Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kings Canyon

Mia and Andrew have safely returned from their hike through Kings Canyon in Sequoia National Park. Hurricane Irene prevented them from flying home over the weekend. The intrepid couple were undeterred and decided to rent a car and drive back to NJ from Cleveland. Much of New Jersey is still without power, along with New York and New England. Mia and Andrew, along with Andrew's long-time friend, Levi, had a terrific time in the wilderness of Northern California. Lisa, Regi and Kai joined them for one leg of the hike then they all returned to San Francisco, Lisa's home, for a visit. Mia begins her last semester of Nurse Practitioner training next week. The getaway trip was just what she needed to recharge her batteries for the tough few months ahead.

The Long Walk

I was putting it off as long as possible, but three days without power sent me back to the place that always has power, and heat, and light - my school. The long walk down the hall, to the staircase that takes me down to E-Wing where my room is (I hope)was dizzying to say the least, after a summer on the farm. I had no choice as the freezers are thawing and the last of my piggie products will spoil. I would rather feed them to my students than the dogs (sorry, doggies!)so I packed up the semi-frozen packages of sausages, roasts, spare-ribs and bacon, and brought them here. I also needed to charge my cell phone and post to my blog, just in case anyone is wondering what the heck happened to me. We survived Hurricane Irene with minor damage. The wind blew rain under the ridge pole of my roof, causing a line of leaks going the length of the barn extension over me. The pots were singing. So here we are at day 3 with no power. What a bummer. Talk about getting weaned off technology real fast. I've been doing everything I can possibly think of that does not require power - cutting out Bundaflicka totes, melting soap scraps for blocks (I still have propane, thankfully) and picking fleeces. I wear my headlamp and use lots of candles at night and the early morning. I read at night, unusual for me, went to sleep at 9 and woke up at four this morning, all slept out. With no running water I go to Shepherd Mary's to fill up gerry cans and bring them home. She gets power from NYSEG and did not lose it at all. I have the co-op, Otsego Electric and they are not giving their customers any indication of when the power will return. I have a cistern in the back field, but a marshy area separates it from the barn making carrying heavy water containers difficult. The sheep drink from the pond, but the "ancillary species," like chickens, rabbits, ducks, dogs and cats need water taken to them. Then there are the humans, who are used to various activities like cooking, bathing, flushing, etc. Suffice it to say I am eagerly looking forward to the power going back on. This morning I decided to take a bar of soap and a towel up to the pond. It was 40, yes 40 F. this morning so I waited until 9 or so, hoping the air would be a little warmer. I spooked a beautiful Blue Heron at the edge of the pond, making me feel a little guilty I was claiming the water for myself. The hurricane has flushed the pond nicely, with water racing down the overflow. Fearing I would chicken out and not get my proper bath, I stripped and lathered up from chin to toes so I would have to fully submerge in the cold pond water. How invigorating to float amoung the cattails with little, and big, green frogs for company. I left the water feeling much, much better, got dressed, and took my curious doggies back down the big hill to get ready to make my way here. I have no idea what is happening out there in the world, what roads are impassable, who is still underwater, etc. I hope all this will be revealed by my lovely PC here on my desk. I would like to visit Mia for a day, but have heard some roads to New Jersey are closed due to flooding. We were planning on a beach day, but will probably put that on hold. Mia is working every single weekend from now to December so she can fit in her two clinical situations for nurse practitioner school. I have work and shows coming up. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Boys in the Back

The rams and bucks are in their own pasture in the back of the barn. It's a neat place for them, as they have a run in area that connects to the rest of the barn where they can see the ewes and does. I also propped open the door to the silo room, giving them an extra space to get out of the weather. I love the boys, and hated taking them off the hillside, but I don't want lambs this year. I have to go up in the hay mow and throw bales down to them through the window. It's a bit tedious but the boys need to eat. Zack, my purebred Border Leicester ram is out there along with Romeo, Othello's son, who is a real nice looking Merino/Bluefaced Leicester ram. Spikey, Monkey's boy is in there, along with Dexter, Dolly's boy, and a few others. I have to get Big Jim Baldwin over here to shear. I hope he's in a better mood than last time. It's worth putting up with Jim's crankiness to hear him put the other cranky male squarely in his place. I wonder who in the world I could be talking about????

