Thursday, September 29, 2011
Torrential rain coming down now. Flood alerts posted. The poor people south of here have been hit hard and are still not dried out. It rained hard for an hour or two in the middle of the night. My morning pre-dawn walk was squishy, but delightful, with the swirling mist, sheep moving through the apple orchard like ghosts, and a single celestial body shining brightly in the sky. I love to climb the hill in my nightie and boots, to the top of my land, and survey the farm below. The landscape is very dramatic with the ridge on the left creating the boundary of my farm and wide open valley below. The rising sun comes over the ridge, slowly illuminating the sky. No wonder I have trouble getting to work on time. I have to force myself to climb back down, get the chores done and get ready for work. My students are challenging but manageable so far, and I am enjoying them. We worked for a couple of hours this morning then put on music videos to dance to. It's a long morning together, 3 hours in one room, and the dancing was a perfect way to blow off steam, jumping around to rap music, making all the ridiculous affectations, and laughing hysterically. We played croquet in phys. ed. again, and the mosquitoes were out in force. I hope I can get home in time to get the blue Merino off the drying rack. I just made it in time yesterday to rescue the mohair from the rain. Rain is forecast for the next two days here, unfortunate for the people who are already water logged. The weather forecast is fabulous for the place where I am going to spend my birthday. It's a secret for now, to be revealed when I return. Until then...
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Rosanna, a colleague from school and neighbor from across the creek, and her husband, Steve, surprised me with a load of wood today. Wish I hadn't asked them to drive around to the north side of the barn where I could stack it for easy access. Steve's truck was soon stuck in the mud. The fact that it had just rained for two hours didn't help the slick incline. Took an hour or so for another neighbor to come with a tractor to pull him out. I should have known better as the last time wood was delivered the same thing happened. Oh, well, we'll just have to truck the wood up to the barn as it is now next to the driveway by the pole barn. Good to have both hay and firewood coming in. The yearling doe who I found hanging by her foot from the fence panel is not doing very well. Won't stand up and I'm feeding and watering by hand. Thought I should cut off the gorgeous, four inch long mohair - just in case - and found a hefty set of balls underneath. Thank goodness, he's a he not a she. I know that's awful, but, in the livestock world, girls rule and boys are just "extra." I've been dyeing fiber every night in an effort to get another run out to the carding mill so they can bring it to me at Rhinebeck in two weeks. I'm low on dyes but picked up some Cushing's from Heather at Dreamweaver. I used to use it exclusively until Donna Carlstrom from the Sheep Shed got me started on Jacquard. I buy J. by the pound from Dharma and it felt funny using those tiny Cushing's envelopes. Does a nice job. Today I was working on Jim Baldwin's LUSCIOUS Merino lamb's wool. Oh, that Merino is so nice. I have a big pot of last year's roosters simmering on the stove for stock. I turned off the tractor shed freezer to save electricity and had to do something with the birds. The broth is divine and the rooster meat I tasted might not all go to the cats as it is rather tasty. Not nearly as rubbery as I thought. A lot to do tonight, and not enough time to do it. I took my three students to the market today, along with Mr. Potter and Mrs. Price. It was a fantastic field trip. The kids were great. Going out with them is a good bonding experience and I plan to do it often. I have the blessing of my C/O and can drive the school van as I peed in a cup and passed the test!
Yes, it is a good morning. After many hours of rain, blue sky is peaking through the clouds. As I was throwing bales out the upstairs window (I always yell "fire in the hole" first to give them a chance to move and not get hit by the 50 pound missile) I heard a sad little bleat coming from the east end of the barn. I looked out another hay tossing hole and saw a little doe goat hanging upside down from a wire panel. I scrambled down one of the two ladders I use to get up in the mow and found the poor girl with her hoof caught in the fence. Who knows how long she was hanging there. Thank God I heard her. I freed her and laid her down on the floor. I felt up and down her leg for a break, but couldn't find anything wrong. She can't stand up, and is quite upset. I put her in a pen with Ray Davies, a little black buck who I am treating for meningeal worm (the only case this year, thankfully). I gave her some water and fed her a few grains of corn. I left them together, hoping they both recover. It will be a long, worrisome day.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The weather has been unseasonably warm the last few days. Knut enjoys cooling off in the hidden pond. I'm enjoying these halcyon days before the cold wind and snows blow off Lake Ontario and turn the farm into a frozen, icy wasteland.
