Monday, November 30, 2009


My day was going fine until I was called to a meeting at 2:30. Thought I was going to make a clean getaway but no deal. The top brass was there so I knew something was up. Career Academy, the wing of the school where I work in the PM, will be examined, evaluated, whatever you call it, by a panel of administrators. Okay, bring them on so they can see what we're up against. After an hour and a half of that type of discussion I packed up and ran out of the school to get to my truck. A freezing drizzle was coming down and it was getting dark. I couldn't believe my eyes - a flat tire! I was driving the big truck to pick up my night's worth of hay on the way home. He wanted me there before he started milking, around 4:30. Pulled out my cell phone to call somebody, anybody - no reception in the parking lot. Went back to my classroom to pull up the number of the repair outfit across the street. Couldn't get in touch with Matt. ATT, the world's worst cell company, would not connect me. Nobody at his office picked up until I tried the Bosses number. Matt had left for home early. No answer at home after a few tries. So I took the truck across the road to get the tire fixed. Guess what, can't be fixed so I bought a new tire. $153.00 for one tire???? Matt is furious and claims there was nothing wrong with the tire, but somehow it was flat and I was standing in the rain with no spare and had to get home. The owner is a BOCES grad who knows all about Brookfield so we chatted for a while. Pulled out of there and drove home to pick up my night's hay. I had offered him money to deliver the hay I bought but he has no time and wants me to pick it up. The bales were in front of the barn in a very muddy area and guess who had no boots on. So the night went on and on. Luckily the full moon was giving me such fantastic entertainment, with sparkling stars and white clouds racing over it. I opened my gate and pulled up my lane to unload at the barn doors on the north side. Lots of goaties and a few sheep greeted me with smiling faces, oh, what have you brought us woman??? I thought I might as well do my chores now and started giving everyone their dinner and hauling water. Dragged my butt in the door at 7 PM, with more chores still to do. Sat in the chair a while to try and regroup my inner forces. Cut up a big batch of lavender soap which is always a pleasant job. It feels good to get it set out to cure. Then only wrapping and labeling and it can be put out for sale. It's 11 PM and I had hoped to make a bag tonight. I'll go out to check for lambs then hit the sack. Tomorrow is another day.

Back To Work

Reality bites. Out into the dark, wet and cold. Chickens are confused about their nice clean room and keep milling around, looking for their old piles of dung to sit on. Lots of nice roosts in there for them, but they loved their piles. I like being able to stand up in the chicken room. They were terrified when the masked man went in their living quarters, tearing the place up. After the fact, I keep thinking why didn't I bag up the poop and sell it, or why didn't I ask Randy to cart it over to the Sister's garden? Oh,well,it's still out there in a pile. Matt is back to work, sore and cranky but happy to get back to doing what he loves - keeping people warm and saving the planet. The urologist will "bomb the stone" on an outpatient basis after the kidney heals. No lambs last night, big surprise. Now I want them to wait until Christmas break, but don't think they can keep their legs crossed that long. Gotta get on the road.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Too Much to Do

Randy, former BOCES student, is here cleaning out my chicken room while the weather is still cooperating. I can hardly stand up in there. Once we have a real hard freeze, forget about raking out two feet of chicken dung. I have to figure out how to get enough hay in here to make it through the week. I have to get it from the farm down the road, ten bales at a time. Have to get my elevator fixed somehow. AJ came to visit yesterday and helped me get Matt home from the hospital. He's still real sick, but getting that infected kidney drained helped a lot. I don't think one day on the sofa is enough rest before he goes back to work, but he's determined to go tomorrow. I can't talk to him about farm matters as he's consumed with work issues. Then there's that retreat at the resort in Saratoga Springs next week, which I think will actually be better for him in terms of rest, with a comfy hotel room to relax in at night instead of this crazy farm. AJ helped me get my Star of Bethlehem up on the silo but had to go back to NJ to return Mia's car and take three hours worth of trains to get back to the seminary in Yonkers. The weather is lovely today but snow is coming. Big show in Syracuse, pray I can get my little van and goods up there on Friday after school. Planning anything in winter months is problematic up here in the Northland.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Lost in Space

I visited Matt at the hospital in one of the most famous towns in America - James Fenimore Cooper's namesake, Cooperstown. Home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, needless to say. Matt is resting comfortably after surgery to install a stint (sp?) to drain his infected kidney so that his giant 8mm stone can be removed at a later time. Why they didn't snatch the stone out while they were in there is something I can't fathom, but I remain humble and incredulous at the medical profession. It is a place where I don't ever want to go, and rarely do. I got lost in the complex, a huge stone mansion with several wings, and found myself in the administrative wing. A man came out of his office and insisted on walking me to Matt's room in another wing. Maybe he thought I was an escapee from the mental ward. Matt was up out of bed with the gown untied, showing his buns to anyone who wanted to take a look. The difference from yesterday was remarkable, and the day before that, well, we don't want to go there. He kept peeing blood but the nurses seemed to approve of it. Three days of copious amounts of morphine has left him very mellow. I left him with cards, a framed picture, newspapers, and a Sheep! magazine (thinking it might make him homesick for the flock - but he didn't even ask about them). He might come home tomorrow. In any case he plans on going to work on Monday. Thank you, Dr. Urologist Surgeon, whoever you are. I started home about 5 and somehow got on 166 instead of 80. Big mistake. I went miles and miles through open space with no signs or stores or any place where I could ask directions. My instincts told me I was going in the right direction, and I was I found out later, but it was so far I got nervous. No cell phone reception and no map. Finally I came upon a little town called "Roseboom." No kidding - Roseboom. I stopped in a Vermonty country store where several people in line all tried to figure out how I could get to New Berlin or Edmeston, but no luck. They collectively told me to go back to Cooperstown, about 15 miles back. I went back and started out again, taking the same wrong road. Okay, keep it together. Went back to C'town AGAIN and found a cop who told me how to get to 80, where I still got lost but in a place where I could figure out how to get home. I know New Jersey like the back of my hand, but the wilds of Northern Appalachia where the hunters have the deer making suicide charges across the roads every where you turn? It was awful. My new/old minivan is creaking and screeching like crazy and needs a dose of power steering fluid, which I bought, but don't know how to add to the engine. My last wrong turn took me past a Price Chopper where I could get, what else, cat and dog food. I crawled up the milk room steps three hours after leaving the hospital. Two hours of chores later, which included removing chickens from a very draft roost and placing them out of the cold wind, and carrying water to the upper hay mow for Dallas Alice, who is dying of very old age, and here I am. There's a cold drizzle being blown by a hefty wind out there. Everybody is hunkered down in the barn. I am out of hay after tonight's feeding, but my last stop on the way home was to knock on my dairy farmer neighbor's door to ask him for hay tomorrow. He was upstairs, no doubt in for the night, but came down to talk to me. I wonder sometimes how lovely it would be to have a little dinner waiting for me when I get home, tired and bedraggled, you know, like men do. That hasn't happened since my mother was alive, ten years ago. I ate a piece of pumpkin pie for dinner - very bad, I know. Time for whiskey and egg nog.

