Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where's My Package?

Okay, so my box of soap making supplies is lost. I've been patronizing Rainbow Meadow for years because their products are just so consistently good and pure and wonderful. They got the package out to me pronto but it never came. UPS says they left it "by the side door" on Friday. I live in a great big, long barn next to a little house where the old dairy farmer still lives. I can say "old" because he is just a little older than me! This close proximity can cause problems with dogs, loose sheep and goats, chickens eating Sister Grace's crocuses (I was just yelled at last weekend - and, let me tell you, you haven't been raked over the coals until you've been yelled at by a nun). UPS and Fed Ex are constantly confused over this arrangement. I don't have a front door or traditional porch assembly. I was just outside nailing up a piece of my handbag wood with "902" on it so Fed Ex and UPS know that the barn is a seperate residence. The mailbox was knocked down two years ago by a snow plow. While looking for my lost package, I found two that UPS left for my neighbor in my manure shed, and hauled them over to him. Nope, he said, nothing around his place for me. I won't be making soap tonight.


Never ceases to bring a smile to my face. My kidlets and grandkidlets romping wild and free in a beautiful natural setting. Happy!


I stay up too late these days. Late night is my only "free" time, all to myself. With a full time job, all these animals and a husband to take care of, AND a BIG show looming, there is just not enough time in the day. My supervisor is sending me to a remedial IEP writing class today. I LOVE working with kids but this paperwork thing is not my deal. In NJ the people who write the IEP's sit in offices in the guidance department and rarely venture into the classroom. In NY the teachers write the IEP's, the "Individual Educational Plan," with goals, objectives, PLEPS, (Present Level of Educational Progress), and needs. I am often reminded why I got out of the MAT (Master of Science in Teaching) line and into the MA History line. The MAT line was much longer but no thanks. Give me fourteen books to read on the New Deal but don't give me that teacher mumbo jumbo. Fortunately the IEP guru is a real nice lady and BOCES is all about special handling and second chances. It's 6:30 am and I've been up since 5. Matt had to leave early for his own class on Lead Abatement Training Supervisor or something like that and I got up to make him coffee for the hour plus commute. None of the convenience stores make coffee as strong as mine, with foamy milk no less! Lead poisoning is deadly and gives so many little ones brain damage and learning disabilities. Everybody wonders why the kid is not doing well in school without realizing the negligent landlord let paint chips fall off the walls into the crib. Madonna wants to adopt a little girl in Malawi? Lucky little girl. I wish she'd adopt me and give me to her personal trainer for an exercise regimen. I'm going to have a rude awakening when the grass is green and it's time to chase sheep all over the fields.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Morning

I'm awake and moving. I love to look at the bags I made the day before, like playing with toys. Out of cat food so I put a pot of water on for oatmeal. The kitties will not be happy, even though I put lots of butter and milk in it. It's a treat for me, though, as I usually wait until I get to the school to eat breakfast. I have first period cafeteria duty where I sit in a fog until the kids come in. Our kids get there later as most go to their home schools first then catch a bus to our alternative. It may be alternative, but our kids still have to pass the dreaded NY Regents - a killer. It rained last night, real hard, the first time this spring. The rain makes a cool sound on the metal roof of the barn. I'm excited to think about the big room we're going to put upstairs in the empty hay mow someday. It will be 20 by 40 feet with a high ceiling. Maggie's play room. Matt says I'm crazy and that it will cost a fortune to heat. That's okay, I will just work harder, and wear sweaters. I am in the wool business after all. I've never had a dedicated sewing room in my life. Not ever. I sew in the living room now, on an old machine that makes so much noise parts of the TV dialogue get drowned out. You can imagine the annoyance when someone is trying to watch a movie or the news. And then there's the mess, rolls and piles and pieces of fabric everywhere. "The Creative Mind is Seldom a Tidy Place." I'm going to love my own room, and won't the sound of the rain be nice when I'm right under the metal roof! I'll get my beautiful Asian carpet, which has been lying rolled up in the tractor shed for three years, cleaned and spread it out on the lovely pine floor. I'll do my yoga exercises on it while playing New Age music and gazing out over the fields with my sheep grazing. Fantasies are free, right? And this fantasy is not too far-fetched...as long as I keep working my tail off.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ahh, the Weekend

Oh, it's grand! I slept until 8:15 today! It's a miracle. My internal alarm usually jolts me at 6 or 6:30. I worked hard yesterday, completing four bags and picking/dyeing half of a huge Andrew black/brown fleece. The weather was glorious and I worked on my big rack outside. The temp soared up to the 70's (bikini weather in CNY) and the sun was so strong I pulled my rack into the shade of the giant silo. Several kitties joined me as I worked. I'm never alone around here. I dyed it teal green, which came out just gorgeous over the dark wool. This fleece had been in the tractor shed as long as I can remember and has Mia's writing on it. I think she last helped with shearing before I bought this farm, so it must be years old. There were no bugs at all, just hay and burdock. I think I will have at least six colorways for people to chose from this season. I love having lots of roving for sale or barter. I will store it in the big grain room which is fairly airtight and draft free. The lavender soap I put in the bags helps discourage buggies. I made two messenger bags out of the bright orange/white tropical fabric from Freeville where Carol Crayonbox lives. Oh, they're so cute. Mia suggested the messenger style for that fabric and it's adorable and very eye catching. If I can draw people in with beautiful colors, then get them to open a bag and look inside, I usually hear "Oh, wow!"

