Monday, May 31, 2010
My two boys served in the military, one is still in. Eric went to VMI, the Virginia Military Institute, which statistically produced more Medal of Honor winners than all of the fancy military academies combined. No airconditioning and four-course breakfasts at VMI - and their graduates don't resign their commissions two years after graduation. Their role model is Cincinnatus, the Roman citizen soldier who put down the plowshare to pick up the sword. AJ is still serving and has been deployed to Cuba for a year already. With the war in Afghanistan, which I oppose, dragging on I fear he will be deployed there as a chaplain when he finishes seminary next year. We have a good military in this country and I've been contemplating why this is. The South boasts a "warrior culture" where many more volunteer to serve than other parts of the US. I was raised on war stories because both my parents served. My mother and her three siblings enlisted together at the onset of WWII. Prior to her joining the Army my mother had never crossed the Georgia state line. A Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps, she got as far as Fort Rucker in Alabama before she met my Army Major father, a Swedish immigrant New Yorker, and that's how I became a Yankee. I believe there is a generational call to duty that is instilled in children. When Eric was 17 I answered the door. The Army recruiter said "Sign Here" to me, as I staggered back and groped for a chair. Instinctively I knew that time would come but I had tried to avoid it and didn't want to face it. I had forbidden anyone to give him toy guns and none were allowed in the house. Now he could play with all the guns he wanted, real guns. AJ never wanted to play with guns, but when 9-11 happened he heard the call to serve. They put him on a 50 caliber machine gun and he qualified no problem. He spent a year in Cuba, riding around on top of a hum-vee holding on to a 50 cal, just in case Osama bin Laden wanted to spring all those prisoners at Git-Mo. Now he doesn't carry a gun at all. He's not allowed. When I found his rifle cleaning kit from Basic, I said don't you want this, AJ? He said no, Mommy, I can't shoot people now, I have to pray for them. A "chaplain's assistant" is assigned to him and he is armed. Chaplains cannot carry a weapon. I wonder if Al-Qaeda or the Taliban will respect his non-combatant status. Land mines kill and maim indiscriminantly. AJ is enjoying some R&R in the Greek islands now before he reports for National Guard annual training next month. I'm so proud of my boys and their willingness to serve. Let us pause and reflect on the memory of our fallen service members. "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal - love leaves a memory no one can steal."
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I was so done in by the excitement of the piggies coming home that I sat down with a fleece in the sunshine and lovely breeze. I find fleece sorting very relaxing and settling. This luscious, glossy, soft, heavy fleece will fill two dyepots and use the last of my Jacquard dyes purchased by the pound two years ago. Time for a new order. I have the wool soaking in the machine now. When I see sunshine and blue skies I think wool drying weather. With Big Jim Baldwin coming next Thursday I'll have the last of the fleeces off the sheep and a good bit of mohair to play with too.
Matt helped me get my piggies home from Mary's where they were delivered last week by Mr. Shultz, the local pig farmer. Mary cooked us a lovely brunch which included her own bacon from last year's piggies she raised. We packed up the porkers and brought them over the creek to my farm. They are now secured in the back of the barn in the section where we usually shear. It's filled with old hay and sheep manure, which the piggies are thrilled with as they already have their snouts in the dirt and are plowing a trench along the wall. The room opens to the south side barnyard which we secured as well as we could for now. I'll keep them inside until they know where they live and eat and spoil them with goodies. That will give me time to get an electric wire around their barnyard. I come from a long line of Georgia hog farmers. Pigs must be in my DNA because I am totally enthralled with them and could watch them all day and not get anything done. The weather is ecstatically gorgeous. I keep thinking we should enjoy it - it could rain the rest of them summer, which is so Brookfield.
No dog can replace my Bodie, but Holly is trying hard to be the Mistress of the Ball. She is very enthusiastic about diving into the pond to retrieve it, a little less about returning it to be thrown again, but we are working on it. It's a big responsibility to keep enough balls in the house to have a ready supply for our trips up the hill. Izzy will sneak them away and hide them, as he is jealous of Holly getting all the attention.
