Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rainy Day Blues

Rainy and humid all day. Nothing is as wet as a farm in prolonged rain, and I am in desperate need of new rubber boots. I've put it off too long and have to bite the bullet and buy some. Still hoping I can find some boot made in the USA and not the unmentionable country, but that's difficult. Matt is flat out with a bad cold which I think is pneumonia. Couldn't talk him into going to see Nurse Tanya today and get meds. He's comatose on the sofa in all his tatooed glory, with a wretched, mucousy cough, the kind only heavy smokers with their already compromised lungs can have. Thank you Lord Jesus I never started smoking. I have plenty of bad habits but smoking is not one of them. Forgive me, Lord, for considering it a serious character flaw. Tommy Boy is still down. I went to Leatherstocking Equine after work and Dr. Rachel gave me Dexamethasone and Ivermectin for him. She said it could be meningeal worm or a tumor on his spine. He is quite old - at least ten - and might just be on the way out anyway. He has always been my darling, after his father Jupiter died. I will call my neighbor the taxidermy guy to inquire about keeping his gorgeous head intact. I don't want him in the dead pile. It can't hurt to ask. I'll do chores tonight then start some soap. Loew's had two bottles of lye crystals left, annoying since I had to go out of my way to get there, but anything I don't have to order in is saving money. I came home to find the pigs in with the sheep. They are surprisingly friendly and don't bother the sheep at all. Not able to get Matt up to help me get them back in their pen, I tried slopping them in the main part of the barn. Not successful, as the sheep pushed the hogs away from the slop. I thought for sure the pigs would get their slop but no, they deferred to the sheep! I hope they eat hay tonight. I sure don't want sick piggies, especially three pigs who are really big and almost ready to go in the freezer, sweet boys that they are. Better get to work. Miles to go before I sleep...

Build An Ark

Heavy rain going on out there. When it's like this I take the doggies out in the barn to do their morning business. Tanner hates the rain and won't do her business standing in it anyway. The sheep pee on the hay pack all the time, so why can't the dogs. My Tommy Boy is down. I hope it's temporary. I adore that old billy goat, Moonbeam's son. I gave him Banamine, Vit. B., LA200, and put a bale of lovely green Postma hay next to him. If this keeps up I have to call Dr. Rachel. Hope she's on duty. My old cargo trailer with my farm booth contents is starting to leak. Cheap piece of crap, I paid good money for that trailer. Matt helped me pull a tarp over it last night. Can't have my Mother Fiber, Bundaflicka Totes and soap getting rained on. I'll be doing the Hamilton market on Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing my market friends and getting some shaving cups from Susanne Farrington. I trade wool for her lovely cups, then pour clove bud soap into them. They do quite well, especially around holiday time - a unique guy gift. Speaking of guys...Matt was invited by the Department of Energy to go to a conference in Atlanta and sit on a panel. The Feds want his input. I asked him if this star-power could somehow result in more money, but he said no, remember he works for a non-profit. Just my luck. No lounging at home on a rainy day for me - back to the salt mines.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A New Sheep Friend

I picked up my new Schacht loom, donated to me by the former Bullthistle Rag Rug Weaving program, sadly disbanded due to budget cuts. I hope to get my students weaving with it one day. The loom is gorgeous, and it came with lots of equipment and a lovely bench. I'm a bit overwhelmed and want to use it ASAP, but I really have to brush up on my weaving skills. I've wanted to weave for years and years, and even attended Swedish weaving camp in the Berkshires for a week before moving to this farm, but I'm kinda rusty on things like warping, etc. The Bullthistle people were teaching the homeless and unemployed to weave rag rugs. I finally got to meet Kathryn McMahon, who I learned about from Dr. Cindy Carter in Hamilton. Kathryn has a sheep farm in South Otselic and even shears her own sheep! She raises Percheron draft horses and hopes to harvest hay with them someday. We shared the same grinding anxiety over hay and scrounging around to get enough of it to get us through the winter. She will set up a weaving studio in a church around the corner from the former Bullthistle site and teach weaving. I will certainly be one of her eager students someday soon. I know, I know, in my spare time. I rush home to the farm after school and still don't get done with chores until 9...but where there is a will there is a way. I just poured almond soap and the aroma is wonderfully intoxicating, but I am reeeeaaaally tired. Have to get outside with the doggies and do some skywatching, pull my night gown on and make my chamomile tea with honey. The morning will come way too soon.