Late Night Creme Fest

I made Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme late into the night for today's market. I don't measure, but instead, go into a zen-like state and see what comes out. Last night's creme is really nice. I lather up my arms and legs to test each run of the Cuisinart for emolience and texture. This morning when I got into the bath tub, fuzzy and tired from lack of sleep, I thought, wait, what is on my skin? True to what I tell my customers, the creme has staying power - so I shaved my legs. I sold a few jars this morning, and must make more for Colorscape in two weeks. The ingredients are prohibitively expensive, but I love my creme. The last thing I do before I say my prayers, is reach for a jar.


I lose count of how many people come into the booth to ask about these soap blocks. People think they are something to eat. I don't sell a whole lot of them, and it's a good thing, since they are really a pain in the %$#@ to make. It takes several days to melt down scraps, with much mashing and pounding and stirring. The result is an incredible block of soap that lasts for years, and is full of many essential herbal oils. I keep them out just to draw curiousity seekers who often buy something else. A couple of loyal customers buy them every year at the sheep shows. Sheep people know the value of a good hunk o' soap.

Nuno Felted Mother Fiber

Candace Cain, High Priestess of the Clan of Candace, was at the market with some lovely new nuno-felted scarves created with my Mother Fiber (Wool is the Mother of All Fibers!) I'm in awe of her work. Candace not only makes beautiful jewelry (Mia and I are great fans of her earrings) but she works wonders with wool.

Market Report

The market was affected by Hurricane Irene jitters I think, but I still did alright. I sold a bag straight off, then watched as people stroked and petted them all day. That's okay, as I need them for Colorscape and Fingerlakes. I bought fresh raspberries for breakfast with my earnings - money well spent. I found a tub of lovely bag fabric in the hay mow that will keep me sewing for a while. A woman who sews her own totes bought a couple of Bundaflicka Buttons for her bags. Staying up late to make a fresh batch of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme paid off as I sold a few jars of it. Soap sales were moderate, but I was grateful as there are two other hand-made soap makers at the market. Home to wait out the storm. I'll have to get the big north side doors closed and the cross-brace up, and start filling up water containers. It's cloudy now and rain will start soon. Plenty of hay in the mow and I have cabbage soup to last for days - hmmmmm, good.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bag Factory

I'm turning out the Bundaflicka totes as fast as I can, with Colorscape and the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival, aka "Hemlock," coming up quickly. There is no rushing the process, and animals still have to be fed and cared for. I think I will be okay with bags, but fiber is a concern. I'm way behind in picking and dyeing wool. I have way too much black wool, and dyed white wool is what sells the best. I adore my black sheep. My fleeces were not so terrific this year. Lambing really takes a lot from the quality of wool. Fortunately Colorscape is not a fiber show, but Hemlock is. I'm hoping to have some wool out to the mill by the end of next week which they can deliver to me at NY State Sheep and Wool at Rhinebeck. I hate to disappoint my spinners and felters. This was a crazy year. Somehow I have to get a shearing done in September. I have a few goats running around with some nice mohair on them. Add it to the list. I'm trying not to think about my new teaching position, which starts week after next. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Izzy Lets Go

Izzy enjoyed our walk today and decided to scratch his back on a piece of shale in the back pasture. There are shale outcroppings all over my farm, through which my water is filtered. I'm told that's why it tastes so good. Baby Bubbles is amused, but keeps her distance.

Today's Walk

We usually go up the hill, but today we diverted and went behind the barn, to the hidden pond tucked under the ridge. This pond was built by the previous, short-interim owner, who, I think, was looking for a place to do some "private swimming." Whoever dug this pond did not get the drainage right, for it won't hold more than a foot of water. I would like to get it re-dug someday, as the spot is just perfect, next to the apple orchard and well behind the barn. I'm very lucky to have water sources all over this little farm. There is always a place for the sheep and goats to get a drink, and doggies to play.