Holiday Musings

Woke up at 6 but went back to bed and stayed til 8. Oh, how wonderful to stay in my jammies to take the doggies out and do chores. Lake effect snow/rain coming down, nice and cold - sheep weather. The sound of the wind whooshing through the slats of the hay mow and the sheep munching on hay is very comforting to me. I'm in the right place. No lambs yet. I keep sneaking a "goose" on the ewes, slipping my hand in between their back legs, checking for their udders bagging up. Lilly has a big bag, bad news, as she had no milk last year and was the first one to give birth. I'm praying another ewe lambs first so I can use her colostrum on Lilly's lambs. Back inside to have a bowl of turkey soup and rice for breakfast. I have a giant pot of soap scraps melting on the stove. People love the funky big shaving blocks. It's a real pain pouring that molten soap into a cardboard box, but it's a great way to use up odds and ends. I'm out of hay tomorrow. I'm forking up the bales that fell apart on the floor of the hay mow. What an awful chore, to pull up those strings, hoping some of the bale is intact. Much of it is pooped or peed on, and all of it is mashed to the floor. Have to find neighbor to get the hay he has for me. Shouldn't be too hard as his cows are next door to me, but hauling them in with a broken elevator is another thing. I'm off to the Cooperstown Bassett Hospital to sit with Matt. No wonder his kidney went bad. He won't drink water and hates my turkey soup, the elixir of the body and soul. I have to come home and make product for Plowshares in Syracuse next weekend. I have to keep my wits about myself and stay calm and focused. The young priest-in-training, AJ, is coming up from NJ tomorrow and visit Matt and help me put up some Christmas lights. A beacon in the appropriate for a clergyman.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lovely Weather

Gorgeous day out there. Walked a bit with the doggies and lured some sheep out for a corn treat. Lilly is very bagged up and dropped. Before birth some sheep look like they've lost some weight, but it's the lamb/s moving down. Hope it happens while we're having this mild weather but her lambs came last year on New Year's Day when it was bitter, horrible cold. I just put a 25 pounder in the oven, in a pan that's not quite big enough. My mother would have LOVED this turkey. She always bought the biggest one she could find. I stuffed it with whole wheat stuffing, greatly enhanced by my own additives. Talked to Matt - they are sending him to another hospital tomorrow to have his stone pulverized. He's pretty miserable but still getting lots of morphine, and tons of fluids to move that stone through, but it's not budging. I'll bring him some NY Times, if I can find one, and his cell phone charger tonight. I'm wrapping soap and watching movies. The parade was wonderful this morning. My NYPD father used to take us all to the parade years ago. We watch it faithfully on TV every year. Have to find my dairy farmer neighbor who I bought some 2nd cut bales from in lieu of the wet round bales. Matt told him he would help him get the hay in but now that Matt is out of commission I'm hoping to get a few to hold me over. Mia called - they sent her home from the hospital because her patient load is low. Can you imagine a teacher being sent home because kids are absent? After getting yourself in there, ready to go? Not a problem as she's joining Andrew's family for a Thanksgiving celebration. I don't know where Eric and Annie went with the kids out in CA., but I know they are traveling. Happy, Happy one and all.

Happy Happy

Gotta love holidays. Thank you NY for my day off with pay...and thank you for the medical coverage that's paying for Matt's hotel bill over there in Hamilton. He called to say he feels better but couldn't keep down his breakfast. Please, keep him 'til he's on the mend. He's no good to me laying in the bed throwing up. They think his big stone will pass as it's near the bladder. Flo-Max will help move it. He's getting IV antibiotics for the infection, too. On the home front I will put the turkey in and go about my business. There was a special-order 20 pounder in the local market yesterday that a woman didn't want because it's too big for her. At 79 a pound and already thawed out I thought what the heck. I will freeze lots of turkey and gravy to have over rice over the winter. I saw Martha on TV yesterday and she draped a cheesecloth soaked in white wine and butter over her bird. I don't have the makings for homemade stuffing like my mother always made. She saved ends of white bread, in the old days that's all we ate, to crumble up and I don't know what else she put on it. I'm so low on hay - two days worth maybe...Matt was going to fix the elevator this weekend, which makes it so much easier to get hay in. He's been putting it off for weeks now he's flat on his back. Just my luck. I can't imagine he will be active anytime soon. Life on the farm goes on...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Matt has been sick a few days and now we know why. He asked me to take him to the ER tonight and I told him to let me feed the sheep first (like a good shepherd). He came out and said - take me NOW - so I did, with him writhing in pain on the floor of the minivan. With good reason...he has an 8 mm kidney stone and urinary tract infection. I left him in good hands and a drug induced haze. I was hoping they would admit him so he could keep the IV. Heck of a way to get out of doing chores, huh? Community Memorial in Hamilton is a great little hospital. The admitting nurse is from Brookfield and has a giant labyrinth on her land for people to walk in and meditate. Her husband has a space at the farmers market and made my ringy-dingy triangle I used to call the sheep until it fell down and was lost in the hay. Check out the labyrinth at Matt's nurse asked me if I was the one who had the tote bags at the Earlville Opera House last year. Small town! Fortunately, I got home without hitting any deer and finished up. In for the night. Eggnog with whiskey anyone?

