and might show up as fuzz balls on the bags. Thor, Finn and Knut were so excited and kept jumping on me and the bags as I was going back and forth. I love those dogs! We got Bodie, Jackie and Pip bathed this weekend, and one bunny groomed. I've got to work a lot harder than this! It stayed light a few more minutes today...a reminder that spring is on the way. In the meantime, Hannah and Luke are playing on the beach in northern California. Lucky kids...I'm so happy for them.

Monday Musings

How much I would love to be at the Inaugural celebration today. I thought I would be spending more time in Washington at this stage in my life. AJ was headed for a career in politics. He founded the Morris County Young Democrats and campaigned for every struggling Dem in our area, knocking on a thousand doors in working class towns. He organized all the disenfranchised young geeks and lonely nerds to get himself elected to Senior Class President at his big suburban high school, beating the star quarterback of the football team who drove at Land Rover Defender by four votes (no kidding, this is all true.) But life throws us some curve balls, and the Republicans stole the election from Al Gore. Eight years of Democratic alienation in Washington, but now we're back. Too late for AJ, who joined the Army after 9/11 and got religion when he was deployed to Cuba. Don't know how I would hold up in those crowds with limited comfort facilities. I'm not four hours from DC anymore but eight hours, and I have all these critters to take care of. I'll watch TV and make soap, sew, and catch up on the Sunday Times. We went to B&N yesterday and picked up the January British Country Living. Gosh, I love that magazine. Where else can you learn where to look for cockle shells in the surf, roof thatching, stone wall building and venison pasties (well, I would put chicken in them!)? Everything is country and crafty, with a healthy emphasis on gardening and home decorating. There's a bedstead made from an old door! I still dream about an AGA stove but they cost as much as a tractor, which has to come first. This climate is perfect for them, and they are soooo classy compared to the commercial stoves. Speaking of tractor, Matt is going to look for a Ford 8N that we might be able to afford. It's broken down but he thinks he can get the carburetor worked on. I would have to buy a mower to get those thistles down early this spring, or else I will be overrun and the pasture won't grow. If I don't get mechanized I'm dead. We walk through the barn bent over and banging my head is not fun. Let me get the bottle babies fed. If I'm busy I'm not worrying as much.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bodie has a Bath

I decided to give Bodie a bath today. It has been years, I'm sorry to say, since I got him in a bath tub. Bodies swims a lot, and he always looks so good to me that I've let the bathing thing slip. He's been itching lately and I've noticed a rash in places. I asked Matt to lift him into the big claw foot tub with nice warm water this morning. I had a bar of lavender in one hand and a bar of tea tree in the other. I lathered him up good. He was a champ and even sat down which made it easier to get him wet all over. Bodie will be 11 in March. He seems to be aging along with me. I was young and strong when we got Bodie - now I'm stiff and ache all over, just like Bodie! Bodie was a Seeing Eye puppy from the famous facility in Morristown, NJ. My friend, Carol, is a nurse at the Seeing Eye and matched me with Bodie. One of his littermates showed signs of a neurological disorder so they decided to adopt out the whole litter. I applied and received this little yellow puffball. When I went to pick him up I had to dress in a body suit complete with booties to cover my shoes. An attendant went inside the dog enclosure and tossed a ball out into the run where I was waiting. One by one the yellow puffballs came tumbling out of the flap, chasing the ball. She pointed Bodie out to me. It was love at first sight. I drove him home with one hand on Bodie who was riding in a cardboard box next to me. I don't know if Bodie would have made it as a Seeing Eye dog. He has personality traits they would never have tolerated in the program like:

1. Bodie has a mind of his own and is very stubborn.
2. Bodie likes to kill little furry things like rabbits and cats if the circumstances are right. We won't elaborate on this because Bodie and I are really on good terms right now.

I don't know how long Bodie has left with us and I don't want to think about life without him. I put one of the sofas in front of the wood stove so Bodie's old bones can keep warm. I take him swimming in the pond as often as I can to stretch out those stiff legs. For now Bodie has the best life a dog can want...including a farm to roam around where he can take a trip up to the dead pile once in a while to find something tasty to chew on.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How Cold?

