Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Wishing all of you who take the time to read my journal health and happiness this New Year and New Decade. Your faithfulness and positive energy makes me strong and gives me renewed determination to keep my farm, and my dream, alive. I wish you health and happiness in the coming year and always. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support!

Tough Going

I reached for a basket of wool yesterday and felt something funny going on in my back, like a glass vial breaking and pain spilling out. My own enemy, muscle spasm back pain came to say hello, I'm going to make you miserable this New Year. I'm pretty crippled, just when I need my body in top working shape. Even with Matt's kidney stone drugs I can't do too much. Fortunately, no lambs last night. I'm trying to lie low and wait for the spasm to subside. I was in a New Jersey ER with a morphine drip the last time this happened, seven years ago. I had just thought to myself what an absolutely divine Christmas and vacation this year, that something just had to happen to disrupt the positive force, and now this. Did I wish it on myself? If I prop Mia's duffle bag just right I can lower myself down on the sofa and spin wool. I know from the past it will take a few days to be right, just in time to go back to work. Matt started back yesterday and is so thrilled to be there he comes home in a happy mood. Lucky for me cause I have to ask him to do a million things. I was hoping to go to the Mountaintop Golf Course in Columbus, ten minutes away, tonight to hear Pamme Swan, my friend from the farmer's market, sing folk songs. Don't know if I'll make it. I'm knitting my third big lamb sweater with lots of tiny left over balls of yarn from years past. The stripes are real pretty. Gosh, I love my yarn.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I just made a barn check. One AM. No lambsicles tonight. A poor goatie had a stillborn baby, not old enough to be viable. I feel so sorry for her. She's still looking for it even though I sneaked it away several hours ago. Goats are amazingly devoted mothers, better than many humans. The sweater I knitted today fits Luna perfectly, big, chubby girl that she is. I've thoroughly spoiled her, carrying a bottle with me every time I go into the barn. I give Lilly an apple with one hand, taking care not to lose fingers, and balance Luna's bottle with the other. Milk replacer, made from whey, the liquid by product of cheese making (remember, eating her curds and whey?)is very rich and will put weight on a lamb. Loki is the only one without a sweater now and I have one on the needles for him. I feel so wonderfully guilty, sitting on the sofa knitting. I was truly on vacation today, reading the NY Times, watching TV, knitting, snacking, spinning a little and taking a nice long nap. Didn't even try to go out with the snow storm going on, and didn't have to. I could really get used to this. Whatever will I do when I have to go back to work next week? I'm real sleepy and should fall away quickly, with ET on the television in the next room. I adore that movie and the familiar soundtrack will soothe me. Nighty-night.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ten Degrees

10 F. but feels colder. I gave the chickens a flat pan of warm water and they went nuts - like they had just been transported to Miami Beach, jumping in the water, drinking and splashing. I checked a while later and some were still standing in the water. I wiggled Mary Magdalene into a large lamb sweater, even though she looked fine in the cold. I am frantically knitting another large sweater, with 17 needles, which I don't really enjoy - broomsticks! I have to find someone with ferrets, or toy poodles to use my beautiful shrunken lamb sweaters from years past. I noticed the twin sister of Nicholas' mother, both daughters of my Myrna and Legolas, looking for a place to give birth. I recognize the look. Everyone else is lying down, resting and she's standing up, staring around into space. She's very puffy and bagged up, ready to go. Have to keep an eye on her. I ran a wash with hot water to keep the pipes open in the milk room, and filled up all the containers I could find with water in case the temp goes even lower and I have no water for the animals. I have my dye oven on, which is next to the faucets, to keep them from freezing. The milk room has all my pipes for the apartment water, and the room is not insulated. Another "project" looming for my funky old barn. I love the place but it needs so much, and I don't know if I'll live long enough to get it all done. Oh, well, it's the quest, the journey, that counts, right? Wish I had a way to take pictures. I have to take my new Nikon point and shoot camera, the one that will point but not shoot, back to WM. I put new batteries in it and heard a sizzling sound inside. Not good. What a piece of crap!

Blustery, Cold, Snowy Tuesday

So happy to be home today. The wind and snow roared all night, banging the door over the elevator hole in the barn so much I could hardly sleep. The relatively empty hay mows creaked and moaned in the howling wind. Barns are made to be filled with hay. The bales hold the barn together. Without the mound of hay the barn is like a partially filled balloon. I confess I like the eery sounds but the door that prevents the snow from getting in where the elevator enters the barn banged hard all night, and it's right above my room. I cuddled with the doggies in the dark and let the bangs, creaks and moans lull me to sleep. At 4 I went out to check for lambsicles but only found sleeping and resting sheep and goats. Matt checked again at 7, but three hours in this cold is too long for all but the hardiest lambs who get up and nurse right away. I've always heard that the lambs born in January are the healthiest. Maybe it because only the healthiest survive the cold. I want them all to live. Nicholas, born yesterday, is as big as Loki who is a few weeks old. I found him with mom who busted loose from her pen and was out grazing. I picked him up, the big bruiser, and checked for full belly and warm mouth, signs that he's been nursing and he's got both. Dolly wants out of her pen with Dina but I want to worm her first. Birthing stimulates parasites and I don't need a nursing mom dragged down by worms. Back outside now to give broccoli to the babies, fill water buckets, feed the cold, ravenous kitties who managed to bring home a young rat yesterday. Big surprise that any rat could live that long with this Kitty Cadre on constant patrol. If I don't feed the cats enough they eat my young chickens, and I don't want that (unless it's a rooster!!) I'm groggy from lack of a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Maybe I'll get a nap in fact, I know I will.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Welcome Nicholas