Home for the Holiday

Quiet at home. No family local so I won't cook today. I had a big Thanksgiving feast with my class in school and that's fine. I'll roast a symbolic chicken tomorrow so I can boil the bones and make soup. AJ might drive up in Mia's car over the weekend. I'll make yam and marshmallow casserole for him, his favorite, if he comes. I'd like to build a holiday bonfire outside and sit by it with the stars overhead and a glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream in my hand. NY State has just decreed we can't burn here anymore. It's always been that way in NJ, and I was incredulous to see the locals burning when I first moved here, but now I'm a local and I like to burn stuff once in a while. Nothing nasty, just old brush and scrap wood. Matt is still sick in the bed. He went to the doctor who told him he has diverticulitis, but it looks like the flu. I'm feeding him oatmeal, white bread and white toast until the antibiotic regimen is finished and the inflammation heals. I think his work stress is turning in on himself. I'm not invited to California for Christmas this year. I'll be in the barn with the sheep most of the time. Mia will be on duty Christmas Eve but has asked to have the next two days off to come to the farm. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I want to make pancakes with my class this morning, that is, if enough of them come. It's hunting season and that lures the boys away. Then there's the "day before vacation" absenteeism. We teach even if there's one or two students there, but I find myself wishing I had a Christmas tree to put up today. That would be fun. We can do that here, unlike politically correct New Jersey where Christmas trees go up then are quietly taken down after administration steps in. I don't own an artificial tree, and don't want one. My garden clubber mother covered our little house with real greens and giant arrangements of magnolia leaves and holly. She was so talented and creative. I have to find out if I can have a live tree in our brand new 40 million dollar wing. If not I might break down and get a fake one. I want to make popcorn/cranberry garlands with my class, and felt little sheep ornaments, and cover foam balls with glitter. My special ed. class meets in the former art room, where the big cabinets were full of art supplies. They've been raided by teachers, but I might find some stray glitter we can use. I want to teach the girls how to knit so they can make cute things for their babies, and maybe hustle a buck with scarves, etc. when they need money to buy diapers and food in the future. They seem so happy and contented with their bundles of joy, oblivious to the struggle ahead. Speaking of struggle...mine is just beginning. Better get out to the barn, check for lambs, throw bales and run the hose.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hello Jupiter

He's right there in the sky, just under the crescent moon tonight. I don't fully understand the movements of the heavenly bodies, or why the moon is so much higher in the sky tonight and a very different color. Last night it was lower, bigger and very yellow. Tonight it's higher, smaller and silvery white. I spend a lot of time outside on the farm, carrying buckets here and there, waiting for the White Boys to come back from their run, and I find myself staring up at the sky a good bit of the time. I lived most of my life in a place where glare from lights obscured the stars, and air pollution made the sky hazy. Not here in upstate New York. The skies are lovely and clear, with the planets glowing in colors and the milky way a streak of white across the sky. I used to be afraid of the dark, but four years on the farm has cured me finally. I can walk around a pitch black hay mow, with my headlight on, and walk up the hill on a moonless night. That's a lot of fun, as the kitties come out of the barn and follow me on my walk, flitting about independently, yet keeping me company. Lizzie usually jumps on my shoulder from behind, giving me a start at first, to hitch a ride. I bumped into my neighbor Chris the other day, who asked if I met any of the ghosts yet. I said no, but I'm waiting for them to show themselves. He said I surely must "feel" them, and I said no again, worried that I might be disappointing him. Chris told me where they usually hang out in the barn and I'm not sure I wanted to know that because it's a place that's hard to avoid. My Swedish Opa told me about ghost encounters in the old country, like the time he was outside walking and a cold blast of wind nearly knocked him down on it's way past him. I loved and adored my Opa and if he believed in ghosts then surely they must exist. I'm not sure I want to share my farm with them. I like it the way it is now, peaceful and quiet co-existance. In the meantime, I have other things to worry about, like my instincts telling me I'll have two twin lamb births this weekend. I'm not sure I'd bet money on it, but I have two ewes bagged up and real big. I bought my iodine for cord dipping today. I need a lot more than that...

No Snow Yet

I'm surprised we've had no snow this far. Fine with me as I still have wool to pick on the rack outside. The sheep won't leave the barn because they have to walk through a stretch of mud. I'm not happy about that as the pregnant ewes need exercise to help the lambs come down without trouble. I'm planning my lambing pens, called jugs in sheep lingo, in the barn. Have to buy panels at Tractor Supply and get them cut there so I can wire them into cubicles in the barn. I pray the first ewe to give birth has a lot of colostrum so I can freeze it for subsequent lambs. I have some beautiful wool growing out there in the barn. Would have been better with coats on it. Seems to be a song I sing every year. There is nothing wrong with their appetites, that's for sure.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

So Much to Read

AJ has a lot of studying to do at St. Vladimir's. No on-line ordination available in Christian Orthodoxy. AJ is very happy at this seminary. The Army is subsidizing him with the GI Bill. There's also a Marine chaplain in his dorm. When AJ is finished a year and a half from now the Army can send him wherever they want. I pray it's state-side.

Visit to St. Vladimir's

We ventured south to the city of Crestwood, Yonkers, New York, to visit AJ at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Christian Theological Seminary. He is in his second year there and this was my first visit. The park-like setting and old stone buildings are very lovely and the garden coy-pond is the perfect place for meditation. AJ took us on a tour of the dorms, library and sanctuary, which is covered with paintings of the saints. Mother Mary dominates the ceiling, as she is revered in Christian Orthodoxy as the vessel who gave birth to Jesus. We went for lunch at the Blue Moon Mexican Cafe in Bronxville, AJ's choice as we used to frequent Cochina Del Sol in Frenchtown so often when we lived in NJ. After coffee at the Slave to the Bean shoppe we went back to St. Vlad's and transferred Mia's Christmas present to her car - my Les Elements la Nature suite by the Spanish artist Alvar. She needed pictures for the walls of her apartment and I decided to hand over my fancy stuff. They look a lot better on the high walls of her apartment than my low-ceiling barn apartment, and I don't want them to burn up in the event of a barn fire. I still have my Peter Max prints, much smaller and appropriate for an old hippie. We drove home to the farm in the dark, dodging deer on the highway. Matt is headed out to a retreat at a hotel in Saratoga next week to help determine the direction of the organization he works for. Pretty good gig if you ask me. It's 4:50 now on Sunday afternoon and pitch black dark, which doesn't help anyone's mood. When he leaves I will hold down the farm, my job, and somehow get ready for the Plowshares Crafts Fair on December 4 and 5. My Tea-Tree Lavender soap set up too fast and didn't pour right. I hate when that happens. Back to school for two days then five days off of that job to work on things here. I'm waiting on lambs, have to get more hay in, what else is new?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Many Blessings

