Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Window

Our "Shepherds Watch Their Flocks by Night" window is coming along nicely.  It is simple and understated, yet beautiful, just like the story it depicts.  We had quite a few compliments on our primitive felted sheep.  The burlap bag lining the bottom looks good.  Mrs. White, our school librarian, set up a screen to show The Nativity Story continuously in the window.  The movie gave me the idea for this display.  I tell everyone who asks that the angel Gabriel first told the shepherds of the birth of the baby Jesus.  Yes, shepherds, and their sheep, are very special and are as old as time itself.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What's Happened to my House???

My chicken room is begging to be cleaned out.  The chickens are not happy.  Granted, this is the time of year when most chickens are taking time off from laying.  Egg laying is directly related to the amount of daylight the chickens get.  We are quickly approaching the shortest day of the year so one can't expect too much from the girls.  I wanted to muck out their room to encourage them to start laying again once we being the long climb back to the light.  I would also like to be able to go in the room to take care of them without sinking in the muck myself.  The room is about half done.  The valuable chicken manure is spread over my future flower beds to soak in over the winter. 


It's hard work taking care of five hungry puppies.  Reba is such a good mom.  Beware to any cat who comes near the puppy box.  Reba jumps up and grabs the cat in her snout causing the poor surprised feline to panic and go nuts.  It's quite a noisy commotion that, so far, has not resulted in a dead cat.  The puppies do squeak and complain at having the teats ripped out of their mouths and mom stepping on them in her desperation to "get the cat."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holiday Pound Puppies

I love the Pound Puppies.  For now I have them in a Rubbermaid tub.  I need to build some kind of sturdy wooden nest box for Reba and her babies pretty soon as these puppies will grow like crazy.

Anxious to Return

I'll be getting back to the Holy Myrrhbearers to see the nuns and their four legged friends as soon as I can.  I just loved their confident, supportive and spiritual natures.  I came away envious at the way they can separate themselves from the worldly woes that plague so many of us.  They are never alone.

Holy Myrrhbearers Steers

Mother Katherine is very proud of her steers and showed us how she uses a yolk to work them around the farm.  Father Aaron and Mia gave the boys apples picked from the ground.  It was hilarious watching them navigate the long, curly tongue of the steer who was trying to pluck the apple from the hesitant human.  I tried to show them how it's done with an open hand supporting the apple and pushing it up into the steers mouth. That was a bit much for my Jersey  Tomatoes to do, getting that close and coming away rather slimy.

Holy Myrrhbearers Saanens

The Saanen goats on the ground of the Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery provide the nuns with all their dairy needs.  They are milked twice a day and give gallons and gallons that are used for various kinds of cheese - but no soap, to my surprise.  I brought the nuns some of my own.  Mother Katherine also has some cashmere goats from my friend Pam Haendle in Brookfield.  She likes to have fiber available for artists who may need it for different projects.  Some Romney sheep from my long time New Jersey friend, Beth Robinson, live at the monastery, along with True North Farm Icelandic sheep that belonged to Jimmy Longedin.  I purchased some Icelandic yarn from the gift shop to knit socks for myself someday.

Mother Katherine and Her Sheep

Mother Katherine raises several different breeds of sheep and the Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery in Otego.  I truly found a kindred spirit in Mother Katherine as we have so many sheep acquaintances in common and revel in anything fibery.  She and Sister Deborah took us around the farm introducing us to the sheep and Saanen goats who all have names and histories of their own.  Many are rescues who will live out their lives on the grounds of the monastery.  Mother Katherine is a Sheep Whisperer who intuits the needs and desires of her flock.  I was mesmerized with stories of sheep who wait for a certain Saint's birthday or the upcoming visit of a bishop to give birth.  She really gets into their heads in a way only sometime who spends their lives in prayer and with the animals can do.  I was very impressed with the kindness and hospitality of the Holy Myrrhbearers nuns and plan on returning on my own very soon.

Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery

On Saturday we met Father Aaron at the Holy Myrhhbearers Monastery in Otego.  This order of American Orthodox Christians lives a monastic life while raising various breeds of sheep and Saanen goats.  We worshipped at the noon service then enjoyed a delicious vegetarian lunch with Sister Deborah and a visitor who was staying at the monastery on retreat. 

Washing Away the Woes

There is something so absorbing and restorative about cooking up a batch of soap.  The miracle of chemistry always inspires and impresses me.  Mia snapped a quick pic of me pouring the molten goodness into my primitive waxed paper milk carton molds.  I've been making soap this way for around 15 years.  It just seems to work for me.