I went out at 12 noon for a lamb watch and there she was, in a perfect spot, pawing the ground and baaing at nothing. This was more like a painful baaing, not the baby-talk I so often hear. Now I know why - she birthed a huge, black, Merino/BFL ram lamb, even bigger than Loki. Mom and baby, Nicholas, are doing fine. Nicholas is a little tired after being squeezed out a tunnel too small for such a big boy. Mom is chowing on hay big time. Good thing I never fed her an ounce of grain or corn. I don't know how she could have passed a lamb any bigger. I better knit some big coats real quick. Most of the lambs so far are way too tiny for these big singles I'm having. They'll be fine if I have any twins, which could happen any minute. Six lambs in the barn so far: Luna, Loki, Mary Magdalene, Joseph, Dina, and Nicholas. Any name suggestions? I'll need a few more!

Baby Bunnies

Is there anything cuter than baby bunnies? They are growing like crazy on their favorite diet of broccoli, hay and pellets, along with bunny mother milk. Oh, the glorious fiber they will produce!

Home Alone

When I was doing the Riverkeeper show in Bucks County, Pa., my friend, Martha, the basket maker, asked if I should be more careful about saying I was home alone on this journal. She has that common conception of upstate New York as the wild and dangerous frontier. Yes, I'm home alone most of the time, but never alone. I have Thor, Finn and Knut to tell me when anyone, animal or human, approaches the barn, and so many other faces to keep me company I never get lonely. I'm sitting on the sofa, covered with warm bodies, wondering what I should do first on this day off from school - thank you public education. I have yesterday's voluminous Sunday NY Times I haven't touched yet, a new Selvedge, Spin-Off and Haute Handbags, a quarterly book of hand-made art bags. The satellite TV provides me with all kinds of programs and music. I have plenty of food for humans and animals, electricity, and heat, along with candles and wood if the power goes out. I have more fiber to spin and yarn to knit than I could possibly hope for. The Christmas lights on our little tree light up the whole apartment. Maybe I'll play with my baby bunnies, who are growing like weeds. I've just spent an hour dipping Annie's biscotti into my French Roast and reading Spin-Off articles. I have to get out into the barn to check for new lambs. Matt checked for me before he went to work, but it's getting real cold again and I need to inspect the far end of the barn where a ewe might have gone for privacy. I have some sewing to do for Mia, and, while the kitchen table is cleared off I should start cutting out bags. I want to drive over to Hamilton to visit Candace at Hamilton Whole Foods one day this week and have lunch there. So much to consider this holiday week...but first, I think I'll take a hot bubble bath with the luxurious Japanese Cherry Blossom Bubble Bath Gretchen gave me for Christmas. It came in a package with her hand-made lip gloss, tie-dyed socks and home-made plum jam. That girl really knows how to put together a gift basket!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Quiet in the Barn

Chores done, in for the night, that is, until I do my late night barn check. I splurged and spent my gift certificates on two fabulous magazines, Selvedge and Haute Handbags, at B&N today. It was crowded with rather a festive atmosphere - people glad to get out of the house after the holiday, spend gift money and chat it up. I also found a half price Marc Chagall calender. He's been my favorite painter for years and years. I love all the farm animals in his paintings, representing his young life in the country, and the brides, representing the Sabbath. Chagall's chickens are quite primitive and charming. I was privileged to see the gorgeous Chagall windows in the Knesset, the government building in Israel. I was in a long line waiting to get in to see the giant stained glass windows when I was pulled out of the line and brought into a tent. A female Israeli soldier told me to stand on a box then she gave me a thorough pat-down, including a good squeeze of the twins. It happened so fast and I was in a bit of a state of shock so much that I don't remember the windows at all. I guess they thought I had explosives in my brassiere. That was many years ago. Now I settle for the Chagall calendar from B&N, but I have real chickens and lots of the farm animals he puts in his paintings.

Road Trip

I usually drive ten miles to New Berlin to get the NY Times on Sunday, but today, in celebration of Christmas and a glorious day of sunshine and safe driving weather, I am driving north to New Hartford to spend my gift cards at Barnes and Noble. Matt received them from work and gave them to me for Christmas. Pretty good deal for him, huh? He hates B&N and won't miss them. I gather up all the expensive, glossy knitting and fiber arts magazines that are too expensive to buy (Selvedge, a British publication is $25!!) and sit down with my frothy cappucino for an hour of relaxation. I'll give Luna a bottle before I go, the third today, in hopes that she'll leave Joseph's mother alone and let him nurse. Now I have to watch him to make sure his mouth is warm and tummy full. The vigil doesn't stop with birth. Lambs are always finding ways to get in trouble. I better put a sweater on Dolly's new baby. It's warm now, 45 F., but snow and cold is coming back tomorrow. It couldn't last.