We cooked Thanksgiving dinner in my class yesterday. We have a full kitchen and we had the oven packed with turkey, yams, and pies. Even our tough kid who rarely participates rolled out the pie crust dough. It was a fantastic and bountiful meal. We managed to get everything ready for brunch at 11. I only have them half a day so we had to eat early. We went around the table and everyone gave thanks for something. The kid who rolled out the dough couldn't think of a single thing to be thankful for so we helped him. Finally we asked him about his little sister and he nodded yes. It was one of those "moments." Upstairs in the palatial cafeteria they were serving a Thanksgiving lunch with all the trimmings for $6, but our dinner was far more gratifying in many ways.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dark at Five

So little light left when I get home from work. Just enough to take the doggies out before I start dinner and chores. I bought new batteries for my headlights. I can't be without them in the barn. The light blinds the animals when I look directly at them so I try to point it downward so I can see where I'm walking. I've got lights in the barn, but I've bashed so many of the bulbs with my head there are not very many left. I have to check for lambs every so often now, as several have dropped and I can see little lamb movements in their bellies. Lambs come from heaven, ofcourse, but I'm not ready yet. I hope they wait until after the two December shows, but maybe not. I got the turkey cooked for our Thanksgiving Feast in school tomorrow. The aroma filled the wing and had everyone asking where's the turkey? The kids are excited and will cook all the other dishes and eat before they leave at 11:30. Thanksgiving Breakfast I should call it? I don't think attendance will be good next week due to hunting season so we are doing it early. This way I'll be sure everyone in my GED class has something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, or at least a full belly.


Trying to get "up" for the day. It's not happening. I'm out of cat food, what else is new, so I make my French Toast for them - bread soaked in milk and butter. They love it, and probably has everything commercial cat food has in it except for the road kill. Two teachers I work directly with are out for the week with H1N1 flu. Oh, Joy, please let me not be next. I can hear Matt's voice as he sails happily out the door to his fun and fulfilling job saying Bye - Feel Better!! as I lie choking and gasping flat on my back and animals mill around the water tank waiting for a drink. Well, we won't let that happen. I'm trying to observe the "three foot" rule and wash my hands all the time. A school is one big biohazard with sick kids whose parents have kicked them out the door to get on the bus and bring their germs to us. Okay, it's wash-hair day so I better get in the tub. It just might improve my mood - not likely but it's a chance I have to take.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Eggs

A hen was sitting on eggs she laid on a small ledge behind a rabbit cage in the barn. When I fed the bunnies I watched her, those little chicken eyes in a trance, concentrating on keeping those eggs warm. I was worried that the chicks would hatch and freeze or fall down from the ledge and be eaten by cats. Sure enough, this cold morning, 24F., Mother Hen was gone when I watered the bunners before leaving for work. There were the eggs, chilled but not frozen. I tend to find things to do in the barn that make me late enough that I have to fly down the road at breakneck speed, and just my luck this morning was no different. I gathered up the eggs and ran them back into the apartment and put them under the lamp in the bathroom. The last batch of chicks I raised inside are in the barn now, so the familiar box and lamp under the sink is back in business. There is a kitty in there now, warming herself under the light bulb, keeping the eggs even warmer. I hope I got them in time to revive the little bodies inside. Every life is precious. I'm watching the WWII in HD on the History Channel. The new footage is amazing, and I'm fascinated with the way our nation was entirely committed to the cause of saving the world for democracy. I'm so proud my mother and father were both in the Army. That's very special. They survived to have four kids in five years, a true affirmation of life. So much unspeakable carnage and suffering in that cataclysmic event that was WWII, so many perished and generations were lost. I feel so unworthy compared to what they were called upon to endure. (I'll try to remember that when lambing starts and I'm complaining about no sleep.)

Bags in Waiting

I have a stack of bags cut out, waiting for me on the sewing machine. Wish I could stay home and make them. It's always a challenge to pick the right lining for a bag. It means so much and seperates my bags from so many others. I essentially craft two bags and sew them together. The inside has to be prettier than the outside. My Southern mother taught me that you should be able to wear a garment inside out, that's how important the lining is. I like that idea, and have always applied it to my bags. Carol Crayonbox sent me some fabulous lining fabric that works better for this particular bag, so I'll save the lining fabric I already cut out for another time. I'm waiting on snap frames from Ghee's in Louisianna. There is so much I have to order in to have everything I need for the products I make. Soap making supplies are very bulky and pricey. Bundaflicka Bags require cedar shims for the boxy bottoms, Sculpey or Femo clay for buttons and a LOT of thread. The woven labels took three months to come from England by way of New Jersey. I need jars, labels and many ingredients for my Shepherd's creme. Luckily, UPS and FED EX has finally figured out that I live in this funky old barn, except when there is a new or substitute driver. Then I have to go searching for my stuff. Luckily I have enough fabric for a couple of year's worth of sewing and the sheep keep producing that marvelous wool. Oh, yes, the sheep. They require a fortune in hay, feed, wormer, vaccines, lambing supplies, etc. Better saddle up and get out the door to my teaching job - my farm subsidy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Morning Musings