I peaked out the window to see the sheep, who I left out to graze last night, up early eating their breakfast. There is a lot of grass out there for them. With an early hurricane season forecast there might be enough rain for the grass to continue growing provided I get my fields divided. Rotational grazing is the key to success, and buying enough from people who cut and bale hay to store it for next winter. Sheep leave a lovely fertilizer in the form of their manure, small pieces that are then stomped on and pushed into the ground, which improves the pasture over time. I'm hoping to sew today, clean the place up a bit, work in the barn after I visit with Mary and make soap. I have a tendency to over-plan on my "day's off." Someone told me yesterday, as she surveyed my booth, that I must get about two hours of sleep a night. I get about six. Any less than that and I'm in trouble. No matter how busy I am I get out onto my beautiful, wonderful, mystical, magical field. It's all about the sheep in the field.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
As we were coming home from the market we were stopped by a herd of cows being brought in for milking. The farmer was apologetic but I was delighted. The sleek, beautiful cows took their time ambling down the road, their heavy, swollen udders swaying as they walked. I asked if I could take pictures and the owner said yes.
I made a new little friend at the market today - Karen's little doggie came all decked out in her new dress. What a cutie. The weather was threatening rain early this morning but cleared as we set up the booth. Traffic was steady and the day was delightful. Matt's co-worker stopped by from NY Weatherization with his teacher-wife and we were able to talk shop for a while. The weather was warm, a bit humid, but nothing like what we endured mid-week. I got some spinning done and chatted with many booth visitors over the course of the day. I found some leeks for Mary and surprised her with some eggplant and squash plantlings. She was thrilled and promised me some goodies when the plants give forth their gifts. I bought some green-vegan-petroleum free cleaning supplies from Hamilton Whole Foods and wormer at Tractor Supply on the way home. I'm tired but feeling good about the market. Next weekend will see the Colgate Alumni people coming through which should be busy for us. A lovely breeze is blowing through our little valley. Brunch with Mary tomorrow followed by creekside lime daiquoris. Have to get my piggie pen ready for the little bundles which I'll bring home from Mary's tomorrow.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Kim is making a garden in her back yard. It's carefully prepared and ready to grow all kinds of vegetables. Kim worked on it for three days. I don't know where she finds the time between babysitting her niece all day and doing fiber festivals and dog trials - and spinning miles of gorgeous yarn! I'm so lucky to have such energetic and talented friends who inspire me.
We thought it would be nice to go out to lunch today, as several of our sending districts had the day off, but we decided to take our one student and do something special. I've wanted to visit the Fieldstone Fabric place in Sydney Center for the four years I've lived here but it never happened. Robin, Miss Melly and I snagged a BOCES van and took Santana to Fieldstone. It's a bit of a hike, about 40 miles, but so worth it. You drive up this little overgrown lane and there it is, a modest house in the country...until you go inside. I was quickly overwhelmed to the point of swooning. They have 18 THOUSAND bolts of quilt fabric! I mean, really nice stuff! It was sensory overload for me, and wide-eyed wonder for Santana, Robin and Miss Melly. I found what I was looking for - a starter baseline fabric for Mia's wedding quilt. It's a moose batik with coyotes howling at the moon. So perfect for my hiker/camper Mia who is always searching for the elusive moose in the woods. We tore ourselves away from Fieldstone and wandered down route 88 to Frog Pond Farm. Melanie and Robin went wild buying all the little garden plants they need for putting in this long holiday weekend. Santana quickly fell in love with the ducklings and guess who sent her home on the bus with two adorable Blue Swedes? Yep, I did it. She has a pond and is sure her parents will be okay with it. I'll take them just in case they are not happy with the teacher sending ducks home with their daughter. I bought three Buff Orphington pullets and two Silver Laced Wyandottes, two breeds I had when I first started in chickens, and good egg layers. We polished off our fabulous day with late lunch at Bohemian Moon in Norwich - ohhh, so delicious. Everybody went home happy. Now Holly has chicks in the bathroom again. I let the hungry sheep out to graze then took the doggies up to the pond just now, but Holly wanted to come back inside and check on her new chicks. It's the little things...