Mr. Simmonds says it was minus 15 F. (not wind chill) on his farm, a half mile down the road, this morning. I forgot to look. Funny thing, I'm getting used to it. The sheep are hungrier and thirstier. Hard work for the shepherd. I took six eggs out from under a chicken this morning. She fought me so hard I had to pull my jacket over my fingers so I wouldn't feel her pecking. If I left them the eggs would freeze, unless she sat on them for the next few weeks. If chicks did eventually hatch, they would surely freeze, so for now we are eating them. I'm not getting enough eggs to pay for having these lovely chickens, but I adore them. The chickens outside the chicken room lay eggs all over the barn and it's up to me to find them. Not an easy task. Warmer weather tomorrow, maybe up to 23. The big snow turned north and missed us. Okay with me - I'm sure there will be more. Larry and Lester are taking 24 ounces of milk each, three times a day. They are happy and friendly lambs. Wish I could see them eating more hay and corn. Levi is eating both and sipping water. Lemon Eucalyptus soap is on the schedule for today. Kim Parkinson from Ontario is coming to Maryland Sheep and Wool with me. Big relief to know that as she is so smart, talented and capable. Have to confirm our room at the Strawberry Inn. After a long day in the booth that bed will feel sooo good. I'm determined to get myself a sweatshirt this year. The line is always so long and not even vendors can cut the line.

Eric's New Toy

Eric sent me this picture yesterday. He finally got his VW camper - from the Salvation Army! The little munchkins are busy fixing it up. I won't say he was conceived in a VW bus, but his father and I did spend a lot of time driving around in one back in the 1960's when we were happy hippies. I wonder if he will let me paint sunflowers all over it next time I visit them in San Jose? The little family is taking the camper to the beach this weekend for a holiday getaway. The temp soared to 80 F. in San Jose, perfect for the beach.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Carol's Bags

I befriended Carol when we were both vendors at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival. Carol is from Ithaca and has been weaving and designing textiles for many years. Lately she's been making these incredible bags. She calls her business Crayon Box Designs - aptly named. Her bags are handknit in many colors and designs, then felted. But the fun doesn't stop there. Carol pays a lot of attention to the inside of her bags (something this Bundaflicka can appreciate). The lining is pieced and quilted in incredible fabrics, with pockets, nooks and crannies. I picked one out last September but waited too long to go and get it, thinking I would make some money first. Bad move, it was a goner. Carol surprised me with this picture of a new bag and an offer to barter for my roving. I didn't hesitate! Carol likes my blends with all the colorful bits of this and that. Lucky me!

Still Real Cold

Good day at work today. I played Scrabble with my new student this afternoon. It was extremely gratifying to see him looking up words in the dictionary (the book, not!)without prompting from me. It was one of those "moments." Made my day. It's Friday and I'm waiting for the wave of relief to pour over me. Weekends are not what they used to be, when I had the whole time to myself. Weekends are time to get too many things done. I am much happier this way, but Matt is not. He thinks weekends should be mini-vacations. I totally understand, but I just can't do nothing anymore. Doggies were very happy to see me this afternoon. Our walk didn't last very long today. After their business was done we went back in the barn to start hauling water to the chickens and sheep. The boys were yelling for their bottles. I picked up a new bucket of milk replacer on the way home - $60.00!! It's powdered whey, left over from cheese making. I can't help but think of the pair of work shoes sixty $$ would have bought. But here we are. This cold snap will last until Sunday, when we are supposed to have a heat wave into the 20's. I am watching the pictures of the plane that ditched in the Hudson. This is why I worry so much about Hannah and Luke travelling alone. I know it's safer than any other form of travel, but still...I plan on cutting out/sewing bags and getting some Lemon Eucalyptus soap made this weekend. Rosanna and her husband are going away and can't deliver wood until next week. Hope I can make it through. Gave Larry and Lester their bottles. I should let them out of the pen this weekend, but might make a bigger area for them instead. I only have three lambs this season and don't want anything to happen to my babies.