Nighty-Night Jupiter

I go out every night with the doggies for one last pee, and I spend some time looking at the sky. I confess the motions of the moon, stars and planets are confusing to me at times, but so beautiful and mysterious. I thought the moon had disappeared, getting ready to start it's phases over again with a new waxing sliver, leaving Jupiter to shine alone, but there it was - a soft, lopsided fuzzy glowing orb, just over the piney ridge. The tips of the pines were silhouetted against the light, with wispy black clouds floating over it. I was transfixed. The scene would not be nearly as dramatic without the ridge rising over the little valley where my farm lives. The dogs wondered why I was standing still and not walking with them down the little field next to the tractor barn. The scene was breathtaking. Jupiter has moved south and west and is still bright as a shiny diamond, with a soft halo around it. Time to go out and see what's happening in the night-time sky.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cinnamon Leaf

Oh, it's a lovely scent. Like a green leafy cinnamon. And it holds the scent so well, unlike many other natural essential oils that fade over time. I will make soap every night this week. I melt silk fibers into the lye solution before combining it with the oils. It adds protein to the soap and helps it set up faster. I would love to spin this stuff. Kim does a fabulous silk-angora yarn, dyed with Kool-Aid a silvery icy blue. It's stunning. I forgot I was down a big pyrex bowl (it exploded in the microwave when I was melting beeswax, remember?) and am making it in a rectangular baking dish. Very awkward, but have to deal with it. I'm a real creature of habit and have been making soap the same way for over 15 years. Oh, will I sleep tonight. I'm running up that sleep deficit again, getting ready for Rhinebeck. Matt was sick last night and faded on the sofa as soon as he came home from work. After two hours of chores I didn't have much left for soapmaking and sewed instead. He was able to help me tonight so I got started on soap earlier. Still won't be done until 11 and will bed down then. I got a lovely mohair fleece picked last night and tonight before chores. It was matted together but the seven inch long locks pulled apart for me. It's very time-consuming to pull those locks apart, but better to do it before washing and boiling in the dye pot. I have many of those matted fleeces which will be a good project for snowed-in nights this winter. I love combining fibers - they all have their own unique characteristics which make the roving interesting. I find plain, one fiber roving boring, but that's me. Back to my Cinnamon Leaf. School is going better than I anticipated, but it's dangerous feeling confident and relieved this early in the year. We'll see...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thunder Has a Special Friend

This young ram lamb, either Calvin or Hobbes, has a crush on Baby Thunder, many years his senior. He follows Thunder around everywhere and does the chortle/smooch the way rams do with ewes. I've heard 10% of all sheep are gay. Maybe Calvin/Hobbes is one of them. Baby Thunder doesn't seem too annoyed, but I know he's exhausted. Thunder is used to lying around taking long naps. I've looked out the window to see him running away from the amorous ram lamb several times over the weekend.