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Euphoria

Drove 100 miles today...45 to the Staff Development in Literacy I was required to attend at the sister BOCES campus in Walton, back to my school in Norwich to get some papers notarized by our school secretary, Michelle, then 25 miles home. I could kiss the ground. The weather is spectacular, with blue skies and puffy clouds and a gentle cool breeze blowing. Now I can sew and dye wool to my hearts content, along with all the other things I have to do to keep my home from sliding into complete chaos. At least I won't have to bomb out of here by 8 in the morning. The place where I spent the day wasn't too shabby. The sister BOCES was also completely done over courtesy of the taxpayers of the four counties that send kids to us. Teachers may be laying off all around us but BOCES is looking good. The high ceiling of the cafeteria, with windows all the way up, gave us a full view of the Catskills surrounding the school. I feel fortunate to live in such a beautiful area. It may be the poorest county in NY, but the natural beauty of the rolling hills with barns and silos nestled in the hollows is awe-inspiring. Vermont has nothing on Central New York. Two more weeks 'til spring vacation, then Maryland, then get ready for Hannah and Luke to come. Happy!!

Picking in the Dark

The power went out last night, always a problem on the farm where animals drink SO much water. I panic and run outside to see if the neighbors have lights and they don't. Not too much we can do but wait for it to come on again. I despair that I have not been filling up my gallon jugs the way I usually do. I poured water into the stock tanks yesterday morning as I was walking out the door and didn't fill up the jerry cans as I was running late. The sheep are looking at me like where's my water and standing around the water tanks. In a real water emergency I could let them go and they would find water in various places around the farm, but they have not been let out all winter and I didn't want to deal with rounding them up. I found the head lamps and put mine on. I was able to get hay down in the darkness, no problem, and remembered the old fleeces in the grain room. Instead of fretting over something I have no control over, I sat in front of the fire and picked a fleece. The light of my head lamp was perfect. As I played with locks, pulling them apart and letting the burdock fall out I thought of the original settlers, sitting in near darkness by the fire every night. I bet they got a lot more sleep than I do.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rain on the Way

Poor Fargo North Dakota...they are about to float away. I've related my flood stories on previously posts. Not fun. And it's still snowing out there. Raining here now. I got home and got the doggies out just in time. If need be they can pee on the hay in the barn, but I try to get them outside. I made my weekly trip to the PO after school. It's six miles out of the way, and when I'm rushing home to animals that's a lot of time. I got a beautiful bag made last night, and will start putting together another one now. Have to take some pictures with the school camera, then take it back to school for downloading on a Mac - then I can post pictures. I had an idea - I will send Mia my little Canon to give to my old camera store in Morristown for fixing. I think I ruined it by carrying it in my sports bra, in the Cradle of Civilization. I bet my body heat did something to it. It cost a lot of money and I think I should get an estimate on repairing it. I just put a pot of leftover pea soup on the stove - how wonderful to have a pot of homemade anything ready to go on a cold, gray day like this. Work has gone so well the last couple of weeks I'm afraid to relax about it. I'm still baking every other day or so with a couple of my students and it's just so much fun. We had a bit of a glitch today when I didn't have a frying pan to make pancakes and didn't want to go hunting for one. We decided to use a cookie sheet and it burned and smoked like crazy. We usually fill the wing with delicious aromas of cookies and cakes, not the burned butter and batter of pancakes. Wouldn't you know the boys poured the marvelous local maple syrup over the burned ones and gobbled them down anyway.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Quentin's Hoodie

Libby Llop, the nationally ranked 100 mile endurance rider/shepherd friend of mine from the Fingerlakes guild, spun and knitted this terrific hoodie sweater for her handsome husband, Quentin (seated). I asked her to make up a kit for me to take to Maryland. My secret (not any more) plan is to put it in an inconspicuous spot so no one will see it and I will buy it. The sweater has an optional pocket pouch you can sew onto the front making it great for taking a walk in cold weather, or carrying your hoof clippers around the barn. I wish Libby would come to Maryland with us, but I know she is elbows deep in lambing right now, and expects the babies to keep dropping through to June.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mia Is Back

Had a nice chat with Mia about her visit to California. I wanted to hear all about Hannah and Luke and what they are up to. She told me all the news and promised to send me some pictures. Seeing my grandchildren only twice a year is tantamount to torture. I downloaded Skype to talk to them online but have to buy the camera so I can see their faces. I'll dangle kittens in front of the camera to make them beg their parents to let them fly to Omi's farm. Mia noticed a couple of bags I gave to Annie. Mia had not seen them and asked me if I still had that fabric. Mia is my barometer of what is cool or not cool. She was particularly taken by the Bird on a Branch Messenger Bag and the recent Orange Tropical Bag I made with Carol Crayonbox's fabric. I told her that I had both fabrics and would happily make her a bag. She wants a messenger bag out of the Orange. I made three Bird Bags last year, when I got the news about Maryland a week before the show. I knocked myself out to make them and didn't sell a single one!!! Go figure!!! Sold a lot of other bags, though. I thought those Bird Bags were the cat's meow. I gave one to Jan for helping me that weekend. I gave Annie one for Mother's Day, then sold one to a woman at the Farmer's Market who acted like it was love at first sight when she saw it. I have enough to make several more, but will probably just make Mia's. Carol finds such fabulous fabric for me now, and it's fun to sew on new fabric. Better get some shut eye. Have to out and find Bodie and Jackie, who did not follow me in after our nighty-night walk. I worry about them getting cold or confused. They could always bed down on the wool I leave out for the kitties, but I need Bodie at the foot of my bed to keep my feet warm.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends...OH, I..."