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Still warm and humid with no rain in sight. Kinda pooped. Got nothing done tonight besides dinner for Matt and chores. I stretched out on the sofa for a few minutes of rest and fell sound asleep. Woke up with a start and saw 7:00 and panicked. I jumped up to get ready for work, but it was 7 PM not AM. I had a nice chat with Baby Girl Mia, who was just in a horrendous thunder and lightning storm while camping in Vermont with fiance Andrew. What do you do when you're in a little tent in a forest with no where to hide and the car is three miles away? Stay put and hope the tree you are under doesn't crash down on your head? A little goat jumped down from the hay mow then ran around the lower barn calling for her mother. It's tough to catch a littl goat when you can't stand up to run. She followed Baby Thunder outside and around to the upper level of the barn where she could see her mother in the mow. I managed to grab her in the dark and hoist her over to her mom again. I put my ancient old lady sheep - Ole Crip - outside to eat grass. Both her front legs are gone and I had her in a pen all winter where I could feed and water her undisturbed. She's surprisingly fit and gets herself up to the shelter of the barn doors next to the upper mow, then down to the grass to graze. I hate to put her down when she seems so satisfied with her condition. I hope to find her sleeping permanently one of these days, but for now we'll just see how it goes. At least she is enjoying the sunshine and green grass, and the roosters are not pooping on her from the rafters up high. Should be an easy day tomorrow. I will only have one student in GED so we decided to take her out to lunch. Weather looks good for the market on Saturday.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Just my luck Matt is away at the second energy conference in two weeks. Last week it was the LIFE conference (Low Income Focus on Energy) and now it's something else in Lake Placid. I can't keep up. I don't mind doing all the chores, as a matter of fact I like doing chores. It makes me happy to putter around my beautiful barn taking care of my critters. That's the quality time I spend with them. Tonight was a little freaky with the big orange full moon and heavy air filled with eery portent. As I was taking care of the chickens I heard a strange, raucous baaa but more maaaaa upstairs. Uh-Oh what's going on I thought. I had to climb the ladder with the hose, cat food, Billy Goat bottle, etc. and went on up. There was Lola, with her horn caught practically on the middle of her back, causing her to fall down in a ball. God knows how long she had been that way. Good thing Big Jim Baldwin is coming next week to shear them. Goats get in all kind of trouble when their mohair is long. I haven't been letting them out for that reason. A goat can get caught on a bush or a fence far away and die before the shepherd finds them. Then I was doing the bunnies, going down the line to the dark, spooky back of the barn (where the lights don't work) and I heard another, grinding, deep throated mournful cry. My head light with the weak batteries was all I had with me, but I told Izzy we had to find whatever was making that sound. We ventured out the East End door and there was the huge musty orange moon, illuminating the valley behind the barn, with dusky light bouncing off the piney ridge. It was sooo beautiful. What was making that sound? I didn't dare go inside until I found out. I walked around the back of the barn into the barnyard and there was a shape lying flat on the ground. It was a goat, one of the few that have escaped from the hay mow where I have them waiting to be sheared, with a horn caught on a ladder lying on the ground! I had to lift the extension ladder with one hand and manipulate the horn through the rungs. Maybe it had been rubbing it's head on the metal when the horn slipped underneath. Who knows. I hate the thought of a long haired goat lying in the blistering hot sun all day, but that could be the case. I pulled her up on her feet and held her for a minute in the dark. She finally pulled away from me to find the flock. Izzy and I went back inside to resume our chores and get inside to lock ourselves in for the night. That finally happened after the White Boys were taken care of and the sheep rounded up and locked in at 10:52 PM. No time or energy to sew or do anything crafty, just to wonder if I have any clean clothes for work tomorrow, but no time to do anything about it now. Good night, Big Orange Moon. I hope you don't have anything else in store for me tonight.