Exploring the Barn

Joseph is roaming around the barn, exploring his new world with mother close by making sure he is safe. Bluefaced Leicesters are fantastic mothers. I'm so happy to be home for a week to enjoy the little ones in the barn.

Luna Rules the Roost

We let Lilly and Luna out of their pen yesterday. I was concerned that Lilly was too thin, as she is rather old to carry a lamb, and I kept her penned so I could build her up with corn and hay. I think she's fine, and I wanted Luna to be able to play with the other lambs. I can still give Lilly her apples and Luna her bottle while loose in the barn. Today, I saw Luna nursing from Joseph's generous mother. Clever girl - she saw the other lambs at the milk bar and decided to try it herself. Not all sheep will let lambs other than their own nurse from them. Some sneaky lambs go in from behind so the mother can't see who it is, hence the name "Sh--heads." Luna was right up front. I hope Mom has enough for Joseph, too. When I saw her vigorously going back and forth from teat to teat, Luna looked at me and ran over for her bottle. Talk about double dipping!

Dolly is a Mother

I ventured out to the barn after sleeping scandalously late for a shepherd - almost to 8 o'clock. I didn't do it purposely. My internal alarm clock that I can usually rely on, didn't go off. Maybe it was the whiskey and egg nog, maybe it was the turkey, maybe it was the fact that I was up at 3 am, I don't know. I have to get the dogs out to pee before I can go out to the outer barn. The rain washed away enough of the ice that I can step from patch of green to patch of mud without slipping when they pull me. I keep telling myself that I don't need dogs who run away, but when they do run away I miss them so much that I put up with walking them on leashes. I put them away in the apartment and went into the sheep area and listened. I heard the sounds of a mother, muttering and gently baaing to a baby, with the tiny baby trilling baas answering her. There they were, Dolly and a fine ewe lamb, standing up and poking around underneath for a teat - always a good sign to a shepherd. They were under the rabbit cages, not too far from a pen. I got Dolly from a petting zoo in Bainbridge, Frog Pond Farm, where my student talked me into coming to buy some pigs. He was determined to sell me a sheep, too, and I wanted him to feel successful. The last thing I needed was a sheep from a petting zoo, where no one could tell me anything about her - no age, no origin. Somebody dropped her off with other random unwanted animals. When I saw Dolly I changed my mind. She's a big, handsome, friendly Romney/Corriedale cross, my shearer, Jim Baldwin, thinks. The chickens like to ride around on her big, wide back to keep their feet warm. Dolly is a good case for tail docking, as she has a long, thick, gooey tail. I am thankful she gave birth when there are no flies, as I would have to watch her carefully for fly strike. Dolly followed me with her lamb into the pen and let me milk her out. Sigh of relief, she has milk. Dolly is earning her keep, not only with her lovely, fine wool, but with this gorgeous little ewe lamb. Happy Post Christmas Sunday morning, everyone.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Goat Chasing

Mia and AJ helped me do some goat maintenance today - a perfect outdoor activity after a day of staying indoors and eating too much food. Here you see Mia running after Tommy Boy, my big senior buck. She managed to catch him and hold on with AJ's help while I did the hoof trimming and worming. We also caught some goats living in the hay mow, took care of them, and put them outside. They've been having a field day with my hay which has to last the next few weeks. Now they'll go into the downstairs hay mow to live with everybody else. I was relieved to get the baby goats wormed. A heavy parasite load can really drag down an animal and prevent them from growing up big and strong.

Boxing Day

When I was a little girl I was terrified of Christmas being over. It was just too wonderful to end, and real life so mundane. Now I have many coping mechanisms which I have unconsciously put into place for times like this. Mia and AJ are leaving to go back to their busy lives. Mia and Andrew are going skiing at Okemo in Vermont, then leaving the following week for Breckinridge, Colorado for another weekend on the slopes. AJ has papers to write for school, and is flying out to Las Vegas to visit his National Guard unit. From there he'll travel to San Jose to see Eric, Annie, Hannah and Luke. We've received some pictures of them opening gifts and enjoying Christmas. Initial reports say the kids liked the gifts we sent, but it's just not the same as seeing them open them in person, and it's too tedious to ask about each and every item. Long distance family relations are difficult at best. I hope to get out to Ca. on spring break, after lambing is over and Matt is fully recovered. He did too much getting ready for Christmas and wrestling sheep with me and spent Christmas Day in bed with pain and fever. This kidney trouble took a lot out of him. After an early morning barn check for lambs and giving Luna her bottle, I tied up the White Boys and made coffee. Mia and I spent a couple of hours chatting, drinking coffee, knitting and spinning. It's grey, icy and cold outside, but bright with so many candles and glittering Christmasy things inside. Happy Boxing day...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Bye Bye Christmas