No Walk Today

No walking in my lovely meadow behind the barn today. It's raining and will continue through tomorrow. We got poor Loki out of the barn in pieces last night. Thankfully I had rubber gloves and my lavender Shepherd's Friend hand creme worked great to clog up my nostrils. Everyone who wants to raise livestock should experience this horrible aspect of farming. They don't always die where or when you want them to. When they die in the winter at least they are frozen. We piled him on a tarp and dragged him out of the barn and up the hill a bit. Here is where a tractor with a front loader would come in handy to get him up to the dead pile. It's a huge, heavy lift to get him up to the bed of the F150. That's on the schedule for tonight. The coyotes will be thrilled with this big, fat carcass. I'm headed to pick up my donated sewing machines at the Bullthistle Rag Rug enterprise that is being discontinued by Opportunities for Chenango. Too bad, as they were teaching the unemployed, homeless and disenfranchised how to weave rugs. They told me the machines were given to them and might not be in working order so I won't get my hopes up. Soapmaking hopefully will happen tonight depending on what I find when I get home. I cross my fingers every time I pull in the driveway.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jupiter Standing Guard

I've been enjoying Jupiter shining brightly next to the full moon for the last few nights. It's so bright the moon didn't outshine it the way it does with other stars. Now the moon is gone and Jupiter is still there, just over the edge of the piney ridge that runs along my farm. I love to watch the stars when I'm outside taking care of the animals in the dark. The stars keep me company. I didn't get as much done as I hoped this weekend but I did a bit. I got three bags cut out and quite a bit of fiber picked, washed and dyed. I'm trying to get one more run done for NY State Sheep and Wool in three short weeks. This one will have a lot of mohair in it, which is harder to pick. The locks felt together on the goats so quickly and any bit of weeds and seeds stick like glue. When it's washed and dyed, however, the texture is amazing. This run will be Pumpkin Orange, one of my favorite Jacquard colors. It's nine now and I've just come in from chores. I've got pots boiling in the milk room and a big bag of mohair to pick tonight in front of the TV. I hoped to do some sewing but don't think so. Matt is coming home from the Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival. I told him not to register for next year. It's just not happening over there. We gave it two years and they are not getting the people in, and taking way too many vendors. I'm lucky in that I usually do better than some and not as much as others, but time away from the farm is so precious I only want to do the good ones. Gotta get a little dinner and put in a few minutes on the sofa. Back to my other job tomorrow.

Sunday Morning on the Farm

What a blessing - Sunday morning when I can wake up and lie there pondering my existence, make coffee at my leisure (which is usually pretty quick) and stroke whatever kitties or dogs are keeping me warm at the time. There are advantages to living in the barn. I can walk through two doors in my LL Bean granny gown that Mia bought for me and the sheep are right there, unless they have wandered out the other side into the barnyard. It really comes in handy when a hard rain or blizzard is going on outside and we're all undercover together. I don't have to dig trenches to the barn like most farmers. Right now they are outside enjoying the fabulous Postma hay I bought last week. It must taste like candy to them as they are not lining up at the gate to get out and graze. I will graze them again from time to time but the grassy clumps are fewer and fewer and it's not growing like crazy between grazings any more. A few sheep and goats are out but sticking close. They keep the area around the barn mowed for me and allow for easy petting and scratching. Much on deck for today - two batches of soap, I hope, if all goes well, and some wool dyeing. I skirted a GIANT old wether fleece last night which I will dye Jacquard Pumpkin - one of my favorites - for an orange run. I have lots of baby soft llama which is full of VM unfortunately (vegetable matter for you civilians). I might blend it with the wool. Matt doesn't know it but I will need him to hold some lambs for me to clip this week. If I don't get a run out to Frankenmuth soon they won't be able to bring it to me at Rhinebeck, just three weeks away. Pressure, pressure. They have a big run ready to bring to me there, along with some natural colored Merino/BFL and white Rambouillet for the purists who don't want dyed wool. Better get going as the day is flying by.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lost Loki