I was a bit out of sorts when I got home. Maybe it was the fact that I had to make two trips into the barn with my totes and groceries. On the way back through the five doors I must go through to get into the barn apartment the kitties ate their way through the bag and started to chow down on my take-out chicken speedies dinner. It's too hot to cook so I bought this upstate NY specialty chicken to put over some left-over rice I have at home. The kitties could have eaten through the bag of Meow Mix lying on the grass, but no, they went after the speedies. Thanks, Kitties. That incident, in addition to the fact that the only garbage hauler that comes to Brookfield didn't pick up my stinky garbage combined to put my nose out of joint. There was only one thing to do...dive in the cold pond and consult the oracle. What did she say? She told me to shake it off and enjoy the silky cool smoothness. That's just what I did, with the help of Mary who was there with the doggies. I had brought Holly and Izzy and we watched the doggies race for the ball (Mary has a monster throwing arm!)again and again. I'm proud of Holly as she swims with all her might to beat the super fast Border Collies to the ball (whining all the way!)
I thought I had the prettiest hill in Brookfield, but today I climbed one that rivals my own. Mary's lovely flock was grazing up high behind her house with her noble white guard dogs and we went up to check on them. The weather was blistering hot but the gentle breezes enabled us to stand in the sun while we admired the bucolic setting. I hope I can always live with or near sheep on a pretty hillside. I think there is no more beautiful scene on earth. Mary's neighbors are very lucky to be next to her.
My piglets were delivered to Mary's farm yesterday. She is keeping them for me until I can get the door on my pig pen. Mary's barn is cool and breezy and the piggies are very comfortable there. I visited them today after school. They are soooo adorable and small enough for me to pick them up and snuggle with. I love the little snorting sounds they make and their fat little bellies with curly tails. Their piggy ears are the most amazing things. This is the first time having summer piggies for me. I'll be able to bring home lots of veggies from the farmer's market for them, and give them my watermelon rinds and other goodies. Have to think of three piggie names!
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
My spring fed pond is the perfect place to wash away the worries and woes of the workaday world. Mary and I floated around and played with the doggies. I swear there are minerals in that water that have magical powers. My skin feels like silk when I come out and I am calm and happy, fortified for the evening chores and anything the next day might throw at me.
After we cooked the buttons for Miss Melly's bag, we piled in the BOCES van and took off for brunch at Garf's in Norwich. I was thrilled to find they had a lox and cream cheese bagel which rivaled anything I've had in New Jersey. What a treat! After our meal we motored over to the Mizrahi Manor Farm in North Norwich. I met the Mizrahi family at the Hamilton Market and thought it would be fun to visit their farm. We saw Dexter cattle, Jacob sheep and lots of chickens. We made it back to the school just in time for afternoon classes.
Miss Melly (Melanie), one of the fabulous teacher aides in my room, finally got her bag put together. It's just perfect and she is thrilled. We made the perfect button for her bag this morning, and I gifted her with a Maryland Sheep and Wool carbiner for keys. Miss Melly is very pleased.
When I walk up the hill a couple of kitties like to follow us. They are usually Strawberry, Tiny Tina and Blix and sometimes Puzzle and Jinx. I worry about them getting stepped on by dogs, myself, or sheep but the nimble little creatures leap and bound, avoiding a variety of feet. The kitties love the field, which, sadly, is a source of all kinds of things for them to catch and eat, including baby snakes. I keep watching for snakes, but they are so few up here in the Northland. My kitties and chickens eat the hatchlings whenever they can find them. They brought a tiny Black Racer baby earlier this spring, bitten through the middle. Kim was walking across the lawn at Maryland Sheep and Wool and felt something wiggling under her shoes. She had stepped flat on a snake. No problem for her, but it would have given me the willies.