It's 11 PM and Christmas is slipping by fast. We had turkey dinner revisited, then went out to do chores in the barn. Mia is such a big help. AJ came out every few minutes to say hello and give us a pep talk. We watched The Nativity Story (AJ saw a director's showing in Hollywood before it came out) then Elf, drinking more egg nog with whiskey and nibbling on Swedish ginger cookies. Mia and I are still wearing the matching jammies we had on last night. I tried out my niftiest gift - a pair of heavy duty fleece ski pants - while working in the barn. They are fantastically warm and fit great, with zipper pockets, velcro ankles, and an elastic waist band. No new lambs tonight. Mia and AJ are going back to NJ tomorrow. I knew I couldn't keep them very long. I'll be on lamb watch, sewing the rest of Mia's curtains, spinning wool, doing chores put off for two long, and enjoying the aftermath of Christmas, '09.

Christmas Lambs

What fun to have little lambies to play with at Christmas Time. Luna, Loki, Mary Magdalene and Joseph are all doing well and growing like weeds.

Christmas 2009

After our chores were done and we feasted on a fabulous turkey dinner, we got dressed up and went to St. Andrews Episcopal Church in New Berlin for Midnight Mass. Seated right behind me was a shepherd I know from Columbus, Liz Vermuelen. Sheep people were well represented at this service. We made our way home and opened our first Christmas gifts, matching pajamas from Mia. What a festive, happy and sleepy group we were. After talking and drinking egg nog with whiskey we drifted off to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

Christmas on the Farm

I sent the crew out to cut down a tree just before darkness fell on Christmas Eve, 2009. They did a pretty good job considering they didn't have much light and the snow was deep on the hillside. Mia and AJ decorated our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree to the hilt while a turkey roasted in the oven. I was consumed with the feeling that I didn't want this night to end, and wishing I could freeze this moment in time.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays to All

We wish all of you the best of health and much happiness this holiday season - and special Christmas blessings to the shepherds out there. Remember, it was shepherds who the angel Gabriel told of the birth of our Lord. It was a humble manger that sheltered the baby Jesus when his parents were turned away from other housing...and it was farm animals that witnessed His birth and first hours on this earth. I think of these things while I sit on the hay with a sick lamb this Christmas Eve. We're in a very ancient and noble profession. May God bless us and give us strength of character and green pastures.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Situation

My Rambouillet ewe had a beautiful black ewe lamb with the exact markings of Othello, my Merino ram. She was in the way back of the barn, and had slipped behind a fence. Mom was very upset, and calling for help. By the time we got to her, Mom was extremely nervous about anyone touching her baby. Now, Mom weighs well over 200 pounds and is big as a pony. I confess I was a little nervous about picking up and handling her lamb. The fact that she was quite wool-blind didn't help. Matt hooked a halter around her wooly neck and pulled while I walked backward with the lamb in front of her nose. We had to go all the way through our very long dairy barn, with Matt being pulled all over by this giant sheep. I had to let one mom go to make space for the new pair. I would have been thrilled by this gorgeous new lamb, especially a female, but she has a big umbilical hernia - a bulging of the intestines outside the belly-button. I called the vet hoping Dr. Rachel was on call. Dr. Johnson called back and told me to bind it up with duct tape and to go ahead and feed her. I poured Betadine over the bulge and covered it with sterile pads, then bound her all around with the duct tape. I hope Mom leaves it alone. Maybe the sweater over it will help. Matt held her while I milked her one working udder out and clipped the wool from around her eyes. All this took two hours out of my very busy night, but critters come first. Now to go back and check on Joseph to make sure his mouth is warm and he's on the teat. Bunnies and chickens still need tending to. I think I will tidy up the apartment tomorrow morning, provided there are not more lambs during the night. Thank goodness Mia and AJ are coming to give me a hand for a couple of days.

Christmas Eve Eve

Today was hardly a working day at school. The kids watched Will Ferrell's ""Elf" movie while I baked them hot biscuits and popped corn. I put together all my little bags of soap and creme for my colleagues and secretaries. A steady snow was falling outside but I had to get to Tractor Supply, across Norwich in the wrong direction, for some last minute Christmas shopping, and then make my way home. The roads were covered but I followed a plow to New Berlin over the worst of the hills. Pulled in at dark and was real glad to be in for the night. Lots to do to get ready for the kids to come tomorrow, and take care of critters, too. Three lambs are in pens, requiring separate water buckets and feeding. I would like to make a communal mother and lamb area like I had last year. On the list of things to do over the week I am off. Am I really off for a week? Thank my lucky stars! I'm so excited about AJ and Mia coming. I'll clean and tidy up tomorrow morning, then they'll be here and we'll party down and bring in Christmas.