I do love surprises, and I love presents, especially the ones that come so unexpectedley. When I picked up the mail in Brookfield yesterday Barb, our local post mistress, said she was glad I came to collect this box which had been tempting her all day. Barb went into the back and brought out this aromatic package which contained two pounds of the powerful, bombastic, and fabulous Multatelli Coffee Beans, of the Thor's Hammer variety. The box also contained a clever and lovely sheep ornament and an artistic feathery creation crafted by the talented Lindsay Parkinson. Kimmie Cornerstone, my fiber-art soul mate and booth partner, must have thought I needed a bit of a boost during this busy pre-show time period. I do love her so, and wish she wasn't all the way up there in Kingston, Ontario. I'm so lucky to have her. I always said I could be struck by lightning and Kim could do a show for me without breaking a sweat. "Tulip" is a big, strong, Dutch girl, whose family emigrated to Ontario after Canadian troops liberated their village from the Nazis. Her folks were active in the Dutch Resistance. One uncle was captured by the Germans, who put him on a train going to a concentration camp. The other uncles blew up the train and recaptured him. When the family's ship docked in a Canadian port after the war, all their worldly goods, which were packed in a big wooden crate, were accidentally dropped into the harbor when being off-loaded. Kimmie has some terrific stories. My favorite one is the story of how, when she was spinning at some remote sheep dog trials in Canada, two little-old British ladies made their way into her tent and said, "Excuse us Dearie, but are you the Kimmie Cornerstone of the Maggie's Farm Blog?" Now I know I've arrived!

Lovely Scraps

They may be scraps but these end pieces, and shaved slivers, will be melted down for the big, funky, artsy blocks of soap that are so intriguing. I put a basket of them out at the farmer's market, and rarely do they sell, but people wander in and ask about them. Most think they are big hunks of cake. I tell them they are scraps from all my soaps and they will get the benefit of many different essential oil characteristics along with the olive oil, honey, oatmeal and shea butter. The blocks look like granite, or stone once cured, and never come out the same way twice. I cook them in a big pot for several days, mashing and stirring often, then pouring the molten mass into the lid of a copy paper box I bring home from school. One woman bought five blocks, and I think I may have sold one more piece all summer. Not to worry as they go quickly at the wool shows. Ag people know the value of a big hunk of good soap.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dust to Dust

I stopped by the bone yard this morning to say hello to my old friends who are returning to the earth. Every farm has one. I sometimes try to pick out who is who, but they are so scattered by the coyotes and foxes it's hard to tell. Chris, my beautiful llama, is pretty much picked clean now. I miss his striking figure on the hillside. We had become so friendly toward the end after years of him running away from me. I'm glad I had a chance to stroke his big banana ears and scratch all the itches places up and down his back for him. The farm is a good place to learn about the harsh realities of life and death. I'm getting tired of those lessons that have been thrust on me lately.


The branches are heavy with apples in my orchard, which I think dates back to colonial times. The sheep, goats and deer will have full bellies. I don't spray the trees and often wish I had time to tend to them.

LIttle Friends

Cheri and Winky-Tink like to keep me company when I sew. There are many places for kitties to roost in this 20,000 square foot barn, but some of them crave the inside, and insist on laying on top of my sewing stuff. Cheri even tries to claim the books I am reading. They are so pretty I find it hard to kick them out.

Monday Morning Walk

The pull of the lovely cool morning was too much to ignore. I grabbed my camera and took off for the tippy-top with the doggies. Storm clouds were rolling in but were interspersed with bright blue sky. We were rained on but it just added to the thrill. I won't have this freedom in two weeks where I will be imprisoned by concrete and plastic so I'm making sure I enjoy it now. The telly is broken, the speakers on my computer don't work, and there is nothing but my little school lap top with teeny-tiny sound to prevent these random thoughts from shooting through my mind like lightning bolts. In psychology it's called "understimulation." Some people are very uncomfortable with silence and that's me. I forgot I had Pandora.com set up with a Cold Play set, along with my beloved Cranberries and others. I have more to do than I can report, with Colorscape and Fingerlakes looming large. I'm getting a lot done at night, but, when I look out the window and see black and blue clouds, and sheep trails leading up the hill, I have to get outside.