Ten Below

Minus ten F. (we're not talking wind chill) on the milk room steps at 6 AM. It was 62 in the apt. with the fire out for several hours. Not too bad. Water is running (left it on all night)and now the fire is blazing. Accidentally dropped Tanner's leash and she is running wild outside. Hope she comes back soon or she will be a dogsickle. Big snow storm coming. Hope Rosanna's husband will bring me some wood this weekend.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Looking for Blogs

I'm shopping for more blogs to follow. I like the handful I follow, but most of them don't post every day and I get tired of checking and not finding an update for weeks sometimes. I'm very dogged and loyal and keep looking for them to post. Sockladyspins is the most faithful blogger with the best fiber pictures mixed with wildlife, every day happenings like when the propane truck finally shows up, etc., but even she misses, like when she's travelling out of the country. After Lynne I would say Kimmie at Cornerstone Fibres and Kathleen at Bag of Olives are great at sharing their fibery lives with the world. Considering how busy they are I am really impressed with what they do with their on-line journals. But I need more! I don't like a prissy blog where everything is perfect and the husband LOVES taking care of the critters and is always out in the barn building hay feeders, putting up fencing then comes in and washes the dishes. I would become extremely envious. I don't want to hear about granite countertops, Pergo floors, fancy tiles, and big screen TV's either. That would be vulgar and materialistic. I like a healthy dose of true-life drama, like when the cat knocks down the knitting on the bookshelf and the dogs have a go at it (that's what happened to me today!). I like to hear about success and happiness, don't get me wrong. I'm good at living the vicarious experience! It's just that people who are struggling to keep a farm going like to know there are other people struggling along with them. So if you can recommend a farmy, fibery blog posted fairly regularly I would like to hear about it.

Dark, Dark and More Dark

I don't remember last winter being quite so dark. Ofcourse it was, but human nature is such that we forget, renew ourselves, then deal with it again, refreshed. I'm trying not to think of the fact that I can't wash my clothes...drain frozen and will stay that way for weeks I imagine. I found pants for today and another pair of oatmeal jeans for tomorrow, still in the suitcase from the San Jose trip. Kid drama at work today. Fortunately the new student I work with is such a pussycat he keeps me inspired. I'm not sure inspired is the right word...but he doesn't make me want to escape out the window. Regents testing coming up, stressful for everyone. Winter takes a toll on us all. Three day weekend beginning tomorrow night, what a blessing. Minus 3 F. right now, 7:30 PM. The sky is crystal clear and still with bright, vivid stars. The temp will go even lower tonight with snow and wind expected tomorrow. The barn apt. was not too cold when I got home, even with the fire gone out for a while. We are almost out of wood. Larry and Lester are calling as I open the door from the milk room into the barn. Levi is growing out of his sweater...thanks to that rich mother's milk. Matt is experiencing much success at his job. They gave him a room of his own and let him pick out new office furniture at the training center. I guess they plan to keep him. I'm glad he's so happy with his new career. The way he smokes and coughs I fear he might only have a couple of years to enjoy it. 10 PM we are at minus 8 F. Better put the drip on the kitchen faucet.

It's Cold

1 F. on the milk room steps, out of the wind. I thought it would be colder. Two hours north of me it's minus 25 F. The slop sink drain has frozen again, so no washing machine. Matt told me he only dug the trench 6 inches deep for the drain pipe, no wonder it froze. Wonder if I can find something to wear to work today? Easier to sit down and write about it before I face the problem. There is a laundramat in New Berlin...might have to spend some time there this weekend. I wonder if I can fit into Matt's jeans? I'm afraid to go to work for pipes freezing while I'm gone. I'll leave the drip on but I have to clear everything away from the sink so kitties don't knock something in and cause a flood. Okay, it's quarter to seven, better find some clothes and get to hauling water and doing bottles for Larry and Lester. My ewe still won't stand up. I pick her up and her legs are rubber. Gave her selenium with vit. e last night and am cooking her some oatmeal now. Better get Dr. Rachel over here. Probably waited too long...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Baby It's Cold Outside