The NY Times says it costs 1 million dollars to keep a soldier in Afghanistan for a year. Just imagine what that kind of money could do for a spay and neuter fund in New York State... I got some work done in the barn yesterday, specifically the milk room, which was extremely gnarly. I gave it a lick and a promise for more, as they say. I have to get roto rooter in to check out my broken drain. I tried to snake it but can't get through. Possibly a pipe collapse? Just my luck. The floor gets wet from the hose I use to fill the water tanks for the sheep then has no where to go. Hay tracks in and gets wet, turning to something really nasty if I don't sweep it up. I surely do not want to jack hammer up the concrete floor of the milk room. What a mess, and I need it for the laundry, washing and dyeing wool, and keeping my outside kitties warm when the blizzards start. Might have to wait until spring, like so many other things. I have to buy a milk room heater at Tractor Supply to heat that room and keep the pipes from freezing, another expense looming. An old farm is a huge hole to pour your time and money into. Don't know how much longer I can keep this up, but I'm having fun in the meantime, and oh, the stories I will write someday. I got most of the giant wether fleece picked outside in the pleasant winter sunshine, washed it and got it dyed a lovely cherry red. I love to see a dark fleece dyed a bright color. It has such pretty variations in color. I'll dye another white fleece scarlet red, then blend the two with fuschia angora, and another color I haven't decided on yet. That's fiber art and it's so much fun. Got my patchouli soap cut and set out for curing. This recent patchouli didn't hold up in the soap making process the way I hoped it would. The anise essential oil seems to survive the lye better than any other EO I buy. I'll cut the almond tonight, which means I have to clean off my drying rack which is stuffed with fabric and other business accoutrement. Oh, what I would give for a big studio where I can spread out.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Taste of Summer

I thawed some blueberry sauce from berries I bought at the farmer's market last summer and poured it over hot pancakes. Very delicious and a real Sunday morning treat. Gray and misty outside but the forecast calls for a warming trend over the week ahead. Great time for new fleas to hatch and the barnyard to get muddier. There comes a time in the fall when I wish for a good freeze that will harden the ground. Every farmer knows what I am talking about. I got a couple of bags done yesterday and will cut up 33 pounds of patchouli and the same amount of almond today. I have the fabric and labels all ready for wrapping after it cures. I always thought soap making would be a good business for someone with kids at home, as all those little pairs of hands could do the stacking and wrapping. I have bags on the machine too. I'm torn between making product and working in the apartment, my old tug of war. Big show in three weeks and another a week later. I don't think I'll make any more Patchouli creme, as so few people like it. I'll give what I made for Christmas gifts. Sharon, our BOCES special ed. secretary is crazy about hers, and I adore mine. I put some on before class and the boys started hooting and hollering what's that smell?? Eeewwww!! I told them it's something men couldn't possibly understand and they liked that answer. They attributed that earthy aroma to the mysterious world of females, something they can relate to. I better leave my patchouli creme home. We're doing a Thanksgiving dinner in class next week. It will take some planning and logistics, but I think it will be a lot of fun and nice for the kids and me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Head is Spinning

Wide awake at 6. Got up to make coffee, feed the inside kitties and spin, spin, spin. What a treat. I've got a giant bobbin of my latest natural colored roving plied with a tiny thread of yarn from a cone of sock yarn. It's just gorgeous and will make fabulous socks. I want to knit some boot socks for myself but it will have to wait 'til January when the shows and Christmas is over. Too much to do before then. Have to get to Waterville this morning to Louis Gale feed mill before it closes at noon. I get 100 pound sacks of chicken layer mash and cracked corn for the same price at 50 pounders at the feed stores. Worth the effort to get there, but OH, my aching back. Matt is going to work on my new 1946 Ford 8N tractor tomorrow. It should be ready to bring home in a couple of weeks, just in time to plow snow with the rear blade. Yes, you can plow snow from behind, a new concept to me. We are VERY excited about our first tractor, a long time in coming. It's old and needs a lot of work but Ron, a trucker friend who hauled in up from the South somewhere, is helping Matt fix it up. We'll paint it next summer. There are some terrific YouTube videos of people working on 8N tractors and doing things with them that we didn't realize was possible, like pulling balers and hay wagons. Tough little tractor, the 8N is well-suited to my hilly land with so many dips. It's almost too thrilling to think about, but I might be able to make my own hay next year. Unfortunately the only land left when I got to this farm was the worst for hay. Jan got the best hay land but it's not within their comfort zone to buy equipment. We'll go to auctions and find cheap equipment to fix up. It will be interesting and fun. Speaking of the outdoors, I better get out in it. The day is just beginning.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back to the Front

Had the best night sleep in a while, all the way to 6 am. My internal alarm clock which usually goes off at 5 is slipping. All that sleep is intoxicating...better drink another cup of French Roast. We dutifully watched the Military Channel last night, very interesting. The island of Tarawa, now called Betoi (sp?), has many cemeteries that are covered over with garbage dumps, desecrating the hallowed ground. The island government picks up the soda cans and anything they can recyle for money, but the other trash is left on the ground. Construction companies often dig up bones when they build things around the island. One vet is waging a one-man campaign to clean up the garbage and identify the war dead. Many are soldiers who are still listed as missing. He fears the whole island will be underwater in a few years and the remains will be lost to history. Fascinating and inspiring story. The next show featured the Vietnam War Medal of Honor winners and their stories. Tears kept running down Matt's face so I gave him a giant bowl of vanilla ice cream covered with chocolate sauce. Worked like a charm. No more tears, just sucking and slurping sounds. I like to think I'm writing my own war story here on the farm. Speaking of farm, I better get my own act in gear and get going. I hung my giant American flag in my classroom. When I had it up in my old room, the French teacher took it down to put up a project her kids were working on. Good to see it proudly displayed again. We don't pledge allegiance in this school, but my flag makes a statement.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


While Matt and Randy were insulating the apartment with "green" cellulose (recycled newspaper soaked in boric acid) I was making almond soap and cutting up the anise soap I made over the weekend. Oh, the aromas mingling in the apartment were making my head spin. UPS brought my hand creme jars, so I just had to go for it and make a batch of Patchouli Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme. I saved an ounce or two from the batch of Patchouli soap I made last night and was anxious to find out how it worked with the shea butter, beeswax and jojoba I use in my recipe. It's absolutely wonderful and I can't wait to give a jar to a certain person who works in the special ed office at school. Patchouli lovers are a rare and tightly knit bunch! It's not my best selling soap, but every once in a while someone will rush into the booth, gasp with delight, and snatch up five bars. The Patchouli crop in India failed a couple of years ago and the price soared to $200 for a 16 ounce bottle, the amount I need for my recipe. I skipped making Patchouli soap that year. Luckily, the price is back down to a manageable sum, but still pricey. I couldn't resist. Patchouli is not only the Hippie Love Scent of the Flower Power generation. Musky and exotic, it has been used as a moth repellent in Europe for many years. However one choses to use it, the aroma is divine.