Gun Metal Gray

I look for fabrics that jump out at you, but sometimes it's fun to do something kind of subtle. I had this lovely gray chenille in the stash and decided to use it. Luke and Hannah helped me make the perfect buttons for it. The lining is a gift from Carol Crayonbox and her secret source out near Rochester, or is it Ithaca? Western New York is a frontier I haven't explored much yet. I will be out there in three weeks or so to the fabulous Fingerlakes Fiber Festival, where my totes do very well. I'm working very hard so as not to disappoint the nice people who come every year to check out what's new.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Market Musings

The market was slow despite perfect weather and many quality vendors. It's tough to compete with the Bouckville Antique Extravaganza, the Norwich Blues Festival and other local, seasonal venues. The blueberry farmer was absent so I didn't get my preferred breakfast. Candace was not there, making me think she was picking through antiques over on Route 20. I was anxious to see what lovely creations she made out of my Mother Fiber. There is a new Amish farmer from Ft. Plain next to me with many baked goods and veggies. The Amish are moving into this area big time. Fine with me, as they farm large pieces of land instead of subdividing the farms to sell as lots for absentee city slickers. Way too many vegetable farmers at the market, making me happy I'm not raising produce and dragging it over there just to take it home. Sure, I drag my soap, totes and fiber there but my stuff doesn't go bad - I just save it for fall shows. I was thinking I wouldn't sell much of anything then some creme went along with a few soap sales. A grandmother bought one of the totes I made last week along with some soap, which I promptly spent on cat, dog food and olive oil to make more soap. It comes in, then goes out. I was sorry to learn the Mizrahi Farm couple have separated. I took my class to visit their Norwich farm last year and they were so hospitable. They were raising those fantastic Dexter cows which are great for small homesteads - nicely tempered animals who give lots of milk and meat - along with Jacob sheep and chickens. The Mizrahis would bring their big brood of kids to the market and set them up with a lemonade stand of their own and a huge farm booth. I saw Mrs. Mizrahi there by herself and the tiny new baby, Avita, and asked where the kids are. When she said they are with their father this weekend I thought, Oh, no. She volunteered that they broke up over the winter, but she has a young girl come and help her with farm work. I bought a box of fresh apricots and homemade granola for my breakfast and went on my way, musing about all the awful pressures of keeping animals alive over the winter in this unforgiving climate. Their house was across the road and down a path to the barn if I recall. I live in the barn with the sheep, making getting to them so much easier. As I was packing up my booth I saw her from afar, doing all the loading with that little baby toddling around. Wish I could help her. I came home to the farm and chilled a bit. Have to cut up a TON of soap today and set it out to cure. Lucky me, whatever I did to tweak my recipe causes the soap to cure so quickly I can use it right away. I always allow it to cure before wrapping for customers, however. I think I'll whack off a chunk of Lime, or Mango, or Lemon Eucalyptus (great bug repellent) and get in the bath tub with it for some "quality control testing." Another big cup of French Roast first I think.