Monday, May 24, 2010
It's THAT time again, and I have to thank my friend Mary the Shepherd for starting up the swimming season again. She called to say come swimming as I was walking out of the school at almost 4 today. By the time I went to the PO, market, and Postma's for their fabulous hay, and home to let the sheep out, get changed and hike up the hill with the doggies, Mary and the performing troupe was gone. Hope to catch them tomorrow. The intrepid Border Collies are larger than life. They stare at you with those intense ex-ray eyes and bend you to their will. It's HOT out there and the sheep ate their way up to the pond to take a drink. They are so beautiful on the grass and I can't stop taking pictures of them. The forecast says sun and heat all week. We'll be hurting for rain, but the lovely spring fed pond will always be full, clear and cold for human and sheep consumption.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
After two hours at the sink and a bit of scrubbing I can see the bottom. Working on the countertops now. I found some rhubarb in the rubble and boiled it with fresh strawberries and honey - ooooohhhh, so delicious. Honey is a gift from Mother Nature. I bought 5 gallons last week from Mahlon Palmer, my favorite beekeeper vendor at the market and am slowly working on it. I use it in my soap, nightly tea, and cooking. It has magical powers I'm convinced. The little chick is hiding in the milk room. Holly tells me where it is, but I can't get to it under the washer and dryer. Hope mom comes back to claim it. I've found that hens can't count. The cluck a certain beacon sound to tell all the chicks to follow her, and most of them do, but when some are left behind I don't think she knows it. Remember Watership Down which told us that rabbits can't count past five? I should reread that book, it's my favorite of all time. The weather is glorious out there, and the forecast is hotter next week. Farmers are out making hay, as they should be with weather like this. We could have two solid months of rain this summer. I found some shorts from last summer. Jeans are suddenly too hot. Once the countertops are tidied I'll make creme, then sew a bit, then do some more barn chores. What a joy to be home for the day.
Oh, I would love to sew today but the farm has other plans for me. I have let so many housekeeping activities slide. The animals always come first, and everybody gets fed and watered, but other things tend to be saved for the weekend. With the market on Saturday that leaves Sunday. I'll start with the apartment kitchen and go from there. I have several bags cut out and hope to put one together tonight after dinner and chores. Here is one student's bag, created from pieces she put together from the scrap table in school. I'm so proud of her. She loves to sew and has even made fleece pajamas for her family.
My friend, Audrey Swan, is a talented local rug hooking artist. She created my fabulous "Country Girl" rug. Audrey came to visit me at the Hamilton market yesterday and surprised me with this lovely little rug entitled "Primitive Sheep and Sunflower." It's so beautiful in it's simplicity. I adore primitive rug hooking. It is a craft with deep roots in history. Country people started hooking rugs in feed sacks hundreds of years ago. It was a way of creating something artistic and beautiful with materials they had around them. Many of the rugs depicted their own farm animals drawn with simple, child-like designs, making them even more endearing. Some of the rugs that survived the 19th century had a thin, scarlet red line around the border, made from a coveted and rare English Regimental jacket. Sadly, most of the early rugs didn't survive their rough use in country homes. They went from the loom to the floor then outside to the front steps. I've always wanted to hook and have the strip cutter and a simple lap loom. I've collected wool remnants over the years. There just hasn't been the time. Running this farm and working a full time job has conspired against yet another craft. Maybe someday...
Saturday, May 22, 2010
When I got home from the market I let the sheep out to graze then took the doggies up to the pond. It was all I could do to keep from shucking my jeans and wandering into the clear spring water. A little froggie posed for a picture before Pip pounced on it. We went once around the water, no goldfish today, then made our way back down the hill. Blix and Tiny Tina led the way. Blix and Tanner are great friends. The cats hate Holly as she loves to chase them all over the barn.
There is a kitty who roams around the market once in a while. He is very well fed and looks extremely healthy. He visited me for a while then went off to tour the park. Susan brought her little Blackberry, who was having a super time meeting all the doggies. I want to bring Izzy, but would have to medicate him for the ride. Izzy gets very, very carsick. I think he might be happier home on the sofa with his bones.
The Hamilton Farmer's Market is a cacophony of colors, aromas and textures. It's sensory overload for me and on a sunny, breezy day like the one we had today, it's just wonderful. There are fiber people, bread people, cheese people, pottery people, woodworkers, beekeepers, salsa people, jam people, flower growers and meat people. I even found a new vendor who makes oversized cookies and has her newborn in a little bassinet behind her booth. Patrons were very interested in my spinning. The market is a great place for me to get some serious yardage done on my wheel. I have to explain the process dozens of times, which I am happy to do. Most people have absolutely no idea where their textiles came from. I send anyone who wants to learn to Bainbridge and my good friend, Lisa Merian, who has a studio on her farm.