I saw him standing still a little too much over the last few days. By the time I got Matt to help me catch him (he's over 100 pounds I'm sure) I saw his gums were white ans swollen. I wormed him and treated him with Vit. B, selenium, and Nutra-drench for a couple of days hoping that would bring him around. Yesterday Matt saw him getting up to drink twice. I called the vet to find out what he might need and they said keep up the B complex. Picked it up after work and rushed home. There he was lying dead on the barn floor. It's bad enough to lose little ones but when you lose the big lambs who are turning out to be so handsome and spectacular it's worse. Loki is the son of Othello, my rescued Morehouse Merino ram and a lovely high percentage BFL black ewe. I still have Nicholas, another Merino/BFL ram lamb but I like Loki better as he was more Merino with a very dense, fine fleece and had more of Merino face. I'm kicking myself for not getting a shearing going sooner. Jim couldn't come the day I tried for, then school started with shows, etc. Loki would have been wormed sooner and might have lived, if that's what killed him. I thought about clipping his hair but now, a day later, he's very stinky and I would have to wear a mask. If I had a better knife I would try to cut him up for the dogs, but he's too big for me to drag outside and I don't want to do it in the barn where the sheep sleep. All that gorgeous Merino wool wasted. That's farming...gloriously wonderful at times and other times it just rips your guts out. Luckily I've only lost one other animal this summer and that was my cute little Hecky to meningeal worm. Not bad compared to what I've heard from others, but both deaths might have been avoided by better management on my part.

Get Going

Have to get going to make it to the Louis Gale Feed Mill in Waterville by noon, or else I am in deep doo-doo. Totally out of pig slop and egg-layer. I try not to run out but the mill, where I pay half the price of local feed stores, is out of the way and I'm always trying to get home to the critters. I woke up with a sick headache and had to lay back down and let the coffee and ibuprofen do it's job. Now is the time when I get sick. I do fine with all kinds of poop, slime, mold, blood and guts on the farm. When I go back to school with the Skraelings who spew mucous and bacteria all over everything I get sick. I CAN NOT be sick!! Hundreds of creatures are depending on me. I think this will pass. Gorgeous weather out there. Matt called from Saratoga to say the vendor next to him bought a bag straight off. She said she hesitated last year and her bag got sold and was not going to let it happen again. Her husband has been out of work and his unemployment ran out six months ago but she just had to have her bag. I'm humbled and inspired by this kind of testimony. Bad news and good news - Opportunities for Chenango has closed down their weaving studio because funds ran out and they just couldn't sustain the program by selling rag rugs. They have four sewing machines they want to donate to my class. The wife of the man who runs the program works at BOCES. She sold me her old machine last year for $20 worth of Shepherd's Friend hand creme and saw what I did with my students and sewing tote bags. Now I have four more machines to work with. I'll pick them up with my truck on Monday after school. Hope they are in good shape. I'm feeling very fortunate and gratified right now.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sensory Overload

I adore this time of year in the mountains of upstate New York. It starts slowly then suddenly the hills are ablaze with color. My commute is breathtaking with one gorgeous vista after another. Vermont has nothing on this area, except for more ski areas and money from tourism. I am busier than ever with preparing for winter, making product to pay for keeping the sheep (and us) alive over the winter, and getting myself to work and keeping people satisfied with me there. Whenever I feel stressed I start my chores and get busy. I particularly enjoy working with the pigs lately. I know pigs are in my DNA from my Georgia people. They are astonishingly beautiful animals who give so much in return for very little care. The ducks are so much fun and I'm still giving them showers with the hose and picking greens for them. I'm concerned about what to do with them over the winter. I need to find a safe, protected place for them in the barn before their outside pen freezes over with ice and snow. The wild chickens do fine in the winter, riding around on the backs of the sheep to keep their feet warm. I don't think my ducks can manage that with their big, webbed feet. I'll deal with it soon enough, along with all the other challenges every day and every season brings on Maggie's Farm.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hundred Dollar Bills