Friday, August 19, 2011


Hot and steamy out there. I took the doggies up to the top of the hill expecting to see the sheep grazing the lovely second cut on the high pasture, but no sheep. Smart girls, and neutered boys, they were lying on the cold dirt in the barn. I turned to see a long line of kitty-cats, following me in single file, with their little tongues hanging out and panting. Sweet kitties just couldn't resist joining us on our morning walk. I wondered if they were worried about missing some excitement? Or maybe just bored of watching life go by in the barnyard. I stopped by the apple orchard to admire the bumper crop of apples I'm getting this year. Conditions must have been just right in the spring. Last year a late frost killed all the buds and we had nary an apple. The branches are heavy with them now. I plucked one that had a bit of a blush and bit down. Nice and juicy but not very sweet yet. I don't know what variety these trees are. They are very old, perhaps from colonial times? Have to study up on apple growing. At one time I harbored a desire to prune the trees and get the orchard going again. Discretion prevailed and I decided to let the fruit drop for the sheep and goats. I won't spray the trees, and the fruit is a bit buggy by the time the apples are any good size. The sheep don't mind! I like the idea of the deer, who sometimes hide out from the local hunters in my orchard, fortifying themselves against the cold and the chase, with my fruit. The dogs, with kitties in tow, reached the pond and I almost shucked my clothes and waded in. The only thing that stopped me was the thought of having leeches latch onto tender tissues. I had one between my toes a couple of weeks ago, picked up at the waterfall. Luke was amused, as he is usually the one who finds the leeches. Matt Redmond took care of it with his cigarette. Sure enough it popped itself right out when touched with the heat. When I yanked the leeches out of Luke he bled like crazy. Life in the country... I just poured my morning's batch of Mango Soap. The lovely mango oil was a gift from Laticia, a soap/spinner friend, who got out of the soap business a while back. I've been anxious to use it, all 24 ounces of it - a good amount for my size batch of soap. I added some Litsea, a lemony essential oil that supposedly helps citrus oils to attach to the soap, instead of diminishing as they like to do. The Mango soap "set up" quickly and, instead of flowing into the molds, fell in thick chunks, not what we like to happen when soap making. I'm holding a giant, warm, pot, with hot molten soap inside, with the lye still active, balancing it on one knee, while trying to scrap out the clumps of soap into the paper milk cartons. Not the optimum situation. I still dream of free standing pot-tipper, which would hold the pot and allow me to pour by pulling the handle,leaving my hands free to scrap soap out. Dream on... On deck for today, finish two lovely bags on the machine, cut out one more, and I should make cream tonight for the market tomorrow. The weather report looks good, although hot and humid. Have to remember to pack my fan to plug into the lamp post in my spot. It really makes a difference.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rocking Them Out

I love the way Tulip, my Dutch-Canadian friend AKA Kimmie Cornerstone, puts it. She says she knows I will rock them out. That is what I'm trying to do. I'm building up an inventory of product for the upcoming shows, while trying to make some sense out of this farm for the remaining time I'm home from school. Oh, yes, school. I have to go in tomorrow morning to meet with Madame Supervisor to discuss my "clients" (special ed. lingo) for this year. Okay, suck it up, get in there and find out what I'll be dealing with. I made LIME soap today - oh, the house smells wonderful. Lemon Eucalyptus in the molds yesterday, Lime today, Mango tomorrow. This is too much fun. I've got Bundaflicka Totes hanging from the ceiling again. Can't have too many of them. Shepherd Mary and her friend, Robert, came to get the trailer today. Robert is great, he had the tires inflated and popped that bad boy out of the weeds lickedty split. He's a real can-do kind of guy, and always has a smile on his face. Robert is going to make a guest cabin out of my first home on this farm. He'll put a wood-stove in it and hook up the bathroom. That tin-can kept me dry, maybe not warm, for a year. Two people were too many in that trailer, let alone all those dogs and a poor kitty or two. I remember trying to open the door against a wall of snow, and waking up with my hair frozen to the siding. The water pipes Matt ran out there froze in December, even wrapped in heat tape. The port-o-potty people took it away, too. I only had a camp potty in the milk room, requiring a run through the dark into the barn. On Saturdays when Matt would come home from working in New Jersey, we would pull a stock tank in the milk room, the only place I had running water, and we'd have Red Neck Saturday Night. The only baths I got during the week were quick splashings in the sink in school. The principal found out about my situation and quietly pulled me aside and offered me the cosmetology shower. Now I have my giant claw foot tub which I indulge in daily, filled to the brim with hot, soapy water. Oh, it's heaven.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Can I Repeat?