Thank A Vet

It's been many years since the doorbell rang and an Army recruiter came in the door handing me papers to sign so my 17 year old Eric could join the Army. All my fault, since I didn't let him play with guns as a child. I wouldn't allow any weapon-type gifts, either. What else would a hippie-flower-child mother do in the Age of Aquarius? Once in the Army, Eric could play with all the guns he wanted. Now, many years later, after a VMI degree and serving his time in the military, Eric has a safe full of guns and takes Hannah and Luke to the range with him. I'm glad they are spending time together, that's how I look at it. I don't own a gun and don't really want one. I don't know anything about them and have a healthy fear of them...but I'm all in favor of putting down the plowshare and picking up the sword in the face of a national threat, and my family on my mother's side has been doing just that in this country since the Colonial Wars, before the American Revolution. AJ was never much for gunplay, but when the Army sent him to Gitmo for a year, his special weapon was the 50 caliber machine gun, pictured above. Thanks to all who come forward to protect democracy and preserve our way of life. I am indebted to you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy!

What a happy, smiling bunch of buddies Luke has at school in San Jose. Glad to see he is having fun. It's been cloudy here all day, not a hint of blue sky or sun. Off tomorrow but big push to get the insulation spread out. My old student friend, Randy, is coming to help out. Good thing for me, as the cellulose comes in giant bales, dropped off in the driveway, and Matt thought I would be holding the other end. My lovely Patchouli oil arrived and I will be making soap and creme with it, along with sewing bags and cutting up the Anise soap I just made. I had hoped to make some sense out of the chaos that is my apartment, but that's no fun. Why don't I make some coffee and get outside to pick my wether fleece? I'm going to make a red run, as I only had 16 pounds and it sold out quickly. I like the vinegary smell of fleece in the dye pot. It makes me happy!

Armistice Day Tomorrow

The sun is still low in the sky and it smells like winter but the temps are still up. I have a giant wether fleece on the rack outside that I didn't get to yesterday after school. It's out there soaking up the night moisture, not what I intended. I better do it today. I need another drying rack, one with many tiers, and surrounded by chicken wire to keep the cats out. Drying fiber over the winter is a challenge. I did it on my kitchen table next to the wood stove last year, and managed somehow, but it was constantly falling off and being scattered by kitties. I went to fire up my dedicated dye stove in the milk room, but the cute little pair of chickens that had been roosting on the pipe above the stove left some presents on the burners. Ahhh, life on the farm. The chickens have been gently moved into the barn where their friends live. No school tomorrow for Veteran's Day, formerly known as Armistice Day. I will make sure my class knows why they are getting the day off. Yesterday some of them told me they don't need math to join the Army, as we struggled through improper fractions and mixed numbers. I told them the military is more technical than ever, and they will have to read manuals and use math to figure out how to use all that equipment. They don't think beyond the rifle. Why not, as it's hunting season in New York. I have to confess, there are many fewer shotgun blasts around here than I heard in western New Jersey. Fine with me.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Save All the Kittens!

Annie sent me a letter from Hannah and a worksheet from Luke. What a treat! Luke told his class all about Omi's farm and how you should get the kittens in the barn when a storm is coming! I can just see him with his big blue eyes and excited voice telling all kinds of farm stories. My secrets are out big time! Hannah and Luke have been doing all sorts of neat things in California, like surfing with their mommy and shooting with their daddy. I sure will miss them over the holidays...

Health Care

Everyone should have health care in this wealthy country, but everyone does not have health care. Poor people don't go to the doctor, then are carried in feet first and everyone pays for their care except for them. I know the bill passed yesterday by the House is not perfect, but it's a start. I've worked over ten years to provide health care for myself and my husband. Sure, I would like to stay home on the farm and spin wool, make soap and sew my tote bags, but that couldn't come close to the $15,000 a year BOCES pays for my health plan. So I drive through blizzards and leave sick animals at home to get that health coverage. Now people who don't have it say they don't want to have to pay for it. Well, it's about time. Harry Truman tried to start it, Richard Nixon wanted it, but it hasn't happened. Insurance companies made over $300 BILLION in profits last year and Americans still die for lack of health care. Something has to give, and it did yesterday. Republicans are choking but what have they done prior to this? Nothing. They want poor people to just go away and die. Social Darwinism prevails. Not everyone can work, and in this economy there are not enough jobs for all the healthy people seeking employment. That's enough...I'm going to saddle up and get to my job teaching students whose families now have some hope of affordable health coverage.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Batten Down the Hatches

We are insulating the apartment with cellulose... not what I had planned on, but NY State did not approve of the hay I had up there to keep the heat in. A thousand dollars I would much rather spend on other things, and that's with us doing the installation. I'm hoping to half my electric bill this year. Matt built a door to keep snow out of the hay mow and off the cellulose. It's rather clever, with a rope on hinges to open the door when we need to send hay up the elevator to the other hay mow across the barn. The weather is perfect today to do this kind of work. It helps not to look down.

Thor Has A New Door

Thor tore up his door on the north side of the barn where the winter winds blow snow in. Matt took advantage of this nice weather to make a new door for ole' Thor, a big spoiled baby (but he still keeps the coyotes away!) Yes, he is a mama's boy. This door is much sturdier than the old one and will hopefully withstand Thor's jaws and paws - and the north wind.

Summer is Back

The temp will soar to 65 F. today, warmer still tomorrow - a sweet reversal of the forces of nature coming our way. There will be tee-shirts and flip-flops back on the kids, and sometimes teachers, at school tomorrow. I made Anise soap last night and OH, what a lovely scent, lingering on the sink and soap pot long after the molten goodness is poured in the milk carton molds. It's one of my personal favorites after the mystical, magical Patchouli, which I hope will be delivered from Rainbow Meadow tomorrow. I had one of my night terrors and was awake from 1 to 4. Wouldn't you know, I couldn't get the DVD to work, unplugged by cats I discovered this morning, and there was nothing on TV worth watching besides zombie wars and murder mysteries. I get so tired of dead bodies on TV. I worked on a baby bag, ordered by my Mia for a nurse friend soon to give birth. It's made from the adorable yellow and green train and plane tapestry fabric graciously donated to the cause by Jackie, my neighbor over the mountain. I have a good amount of fabric in the stash now, and could sew 'til the cows come home. Fabric doesn't go bad. I'm still sewing on cloth I brought from New Jersey four years ago. I just wish I had a better place to store it, other than the towering mountain on my kitchen table and rubber tubs. I put it away and forget about it, then have a delightful reunion when I discover it anew months later. It's the little things...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