My Lilly is quite the Grande Dame of the hillside. She was born on Easter Sunday, hence the name Lilly. I still have her mother, Harmony, purchased in Ohio many years ago. Lilly is extremely affectionate, and passed on that trait to her sons, Denzel and Forrest. I adore my Lilly and hate to think of the time she will cross over the Rainbow Bridge.
The apple crop is wonderfully abundant this year. This particular tree is on the edge of the roadside culvert in front of my farm. Sadly, the apples fall into the ditch. When I climb down to get the apples I sink into the mud. I think I will let the wild critters dine on those apples.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Yesterday's Almond soap is divine, and today's Anise is very nice, too. I love a soap with a pungent, distinct scent that shouts what it is. I made some soap tonight with a new essential oil - Spruce Cedarleaf. Very piney. We'll see if the oil survives the lye. I was up waaay early to get out of the house at 7 to make it to an 8 am appointment at the dentist in Oneonta. First time in four years - foolish when you think of the dental benefits provided to me by the school. I brought the over-ripe bananas to school, a gift from Ron Wagner, my veggie man at the market, so they could make smoothies and banana bread. What an aroma we sent wafting through the wing. Home by way of Dreamweaver to pick up the Merino fleeces Heather says she cannot spin. Merino does not do well in her machines. That's okay - I will wash and dye them myself, and include them in my next roving run. Rhinebeck is looming in two and a half weeks and I have to get some fiber out to the carding mill. Driving around this area is a real treat this time of year. Breathtaking vistas everywhere you turn. The stars are gorgeous tonight. There's a huge planet above the ridge in the eastern sky and the Milky Way is a distinct swath across the sky from horizon to horizon. Owls are hooting on the ridge - love that sound.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
This darling little angel is Jaryn Price, Robin's daughter. Jaryn and Robin visited me at the farmer's market on Saturday, and helped me pack up to go home. Jaryn is a "take charge" kind of girl and is a great organizer, just like her mother. Robin spends all her time taking care of my paperwork and making me look good - when she is not working with the students. I really appreciate all the help from both of them.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Five day work weeks are tough! The first whole working week is over, and it's pay day, ending a drought of a few months. To celebrate, I filled up my car half-way, and bought myself two bags of baby spinach for dinner - almost EIGHT DOLLARS! Love the stuff. Today went well at school. I promised the kids a movie on Friday if they worked, behaved, etc., all week. We watched Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper, who wrote about this area. Adults were enthralled - students not very, but we didn't care. Our kickball game was lots of fun. I got a home run, much to the students amusement when I could run the bases fast enough so that none of them could hit me with the ball. When coming down the big hill into New Berlin on King's Settlement Road I was caught in this lovely New York State traffic jam. My school bus was often stopped by cows crossing when growing up in Somerset County, New Jersey, just 40 miles west of Manhattan. No more cows there - just golf courses and McMansions.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
I love to see all the little kids at the wooly festivals. There were some particularly cute tots at Fingerlakes. Rhinebeck is where you really see the designer kiddie sweaters come out because the weather has usually turned cold by then. Still warm and foggy here in upstate New York. Lots of green grass on the hill and the sheep are fat and happy. The apple orchard drops treats for them all the time now. Yesterday I climbed the hill before work and picked apples to throw to the girls, standing around in the mist, waiting for the goodies. I was trying to figure out a way to shake the apples down without having them land on my head. Still working on that...
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
One of my students was having a rough time of it today. I know he loves to cook, so I offered him my cute little pumpkins to cook in a pie. It worked for a while, but I needed more ingredients than we had in the classroom, and will have to bake it tomorrow. We got the pumpkin carved and cooked, and roasted the seeds for snacking. Cooking is a good opportunity to teach hygiene, fractions, recipe reading, job sharing and patience. Eating the fruits of our efforts is a lot of fun, too.