Okay, it's cold. I got out a little earlier (yes, a miracle) to meet with my boss at work this morning. The sky was so gorgeous, with pink and orange tones everywhere. We had snow last night and the roads were covered and frozen with all the world glistening in the early light. Approaching New Berlin I saw a verticle rainbow, with thick colored stripes, standing straight up from the ground to the clouds. I was awestruck and fumbled for my camera, which was not in any of the 7 pockets in my purse. I decided to freeze frame it in my head, but would have loved a picture. It was sunny and warm in our beautiful new building all day, where they have the BEST hot lunch for $3, cooked by the Culinary kids, (I will be fat as long as I work at BOCES) then back outside to face the cold. Home to build the fire back up and start hauling water to the flock. When it's very cold animals are even more thirsty as the cold dries them out. I climbed up into the hay mow to spread two sheep fleeces out for the kitties to snuggle in. There's not enough hay for them to find hiding places, but the wool will help. After being in the warm apartment my bare hands did the vaso-constriction thing and oh, did they hurt. Had a hard time climbing down the ladder and ran in the milk room to run them under warm water. I built the fire back up again and took a half hour to lie down on the sofa covered with dogs and kitties. It was heavenly. The peasant in me says take care of the animals, put wood on the fire and go to bed. It's dark, it's January and it's cold. Matt brought home a big sheet of ziti from his training session today. I put some cheese on top and melted it in the oven. Funny how running the oven is fine in this weather. Propane tank is full so why not use it. Have to suit up to do chores. The fleece ski underwear Mia gave me years ago is such a blessing. Thought about putting silkies under it but don't think I need it. In weather like this I'm so thankful for my barn. Two of the horses I pass on the way to work have their blankets on. I pass others that have nothing on, and no where to go for cover. So grateful for my big barn where my critters can stay dry and out of the wind...even if it is cold as h-e-double-l inside. I saw Chris Kupris when he came over with my fabric that Fed Ex left on his door step. I asked how he's doing and he said "freezing." I asked again how are things and he said "freezing." I know he has firewood as I saw the pile last summer. Hope he has enough. My first on-line order of fabric is terrific, lovely gold dragonflies on a pinkish red background. It's a little fancier than I anticipated, and don't quite know how I will use it yet. Glad to know Fabric Guru will work out for me. This fabric should cost a fortune and it's pretty cheap...and shipped to me (well, almost). I called Eric to ask him how the kids are doing in their after-school program (fine), and how Annie is doing in her new job (loves it) and how my sweetheart Booker is doing (coming along with no cast but still movement restricted). If I think too hard about my California family I will start surfing the net for good fares. Can't do that! Time to get the chores done and take my doggies to bed. It's a five dog night!

A Very Cold Hump Day

If I can make it through Wednesday I'm good to go. Thursday feels like Friday is almost here. 8 F. at 5 am and it won't go up much. I sniff the air when I open my eyes to tell how recently the fire went out. It was kinda cool in the apt. this morning. Took me 15 minutes to get the fire going again. The temp will dive over the next couple of days. I keep the drip on at night and pray the heat tape over the Peck's tube in the barn keeps the "pipes" from freezing. As long as I have electric I should be okay. My gigantic water heater keeps plenty of hot water ready. We can't have one of those green instant water heaters due to mineral content in our water, or some such reason, so we keep burning money with the old style. Sure feels good in the bath tub. I carry hot water all over the barn now and hope the critters drink fast. My ewe is still lying down, but eating hay and munching on corn. Wormed her, vitamin B, electrolytes in her water, etc. but she's weak. Have to bring a fecal to the vet, but she's many miles out of the way and I'm always beating a path back home after school. I'm being observed today...always a nervous wreck about that, even after many years of observations. With my student population you never know what's going to happen and you have to show what you're made of. My "three F's and you're out" was implemented yesterday not 5 minutes into the class. Gotta get going on morning chores. Larry and Lester are down to three bottles a day. They're nibbling on hay like good lambies. Levi is on his own with mom, but still in the pen. He's sooooo black and pretty. Better suit up good this morning, and turn the Jeep on to warm up.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kiss the Ground