I'm going into "show mode." It's taken a while for me to get going, with Hannah and Luke here and farm concerns. Farm concerns are always here but I have to focus on product in order to keep the farm going. I've got a batch of Lemon Eucalyptus soap on the stove now, and three bags cut out, and that's good, but I'm still lagging with wool. I took a look into the cargo trailer and was happy to see a good bit of carded Mother Fiber in there, but I still have a lot to do. There is a mountain of fleeces out there that need picking, washing, dyeing, and setting out to dry, then shipped to the carding mill. The next two weeks are crucial. I'll work like crazy then go to the beach with Mia for a quick two day getaway at the end of this month. School starts for me on September 6, then the glorious fine arts festival, Colorscape, happens the following weekend. Fingerlakes Fiber Festival comes the weekend after that, my first travelling show. I love them both. Colorscape is a great bag show for me. Last year an EMT bought three bags, one for herself, her mother and sister. It was a big high for me. Conversely, there was a woman who bought a Bundaflicka bag the year before, and wanted another one, but couldn't find one she liked as much as the purple chenille tote she already had (a Carol Crayonbox fabric from the Ithaca area). It works both ways. I have approx. ten bags hanging now and need 30-40 at least for the season. Then there is Rhinbeck - NY State Sheep and Wool - looming in October, my biggest show of the fall. I'll have to burn the midnight oil in September for that show. I have lots of fabric but it's harder than you think. Fabrics need to be collated with linings, and I often don't have stuff that goes together. Then there is thread, buttons, and cedar inserts. I'm staying away from the metal bag frames as they tend to wear out after a couple of years of wear. Besides, I like the clay Bundaflicka Buttons. Hannah and Luke made a nice box load for me to use this fall. Talking about it won't get it done. Better get it in gear.

Gunlocke Fabric

Carol Crayonbox, my artist friend from Freeville, near Ithaca, gets up in the wee hours and drives a long distance to hit the Gunlocke Furniture Factory fabric sale twice a year. Lucky for me, as she comes home with a car load of fabulous, durable, office furniture fabric that is great for Bundaflicka knitting bags. I usually stick to a fuzzier, softer fabric like chenille, but this stuff is gorgeous and wears like iron. I finished a messenger tote from dotted Gunlocke fabric yesterday and have two on the machine now.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hay Motor Issues

I was elated to find a hay elevator motor at Tractor Supply for a hundred dollars less than Earley's Farm Supply, the local farm store I would rather support, but a hundred bucks is a hundred bucks. Sadly, the shaft is the wrong size and the motor will have to be brought back. I'll keep working on it. I did find the lye I use for soapmaking at Tractor Supply, for six dollars cheaper than Lowe's home store. That's a nice chunk of change considering I need 3 pounds per batch - savings of $9. Every little bit counts. Rushed home to find my cabbage soup, which I left on low flame, very well cooked but in need of some broth. I have a whole chicken simmering in a pot right now. While out I bought freezer bags to put all this lovely soup in for winter. The rain continues - a lovely, continuous drizzle that farmer's love - accept when you've got all the hay rows feathered and ready to pick up. With recent rain and this week's wetness, my field is in better shape than August has seen in the past. I have some fabric picked out and ready to do some cutting. When I get this soup project off the stove I'll make some soap. Colorscape is looming large, as I was reminded when I passed the town park in Norwich. What a happy time that festival is, with continuous bands and good food. Many people from my school system come through and they are able to see what I am all about outside of school. They aren't quite sure what to make of me, and I kind of like it that way. All they know is that this woman lives in the barn with the sheep, and she often rushes in with her hair wet wearing outfits hastily put together after she sheds her chore duds. At Colorscape it is all revealed. In the meantime there is much more to worry about than soap and fabric. The leaves are starting to change already and winter is looming, with livestock to keep alive through to spring, which never comes early here.

Monday Morning

A gentle rain fell all night - perfect for the fields. The rams/ram lambs/bucklings seem to be adapting nicely to being separated from the girls. I counted 55 ewes and wethers on the hillside last night. That's still on the high side for me, even with the wagons of lovely green second cut hay being delivered by the Postma brothers. Winters are long and hard here in the Great North Land and the critters surely do go through the hay. I have a big pot of cabbage/carrot/cauliflower/onion/potato soup simmering on the stove, with lots of lemon curry, dill, lemon pepper and salt. Oh, it will be so nice to have it ready for me on a cold winter night when I drag my sorry butt in from the barn and don't want to cook for myself. I can smell the aroma of the soup and wood stove right now. Off to the farm/hardware store to get parts for the hay elevator extension. The electric is working, but the motor is shot. If I can get it fixed I can run bales all the way down to the other end and drop them with the kicker. Sure will save some sweat equity. Gray and cloudy now so I don't think another wagon will com for a day or two. Ciao for now.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sad Little Boys