I am constantly fascinated by my beloved customers. They are so funny and quirky. Some like to be talked into buying a Bundaflicka Bag. Some like to be left alone to check them out and decide for themselves. I usually sit back and wait for some kind of cue. That's where my spinning wheel really comes in handy. I am busy in my booth, demontrating how I spin my yarn and making good product at the same time. It keeps me from looking bored or staring at the customers. My beautiful Robin wheel also draws curious passersby in for a peek. There are customers who look longingly at the bags, stroking and admiring them, but not buying because they are impossibly expensive for them. And then there are the 100 dollar bills...I've had three experiences this past summer with those C-notes. One local repeat customer said something like this - I've bought two bags from you already (over three years) and I think you should sell me this bag for a significant discount. I said yes, I would be happy to give her a break on this bag (the market is my summer job). Then she pulled out the 100 dollar bill. I didn't think too much of it until I saw her drive away in a Mercedes SUV. A few weeks later she stopped by to tell me she bought a 150 acre farm in Hamilton Village, a high-tax area. Hmmm, I thought. Just last weekend, I saw a woman looking over the bags as I was packing up. She said, Since you are packing to leave, would you let me have one of these bags at a reduced price? I said I have more shows to do and can sell the bags there, but, always trying to go home with a little more money, I said I can give you 10 dollars off. She said fine and opened her wallet. It was full of credit cards, including a gold AMEX and a few airline cards. She pulled out a 100 dollar bill. I was a bit annoyed since she was showing me she could pay the full $99 price but didn't want to. She just couldn't go the extra distance. And then there are the Do You Wholesale? people. I explain to them that I make everything I sell, and that my products are not purchased then resold at a higher price. They don't seem to get it. They want me to sell my stuff to them for a lower price so they can sell it for more and make money. No can do. I politely decline. Some are a little put off by my refusal, like the lady from the Cooperstown Farmer's Museum. She said, don't you realize we have 60,000 people come through our museum? That doesn't help me if I am giving my stuff away for nothing. I put my heart and soul into everything I make. I am blessed with customers who are happy to pay what I ask for my products as they know they are getting quality, American-made goods that are sold to support my farm. And to be sure, the small American family farm is a vanishing entity.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bundaflicka Buttons

At customer's requests I started bringing my stash of hand-made Bundaflicka Buttons to shows. If someone needs to replace a broken button, or doesn't like the button on a bag they want to purchase, I have the box ready for them to pick. Some people buy them for future projects. I'm amazed at how people marvel over them, as they are so easy to make with Fimo and Sculpy clay.

Kimmie Cornerstone

When I count my blessings I always include Kim, my fiber-sister from Kingston, Ontario. She is a devoted friend and helper. Kim makes my trips to shows so much easier, with her tireless toting and packing. She brings me coffee, food and helps with customers. I got the first good night sleep in a long time in the cozy bed she prepared in the back of her van. Thank you, Kimmie, for all you do for me.

Carol Crayonbox

Carol Schwartzott, my fiber friend from Freeville near Ithaca, spins and knits lovely things from my fiber. Here she's holding a beautiful BFL, angora and mohair sweater. Carol's booth is just gorgeous.

Little Sheep

I love these little Shetland Sheep. I think they might be a good "old lady" sheep for me. My Bluefaced Leicesters and Merino crosses are already way too big for me to handle. Shetlands give more wool than my BFL's and have nice little handles (horns) to help hold on to them. The breeder at Fingerlakes told me she gets three pounds plus from her tiny little Shetlands. My purebred BFL ewe hardly gives one pound, if you can imagine that. I love my beautiful, elegant Bluefaced Leicesters, but long range planning has me thinking about a different breed and the Shetlands appeal to me. They are on the wild side but very hardy, and a good size for a crippled old lady - which I will undoubtedley become someday.

Fiber Kids - the Human Kind

I love to see little kids at fiber festivals. Often they are dressed with hand-knit sweaters, socks and other home-grown duds. The Fingerlakes Fiber Festival was very entertaining in the children's department.