It was one of "those days," combined with the fact that I made my way home in driving snow on icy roads. So what else is new? I stopped at the Little White Store at the end of my road for milk. It's 60 cents cheaper per gallon than the local market in New Berlin. That's a little under a quarter bale of hay! I have avoided this store for more than two years. It's rather odd looking, with the sign blown down and neon liquor signs in the windows. I have to be careful how I word this and I dare not take a picture for fear of locals misunderstanding what I am trying to convey....but although it's rundown it's very convenient and the people very friendly. They live in the back of the store with two little children who you can catch glimpses of as they play and watch television. The gentleman owner, who runs the store while he babysits as mom works away from home, is very proud of his prices and likes to tell me everything new he has in stock. We chatted a while and he took away the sharp edges from the day at school. Fortunately it doesn't take much, and when I see my kitties waiting for me and hear the lambs calling to me, well, I am so grateful to be home. This "home" is why I put up with the other stuff. Every time I start entertaining thoughts of retirement, I imagine the faces of my doggies, kitties, sheep, etc. and realize I am sooooo very stuck. Sometimes I get tired of the uphill climb I've been on for the last 20 years. There I go, whining again. I drive the one mile remaining as darkness descends on the little valley. I notice there are no tracks in the foot of snow in the driveway. FedEx has not come to deliver the lining fabric I need for the Field Hockey Plaid bags I want to make. I logged on to the tracking post and saw a note saying "no such number." Great! After three years, and plenty of packages, my street number is still not recognized by the major delivery companies. I live in the barn next to the old farmhouse and no one can imagine anyone living in it, and why would they with a house next door??? The mailbox was knocked down and there is no number telling people I am "here." So I found some cardboard and tacked up "902" hoping Fed Ex would noticed. I also called them on the phone. Still no package today. I won't really have time to sew until the weekend, but I wanted to see my fabric!! Maybe tomorrow...I got the stove going, using my bag shims for kindling. Real cold coming tonight and staying for days. Have to keep the drip on tonight...