...sung to the music of the Beatles song. Carol Crayon Box has created an adorable and eye catching insert for my Bunny Mitten Kit. She edited and printed the instructions for me, after offering her many years of expertise in knitting pattern writing. Carol is a graphic designer from way back and knows what she's doing, and I surely don't. I can raise sheep, make soap, sew bags and spin yarn but marketing my business has always been my weak spot. Carol has been a God-send and I so appreciate her help. She was recently blessed with her new granddaughter, Chloe Lucille, born in Brooklyn, New York, to her daughter Gretl and her husband - yet she still has time to help get me ready for Maryland. Thank you from the bottom my heart, Carol! I can't wait to go out Saturday night of the festival. Both Carol and Kimmie Cornerstone have the gift of gab...I mean, really. It's like they were struck by lightning with the gift of gab. They don't know each other, and I can't wait to get them together at Miele's Pump House Restaurant in New Market. I'll sit back, drink my sherry, and just listen to the rapid fire dialogue going on in front of me. I won't be able to get a work in edgewise, but that's okay, I'll be too tired....and I will SO be LOVING it!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mystical, Magical Northern California

Northern CA. has some incredibly beautiful forests. Mia and crew frolicked in this one yesterday. What fun. Wish I could be there with them, but the weather here was delightful, too. Bright, breezy and cool. I got my wethers back from Shepherd Mary, who showed me her group of six cute little Dorsets she just brought home. She was going to pick up her new horse today. What you can do with unlimited hay! Snowed this morning but the brilliant sun came out later in the day, typical of our little CNY valley. The last daylight fell behind the western hills at 8 PM. What a difference three more hours of light makes. I got four bags finished this weekend and three more cut out. I found a fleece stuck to the dirt floor of the tractor shed and thought it looked pretty good, considering. I peeled it off the ground, spread it out on the hood of the Jeep and picked it. It felt so good to stand outside for a while in the sunlight instead of sitting at the sewing machine. I dyed this black wether's wool in two giant pots and it came out fantastically. Three years stuck to the floor and still good. That's the wonder of wool.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fun in the Sand

Mia got her wish - a day on the beach. I wonder if she realized she would be IN the beach?

Pacific Colorway

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful? I wish I could duplicate these colors with wool. I particularly like the sneaker toe on the bottom left.


Henya of Chicken Stitches (love that name!) has Startitis and I have Starabagitis. It's a good thing, with Maryland 42 days away (Henya has a counter on her blog - her husband dresses it up with cute pictures and gadgets). My goal is a bag a day, which I can do if they are cut out already. Cutting takes care and can't be rushed. I don't use a pattern. I just stand over the fabric and cut a square to start. The fabric tells me how big the bag should be. If there's a large pattern, like big flowers, the bag might be bigger. I have a tendency to make bags too big. I forget most women are not that tall. I usually fill up my bags with everything I currently need in my life at the time, and then some...receipts, bills, blank books to write things in, CD's, food, knitting (G-d forbid if I get stuck on the road I might need it - remember I pass 2-3 cars over 15 miles on my commute to work, on a busy day that is) checkbook and hopefully a little cashola. No wonder my shoulders are a wreck. I am working on having a selection of big and little bags, suitable for a sock project, done over the next month. I will cut out a bunch of bags on weekends then sew them during the week. I got one bag almost finished between 4:30 when I got home yesterday and 8 when Matt got home, but that's with tending to dogs, cats and dinner. Woke up with a start at 6:30 this morning, thinking of bags. Cold in the apt. so I got the coals stirred and the fire going again, coffee on, milk and eggies for the apt. kitties, boots and coat on, doggies walked. Here I am sitting down again, ready to turn right and fire up the old Singer. It's the 304th birthday of Bach and there's delightful music on, with all the Brandenburg concertos and choral pieces I love. I'll sew for a while then check the dyepot I switched on as I was coming back through the milk room. Mary my neighbor shepherd accidentally took two wethers when she picked out her sheep and wants me to come and get them or they will go for meat. Wethers are valuable to me for wool, if I can feed them, and, with my eternal optimism that keeps me from jumping off the nearest cliff, I keep thinking someday I will be able to make my own hay and feed them all. It's too late for the sheep I had to sell or give away, but I have many left to love. Matt is so into his new career, and just got a good evaluation and a raise, BHS!, and I can't really imagine him taking a week off to make hay in the summer, or tinkering with tractors in his spare time, but one can live and hope.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It May Be Spring But...

...It's still cold and crisp. I love it. Dry and cold with much more daylight. Who could complain? It's Friday and I'm sooo glad. I'm so tired. I've been up late every night sewing bags. I tried desperately to stay up long enough to watch Pres. Obama on Jay Leno. I almost made it past the opening dialogue but Jay did some kind of game or something before O. came on and I gave up. Couldn't pry my eyes open with toothpicks. I don't sleep a whole lot but I need my 5-6 hours every night. I heard it was a great show. Oh, well. I had a nice talk with Mia from San Francisco. She's visiting Lisa at her new apartment in SF. Married life suits Lisa and she's very happy with her husband, Regi. Mia took Hannah and Luke to the Monterey Marina on Wednesday before she left for Lisa's. She still hasn't made it to the beach and is hoping her brother Eric (HINT HINT!) takes her to one before she comes back east. AJ called tonight to say he's very happy at the seminary. They are fasting for Lent but he and some friends managed to get out for the St. Patrick's Day parade and a corned beef and cabbage dinner. Glad to hear he's not going off the deep end with this fasting business. AJ says there's a lot of repentance going on at this time of year and it takes a lot out of him. I told him please don't get carried away with this repentance business, as he's never done anything wrong!! I have to get to bed. The sheep kept bumping into me while feeding tonight. Their wooly coats are like velcro against my fleece pants and they kept spinning me around. Another month and those coats will be off. The wooly life cycle goes round and round...