My New Bag

Remember when I was lusting after Carol Crayonbox's felted bag at Fingerlakes? The one I told her to put aside but she sold when a customer waved two hundred dollar bills in front of her face? I probably would have sold it too, but I was very disappointed. I even pitched a little fit about it, just because I could and Carol would still be my friend. Terrible thing to do, but it felt good at the time with all the show stress and everything coming down. Well, Carol promised to make me another one and she made good on her promise AND, since it's hay feeding time, she let me pay for it with wool! THE BAG arrived yesterday, along with a new batch of fabric from Carol's secret source in Ithaca. The hours it takes to craft a bag like this simply cannot be calculated...the yarn is handspun from my Mother Fiber, knitting all those boxes of multiple colors, then the muscle it takes to hand-felt this big bag is just amazing. The lining and zipper are exquisitely attached to the bag. I'm really impressed! Mia's curtain fabric was included in the glorious shipment Small town area that we live in, Hal's, the Security and Law teacher, wife works part time in the Brookfield Post Office. When the three boxes of fabric arrived in the little PO, Hal's wife called over to BOCES in Norwich and told Hal to call me and tell me to get over there and pick them up. The Postal Ladies don't like boxes clogging up their rather limited space. I didn't get the call, but was headed over there anyway looking for my goodies. I was not disappointed. Mia's curtain fabric is fabulous...kind of graphic but earthy, and will go perfectly with Monika's brown suede sofa and black leather furniture. And you can't beat $1 a yard....I just hope there's enough of it.

Friday, November 06, 2009

White World

The ground is covered in white, not a whole lot, but enough so the sheep have to dig to get to the grass, that is, the grass that is left on the ground. Oh, how I would love to stay home today. I've been lazy the last few nights, not doing much else besides take care of my animals. Not good. I have to make product! I love to climb the ladder to the hay mow in the dark and see the little group of sheep and goats who have escaped the barnyard fence sleeping in the hay. It was so cozy and warm in there last night, with sleet banging on the metal roof above. I only had a couple of lean-tos for them on my last place, and they would all try to get at least their heads inside to escape the weather. When I saw this giant barn I thought, this is it, I would have enough shelter for all of them. The flock comes first. The Yankees are having a ticker-tape parade today. I was just explaining to my students what ticker-tape is the other day. I wonder where they get the paper these days now that they don't use ticker tape on Wall Street? Sad news from Texas, an Army doctor, the son of a Palestian family, went psycho and killed all those soldiers. Don't tell me he didn't have baggage. We are supposed to be open-minded and accepting of people from the other side, then this happens. What a world. My baby son is cloistered away in his seminary in Yonkers, but a year from now the Army will send him wherever they want him. A frightening thought...but for right now, I have to get myself washed and dressed and get out into the cold, white world and go to work. I think it's time to break out the bunny scarves and mittens. Tomorrow is Friday, oh the weekend. Would we appreciate it as much if we didn't have to work all week? I think I would.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Sensitivity Training

Went to the second session of our sensitivity training today. My aide, Robin, scored 22 on relating to students and I scored a 13. I got the higher score on structure and teaching. Good thing she is there to relate to the students while I throw the work at them. When they gave me this job which requires me to be with the same group for three hours I knew my only hope was structure and over-planning. Never a dull moment. Well, I'm not that bad...I do let them have ten minutes at the end of the 3 hours for throwing the ball back and forth, chatting, sleeping, etc. I'm not a complete ogre. My room was meant for art classes before they had the overflow so I don't have a Smart Board or overhead projector, just a mini dry marker board, and I use it all the time when I teach so I constantly have to erase. Oh, and Thursday is cooking day. They can make cakes, cookies, whatever they want. We're planning a complete Thanksgiving dinner the week before the holiday break. That will be fun. I'm using Martha Stewart's method of cooking a turkey quickly by breaking the breastbone and spreading it out in a pan. We'll see how it works out. In the meantime I drove home at 5 in the dark with big flakes of sleety snow falling. Winter is here. Out to the barn for evening chores. It's not 8 and I'm falling asleep while I type. Better have a quick cup of tea and suit up. Too cold and damp for tee shirt and jeans. Lucky sheep with their coats of wool.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Happy Birthday Dingy

Today is my baby brother's birthday. His name is Mark Edward but we always called him Dingy. He was crazy about trains and whenever we would be stopped at the train tracks, and there seemed to be more of them years ago, the bell would ding-ding-ding. My brother would be so excited. So he became Dingy. Only 13 months apart we grew up together. My mother adored her three boys, but Dingy was her darling. When he was 19 he had a tragic car accident - a head on collision which caused him serious brain damage. I brought him home with me for his rehabilitation. Dingy eventually recovered but has no memory of his life before the accident. I was so happy to have my brother back but sad our childhood together was lost. He went to college in Boston and is still living there with his wife, Melinda and two daughters, Emma and Charlotte. He is a successful real estate broker on Beacon Hill and is an avid gardener. Life takes so many twists and turns, and I haven't seen them for many years. I've asked him if he reads my journal, but I know he doesn't. I have to be happy that he's happy and not be selfish about it. Melinda is very close to her family and they always go there for holidays, etc. Well, Happy Birthday Dingy. I love you.