Monday, January 12, 2009


George Bush, the president who stole the election from Al Gore, is on TV giving a news conference with a wrap-up of his presidency. He says, defiantly, that the response to Hurrican Katrina was not slow, that 30,000 people were lifted from rooftops immediately. No mention of all those people languishing in the convention center, and patients drowning in their beds in nursing homes. Okay. Who said the American people get the leaders they deserve? Ben Franklin? I don't know...but when that guy got re-elected I lost a LOT of faith in America. Matt said don't worry, America can survive George Bush, but I don't know. Are we headed for a fall? Rome fell, so did the British Empire upon which the sun never set. America is bled dry and will take years to recover. I am old enough to remember the Greatest Generation that saved the world for democracy in WWII. My father came home to the 6th floor apartment in the Staten Island project and told my mother he bought a ranch house on an acre over looking the South Branch Raritan River valley in Somerset County, NJ, just 35 miles from Manhattan. It was $28,000 in 1958. A fortune then, but manageable on a NYPD cop's salary. Much tougher for kids to get a piece of the pie now, and getting tougher all the time. I didn't feel safe in that house for long, as we were afraid of Nikita Krushchev and the Bomb. My father stockpiled food, water and guns in a corner of the basement in the furnace room. He told my brother to shoot the neighbors if they tried to steal our water when everything above is radioactive. It was pretty scary for a little girl. My brothers were always cleaning their guns, getting ready. I was practicing my piano lesson one day, then got up and skipped down the hall. A giant blast blew a hole in the floor, shattered the back of my piano seat and put a hole in the ceiling above it. Willie had been fooling with his shotgun downstairs and let go with both barrels. That was my big brush with death. My Swedish Opa came out from Brooklyn and put the floor back in. Those were strange times. But for the here and now...chores done at 9:22. I do some things when I get home, like bottles immediately for Larry and Lester, and fill the water tanks for the sheep and chickens. I walk the dogs - Pip and Tanner have to be on leashes or I won't see them for hours - and come back in side to have a cup of coffee and start dinner. I watch a little news, then Matt comes home and I feed us. Around 7:30 we go out to start chores and come in around 9. Granted, I am doing a lot of playing with kitties, lambs and bunnies. That is my playtime with my animals. I am feeding them sheep meat, which I am not enjoying. It is beautiful meat, if you can think of it that way, but I see Andrew and Malcolm's face every time I peel back a wrapper. Mutton has a distinct smell, which is not unpleasant. The cats and dogs love it, but it requires thawing and dealing with bloody juice and plastic wrappers. I'm not sure it's cost effective, as it is expensive to get sheep "processed." I'll be glad when it's gone. The White Boys will miss it. Matt gives them a 2 lb hunk every night, which is gone in two gulps. I have a yearling ewe who is not well. I noticed her lying down quite a bit, but she was nibbling on hay and I moved on. I wormed her and let her be. Today she had her head down, so I made my warm molasses concoction and gave her some LA200 and Vitamin B shots. She got up and walked to the far end of the barn where I found her later. Pulled her back to the front and into the area next to the milk room where I keep critters who need special treatment. She ate corn and bunny pellets (which sheep love but I only give sparingly). I will watch her closely. She's got a gorgeous, thick black fleece and is a very sweet ewe. Maybe she hasn't been getting what she needs. Hopefully I can boost her up. Very tired now. Have to put some pants in the washer and get to bed at a decent hour tonight. Very cold this week. Gosh, it's just January??? Feels like winter has been here for a very long time. The pipes going into the apartment from the milk room go through an unheated part of the barn. They're wrapped with heat tape but in extreme cold, who knows? It went to minus 20 F. when I was living in the RV. That's when my hair froze to the wall when I was sleeping. Glad those days are over. The fire goes out while I'm at work but the apt. stays warm a while. When I got home at five it was 60 in here, not bad at all. I have to get the fire going again as soon as I get home. No insulation up top, thank you NY State who made me get all the hay out of there, and no money to buy any synthetic insulation as long as I am buying hay every week. Let me go to bed and try to forget about all this for a while.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Angora Galore

My beautiful bunnies are waiting to be shorn. Notice the floating fibers clinging to the cage. I can't take too much off, as a real cold snap is coming next week. If I leave the coat on it will clump and we don't want that.

Beautiful Barn

It's been a while since I've walked up the hill to admire the north side view of my funky old barn. I think it's the prettiest barn in our little valley. Wish I could give it all the work it needs. Zoning compliance modifications have to be done to the barn apartment first, front steps (on the back side) then painting and windows. The new fallen snow on the ridge up the hill is so lovely.

Izzy and the Piggies

Izzy likes to tease the piggies. He reaches in their pen and picks out pieces of dung before they can get at him. I am concerned the delicious taste of the dung will cause Izzy to have a momentary lapse in concentration and he'll get his nose nipped. The girls are getting big and starting to dismantle the stanchions acting as the fence to the pig pen. In the meantime, they are enjoying their hay and warm slop. I am amazed at how clean and pretty they are. We throw in lots of hay which the girls proceed to dig into the mud. The hardest part about raising them is getting the buckets of slop to the back of the barn without being attacked by the sheep. AJ had to come to my rescue and managed to save half the warm soup for the girls after I was mobbed. Putting hay out for the sheep first usually helps.

Bottle Feeding 101

AJ did a great job bottle feeding Larry and Lester. I think he enjoyed it. I appreciated the help. We are on four feedings a day. I have hay and corn in the pen for mom and am hoping the boys get the idea - eat real food! It will be weeks before they can go with no milk at all. Matt is glued to the play-off games today. I need his help to do the unmentionable thing - tail docking and banding the scrotums. Not something I enjoy...