I have a tough job but there are some very dedicated, talented people who make it a lot easier. Mr. Potter, seated, is with me the entire day. Mr. McCumskey comes in and does "group" with us every morning, and is available in case we need him any time during the school day. The Amazing Robin is still with me, but afternoon only. Fortunately she is in the classroom next door in the AM, and takes care of paperwork issues, attendance, etc. (Robin really runs the place, she makes me look organized.) We had a fairly rough day today, but with the whole team on board we got through it just fine. Tonight is Back to School Night and I'm am required to stay here until 7:30. The farm is too far away to go home and come back. I went into Norwich proper and got grocery shopping done, banking, a Tractor Supply stop and made a run to Loew's for soap making lye. I won't have many parents stopping in my room as my class is very small. I have my NY Times and sock knitting to keep me occupied until the bell rings and I can RUSH home to my poor little Izzy. I know he is listening for every sign that I'm finally home. Chores will be late tonight.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The best thing about going to sheep festivals is spending time with my fiber art friends. They not only understand what I do - they do what I do. Lisa Merian has been raising sheep on her 350 acre farm in Bainbridge all her life. She is Wool Goddess of the New York fiber art scene. Lisa teaches spinning, felting and fiber preparation all over Central New York, including the Earlville Opera House. She is often asked to judge the prestigious fleece competition at sheep shows. Lisa played a pivotal role in my life when she suggested I check out this area for a place to raise my own sheep. Amazing how one person can change your life. Candace Cain is the High Priestess of the Clan of Candace. I wear her beautiful handcrafted earrings on a daily basis. Candace has a flock of seven Bluefaced Leicesters and is quite a felter herself. Her nuno-felted scarves are highly sought after. I'm fortunate to have such talented people to rub elbows with. Carol Schwarzott is the creative force behind Crayonbox Designs. Carol taught art for many years before she decided to become an art book binder. She has books displayed in the Smithsonian Museum. Carol says she was inspired by my fibers and Bundaflicka totes to spin and knit her artsy purses and sew utility totes. She constantly comes up with new ideas and stunning fabric combinations. Carol really keeps me inspired and on my toes with my own work. Susan Carr is a dear friend to all of us, helping out at shows and being generally supportive. She lives in a log cabin in Earlville and spends a lot of time on the West Coast with her movie producer son. Susan's husband is a construction worker turned psychiatrist in Syracuse.
Button sales were brisk at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival. I brought my Bundaflicka buttons made of Fimo and Sculpey clay, and Kim put out her artsy and earthy horn buttons. The buttons made of the tip of the horn are especially popular, but, sadly there are only two tips to a pair of horns.
Yes, this nifty head garment is referred to as a snood, or cowl, if you prefer. Kimmie Cornerstone spun a very fine yarn with one ply of linen and one of silk to make this feather-light head covering. It provides some warmth and does not muss the doo!
Monday, September 19, 2011
I am mysteriously drawn to these wild little Shetland sheep. They are very hardy and produce a nice fiber. Perhaps it's the Viking thing, as the Shetlands come from the northern sea islands of Great Britain. Maybe the attraction lies in the fact that the Shetlands are small and easy to catch. Well, maybe not that easy to catch, but, once caught, I'm sure I could hold on to these cuties.
I was happy to spend a bit of time with my Long Distance Endurance Riding Champion friend and fellow shepherd, Libby Llop this weekend. Libby set up a booth at Fingerlakes for the first time this year, and featured quite a bit of lovely mohair from the goats she took home from my farm last winter. Libby gave us her horse trailer apartment to sleep in, as she decided to go home and go fox hunting with her horse and hound group Saturday morning. Libby's husband, Dr. Quentin Llop, entertained the festival goers with his lovely violin playing. Libby also knits some nifty socks with her amazing sock machine, which she hardly needs since she is an amazingly talented expert knitter herself.
Kim Parkinson, of Cornerstone Fibres fame, based in Kingston, Ontario, happens to be a very talented spinner. She not only drop spindle spins the most exquisite lace weight yarn, she also spins some neat and tidy worsted weight. Kim Fed Exed some entries into the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival skein and garment competition - no easy feat with customs red tape. She managed to win herself several first place ribbons, including Best Garment, and Best Skeins in two different divisions, along with a couple of seconds and a fourth. We're very proud of Kimmie. Her handspun skeins of my fiber fairly flew out of the booth on Saturday and Sunday. Kim really makes my roving blends look fantastic and very attractive to customers.
As I was struggling to pull myself out of a sleep induced stupor Saturday morning in Libby Llop's fabulous luxury horse trailer apartment I was keenly aware of the fact that there was no coffee brewing anywhere close. With my head still in the pillow I whined and pleaded with Kim, "Oh, Goddess of the Canadas, will you please hitch up your sled dog team and go find me some coffee????" I heard a giggle and looked up to see Kim at the bottom of the bed holding a giant hot cuppa Joe. She had hiked a half mile down the road to a convenience store while I was still sleeping and carried back the precious brew for me. Kim doesn't even drink coffee. What did I ever do to deserve such a devoted friend?