Fingerlakes 2010

The Genessee Valley Handspinners hosted another fabulous fiber festival this year. The weather cooperated and the crowds came out. Kimmie Cornerstone met me in the little town of Hemlock Friday night and we set up the booth. The temperature dipped but we were fairly snug, warm and comfy in the back of Kim's van. Saturday brought lots of enthusiastic fiber lovers from the Rochester area. I met several readers of this journal and we shared hugs and good vibes. It never ceases to give me pleasure and reassurance to hear how people log in daily to check on the farm. One farm friend scolded me for "going to New Jersey and disappearing" for a week and warned me to "never do that again!" I had much encouragement and validation by patrons who come back year after year to buy soap and hand creme. Handspun yarn sales were pretty good considering there was booth after booth of beautiful yarns and fibers everywhere you turn. Kim and I had dinner with Libby Llop Saturday night and participated in the Spin-In with some Genessee Valley spinners before turning in early. Sunday morning dawned cool and foggy but the sun came out to give us a lovely afternoon. All in all it was a good weekend. Kim did her usual fantastic packing job and I was on my way back to the farm.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rainy Day Rant

Running hard and scared for good reasons. Truck in the shop the last two days to find out why the dashboard light are on and to get new tires. Can't get to the middle of nowhere south of Rochester with bald tires and flashing lights. There goes all my money from Colorscape but had to be done. The Ford F150 that moved all my worldly goods to this little farm in northern Appalachia and, AJ will corroborate, saved our lives in the great flood of August '96 when route 88 opened up and swallowed two truckers near here, is worn out. I need it to go another two years - we'll see. Once I pull some hay wagons home with it in the next couple of weeks it might lay down and die altogether. Hoping for the best, expecting the worst. On a good note - school is going really well. Great staff, really challenging kids but manageable. Every day is a new day. I came home today fingers crossed that the packages I need for this weekend would be on the milk room steps. Would the things I ordered on Monday have gotten to me, here in the middle of nowhere? Well, most of them did - enough for me to make a good showing at Fingerlakes. I can make more creme tonight and finish the two bags I have going. I feel pretty good considering it's been midnight every night this week that I close my eyes and up for work at 6. The roving got here from Frankenmuth - bless their hearts - and is fantastic. All those old fleeces I found in the tractor shed and brought back to life with washing and dyeing are soft and beautiful. I fretted so these last couple of weeks, worried that even with the kid mohair and angora it wouldn't be soft, and there is 50 pounds of it, but it is SO soft and wonderful. I'll never poo-poo old fleeces again. Can't wait to spin it, but not tonight. Chores, dinner, sewing and creme are on deck. Oh, that's right, my two working sewing machines are about to die. I can't lift the presser foot on one and the other is moaning and groaning, shaking and clattering. I'm really hard on machines. Please, let another wonderful old steel machine drop out of the sky! Better get going. It's dark, rainy and cool outside and the leaves are changing. It was in the thirties this morning, had to turn on the baseboard heater in the bathroom. Winter is coming on fast and everyone is predicting a hard one. People up here are used to it. At least I have good tires on the truck. Miles to go before I sleep.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Six Months!

In six months we will gather in this lovely church, built from local Morris County stones, to witness Mia and Andrew's wedding. We will be lucky to have such a lovely sunny day as Mia and I shared two weekends ago. We walked from her apartment to Greenberry's for breakfast with Finn before we went to visit Lisa and her baby, Kai, visiting from San Francisco. I could hardly stand to leave to go back to reality, but duty calls. In three months we'll gather to shower Mia with gifts so she'll have what she needs to set up housekeeping as a married woman.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Peace and Quiet