Snowy Sunday and More to Come

There is something about Sunday morning I don't know how to describe. I don't feel like I have to bound out of bed and get going the way I do on Saturday, like, okay, I'm home so better do this, better do that. Sunday I linger a bit. I wrapped soap last night until one. ET was on, and so was SNL, so I flipped back and forth. I used to farm out my soap wrapping but am trying to get it done myself now. It's actually relaxing if I'm not in a rush and there's no delivering and picking up. I have the almond and lavender done except for labels - always a problem - and now that my printer is broken I have to ask Matt to do it at work. He hates to be bothered with it so I think I will go to the print shop and pay the 10 cents a page. The card reader on the printer is broken, too, and the little kitty who is sitting on my shoulder now just knocked my camera on the floor and it won't turn on. Oh, Joy, what next? Technical difficulties! Annie bought a card reader from Staples in San Jose that worked great and I could figure out how to use. Have to get one here. I can't blog without my pictures! All those faces and landscapes! After chores and bottle feedings I bit the bullet and scrubbed the bathroom floor. Matt was so appreciative he made me an omelet for lunch. It's the only thing he will willingly cook, and this took ten years to happen, so I put on a big fuss. It was perfect, with crusty edges just the way I like it. I finished Annie's grapefruit marmalade, boo-hoo. Better go back to San Jose and collect some more! I'm going to clip some bunnies and get a dyepot going. I miss the smell of vinegar and fiber cooking. It takes WEEKS to dry in the winter so I better get going so I can send another batch out to the mill before Md. Sheep and Wool. I have 99 pounds of one pound balls ready at the mill now. Need to get some more colors done and dried, and some natural colored alpaca and llama I've been keeping. I'll have them done in half-pound balls. People seem to like the smaller quantities. More soapmaking and lots of bag cutting is on the schedule, then a big football game tonight. While that's on I will soap in my WONDERFUL, FABULOUS, big white claw foot bath tub. I bathe in it every day, and, even if I'm running out the door, I make myself lie down in it for at least 60 seconds. I call it my Ceremonial Soak, to commemorate the year that I lived in the RV and didn't have the facilities to bathe properly. This bath tub lay on the driveway of my old place for a couple of years after Matt dragged it home from a job site. His workers wanted to smash it and put it in the dumpster but Matt said no. I LOVE old things with a history. They have spirits lingering from their former owners. My tub was the home of frogs and insects for a while, now it's my pleasure palace. The shower attachment I want for it costs about $400 (for a cheap one) so for now I bathe British style and wash my hair underwater. I read about Winston Churchill and his bath antics, how he would turn somersaults in the tub, splashing all the water out and driving the servants crazy. No servants to mop it up here, just yours truly. My only complaint is that Matt installed it too close to the wall and I can't get behind it to clean. Men don't think about that stuff cause they are not usually the ones who clean the bathroom!
More snow coming for the next three days. I am used to it now, but HAVE to leave earlier for work. The upstate folks I work with deal with the driving in bad weather much better than I do. Mia's Jeep is proving to be fantastic in the snow, and the hundreds of pounds of corn in the back help with traction. Friday I got in late due to horrible icy conditions and everybody else was there, relaxed and happy. I was so stressed running across the icy parking lot I said what in the world are you doing to yourself, Girl? Calm down, spring is on the way - in four months!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wintery Grip

AJ and Matt got hay in while I went to Waterville to get feed. The roads were covered and it was really cold, but no sign of the big storm yet. We decided to get cleaned up and go to see Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino in New Hartford. It was a terrific movie, and really touched a cord in us, as pre-politically correct baby boomers. The theater was so crowded we couldn't sit together, so Matt found a seat away from us. I knew I'd find him weepy at the end, and I did. He and I could both relate to the main character, the bigoted and hateful racist neighbor of the Hmong family who gave his life for their son in the end. We were still teary in the line at Panera. After coffee at B&N we took the young lieutenant to the Utica train station. We went in to make sure his train was coming, and were amazed at the beauty of the building. Great marble columns and heated wooden seats built to hold hundreds of passengers. There is an old-fashioned barber shop adjacent to the waiting room. The station must have been built when Utica was in it's heyday. We said goodbye to AJ and motored back to the farm just as the snow started. It's real cold and getting colder. Another storm is predicted for Tuesday. The sheep are cozy in the barn and happy as long as I get them plenty of hay and fresh water. Larry, Lester and Levi are doing fine. Last year's bottle babies are jealous when they see me feeding the boys, and try to knock the bottles out of my hands. They remember how delicious the warm milk was. I called AJ who was still on the train, as it was delayed even later. When he gets to NYC he has to take another train to Grand Central Station then catch one more to Crestwood in Yonkers where the seminary is. I miss him and wish he could have stayed longer. Sure is good to have an extra pair of hands around here.