Lamb Tales

When I went out into the barn after dinner last night there he was, standing in the middle of the barn looking a little confused, cord hanging, dried off already - big and sturdy ram lamb. Izzy came along and a white ewe ran up and butted him. I figured she was the mom and went to get Matt to help me catch her. Matt didn't think it could be the mother as there was no evidence of birth on her behind. After examining her udder I agreed, she's not the mom. After doctoring his cord I sat cross legged on the floor of the barn with the hefty lamb in my lap. After a while a brown ewe, Sombra, wandered up and put her nose to the lamb. Sure enough, her behind was wet and her udder full. We caught her and got the two in a pen together. This mom had lots of milk and I made sure "Joseph" got a belly full. Poor guy, he was exhausted from his ordeal between mothers and lay down in his sweater to go to sleep. Mom drank a big bucket of warm molasses water and chowed down on the delicious second cut hay. This morning I nursed her out again and made sure he got plenty. Some lambs are slower than others, and this big male must weigh 12 pounds. Ewes are very envious of their flock-mate's babies and might try to steal them, even though they are not equipped to feed them. This can be problematic if the wrong ewe licks the new baby off, depriving the real mother of that important bonding experience. I have to make sure he is nursing okay. When I left for work he had not yet latched on to the teat that I could tell.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Health Care

Let's hope it clears. With Matt's three hospitalizations this month, I find myself thanking my lucky stars, and BOCES, for my health coverage. The more I learn about the insurance companies, the more incredulous I am that they get away with their monopolistic policies. Do you know insurance companies are not subject to anti-trust suits? My young, healthy hired man, Randy, just had a simple appendectomy and it cost $26,000. Use of the OR alone was $7,000. The world has gone insane, making my little world here on the farm oh, so simple and divine.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Ready for sleep. Got a special order bag done. The poor husband called today looking for it and good thing since I lost his business card with the address to send it to. So much going on! Matt going back to the hospital tomorrow for another attempt by the urologist to get the stone out. It's the only way he's going to get well. Mia tells me Andrew is very sick with pericarditis (water around the heart) and might not be able to come for Christmas. Mia and AJ will come anyway. I need them to help me give shots and dock tails. We'll miss Andrew - hope he gets well enough to make the trip. I have some packages to mail tomorrow then concentrate on the house. Little Mary Magdalene is doing fine and mom certainly dotes on her. Loki is all over the barn now. I saw him playing with a young goat kid cute! I'll let Lilly and Luna out soon and we'll have chariot races up and down the barn.

Just Born

As I went back into the barn to bring Lilly and Luna their water bucket, I heard the funny little mutterings of a new mother-to-be talking her baby out of the womb. I turned around and there she was, sliding out of her warm oven into the ice cold world. A big, healthy ewe lamb! Born the Sunday, before Christmas I have to call her Mary Magdalene! I sat down on the hay and watched the story as old as time - a mother washing her offspring with the warm tongue, talking to her the whole time and telling her everything is going to be alright. I waited a while then got Matt to help me get her situated in a pen where mom and babe can be alone and bond. I milked out a good sized jar of colostrum to save for any other newborns that might need it, and got her cord dipped and sweater on. So much to do to get ready for Christmas, but it's hard not to sneak back out into the barn to enjoy the drama going on there. So glad I was home and there to witness the miracle.

Sunday Morning Musings

Very cold in the barn. 12 F. outside but feels colder. Moisture in the air due to the big storm east of here I think. Hands hurt much worse after a little while out there. Hope Santa brings me some gloves. I wore through the mittens Gretchen knitted me last winter, but still wear them as "fingerless." No lambs this morning. I was ready, as I am home for the day to work on cleaning the apartment, but the sheep are not cooperating. We were out last night for the NYSWDA Weatherization Christmas dinner at a fancy restaurant in Utica, "Acquo Vino." Fabulous company and food, glittering lights and decorations. I got to meet the people Matt tells me about all the time. What a lovely and interesting bunch of people. I tried not to think of what might be happening back on the farm and enjoyed myself tremendously, but when we pulled in I ran inside to listen for new mother and lamb sounds. I have to walk through the sheep to get in my apartment, but I wanted to put on work clothes before I made a thorough inspection of the barn. Nothing going on, just sheep lying around with huge beach balls bulging out from their bellies on either side. I know there are some twins out there. I filled the water buckets but the only creatures who came running for water were the chickens and cats. Luna was eager to get her bottle, but I still have to bring Lilly her water and corn. I'll let them go soon, but when in the flock I can't give Lilly her corn supplement without , and she's a little thin. Good thing I have such terrific hay now. Now that my hands are thawed I'll go back out to do Lilly and the bunnies. I have my Sunday morning operatic chorale music playing in the barn. It seems to fit the scenario of sheep, shepherd and old barn. So much of the Christmas music has to do with shepherds keeping watch, that sort of thing. Thought I would make a report first. Martha, my basketmaker friend from NJ, told me that every night she sits down to read one of Maggie's "farm stories." She picks a random post from the past four years. There are 2,000 to pick from now. I told her I am afraid to read those old posts as some of them are scary, as if I am reading about a crazy ancestor with an incredible angst she had to work out on the wild frontier, with her hair freezing to the wall of the trailer in the winter, and no running water, trying to warm frozen lambs and slinging bales, if she has them. Yep, that's me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Follow the Star

A beacon of hope beaming into the night for all to see and take heart!