The rams and ram lambs are coming out of the field today. I pray I caught them in time. The temps are dipping and the hormones will surely be revving up. I have two mature rams including Zack, the sweet-tempered Border Leicester ram purchased in Maryland. He is so docile I constantly break the shepherd's rule to never, ever turn your back on a ram. The other guy, Othello, is a lovely black Merino/Bluefaced Leicester cross who is also a real sweetie with a big, chunky build and thick fleece. I haven't noticed any mating behavior at all. No sniffing of back ends, pushing and snortling at the ewes, etc., but one can't be too careful. The little boys, including Dexter, son of Dolly, must come out too. There will be a good bit of whining and complaining. The boys are still nursing from their adoring mothers, but the time will come, shortly, when those hormones will tell them that even the moms are fair game for some romance. Well, there is very little romance about it. I'll never forget the first time I saw a ram mount a ewe. It was over in a second. Jump up, jump off, that's it. You can hardly tell anything happened. Dexter is very attached to Dolly. They are never far apart. Spikey is always with Monkey and they are the cutest pair with their blue eyes and black mohair. If you recall from an earlier post, Spikey is the survivor of twins. I should say, the chosen survivor because Monkey has a dark side - she has given birth to twins the last two years and has killed, or ignored to the point of death, one of her twins. Sadly, last year the dead twin was a lovely red doeling. Maggie was not amused. I tried to forgive her, for Monkey was also the surviving twin herself. Celeste, Monkey's mom, did the same thing. Interesting genetics there. Anyway, Dexter, Spikey, Ray Davies, and another couple of lambs sporting a scrotum will be removed to the ram pen. Fortunately I have the newly delivered hay to toss out the upstairs barn window to them. I'll have to run a hose out there, adding one more chore to the list. I have some very nice lambs I managed to castrate in hopes those black fleeces would grow as thick and lustrous as the baby coats indicated. One can only hope. I'm hoping for zero population growth this year, and cold winter nights with Maggie snug inside on the sofa in front of the wood stove, covered in quilts and dogs, with the peace of mind that comes with no lambsicles being dropped in the barn while she sleeps.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Market Picking Up

The Hamilton Market was much busier today. I got there late and thought I would be setting up with customers walking by, but the sidewalks were empty. An hour or so later the crowds came and I actually had some sales. What a good feeling, especially to see people petting and stroking the bags, then leaving, then coming back later for more petting and stroking and cooing to the totes, then two finally sold. That's what keeps me sewing. As long as I have electric, a sewing machine that works, a fan or two, and my movie channels I will sew. Big soap making push on this week, along with creme and dyeing of fiber. My veggie vendor friend, Ron Wagner, had a giant box of cabbages, cauliflower, and broccolis at $1 each. I bought a dozen with the intention of making cabbage soup. I adore cabbage - must be a Swedish thing - and I know it keeps colds and flu away. Matt, who is a real fan of Alexander Solzhenitsen and read all his books, says cabbage soup was a mainstay of the Russian gulag prisons. He hates the stuff, and says I am treating him like a "zek," a prisoner in a Russian prison. Too bad, says I. It's cheap, healthy and good for you! I went to the local grocery with my earnings and bought some Rit dye. I'm a Jacquard snob, but in precarious economic times, Rit will do. Purple is purple is purple. After lunch at Hamilton Whole Foods with some customers from Staten Island who have a "camp" up here, I gassed up and came home determined for a bit of a rest, then heard the hay elevator start up over my head. Two more wagons of gorgeous, green, sweet-smelling second cut hay from the Postma brothers arrived. Matt stopped at the Brookfield General Store to ask the ladies working there if they knew of any local kids who want work stacking bales. They said kids who want to work are in short supply, even here in Northern Appalachia. Oh, well, Nurse Tanya says I have to do weight bearing exercise and 50 pound bales ought to do the trick. Matt says he will stay home and work on the motor to the far end of the barn. OH, that would help me so much. If only Lukie were here. He would be in heaven with all these bales to climb.