It's so nice to pause and take some deep breaths beside the lovely pond at sunset. It's been non-stop busy for the last two weeks. After a visit to Mia on Labor Day Weekend, then school starting on Tuesday, then Colorscape Chenango on the following weekend, there's hardly been a dull moment. Sometimes dull moments are a gift. I think school will be manageable this year, at least that's what it looks like now. One never knows. Colorscape was fantastic, a joyous artsy block party on the square of Norwich, with fabulous bands playing everything from blues to wild Celtic music, and crowds of people coming through the artists booths. Many BOCES people came by, even Sean the custodian who cleans my classroom, and I was glad they could see what I do. They know I live a strange alternative agricultural lifestyle, and now understand a little better what keeps me busy. A woman bought a bag from me, and I thought she looked familiar. Today I saw her at a meeting and was told she's the assistant superintendent of our school system. After school and chores I'm trying to get some replacement product made for the Hemlock festival this weekend. It's a wonderful little show and my fiber-sister Kimmie is coming from Ontario to spend the weekend with me. We'll celebrate her birthday, which is TODAY. A more caring, generous and unselfish person never walked the earth. She understands me and everything I do, very refreshing after a weekend where people picked up a ball of roving and said, what's this? Fortunately soap and hand creme need no explanation so I was fine. Off to get some shut eye as I surely need it.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Brief Escape

I finally got loaded up and took off for Morristown to visit Mia before school starts and the fur flies. I brought her my Etienne Aigner raincoat with matching purse and three pair of boots from Chez Tractor Shed. The repository of all my worldly, as in New Jersey, goods yielded a giant box of shoes from my former life. I squealed with delight as I found new Dansko shoes still in the boxes with many pairs of well-worn, battle scared but still good, shoes I can polish up and wear to school this year. I didn't know how or when I would be able to buy any school clothes, and still don't know, but we've got SHOES! I'm dying to hit a couple of thrift shops locals in NY have turned me on to but have no idea when I can escape to Cortland or Cazenovia. Escape to New Jersey I did manage - after ridiculous traffic tie-ups on Route 17, which is usually a lovely drive. An accident then construction added an extra hour or so on to what should have been a three and a half hour trip. I pulled in to Staples in Morristown and Mia helped me haul six bags, 40 pounds, of dyed fiber in to the UPS counter and pack it for shipping to the mill. That would make 90 pounds I'm expecting back for sale this fall and whenever. Hope the customers like it. This summer's run is flavored with an enormous amount of sweat equity. Thankfully the heat wave is gone and the weather is beautiful here in upscale Morristown. Mia and I sat on a plush couch in a coffee shop on Main Street and watched all the beautiful people with their doggies walking by. Oh, to be away from the craziness of the farm for a day or sublime.

Saturday, September 04, 2010


It's a lovely 60 F. on my milk room steps where the thermometer lives. Matt is off to the farmer's market with my little trailer full of goods. The special order bag for the Hamilton psychiatrist is with him, hope she likes it. I'm doing chores then motoring off to New Jersey to visit the young couple and attend Lisa's baby shower. I have the Kai bag all ready. Mia will put some goodies in the pockets before we present it to Lisa. I'll be back Monday morning early to get ready for school on Tuesday. Summer is over. Bite the bullet. I know I'm not alone. Teachers everywhere taking deep breaths, throwing back their shoulders, lifting their chins and opening the classroom doors to face the skraelings. Gotta deal. My kitties and puppies will wonder where the woman went. They'll fall into their routine of sleeping all day and going crazy when they hear me pull in. That's when my second job begins with chores and crafts at night. I find the fall very invigorating, and I would rather face a blizzard than the insane heat we've had this summer. Yikes, that heat was awful. I was almost wishing I had AC at least in one room. My little asthmatic kitty was fainting, the chickens stopped laying eggs and the bunnies were flat out in their cages. I wouldn't be surprised if we have another heat wave this month. Let's not even think about it.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Got Soap

My soap is creamy and lovely. Nothing fancy, no chocolate chips or fancy molds, just pure, all-natural, moisturizing goodness. I even melt silk fibers into the lye solution for extra protein. I cut about 400 bars today and set them out to cure. Just hope the kitties don't decide to knock them down. I'm going to Morristown tomorrow to bring Mia some things and attend Lisa Palmer's baby shower. I'm always nervous leaving this madhouse but do so enjoy visiting Mia and Andrew. Matt is minding the farm. Hopefully the temps will be cooler and everyone will feel better tomorrow. It's 94 in the shade here and very, very humid.