Friday Musings

What a long week. Over at last. I made four stops on the way home, all unavoidable - feed store, bank, post office (not mine which is 8 miles out of the way, but the one I pass on the home in New Berlin) and the gas station/Stewarts where the "milk club" gets you a free gallon when your card fills up. The temp soared to 15 today. So many people at work whining about the cold - even teachers, who, I can't help but notice, don't wear wool. I feel compelled to remind them that God gave us wool for a reason, but they prefer their cotton tee shirts or sweatshirts that actually wick heat away from the skin. There were a few cute Christmas sweaters wandering around the school, but I don't see much wool. Speaking of wool, I just spent an hour in the barn, carrying water, visiting with Luna and Lilly, rubbing noses with Forrest, Lilly's wethered son who is even more affectionate than she is, and some suddenly friendly ewes. With the flock chosing to live in the barn, even though the door is frozen open, we get better acquainted in the winter. Precious, my only purebred registered BFL ewe, is especially forward, putting her head over the stanchion fence for a nose rubbing. She's hardly noticed me prior to this, and I've had her for two years. I'm enjoying the new relationships. I can't tell if Wooster bred her before he went to live with Mary. I hope Wooster is okay. It's so bitter cold and he has no wool. I should call Mary and offer her a coat for him, but Mary would laugh at that pampering of a sheep. I worry about the sheep I had to give away last winter due to lack of hay to feed them. It tears at my heart. I'm spending all my money on good hay now, to make sure I don't end up in the same situation. I think of them whenever the freezing rain is coming down and I know they are outside with no cover. It hurt to hear Libby Llop complain about the lack of wool density on the beautiful ewes she got from me, dirt cheap. She bought a Romney ram to put on them. Imagine that, a Romney ram on Bluefaced Leicesters. It's usually the other way around, putting BFL's on Romneys to improve the wool. Candace is crazy about her little flock of seven and dotes on them like crazy, even the little wethers. I told Matt I wanted hay feeders for Christmas, to keep this beautiful second cut I'm buying from being spread all over the barn floor. I'll probably have to do it myself. He's back at work today, so excited and energized about everything NYSWDA and weatherizing trailers belonging to poor people. I wish he would put some of that creative energy to this poor farmer's barn, but I might have to wait til Kingdom Come. I better check the milk room. The little heater went off while I was at work and the plumbing froze. Uh-oh, no hose for the sheep water I thought. I thawed the faucet with a hair dryer then fired up my dye range with two big pots of fiber simmering and turned the oven on. I have to buy another milk room heater, made specifically for the bulk tank rooms where the important pipes are. I have the shelf and the plug, but they are three hundred bucks, a week before Christmas???? I don't really have a choice...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tis' the Season

We've been busy decorating our class for Christmas. The kids made ornaments for our little tree and strung cranberries and popcorn for a garland. I brought in my little Singer Featherweight and helped them sew stockings for themselves and their babies - born and unborn. We painted a faux fireplace to hang them on. It was so much fun to teach them new skills and marvel at how creative and artistic they are. I wish I had more time to do up my apartment the way I used to. I would spend weeks getting ready for Christmas, then drive up and down my development street, checking out how everything looked, inside and out. My life has changed drastically since those days. Between my teaching job and fall shows, not to mention keeping all these critters alive, there isn't a whole lot of time to decorate. But as my friend Kim told me tonight, Christmas is in the barn with my sheep. I'll go out there now to give Luna her night-night bottle and pray there are no little shivering wet bundles struggling to stand up in this frigid cold. Lambs come from heaven, just not tonight please!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Snow was predicted tonight, but I didn't expect such a wind that would shake and bang the barn. Temps dipping to 10 F. and all water bowls and tanks are frozen. A large tank with a floater would be the way to go but Loki is running around the barn with his mother and I don't want a drowned lamb. Besides, I don't think the old electric service can take another plug. With no fall shearing the sheep and goats have full coats on, and there's a good hay pack on the floor of the barn. I have to carry jugs of warm water all around the barn for the dogs, chickens and bunnies. The sheep and goats usually drink theirs up right away so I'm not pouring hot water on ice the next morning. I received a grand and wonderful package from California tonight. I was hoping for another load of Annie's biscotti and I got my wish. It came with a lovely farmy pitcher and cute notes from Hannah and Luke - the best gifts of all. I just came in from chores and think I will make myself a cup of tea and dip some of the delicious morsels into it. More lambs any minute now. I saw another ewe bagged up with a puffy behind. Five more days then Christmas and a few days off to take care of things around here. Mia, AJ and Andrew are coming. They can help me give shots and dock tails on Luna and Loki. I would like to catch the baby goats, worm and vaccinate them, and clip hoofs. Always someone and something that needs attention around here. Big push this weekend to get ready for the holiday, as in tidy up my woefully neglected house and find the box of decorations. I know it's around here somewhere...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Riverkeeper Update