The Vernal Equinox

Matt keeps saying "we made it through another winter!" but I don't feel relieved just yet. I still have to build up the fire before I go to bed, stoke it once in the middle of the night, and stir the coals first thing when I get up. Winter lasts until May here, just 200 miles from the Canadian border. Two years ago I had a baby goat, born just outside the barn door on April 17th, freeze to death before I got home from work...very sobering indeed. I still have to suit up in the morning to go out into the barn. Soon I'll be wandering out there, coffee cup in hand, in my jammies. Venus is no longer prominently displayed in the eastern sky burning brightly, like the Star of Bethlehem. Last night she was on the horizon, still glowing, but dimmed by the last remnants of sunset at 8:30 at night. I'm looking forward to the wild flowers coming up along the roadside. I can follow a line of blue cornflowers all the way into Brookfield. Hannah and Luke are coming June 25. Eric already purchased the tickets. I'll have my grandchildren all to myself. Bonfires every night, climbing on the haystacks, swimming in the pond and creek, and pajama parties every night. Hannah will go out to the chicken room, collect eggs and make me breakfast every morning. I'm scheming to get a horse or pony for them if I can find a "free to good home" who is safe for kids. I already have a good saddle. Oh, I can't wait.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Home At Last

Went to see the Tax Man, Mr. Darryl Lanning, in Oxford after work. I'm always nervous as heck but he is so easy going and nice he puts me at ease. I'm still running at a loss but so, what else is new? It's the hay thing...but we've been there too many times before. I'm going to go to all the local tractor dealers and see if anyone will let me sign for a tractor lease or loan. All they can say is no. Teachers are being laid off in the districts around us but BOCES is okay so far. Many people are in bad shape but Darryl says we've turned the corner and things are on the way up in the US. Wish I could believe that. It's crisp, cold and sunny outside. Vernal equinox is tomorrow. Big changes in the light. Here, it's 6:30 and very bright outside. Have to get the sheep shorn so I can bring wool to the mills when they come to Maryland. Costs too much to ship. They can bring the wool back to me at Rhinebeck this fall. Friday tomorrow, can't wait to stay home and work. All this driving hundreds of miles to work and places after work is making me so weary. I got caught in a police check point in Norwich today. They were checking everybody's inspection stickers! Got mine just in time... whew!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rainy Winter's Night

The moon was shining in my bedroom window for the last few nights, but I won't see it tonight with all this rain. It started as I left school for Louis Gale's feed mill in Waterville. I didn't make it there on Sat. with the Farmer's Market, and ran out of corn yesterday. I give the lambs and moms corn, along with my ram Wooster, who had grown terribly thin with the last hay I was buying. Chris, my llama, wiggles into the short end of the barn to get his corn treat every night, difficult for him with his bum leg. I couldn't not have any corn for him. Soooo I set out north on route 12 after work today. It was an extra 15 miles but I got the goods. Matt is off in Poughkeepsie doing lead-safe weatherization training. There's no way I could get 5 hundred pound sacks up the steps into the milk room, but I got one inside and that was enough. It took me from 8:30 to 10:15 to do chores. You know how I love the pitch black hay mow with wind and rain making it even more spooky. But I was a big girl and got up there to sling bales. I even wandered around a bit. Lydia hasn't showed herself to me yet, but it could happen any time. Toting water is much of it, and I'll be glad when I can hook up a longer hose that won't freeze. I play music while I'm out there and do enjoy being with the critters. Izzy keeps me company, too. Once in a while I hear a squeal and know that he came too close to somebody and they whacked him with horns or a head butt. Came back inside the apt. and it was filled with black smoke. Wonderful. I had to have a fire. Luckily the White Boys, who get off their lines every night for a run, came right back for their dinner and didn't give me a hard time waiting for them. I did some sewing before dinner and am still sewing now. I'll try to do another half hour or so then hit the sack. Sweet dreams. Poor, beautiful Natasha Richardson is dead. I just got Widow's Peak with her in it from Net Flix and had it on while I was sewing. She's just gorgeous and now she's gone. All the wild skiing I did years ago, can't believe I never got seriously hurt. My broken bones came from stupid accidents like colliding with a Golden Retriever or forgetting there's a step down there. Mia wears a helmet when she skiis...thank Goodness.

Happy Birthday Annie

Annie hit the big FOUR-OH today. She still looks the same as she did fourteen years ago when I first met her. Eric brought her home from Kentucky to meet the family. She had on a purple knit dress with black heels, and marched right past me to follow Eric in the house. I guess she thought I was the housekeeper. No problem! He was stationed at Fort Knox, as the lieutenant in charge of the motor pool. He was not a happy camper as he had just finished Combat Engineer training at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri where he was happily building bridges and blowing them up with explosives. He was headed to Korea when his orders changed at the last minute and he found himself making sure the privates kept the oil changed in the base vehicles at Ft. Knox. Cushy duty, but was a bit of a let-down. When he first got to Ky. he pulled into town and parked in front of a restaurant and went in wearing his Army uniform. Annie waited on his table. Smart girl that she is, she invited him to sleep on her sofa instead of renting an expensive apartment off base. The rest is history. Annie has followed Eric all over the place, helping him to pursue his career with the Boy Scouts. Annie is comfortable in the same room with nuclear scientists and tee-totalling Mormon wives. She can knit, crochet and spin like a champ, and can keep a drop spindle going longer than anyone in the continental United States, standing on a chair, with the spindle almost down to the floor. It's awe-inspiring. Annie is a world class cook,a nationally ranked fencer, and artisan baker - AND she produced two of the cutest and smartest grandkids in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD!! Happy Birthday, Annie! I'm so happy Mia is there to help you all celebrate!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Springy Monday

Overslept this morning leading to a frantic rush to fill stock tanks, throw hay, feed cats, walk dogs and get the heck outta here. The weather just got nicer and nicer today. Green spikes are coming up along the concrete foundation of the barn. Flies are buzzing and I found a ladybug in a bag of wool. I wonder if she had been hiding in there all winter. Her color was pale but she flew up and away. The sheep are spending more time out of the barn in the sunshine. They know it will be time to graze soon. Chris is doing well, but still has some paralysis in one hind leg. I hope it improves with time and more treatment. I had a nice cookie-baking session with a student today. We had not been getting along very well due to my refusal to let her use my computer inappropriately during our time together every day. It was "tough love" and a battle of wills. She told me I was "mean" and "BORING!" I told her I like being mean and boring. It suits me. Today I brought in the stuff to make peanut butter cookies. I have a brand new range in my classroom and I told my student we should get it dirty. We had a wonderful time. I don't know what she enjoyed more, making up our own recipe with PB, sugar,eggs and flour, or eating a couple pounds of grapes I brought in for my own snacking. She told me she doesn't get grapes at home very often. Tomorrow we'll make brownies. I don't know how often we can continue this as I have to sneak it some school work, but for now it's wonderful.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Balmy Sunday