Two Blondes Wood Pile x 3

As Mia and I stacked wood last Friday we realized our pile was leaning.  We decided to make a pile next to it to hold up the first pile.  When that leaned we built a third.  There is still more firewood at the end of the lane to be brought up to the barn door.  It sure was fun working with Mia.  We laughed and chatted the whole time, catching up on her patients and clinical situations.   I just love it when Mia comes.  AJ followed on Saturday and it was wonderful having them both with me on the farm.

Two Blondes Wood Pile

Mia came to the farm to celebrate Thanksgiving with me.  In typical Mia fashion, she went to work doing whatever she could to help me with farm work.  My two cords of firewood were at the end of the lane, rather far to go for wood in the snow.  We worked together all day in the glorious weather Friday to get the wood stacked closer to the barn door.  It will be a lot easier keeping warm when the blizzards come and the cold wind howls with the wood only a few steps away.

Blessed Event

Reba came to live with us after a neighbor asked us if we were missing a dog.  She had been hanging around his trailer and living in the field behind it.  Reba had swollen teats but, as I did not know this dog, I thought perhaps she had delivered puppies sometime in her life.   I thought all the food I was giving her was making her thick around the middle.  Yesterday Father Aaron was working on his computer with Reba sleeping beside him on the sofa.  She cried out and a dark bubble slid out of her.  Four more bubbles came out, resulting in five cute, rather hefty, healthy puppies.  Father Aaron was thrilled as he never witnessed puppies being born before.  Reba is a great mother and we are very happy to have these Holiday Pound Puppies.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cooking Soap on Thanksgiving

I'll be cooking soap instead of turkey today. The cold/flu/whatever-it-is still has a grip on me and I'm laying low a bit. Sister Bernadette called yesterday to ask if she could put her turkey in my oven. She was home from the convent for the holiday weekend with Sister Grace joining them today from Utica. They live in the little farmhouse with their brother, Chris,on the other side of my driveway. This magnificent barn belonged to them at one time. It was nice to have a cheery visitor on a day when the rain poured and poured. The turkey made the apartment smell terrific. I was concerned that my propane tank might be low and give out before the turkey was done. I called Norton Gas and they detoured their truck over to me and filled it up. I use my gas oven as a back-up heating source and was glad to have the tanked topped off. Sister Bernadette came to retrieve her turkey and gave me a drum-stick for dinner, which I ate with a lingonberry condiment. I toted a good bit of wood in the rain and used it all last night. Stoking this beast of a stove is going to be a beastly chore this winter. I have to get up every couple of hours to keep it going. Tough to get uninterrupted rest. Mia hopes to get here tonight with AJ coming tomorrow night. They will help me get some of the woodpile up to the barn. I also want to shear Monkey, who is bursting with her coarse black mohair. What great rugs her hair would make once I manage to get my loom up and working. I have some limpers who need catching and treating. We want to take a field trip over to Zoar Farm where the Holy Myrhhbearers Convent is located. The Orthodox Christian Sisters raise sheep and spin yarn there. I've wanted to visit their farm for a while.

Sewing Bundaflicka Totes continues for holiday sales but today I'll make soap to wash away the woes of the world. Happy Thanksgiving from Maggie's Farm to your home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Shepherds Watch Their Flocks By Night

Our biblical shepherd scene is coming along nicely. We should be setting up the window when we come back to school from Thanksgiving break. The little felted sheep were given much consideration with Mrs. Price, my classroom aide, having the idea for sticks as legs. It was fun going outside on the school grounds to hunt for twigs with the class. We cooked a turkey in class yesterday and I've had the bones simmering all day. Won't be able to finish the soup until Monday. It should hold our kids until Christmas. I'm headed home for a five day break after a stop at the Louis Gale Feed Mill for cracked corn and egg layer feed. Wish I wasn't coming down with this cold. Not fun, but I'm due considering how many people at work are sick. Quiet at home on the farm this holiday weekend, but that's the way it usually is. I'm hoping Mia and AJ are able to come up. Matt is getting ready to head out to New Orleans for a Department of Energy conference where he is presenting "OSHA 101" to a big assembly. I have a giant pile of firewood at the end of the lane that needs to be hauled up into the barn. I need to cover some barn windows with plastic. Luckily Matt got some windows in and the big sliding doors partially closed to prevent big snow drifts from coming in. It will always be cold in the barn as it's just too gigantic to heat up, even with all the sheep and goats inside. It was the coldest night of the fall so far, with temps as cold as 15 F. around here. I was up stoking the stove twice last night and, unfortunately, couldn't get back to sleep after the 3 am fire tending. This is one girl who is dragging her behind today. It will be hot tea and the sofa for me when chores are done tonight. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Walking With Izzy

Izzy and I took a walk up top over the weekend to enjoy what continues to be this glorious fall weather. Some of the Kitty Cadre joined us. The cats don't usually wander this farm from the safety of the barn, or they might become a tasty coyote meal.