So much to tell. Real busy four days and I'm tired. Not a good way to go into Christmas, but gotta deal. A short report on the last few days...
Friday -
Arrived in New Hope, Bucks County, Pa., at the Delaware Riverkeeper Crafts Show, after sunny but bitter cold and windy ride from upstate New York. 254 miles, grateful that I found the place okay still in daylight. Still had an hour before they closed the firehouse, with a very fancy ballroom where the show was held, and decided to get my space set up as much as possible. Worked like crazy for an hour until they threw me out. I grabbed some Chinese and found my bed and breakfast, a Christmas gift from my dearest friend and benefactor, professor George from St. Elizabeth, and collapsed in my room. What joy - a king size bed with layers of plaid Ralph Lauren bedding and piles of pillows, hunter green carpeting on the floor, a big white leather sofa piled with pillows, and a little TV that got C-span and the Weather Channel. I was in heaven but missed my sheep and their big beautiful eyes. Too bad I forgot my bottle of Harvey's Bristol Creme! Downstairs there was a giant living room with overstuffed sofas and a lovely Christmas tree. A holiday train from town ran through the front yard and looked like it was coming right into the living room. I could see people in their seats wearing Santa hats. When I went down to breakfast there was a fruit cup and luscious French toast souffle waiting for me. I left for the show, tummy full but needing some stronger coffee, the kind that daylight didn't show through. Found it at McDonalds with their McCafe Cappucino. Saved me for the day.
Saturday -
The show opened with decent traffic and steady sales. Many fabulous talented crafters in this show but I was the only one with carded fiber and yarn. I didn't plan on selling much of it, but was surprised when six skeins and a pound of roving went out the door with happy customers. I was situated right next to my basketmaker friend, Martha Mulford Dreswick, which guaranteed a good time. I not only adore her work, but admire her hard-working artisan drive and sense of humor in the face of hard times. Martha had three kids "later in life" and drives a school bus to keep hearth and home together when she is not weaving her world class baskets. My show gift this year, the treat that I reward myself with when I have a good show, is a Martha Hen Basket. I will use it to display my handspun skeins at Maryland this spring, only four months away. Sales continued and old friends came by to visit. Blog readers came to see me in the flesh - hugs and thanks to you all - and I was validated body and soul by all the support from them. I bartered here and there for beeswax candles and honey, more jewelry for a certain daughter of mine, and a pair of felted mittens for myself. Went to dinner with a friend in Lambertville and back to the Inn at Stoney Hill to lounge on the plush velvet sofa, stare into the flames and watch the train go back and forth in the front yard. Jumped into the Ralph Lauren bedding and drifted off to sleep.

Sunday - Woke up way too early, the Curse of My Life - at 4:40. Luckily I had brought my Robin up to the room so I spun for a while. Went downstairs to get some of the sinfully weak coffee and told the Innkeeper I would be down for breakfast at 8. Spun some more wool, washed my hair, and packed up my stuff. Said goodbye to my country plaid hideaway and set out for the show. A freezing rain was falling and the world was covered with ice. An ambulance was taking someone away from the WAWA across from McD's. I thought, oh, no, we're in for a tough day. Sales were slow as molasses as a few dedicated Riverkeeper supporters slipped and slid over the toll bridge from NJ and came up from Philly to make their purchases. Reports came in all day about accidents and road closings. I thought, lucky me - I'll be headed north into the worst of it. 287 was closed with four hour waits for tows I was told. Mia told me later ambulances were lined up at her ER dropping off the victims. What was I to do? I decided to forget about it for the time, as I was having some sales and couldn't pack up until 4 anyway. By four it was raining steadily and I had to pack up everything wet. Took me an hour to take down and load up, running back and forth with my hand truck and dragging everything else, going as fast as I could. It was a ride home I would like to forget, with little traffic, but a few unlucky drivers down embankments with emergency vehicles pulling them up. I went very slowly and steadily, terrified of the black ice on the road, but was blessed when the temperature went up a few degrees and the rain stopped. I pulled in at 11, 265 miles, beyond exhausted. Matt managed to keep everybody alive while I was gone. No new lambs, with Loki and Luna doing alright. I did the chores, as Matt was holding on by a thread, and fell into bed. Home safe, thank you Lord!