Wild Apples

Brookfield is covered with wild apple trees. My own little farm has it's own apple orchard, over a hundred years old I think, which produced lots of tiny little apples. I'm going to try to pick some for the pigs, but the sheep and goats usually get there first. Deer hide from hunters in my orchard, which suits me just fine.

Labor Day

There is no rest from labor on the farm. If I'm not taking care of animals I am making things to support them. This week has been very productive. I got one 50 pound run of dyed wool, mohair, and angora out to the carding mill and am almost ready to ship another run almost as big. It's not fun stirring boiling dye pots when it's almost 100 degrees but it had to get done before school and shows start. I'm cutting up 90 pounds of soap today and boiling one more pot of wool and another of some llama I found in the tractor shed. It dries so fast in this weather I can't resist just one more pot. I like to dye wool in the winter as the kitties hug the stove for warmth, but not this week. They fled the milk room where my dye stove is. I'm keeping the piggies cool with buckets of cold water thrown onto the ground in their wallowing spot, and cool pans of slop along with their sweet feed. The ducks love their daily hose shower. Next year I'm going to put a little sprinkler in their pen. The sheep, some in full fleece, seem to be taking the heat in stride. During the day they lie on the cool hay/poop pack on the floor of the barn. I'm watering them twice as much in this weather. Luckily we have limitless water here in Brookfield. The underground springs coming down the hill are going constantly, and so are my hoses.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A Pig Tale

Last night I went out to the pig field to slop the boys and make sure they had enough water in their "wallow" to get some relief from the heat. It was almost 100 yesterday, just ghastly hot. The boys have igloos on concrete in the shade, and a room adjacent to the barn where they can dig down into the cool earth, I like them to have some wetness to cool their piggy skin. I called PIG-PIG-PIG-PIG but only two boys came running out to get their goodies, which includes a pan of sweet feed - something they adore. Uh-oh. Where is Winken, the biggest of the three? I expected to find a piggy carcass, keeled over from the heat, or something he ate from digging in the ground, or other. Farm life has taught me to hope for the best and expect the worst. Once the two present pigs were chowing down on their slop, faces buried and grunting with delight, I climbed over the fence to look around. No Winken. I walked the Poor White Fenceline, hastily put together myself two years ago when I needed to seperate a ram from the ewes immediately. Then I heard another happy grunting coming from the high weeds on the other side of the fence. There he was, digging up the soft loam and eating whatever roots and goodies he could find there. He hardly noticed me until I poured a little sweetfeed inside the fence at the spot where I suspected he pushed through. My plan worked and he tried pushing back under a metal fence panel while I pulled it up. To my dismay he got caught on some old barbed wire (a job I have always put off - rolling up nasty old rusty barbed wire)and ran back to the hole he was digging. Must have been something good under there. Now it's hot and the sweat is streaming off my face, and I'm thinking okay, there's a cistern in the ground over there where he can get water and he can just stay where he is. I didn't know how I was going to tell Matt, who is very attached to these pigs (lots of ham and bacon on the hoof here), when I saw him in the driveway. Could you give me a hand, I called. He climbed over, casting a critical eye at the feed and slop pans, looking to see if I was feeding the piggies properly. Fortunately, they were full to the brim with the two happy pigs enjoying their dinner, and I had already fed Matt his own dinner which is very helpful when requesting any type of farm labor. I left Matt to deal with the pig debacle while I went about my other chores. He appeared a while later, not looking too worse for wear. How did you get him in, I asked. Oh, no problem at all. I really thing Matt and those pigs have an understanding - a mutual respect perhaps. I was able to go inside and go about my business. I suspect there might be another escape if the plants and roots are that delectable on the other side of the fence. They have grass and weed to dig up inside their own living area but we know "the grass is always greener..."