Sunny cold and clear. I woke up thinking I had to go to work today, then realized it's Sunday. What a treat to lie back down and let my mind wander. Some friends are spinning at the Earlville Opera House today, and I would love to go, but I can't. The Farmer's Market yesterday, and eating out with Candace, was my treat for the weekend. I have to tidy up the apartment and work on product today. I got some good news yesterday, Candace and Susan Carr are coming to Maryland. They are wonderfully supportive fiber friends and they want to come and help any vendor who needs a hand, any way they can. With Carol Crayon Box, Kimmie Cornerstone, and now Candace and Susan on board, I could be struck by lightning in the parking lot and these talented capable ladies could run the show without me. So all I need to do is make a whole lot of beautiful, fabulous things to sell and there will be harmony in my universe...I hope.

Friday, March 13, 2009

New Crayon Box Bags

Carol Crayon Box has been busy. She popped out these purses in the last couple of weeks, while waiting for the birth of her new grandchild in Manhattan. Now the babe is born and Carol is taking off to lend a hand. She sent me these pics and I have to share them with my world. I'm in awe of her talent. These are made with handspun yarn, then patches and strips are sewn together, then the purse is felted. Carol hand pieces gorgeous linings, in keeping with my philosophy (and hers) that the purse has to be as pretty on the inside as the outside. I wish Carol and her family health and happiness on the birth of the new baby. How divine!

Farmer's Market Tomorrow

The second Saturday Farmer's Market is taking place tomorrow in the Earlville Opera House. It will be a late night for Maggie. I have to finish a bag, sew buttons on others, make creme (a big deal) and get soap ready. I am still in soap label crisis and have to get that resolved quickly. I think I will get a big lot printed at the print store then write in the name of the essential oil by hand. It will be like a personal signature. I like that idea. I have fabric to make bags until the cows come home...a good thing since it costs no money to make them except for clay for the buttons and cedar wood for the inserts. Good to have fabric in the "bank." Soap costs a lot of money to make and has to be made ahead of time to be cut and cured for a month. I can make creme the night before if I have to. Cold this morning - 10 F. Lovely this afternoon, though, and the weekend is supposed to be nice. Let's hope there is a good turnout tomorrow. Last month was fabulous. I'll bring a camera this time. Talked to my accountant, Mr. Lanning, today. I have to go to see him on Thursday with all the info he needs to tell me my farm is in the red - again. No news to me. Don't know how long I can keep this up but I'm having fun while it lasts. I thought if I incorporated I could run at a loss forever, but he says no, that's not true. It's all because of those lovely wooly creatures out there in the barn. I just have to work harder to make them pay for themselves. Speaking of getting to work...gotta go! Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


There was something on the news about the Octomommy buying a house for her 14 little ones with money she made from selling pictures of the newborns. Neighbors on the new street are complaining about her moving in. People are dissing her right and left. Legislators are proposing laws prohibiting the implantation of more than X number of embryos. You know, I wish people would mind their own business. Okay, the woman went off the deep end and the fertility clinic went right along with her, BUT the babies are here and they should not suffer for what their mother did. When you think of all the $$ that the US spends on warfare and GIVING away gazillions to countries for whatever reasons, I don't think another 8 souls is going to break the already broken banks. I wish I lived closer so I could lend a hand. Maybe I will send Nadya a box of soap. My advice to her (should she ask for advice - after all I gave birth to premature multiples) would be to take up with the Mormons, or the Amish, or convert to Orthodox Judaism and move to Brooklyn. Those groups have fantastic support networks and know how to take care of LARGE families and do it very well, with great success. Maybe she should start a TV reality show. I had an friend whose sister gave birth to triplets when she already had a two year old...then she had one more. I visited her and let me tell you, it was crazy. There was a big blackboard on the wall with all the babies names on it. You had to put a check next to the name when the kid was fed, so that one would not be fed twice while another went hungry. There were no lamps or end tables in the living room. Everything was bare bones. When the sun went down the house got dark naturally and we couldn't make a sound. Everyone tried to get the babies to sleep. After they went to bed the grownups rushed to bed to get some rest before the nightime feedings started. I can't imagine what Nadya Suleman is going through. BUT this is what she wanted and babies do come from heaven. I always wanted a big family but couldn't find a man who felt the same way. I guess she couldn't either so she went about getting what she wanted on her own. Men hardly want to commit nowadays, let alone take responsibility for big families. You go, girl!

Winter is Back

Drove to work in heavy snow but it didn't stick for too long. It's just cold and windy now. I stopped on the way home and bought Matt a pair of summer weight Carhardtt work pants and a pair of boot socks at the feed store. I got gas and there was Shepherd Mary on the other side of the pump. We had a good conversation about getting sheep to eat thistles, then I headed over to the little market to get Matt some birthday cake. I asked him what he wants for his birthday dinner and he said "bacon, eggs over easy and whole wheat bread." Very manageable. Back at the farm the doggies had gotten into some mail and it was shredded all over the ice cold apartment. Got them walked then set about getting the fire going. Not so easy when the stove and pipe outside is freezing. It's been a half an hour and the fire's gone out three times. Matt told me to open the window a crack and the draw will be better. It seems foolish to let the cold wind in to get the fire going, but I did it, and the fire still went out. Oh, well, better get the pants wrapped and get back to the fire. I called a taxidermy man in West Edmeston about getting Horatio mounted and he wants $400. Half down then I wait 8 months. Can you imagine? He has more work than he can handle. I should tell my BOCES students to go into that field. I can't manage to do stuff like that and pay for hay, too. Another load coming on Saturday. So many hungry mouths to feed. I can't bear to put those beautiful horns on the dead pile. Life on the farm is tough.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Mattie