Carry the Load

When life gives you a heavy load, sew totes to carry it in. The latest Bundaflicka totes hanging from the rafters...


Reba, the bloodhound/coonhound/beagle we found in the neighbor's field, is settling in very nicely. I just can't imagine how she ended up in a field by herself with no collar or tags. She is such a home-body and loves being in the house, sleeping on the sofa, or watching me cook. Reba follows us everywhere we go and doesn't run away. When I take the dogs out Reba does her business and runs back to the house with me. I really appreciate that behavior, especially when it's in the wee hours of the morning and the cold wind is blowing hard. She has taken a particular liking to Matt and gets real excited when he comes home. One thing we can't figure out is why Reba does not bark. Not even when she hears something outside and the other dogs are barking like crazy. Matt heard her bark once, a woof-woof, at something across the road. That's the only time in the three weeks or so that we've had her. I can't imagine a coon/bloodhound/beagle not barking. Just doesn't seem right. I don't mind. Reba has a good home with us, if no one claims her


Thursday, November 17, 2011

So Much Work...

The farm requires sooo much work, sooo much money, and sooo much worry, but it is soooo beautiful. I love to climb the hill and watch the clouds drifting by. There is so much that needs to be done on the farm I rarely have time to linger. The work is never done and I can be sure it will be waiting for me whenever I get to it.

Sheep are Safe

I have a shepherd friend who recently had her prized Cormo ewe attacked by a neighbor's dog. She had Cornell vets come out to treat the ewe, who is half way through carrying lambs. The neighbor's dog has not been back and the ewe is hanging on. Thor, Finn and Knut keep dogs, coyotes, bear and mountain lions away from the sheep. Good doggies!

Sun Spots?

Rough day at the office, but that's the nature of the beast. I'm heading home to the farm to face a whole new set of challenges. As daunting as it can be, the farm definitely keeps my mind off work and thoroughly absorbed in the world I have created for myself out in the wilds of Brookfield Township.

Ashes to Ashes

It's hunting season now. Hunting is a way of life here in Northern Appalachia and many families depend on it to feed their families. As much as I hate it, I can understand the need to put food in the freezer. I'm not crazy about the absentee land owners who buy land here and only come for the "fun" of killing deer. It's not like we have an "overpopulation" problem here in the wide open spaces. I don't know who pulls my No Hunting signs down year after year. I didn't put up any this season. Why bother? I would climb down a culvert and up the bank to nail the rigid sign on a tree trunk just to have someone do the same to yank it down. People know there is no shooting on my land, and the deer who hide in my apple orchard are safe with me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Making Sheep

Yes, I keep sheep but in school we are making sheep. Our librarian invited us to make a holiday display in the library window case. I took the liberty of picking a sheep theme and calling it "Shepherds Watch Their Flocks By Night" after the Bible verse and popular hymn. Robin, my trusty aide, and I experimented with a design for wooly sheep the students can make without too much trouble and fuss. We'll roll up my Rambouillet roving into balls and gently mash them in warm water and soap to make them felt. Black felt will be glued on to make ears and faces. Hopefully tooth picks painted black will be enough to stand them up. We plan on making a rolling, paper mache landscape for the sheep to stand on with their shepherds. Little silver stars will be pasted to the sky along with dangly white lights. We'll fashion a larger Star of Bethlehem and position the sheep to be looking in that direction. I'm excited about this activity and the opportunity to put my student's names on the display. Pictures to follow, ofcourse.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Forever Plaid

I've wanted a pair for about 20 years now, but never wanted to pay the price LL Bean was asking for these gorgeous jeans. Low and behold, Anne Fisher, my daughter's Mother-In-Law, sent me a gift package with not only one, but TWO brand new pair of them. They are a perfect fit, with the legs just long enough that I can turn up the cuffs to show the cute red plaid lining. Here I am with my favorite Liz Claiborne blazer and vintage red plaid wool scarf rescued from Chez Tractor Shed. The black patent leather Danskos were a particularly lucky find last fall at the Bargain Box in my hometown of Morristown, New Jersey. They are as comfy as sneakers, even more so, and perfect for playing basketball with my students. I asked Beasty Boy to take a picture of me in the jeans to show Anne Fisher and thank her for her thoughtfulness.

What's on the Machine?

I'm working up some lovely Bundaflicka knitting totes for the holidays. This fabric is so beautiful and the orange lining sets it off so nicely. Wish I had bought more of the orange. In the store it was a bit much, but when I got it home I loved it. I'll enjoy making clay buttons to go on this tote.