I try to come home from every show with a "treat" of some sort for myself as a reward for managing to come up with enough product, getting myself registered there, actually getting the stuff there, working the booth, it goes on and on. I rarely allow myself anything utterley frivolous, opting to "make it myself" or buying something I can use to make more product. This year I decided to make Kimmie an offer for the new/old Louet wheel she scored on the internet. A woman in Canada wanted to unload it, and Kim, shrewd consumer and Louet dealer she is, saw the ad and went to investigate. This sweet wheel is a proto-type of the Louet wheel she and I both spin on, with some enhancements. It is even heavier and sturdier that the solid Louet wheel, and has an attached Lazy Kate for plying. Kim kindly offered to take wool and a Bundaflicka tote in payment, and I have another terrific wheel I can bring to school for spinning lessons with my students.
I'm very grateful for all the support from my customers, old and new. With their help I'm putting a nice dent in my huge hay bill this year. I'm really trying to get the barn filled with what I need to get through the long, cold, harsh, New York State winter and cold, wet, spring. That peace of mind comes with a price tag.
I enjoy stepping back and watching people come through my booth. It's very satisfying to see people interested in what I make. The Fingerlakes weekend this year was very successful, with no indication of the economic crisis that I could tell. My friend, Diane Edwards of Sweet Annie's Handspun, told me something interesting yesterday. She says the people who have money have more money now, and she is not lowering her prices the way I have done with my Bundaflicka totes. I think she may have a point. Kimmie convinced me to raise my Mother Fiber price to $40 a pound from $30. I was concerned about lack of sales at that price, but I still sold my precious wool. There was a good amount of Mother Fiber Roving (because Wool is the Mother of All Fibers), handspun yarn, and machine spun Mother Fiber, leaving the booth. God Bless America.
Kim and I were all set to sleep in the back of her VW camper at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival. The weather forecast called for a dip in temps which would have made our two nights outside a bit frosty. Somehow my bedding and pillow did not get into the van, complicating the matter a bit. I was ready to spread out some wool and make do. Libby Llop came to our rescue when she decided to go home to her farm in Caledonia and go fox hunting Saturday morning. She gave us her luxurious horse trailer with apartment attached to live in for the weekend! There was no electric hookup, but the trailer battery supplied us with music, heat, and one light to spin and knit by. I found Libby's headlight in a kitchen cubby, every farmer has several stashed around, and I was all set to read my NY Times and finally start the socks I've been planning. The full moon was hanging on for dear life, although lop-sided and fuzzy by now, and Jupiter was in full presentation next to it. I lay in the king sized loft bed, with Kimmie next door snoring away, and dreamed away in lovely, technicolor movies, the topic of which I will never tell.
I'm always relieved when I get to a show in one piece, with all my goods in tow. I arrived at the fairgrounds in Hemlock around six. Kimmie Cornerstone, faithful fiberart friend and confidant, was waiting for me with a lovely salad for dinner. Kim makes setting up so much easier. It's a huge job to pack up a booth, unload it, and set it up in your designated spot in an orderly, artsy fashion that facilitates people's ability to peruse your goods. Kim has an eye for presentation and gets the job done.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Come and see what Maggie's Farm has in store for you at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival in Hemlock, New York, one hour south of Rochester. We're located in the Ag Building and will have a brand new crop of Bundaflicka Totes, along with fresh Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme, Goat Milk Soap, and lovely new Mother Fiber Rovings. The Fingerlakes Fiber Festival is sponsored by the Genessee Valley Handspinners, a very dedicated and talented group of fiber artists, many of whom raise their own fiber animals. Hope to see you at the fair, Saturday and Sunday, in Hemlock, New York. The weather forecast is spectacular!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
I was a bit concerned with the fact that our yeast was old and outdated, and we didn't have the proper loaf pans, but it didn't matter. The kids had a fabulous time and the bread was delicious. We baked eight loaves, most of which went home to the student's families. I have a couple in the classroom freezer to pop in the oven when it's freezing rain outside and we want to make the room warm, cozy and aromatic. Bread is the stuff of life.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I'm beginning to feel like my new class will be just fine. So far so good. My aides are phenomenal and we get a lot of support from the social worker. When I sense that things are about to go south all I have to do is put on reggae music. It is the universal antidote. The kids love it. I gave them paper and paint after our lessons this morning and they had a hour of fun. Carson painted a flag in tribute to Bob Marley. Whatever it takes...