Matt will be 53 tomorrow. I came home from work tonight to find him very happy and quite pleased with himself. He had picked up the piggies from the abbatoir and stored all the various little packages in the old chest freezer in the tractor shed. I think he was salivating already. That freezer held many rolls of fabric I brought with me from NJ and I'm a bit concerned about how and where he stashed them...but coffee and dinner has to come first. We want the happy mood to continue through the birthday. I stopped and bought sauerkraut (and the NY Times) on the way home, in anticipation of cooking the first of the piggie packages. I'm handling it rather well considering this is the first time I ate meat from animals I raised since I was forced to eat my rabbits as a kid. Opening the door of my garage and finding all my bunnies with heads scattered about on newspapers and my father standing over them holding his WWII machete did not make for a good relationship with my daddy. Fortunately this pig experience was a bit more positive. I told Mia the piggies were coming home today and she said, in her tiny sweet voice, "Oh, Mommie, that's SO weird!!" Yes, it is. But this is the frontier and times are hard, and those pigs were soooo spoiled. Matt opened his package that arrived from Mia today - three plaid shirts that will fit in perfectly with the weatherization crowd, and a cute corduroy jacket. He was very pleased. Happy Birthday Mattie.

New Big Daddy

Othello is now the new Big Daddy of the flock. He is the father of Larry, Lester and Levi and, I'm told, he came from Morehouse Merinos of Red Hook. Not quite the photogenic mug that my Horatio had...but he's sporting a big gorgeous Merino fleece. Othello is one of the rescued sheep that came with my Horatio. I am working late tonight on IEP drafts due on Friday. It's very tricky o document everything they want on this important legal document. I'm still learning how to do it right. I like working with the kids much better. It's 4:30 and Gretchen and Laurie are doing power walking up and down the halls. Wish I could do it with them, looks like so much fun. I better pack up and get going. Matt was home today so I know the critters are looked after. Weather is balmy, sunny and breezy out the window and I would like to enjoy a few minutes of it before dark. Cold temps, snow and wind coming back tonight. I want to take Horatio to a taxidermy to have his magnificent head mounted but Matt says it would cost too much $$. I'm going to look into it anyway.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sad News

It's a full moon but you would never know. It's rainy and dreary, suitable weather for the sad passing of my Horatio, the beautiful purebred Rambouillet ram I adopted last winter. We found him dead, lying on the hay. I have no idea how old he is, but I know he is up there in years. The woman who owned him sold her farm, bought a Winnebago and took off. The people who bought the farm didn't want her sheep so they were fostered by a shepherd in Ft. Plain, over near West Winfield. She was not able to give me a lot of information. I loved that big old boy, with his magnificent set of horns and cute face. Matt thinks he might have accidentally thrown out a bale of alfafa this morning when it was still dark. That's very rich for sheep, and, perhaps, Horatio might have gotten himself bloated. I don't know. Perhaps he was ready to go anyway, and, in that case, he went with a belly full of delicious alfafa. It's so sad to see him lying out there in the rain. I have been thinking about him a lot lately, and noticing how handsome he is. Sometimes that is enough to make me think disaster is coming. My instincts are telling me something. My kids say I'm a witch, and when I get something in my head...well, things happen. I hate to write about sad things in this journal, and think that people are probably tired of reading about all the death and struggles I face. I am not writing to entertain, but to keep a record of the joys, sorrows, and goings-on that are part of the journey that is the farm...a farm that is full of life as well as death. Tomorrow's another day and I still have Othello, Blaze, Wooster and Larry to make more lambs for me. But I'll miss my big boy.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Larry, Lester and Levi

Larry, Lester and Levi are growing like crazy. OH, are they cute - and so big and strong. Remember, they were born on January 1 as I was sleeping off my return flight from San Jose, CA. I was frantic because Lilly had no colostrum and I gave them powdered stuff from the vet. The lack of mother's colostrum could still cause them to be more susceptible to certain illnesses...but you would never know by looking at them now. All three are Othello's lambs, I'm certain of that. They are growing Merino fleece instead of their mother's tiny BFL curls. Maybe they will grow long curly locks later, but right now Merino is what they have on their backs. Fine with me. I've decided to leave Larry intact, as he is all I have left of Lilly's offspring able to reproduce, and she is just sooooo wonderful. I was worried about her being so thin after lambing, but now she's fat and happy with minerals, good second cut hay and corn every day. Her back bone is no longer visible and she stopped losing wool. I have three Lilly fleeces somewhere and want to knit a Lilly sweater. Funny how some sheep loom large in my shepherd's memory, and others just fade into oblivion. I'm still mourning sheep I lost years ago.
There's a Sting concert on PBS now, and the songs are all fantastic. What a terrific band. It's good to see the old guys are still so cool. I had a talk with Mia tonight. Got her at a bad time. She sounds very stressed and I hate to hear her so strung out. Twelve hour shifts on that hospital ward could take the spark out of anybody. Cold and windy tonight, but no more rain. Winter should be back this weekend.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Time Change Sunday