Monday - Yes, I seem to be a road warrior these days. Got to work to find Robin and Melanie, my aides, had done a fabulous job with the kids and finishing our decorating projects. Matt was going in to have his 8 mm kidney stone blasted in the Basset Hospital in Cooperstown and I was going there after work to bring him home. I found him ready to go in the post-op suite, but with bad news. The stone was more dense than anticipated and they couldn't pulverize it. Matt was in bad shape from the drugs and manipulating, and the ultrasound I think, but insisted on driving home. We got a bite to eat in the Doubleday Cafe and headed into the dark, deserted countryside to journey home. Pulled in at 8, another 100 miles on the odometer for me. The screams that come from the bathroom whenever Matt tries to pee are no different than before. I thought I would have to take him back to New Jersey for some proper medical care, but now the surgeon wants to go in and get the stone and stent out on Monday. I sure hope this is over by Christmas. Thank God I have coverage for him...and all the work he is missing can't be helped, but he has the sick days in the bank. Much to be thankful for.

Tuesday -

Back to work. Kids are great, but I am still tired and still holding on to this cold. Now my knee is acting up. All the loading, packing and now slinging the very large bales I bought from Jim Postma. It is hay from heaven, giant, green, fresh dry bales of second cut hay that the sheep adore. Twice as big as any other bales around and a real good price - delivered!! But I still have to pull them around. Should have had that pulled muscle from last year shot with cortisone. Better make an appointment with an orthopod for my knee and my shoulder, but it will take three months I predict. Good docs up here but not enough of them. I had to attend a special ed. workshop on IEP writing in Sidney after school, an hour in the wrong direction from Brookfield. Dragged in a little while ago and thought I better sit down and put it down before so much had gone under the bridge and I couldn't retrieve it. I don't know how much longer I can keep this up, but when I see those little noses poking up under the wooly bellies I think it's all worth while. It's been a long day, with another hundred miles on the road and I want to go to bed...but have to make dinner for Matt, sling bales, fill kitty, bunny, dog and chicken feed dishes, get the hose out and fill water tanks, and give Luna her bottle. Then I may pour myself a little glass of sherry, or maybe a dish of light vanilla ice cream, or maybe I'll take Izzy to bed and skip the night cap. I'll let you know tomorrow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I'm not used to this. Fourth winter here and it's still a shock when the real cold hits. I am carrying jugs of warm water all over the barn to pour over the ice in all the water containers. When I went out the north door to carry water to the goats living in the hay mow I was carried up the hill by the wind. They ran for the water. Cold air makes everybody thirsty. I moved the mother bunny and her babies to another cage closer to the middle of the barn. I don't know what I was thinking when I bought this giant of a barn that is impossible to keep warm. Many windows are broken and covered with plastic that has blown loose in the wind. The big sliding doors are frozen open in mud and manure. Any lambs now are in trouble without sweaters on. And it's not nearly as cold as it can get. I asked a Mennonite woman I know from the farmer's market how she made out over last winter, when we got down to minus 20 frequently. She replied that it was no problem for her as the house was always toasty warm. I took that to mean she doesn't take care of the animals outside. Not even the chickens I'm thinking? I can't imagine it, but, hey, good for her!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Baby Bunnies!

They are just peaking out of the nest, wondering if they should venture any further. It's been years since I had baby bunnies, and I am thrilled with my four little ones. My new purebred German doe from Sally Campbell in Virginia bred right away and gave birth before it got too awful cold. I'll leave the babies outside I think, since they are covered with a good coat of fur. It's so much fun to see those little eyes open and pink ears stand up.

Luna is Thriving

Lilly and Luna are still penned together, protecting them from the wild horde of big sheep who like to pound hooves through the barn once in a while. Luna is enjoying her bottle five times a day, and Lilly is loving her corn snacks to help get some weight back on her after carrying this big girl. I am so enjoying being a surrogate mother, but my speedy dashes out the door of the school to zoom home to the farm are not fun, especially when I need to do some Christmas shopping, etc. Critters come first.

Welcome Loki

Loki was born around 11 PM last night to a first time BFL mother and my dearly departed purebred Merino ram, Othello. Glad to see he had some fun shortly before he died. Loki even has his father's white spray of wool on his head. Mom was kind of nervous about getting in a closed pen with her baby, and I had to lure her back in a couple of times after she bolted. She wouldn't let me nurse her out, which I like to do to get some colostrum in a newborn to "light a fire in the belly" and make sure they get a good start. I did get a mouthful, then let the NutriDrench do the rest. Mother and Lamb look good this morning, although Loki is very sleepy from the hard work of being born. Lucky I have some Christmas lambs to play with over the holidays. Shepherding is a very biblical profession, and, remember, Jesus is Reason for the Season.

Snow Day

What a treat. Thank you public education! A surprise day off! I had a feeling when I saw Sherburne-Earlville had closed, but BOCES hardly ever closes. Now I can keep an eye on my newest ram lamb - little Loki, born around 11 PM last night. I know that Othello got his last licks in before he keeled over last summer because Loki looks just like him, complete with a little white spray of wool on top of his head. Mom is a little nervous, and I needed help milking her out this morning, but hopefully she'll come around. Bluefaced Leicesters are fantastic mothers. Luna, my first ewe lamb this winter, in another pen, is thriving on milk replacer. I'll sew today between barn checks. More lambs to come. Last show this weekend - this extra day to get ready is a nice gift. Ciao for now.