Over the Hump

One stop at the feed store and dry cleaner (I go maybe once a year or two as much as I hate what they do to the environment I can't put my beautiful red duffle coat Mia bought me in the washing machine!) and another for gas, milk and eggs and it's almost dark when I get home. The doggies are SO happy to see me. It snowed a bit this morning, shape of things to come. I read it's been 110 F. for three days in Argentina. I've been sleeping better the last few nights, maybe it's the hibernation kicking in. I'll make some stir fry with left over chicken and get to work in the barn. My sheep are getting big around the middle and staying in the barn a lot. I have to start sorting and dyeing wool again. Maryland Sheep and Wool is May 1 and it will be here before I know it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Dark Too Early

We take the glorious daylight for granted then poof it's gone. Soon the cold winds will blow off Lake Ontario bringing the storms. When they come all I want to do is hunker down and spin wool. I did my civic duty today and voted at the little town hall in Brookfield. The Ladies walked me through the new ballot where I have to color in the squares then run it through a machine. Hope my democrat wins, but it's iffy. Northern New Yorkers are largely conservative. Dinner done, out to the barn to feed the sheep, goats, chickens, dogs and cats. Back inside to sew and spin. Big show coming up on Dec. 5 in Syracuse - the Plowshares Craft Show sponsored by the Peace Council. I like the sound of that. I also like the distance - one hour and 15 minutes from the farm. The following week I travel to New Hope, Pa., for the Delaware Riverkeeper craft show. I'm looking forward to both. Have to work like crazy but I'm not really feeling it with all this darkness...but there's the hay issue and all those hungry mouths out in the barn.


I'm drinking my foamy French Roast coffee ala Annie T. and sewing a little bag for a colleague. Not enough sleep last night but someone I know is leaving early to teach "Client Interaction" and something about electric baseload reduction measures to small home auditor trainees. He goes around muttering something about being a blue collar man in a white collar world. I bought him two fleece vests at Md. Sheep and Wool last spring and he wears them all the time over his button down shirts. With jeans, loafers and a LL Bean jacket he passes muster. Matt has discovered JC Penney and shops for his own clothes now. Fine with me. I get him a new Carhartt jacket or overalls every couple of years for Christmas to wear on the farm. Remember the farm? My water tank is buried under a ton of hay. I started using it as a hay feeder back when I had lambs and was using smaller buckets for water to avoid lamb drownings. I'll never forget seeing a little turquoise sweater floating in the water tank and wondering how did she get her sweater off? Well, she didn't - she was in her sweater. Bye Bye water tank, even though it was only 12 inches high it was enough for her to drown herself in. Trouble is, the sheep are spending more time in the barn now that we are feeding hay, and drinking a lot of water. I mentioned to Matt that I needed another water tank for them to drink from, pre-lambing, and he told me to get busy with the pitchfork. And so it goes. Paul, the young man who would like to apprentice with me this winter, came to visit the other day. He is an anthropology major SUNY graduate from Long Island who is working on small farms for a few years to learn everything he can before he has his own place. He's done cheese and vegetables and wants to learn about fiber. Paul won't be done at his current position until December, just when lambs are coming I think. He didn't seem put off by his visit to Cold Comfort Farm, as I thought he might, and asked if he could bake his organic bread if he works here. This just might be a good thing afterall...

Monday, November 02, 2009

Home from Total Drama School

I go from drama to drama. My own farm story is one dramatic episode to another, interspersed with calmness, beauty, serenity and, always, the struggle to keep my farm alive. I don't take a single pill with my morning OJ, or with my evening chamomile tea, or anytime in between. Sure I have aches and pains that I walk off in the morning, and old broken bones and ski injuries give me messages throughout the day, but nothing I can't handle. My school job always has something going on that would qualify for a TV sitcom, but, I confess, sometimes I like it that way. It's the human element gone wild. The characters are larger than life - truth is stranger than fiction, and all that. I come home to my critters, my shelter dogs - free to good home dogs or dogs stranded by some imagination-defying situation...but I know they are the dogs that give even more love for having been denied it. I hide away from the world in my little apartment in my big old funky barn, with old electric, clogged drains and poop two feet high...but I'm in a better place than a whole lot of women I know who "have it all," so to speak. I'll make coffee and get some dinner going, spin wool for a few minutes, cut out a bag or two with the lovely black chenille I got in the mail, then head out to the barn to check on my animals. Winter is bearing down on us and I hope my ten year old minivan is roadworthy, but I'll make it there somehow. I have to find hay somewhere pretty soon. I noticed a ewe yesterday who looks very pregnant. Lambs might come sooner than I thought. Better get my silk underwear and Pritchard's teats ready...

More Frost on the Pumpkin

24 F. this morning on the milk room steps. It was 20 three weeks ago, the day after I got home from Rhinebeck. The week to come will be cool, not getting out of the 40's. We started the process of insulating the hay mow above the apartment, squirting foam around the edges. NY State made me take out the hay I had up there two years ago, the bums, and I'm forced to replace it with something synthetic and expensive. I have to start buying hay now and fortunately I have another mow to put it in. The round bales I bought are dark and moldy, still on the trailer down the road. My tractor is still being repaired at the place where I'm buying it. It's an old Ford 8N with a blade on it for snow plowing. Wish it had a front loader, but the price is right and I can't walk away from it. I got some good rest this past weekend, despite Tanner doing her best to push me out of the bed last night. I even had a three hour nap Saturday afternoon. Got some chores done around the barn and played with my sheep. I went to Wahlgreens to pick up my photo print to send to the catalogue cover contest but it's sadly washed out and dull. No more photo processing there! Off to work to face the challenges of the week ahead. So cozy and warm in the apt. and I hate to leave the critters but I tell them Mommie has to go to work to support them. Water and food bowls full, classical music on, off I go.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Joe Biden Called

I had a call from Joe Biden last night. Too bad it was a one way conversation as I would have enjoyed talking with him. I like Joe. If it's in his head it's on his lips, kind of like me, and it gets him in trouble sometimes. I appreciate his honesty, like when the news tells me "the recession is over" and Joe Biden says what are you talking about - with all these people still out of work and foreclosures happening everywhere we're not nearly out of trouble. The administration does not appreciate his tell-it-like-it is, blatant style. There's a big race going on in my district. The republicans have ditched DeeDee Bag-o-donuts so the remaining arch-conservative guy, Doug Hoffman, has a better chance to win the congressional seat. The democrat, Bill Owens, has an uphill battle against the conservatives here. The teacher's union called me to tell me to vote for DeeDee, the moderate republican candidate - a shock to me since teachers are so predominantly democratic, especially in my home state of New Jersey - but DeeDee is history, tossed aside by her own party. I will be at the polls in Brookfield, bright and early next week, in the tiny little cinder block town hall with the hitching post outside, doing my civic duty. I'm trying to convince my students, most of whom are over 18, to register to vote. They don't relate to political power, but I'm working on it.