Okay, it's almost 6 PM and I haven't done nearly as much as I needed to...but that's okay. It's been gray all day, after raining all afternoon and evening yesterday. It just had to happen, as I had carefully spread out a large amount of dyed orange alpaca outside. Matt and I had to run outside with bags to scoop it all up in the rain. It's still in the bag, partially dryed. It was weird to have such a fierce rainstorm complete with thunder in the middle of the winter. The metal barn roof makes great music when it rains. When the thunder claps started and the White Boys freaked out, well, that was a bit disconcerting. We could hear the creek rushing across the fields. Glad I am on high ground, but that was one reason why I bought this place. We came from a town that was underwater three times in four years, right on the Delaware River. Now, that was wild. Cars and whole houses were washed away. I was cut off from my sheep and had to go an extra 15 miles out of my way to get across the river and get to work. Only 25 miles from where I lived, people in my high school had no idea what was going on with the Delaware River dwellers. Last time I travelled back there, I saw a lovely stone mill house that had been submerged in water during the floods had sold. I wonder if the new owners knew what they would be in for. It might be underwater right now since the Susquehanna flows south into the Delaware. Oh, well...my sheep are safe and dry in the barn and I am cozy and warm in the little barn apt. I got six bags cut out this morning, after putting the purple alpaca away. I cut out two each of three different fabric combinations. Two are with fantastic artsy fabric chosen by Carol Crayon Box with lining I brought with me from NJ. I had many fabric stores to pick from there, and, alas, when one went out of business there were great sales. I'm using some of the gorgeous fabric from Jane Porter Hamilton's dress designer days. She would have fabrics custom made by European mills, and oh, are they beautiful. I bought some remnants last summer and I'm finally using them. I have to make a cart load of buttons to go with these bags. Right now Lizzie, my tortoise shell kitty, is sitting on my shoulder. She started jumping onto my shoulders when she was a kitten. It was a surprise then, but now that she is a great big heavy kitty it can be quite a shock, especially since she has to dig in with her claws to get up high enough now. Ouch! She is helping me type, with her cheek against mine. I bet her eyes are following the cursor, but I can't see. I spread out two big pots of cobalt blue wool, picked and dyed yesterday, on the kitchen table. It came out so nice. I'll have it streaked with lime green Suri alpaca and some orangey red BFL wool. I think I'm set with dyed wool now. I have a giant bag of black Merino to pick, from my Othello and his wether brother, Blaze. Yes, he has a white blaze on his face. Blaze and I are forever bonded because he almost killed me in a freak accident. Two students were here helping me and spooked him at the end of the barn. I was doing my Hobbit impersonation, bent over, making my way through the barn when I looked up to see Blaze coming at me. His head hit my chest full force and I lost my breath. I don't think Blaze felt a thing, but I was a bit shaken up having been butted head on by a 200 pound plus sheep skull. I recovered and didn't let on to the boys what had happened. Moral of this story - keep your head up and watch where you are going no matter how much built-up poop and hay is under your feet. Othello and Blaze will be shorn by my wonderful hippie ex-SDS friend, Jim Baldwin, in a month and I will have even more luscious black Merino to bring to Maryland to drop to the mill people for carding. Come September, oh, will I have some nice wool to bring to the fall shows. I meant to get the old freezer in the tractor shed cleaned out today but Matt got started on cleaning out the workroom and I joined in. The freezer is full of fabric from NJ and I need it to put the piggies in. They weighed out at 125 and 135 each, and that's only meat. AMAZING how easy they were to raise, and the meat they gave me. How long will 265 pounds of pork products last? It will be interesting to find out. I'll have to try not to imagine their piggy faces smiling at me and their chortles and grunts when I poured the warm slop in their buckets. I'd love to have more pigs, they are wonderfully enjoyable animals. Mary stopped by today with two friends from Cape Cod who came out for the weekend. Mary has the neatest friends!!! Oh, do I have to greatest memories of the Cape, travelling there with Aunt Carol, Mia's godmother, when AJ and Mia were twins and Eric was a happy young boy, pre-military. I adore the Cape and they tell me the kite shop is still in Provincetown. I am locked in SO tight with the farm, or I would be making plans to go there this summer. My favorite "twin hiney" poster picture of AJ and Mia as naked babies was taken there. Those were the days...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Too Much to Do

I have too much to do, and where to start? Start by sitting down and sorting it all out...then there is the keyboard so why not write something? I got my Jeep legal yesterday, after being ticketed for no inspection sticker - first ticket in almost 30 years. I found a mechanic in Brookfield who is also a BOCES teacher right down the road. Rosanna, our new science teacher and also B'field resident, picked me up at his place at 7 am. That's right, 7 am. Rosanna likes to get to school early. For me to leave the farm before 7 I have to get up by 5:30. I was dragging last night, let me tell you, but it was worth it. The Jeep only needed one new shock absorber in the front and I got the sticker. No more keeping to back roads and dipping down into hollows and hiding behind barns when I see cops coming up behind me. Now I can zoom down to NJ to visit Mia, and ride through downtown Norwich (where I got the ticket) to get to the Salvation Army thrift shop or Wal-Mart. I found some alpaca fleeces in the tractor shed from NJ and dyed two little ones purple and one big, gnarly one orange. Yes, alpaca can be gnarly. I put too much in the orange pot and it came out wildly variegated, but pretty. I spread it out on the drying rack outside, since the snow on it has melted and I figured being out in the cool air is better than sitting in a plastic bag. The kitties got excited and jumped all over it to take a nap. I didn't have the heart to shoo them away. I have so much fiber to send to the carding company I can't afford to mail it all. Have to send it one run at a time, but that's the way they prefer it, I think, and the runs won't get mixed up. I will have fiber to sell and barter for the entire show season. Speaking of show seasons, I prepared a CD of my products and booth pictures to apply to Colorscape Chenango, complete with list of pictures descriptions, and worried all night about getting it post marked on time, when I saw this morning that the required mailing date is March 13th. Today is the 7th. So typical of me. It's a wonder I can put one foot in front of the other. Yes, I need a personal assistant, or a partner to take care of stuff like that...but that's not going to happen, so I will deal with it and do the best I can. I have to get another application out to the new Washington County festival near Saratoga Springs. If I am accepted to those two new venues, I will have four shows in September, then Rhinebeck in October. I can do it if I work on it all summer. Hannah and Luke are coming the end of June. I can make soap at night after coming in from our nightly campfire, or in the morning when they are sleeping until noon. Remember those days? In the meantime, I need to tidy up this place a bit. I want to cut out bags but my cutting table is covered with purple alpaca. Might roll it up, cut out bags, then spread it out again. Drying fiber in winter is challenging. I just looked up the stats for meningeal disease in llamas again, and reviewed all the stages of the disease. Chris is the same, showing a weakness in one hind leg. If the llama is still standing, there is an 75 to 85 percent chance of recovery. Chris is so strong, fine and healthy otherwise, I believe he can make it. I am going to give him another shot of Dexamethesone for the swelling caused by the larvae of the parasite (YUCK!!) and some more ivermectin, then let him go to be with his sheep. He keeps looking at them from his pen and humming a very sad sound. He's got a giant fleece of gorgeous red/brown fiber on him, but I don't want to stress him by clipping him now. I can't even think about losing him. The price of living in deer heaven...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Feels Like Spring