Big Storm Coming

I love snow, but it can really put a kink in your day. We need to get our weekly load of hay in, which is difficult with heavy snow coming down. It's hard work in good weather. Matt likes Mr. Simmonds, "Fred," and enjoys discussing politics, economics, philosophy, etc. with him. If I have to give almost my entire teaching salary to someone for hay, I'm glad it's a local farmer and someone we like. We wanted to go to the multiplex cinema in New Hartford, get a bite to eat at Panera, then coffee at B&N before taking the young lieutenant to the train station. He was very helpful last night, hauling the water to the rams for me again, and keeping the sheep away from me while I fed the bunnies. If it was up to the sheep the bunnies would never eat. Ah, those tasty bunny pellets! I made a big dinner for AJ and Beasty Boy last night. Had to get over to the Earlville Opera House first to pick up my unsold bags. Much to my delight, three out of seven bags sold. Very interesting...the two smaller $99 bags sold, and one big one at $135. The opera house takes a nice cut, but hey, I love the place. Every penny I took home goes for the hay purchase today. I was amazed any bags sold at all, with the current economic climate, at this teeny tiny show in a teeny tiny town. I HAVE to FORCE myself to make smaller more marketable bags. It's just that I always have so much to carry around, I tend to think of other people having the same load. I don't use a pattern, I just cut. Have to reign in those scissors. I am shopping for fabric on a site suggested to me by another bag maker, Wow, what a great tip. They have lots of high-end upholstery fabrics from big-name companies and ship any amount for $5. I had so many fabric sources in NJ but the only good fabric store around here is Joannes. I like to go a little more far-afield than that and shop for something different. Have to sew like crazy this winter. Fine with me.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Holly and Her Lamb

Holly loves newborn lambs. She is guarding little Levi and sneaking licks of his birth juices. Holly always keeps me company in the barn while doing chores, and frequently rolls on her back, rubbing sheep dung into her coat. Once in a while she gets herself in the way of a doe or ewe and I hear a loud yelp. It doesn't deter her enjoyment of the barn and all it's wonders.

Friday Cold and Snowy

Matt picked AJ up at the Utica train station last night and brought him home for a visit. The doggies were ecstatic, especially Holly. She must remember AJ picking her out of the litter of homeless abandoned puppies at the Norwich ASPCA, and bringing her home to the farm. I was living in the RV at the time and the last thing I needed was another dog, but AJ and Mia thought Holly was the perfect Christmas gift. The other dogs would torment her and get her behind the little plastic toilet in the trailer and keep her there, shivering and whining. Now Holly slaps the other dogs down with one paw and stands over them, growling a deep throaty threatening snarl. She's the boss now, but still a sissy when butted by a goat or sheep. AJ took us to Frank's Pizzeria last night, courtesy of the GI Bill, and it was delicious. Nobody makes eggplant parm like Frank, not even in NJ. We motored home in the snow and got to chores. It was wonderful having AJ hauling the heavy gerry cans of water to the end of the barn. Matt will only haul one can ("they can eat snow!") but AJ took three down for me. My Merino ram, Othello, loves his water and waits for me to bring it every night. I was off to work on icy roads this morning, but the sun is out now and the drive home should be okay. I will cook dinner tonight, then chill at home. AJ will help us pick up hay tomorrow then we have plans for Panera and Barnes/Noble. He just got clearance for the second session of Army Chaplain training this summer at Fort Jackson, SC. One more year of seminary then the Army can send him anywhere they want. I want to spend as much time with him as I can. AJ loves the Army, and says he makes the greatest friends he's ever had - but then may never see them again!