Manna from Heaven

Just as they promised, the Postma brothers are sending over wagons full of sweet-smelling, lovely green second cut hay. We agreed on an "off the wagon" price for 2,000 bales and they will bring it right from the field, which will prevent them having to load up a truck to deliver it to me during the winter when weather conditions are less favorable. The hay elevator is working two-thirds of the way across the barn. My barn is 240 long, with an enormous capacity for hay. Unfortunately the last leg of the elevator is broken and I have to carry bales to the far end. With some careful reduction of sheep numbers, this may be the first winter I don't run out of hay. I'm heading over to the market now with five new totes. I'm using some of the new Gunlocke office furniture upholstery fabric Carol Crayonbox got for me and it's great for linings. I have to work like crazy on product the next three weeks, between stacking hay and walks up the hill to lie in the grass, stare at the clouds and dream.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Time to Get Busy

I don't know where to start? Soap? Sew? Spin? It's all waiting for me. All my "coping mechanisms" are ready to put into action. I typically have an "off" day or two when Hannah and Luke leave, and I am doing a little better this year. I have not yet sniffed Luke's pillowcase, but I do stare at the sofa where he bedded down at night and I've gone out to Hannah's trailer to check for anything I should mail to her. I got to the PO this morning to mail her IPod, which was left when we jumped out of the car to hurry into the terminal. We only had one hour before departure and I had to register them for kid-travel. The IPod had slipped under the seat, a tough break for Hannah as there was a FOUR HOUR DELAY before they took off. Poor Hannah - she confessed she didn't bring a book to read, and without an Ipod she was bereft of any entertainment. I offered to buy her some beauty magazines from the candy kiosk but she said no thanks, and stared off into the distance with a sad face for most of the time. It was miles to go back out through security to the parking lot but in retrospect that's what I should have done. I just mailed it to her this morning. Luke and Mia played and laughed through the delay and I loved watching them fool around. I came back from NJ last night after a lovely visit with a St. Elizabeth College professor friend of mine. We combed through two used-book stores together in Morristown and Madison and had a great time. I came away with a cheery summer-reading book, The Highland Clearances, about the Scottish Highlanders being abandoned by the Clan Chiefs and replaced with sheep. I also came home with Albion's Seed, a fascinating book about the four pathways of British immigration to American. I heard a graduate classmate give a presentation on it at Montclair State and I've wanted to read it ever since. I would also like to read The Help, which is all the rage right now, and will be reminiscent of time in the South with my mother's people while growing up. There won't be time anyway, as I am way behind in making product for fall shows. It's a little too quiet here today, but I am used to being alone, well, being the only human on the farm. I am surrounded by many sensient beings, but none who can hold a conversation. Matt was laid out on the sofa when I got home, exhausted from saving energy and sick with something going around the office. Dishes were piled high in the sink, garbaged day was missed. He said, YOU'VE got a dead sheep in the barn. When he says "You've" I know it is bad news. I searched all over the barn and barn yard today and darned if I can find a dead sheep. Maybe it got up and walked away? I don't mind being alone. I'm kind of used to it by now. I think alone-ness is a good test of character. If you can't stand to be alone with yourself, then you've got a problem. I'm going to finish a couple of bags I started, then maybe take a short nap. Very shortly my days, and weekends, will be taken up with work, then setting up and working shows. It's a heady and validating experience when people buy my products. We'll see how the economic decline effects sales. Maryland was down this year, and when Maryland Sheep and Wool is down, well, that's bad news. Bad news all over the place - London is burning as rioters run wild. How are they going to put on the Olympics next summer? Children are dying like flies in Somalia. I have farm worries myself. There is a chill in the air, a reminder of what's to come all too quickly. My silk underwear and Carhartt suit is ready to go, but not too soon I hope.

Monday, August 08, 2011

One More Swim

What to do on Hannah and Luke's last night on the farm? Go swimming, ofcourse. We went to the waterfall and spent a good amount of time playing in the lovely cold spring water tumbling down the gorge. Now they will go home to Texas sparkling clean and refreshed. I'm taking them to Newark Airport where Auntie Mia will join us for the send-off. The Halcyon Days of Summer are waning. I have a busy fall to look forward to. I sure will miss my little friends. Luke and I spent some time mucking out the barn tonight, our favorite "togetherness activity."