There was something in the air today...the light was different and the air smelled sweeter. The water tanks still froze, and my Jeep slid backwards into the fence on the way out this morning. I just made a fire in the wood stove to keep warm, but today it felt like the light is at the end of the icy tunnel.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Libby's Lambs

I feel right at home when I look at this picture. I love it! Lambs running around the house. How absolutely wonderful. Libby is up to her elbows in lambs right now with more on the way. Wish she lived closer to I could lend a hand and vice-versa.

New Drama

After the lovely "high" of yesterday when I had a good day at school there was new drama today. It just couldn't last. I think sometimes that the stress of the job and the farm is too much together. Sometimes I feel a quiet desperation I can't do anything about. I don't drink (much) or smoke so what else to do but eat naughty things, like candy, cookies and just plain anything I can get my hands on. Have to stop that because spring will be here and the kids will want to climb the hill straight up to the pond behind the school and I'm too proud to hang back, gasping for breath. I'll hang on until the next vacation, in April, when I am sure I will wrapping soap 24/7 and sewing knitter's totes at the same time. There is comfort in familiar tasks. The sheep always bring me back to a good place. They have a quiet dignity and serenity. I love to lean on the stanchions in the barn and watch them chew their cud. They look at me and seem completely comfortable with me. Only two of them come to me for affection, Lilly and her son, Denzel. That's okay. We can admire each other from afar. The weather is warmer today and will be 50 by Friday they say. Would like to have the sheet of ice on the driveway melted.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Oh, So Cold

Still cold and windy. Will go down to zero F. tonight for sure. I think this last batch of wood was green. It doesn't split right and is horrible to get started. I hope the people at shows this season don't mind the smell of smoke on their bags and fiber. Very country...

My observation went well today - Global Regents prep. Two of the three girls in the class were absent. Poor kid, she was on the hot seat the whole period. She was terrific and really came through for me - very responsive and attentive. My boss is incredibly knowledgeable having taught every subject at one time and has many years in the trenches. I really respect her intellect and experience. She said I gave the kid a lot of good information and gave me some good tips on organizing review questions. Whew - double whew! Long meeting after work. I am lucky to work with such a good group. We all agreed we are on the downhill slope of this school year.

A little female dog has been hanging around the White Boys. She has a collar and license on but I can't get close enough to her to look at it. Matt found her locked in with Finn this morning. Don't know where she lives but her owner will likely have a surprise about two months from now...fluffy white puppies that bark a lot at night. Poor little doggie.

Buddy's Coat

Rebecca, my old fiber friend from NJ, made her dog Buddy a sweater adapted from my lamb coat pattern. Buddy likes to play in the snow but gets way too chilled without some kind of protection. I was so delighted to get this picture from Rebecca, and thrilled when she told me she spun the yarn from my fiber. I'm so fulfilled. After the staff meeting I'm going home to play with more fiber. Got the lime green suri alpaca dried and will put out the cobalt blue tonight.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Crayon Box is Full Again

Carol Crayon Box has been a busy girl. She got a load of roving back from the mill and an order of Cushings dyes in the mail. Then she got to work and look what she came up with. I love the Cushing dye colors, so soft yet vibrant. Can't wait to see what Carol does with all this fiber.

Doggone Doggies

After dinner I washed every dish and pot (somehow I manage to dirty lots of each) to delay the appointment with Chris and his shots. When I could delay no longer I drew the two syringes full of steriod and wormer and headed back out to the barn with Matt. Chris had bedded down for the night and I thought momentarily that I should shoot him lying down. He jumped up when he saw us so that idea was dismissed. We got in his pen and after talking to him and stroking him for a while Matt gave him his bear hug and I leaned on him. I popped him twice, tossing the syringes away instead of taking the time to cap. It was smooth as could be. No stomping this time, even though the ivermectin stings like crazy. Good boy, Chris. No more steriods for now, just more ivermectin tomorrow and some fervent prayers. I headed back to the milk room to fill the stock tanks for the night. I hauled more water to Chris and the boys in the way back. They just can't seem to get enough water when it's this cold and there is no snow for them to eat. Matt went out to drive up and down the road, hoping to find Pip and Holly, who ran away together and were gone since 5. I was sure Pip was caught on a limb or rock with that long leash he was dragging, and that Holly was reluctant to leave him, or couldn't find her way home. I had been more than four hours! Just then I heard scratching on the milk room door and there was Holly, whining and yelping. I scolded and loved on her, then took her in the apt. to thaw out. On the way in I looked out the window to see Pip in the driveway, looking to get in the south side door. I got both dogs inside the apt, which is about 80 degrees by now from the wood stove. Matt pulled in and I was able to tell him the runaways were back. As for me, I am going to sit on the sofa and stare into the flames, looking for signs of the future.