Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lovely Weather

I let the sheep out to graze when I got home today.  Aside from the darkness coming so early I would have thought it was April.  Izzy helped me chase the sheep and goats out of the barn as they were perfectly happy to stay inside - the couch potatoes!  I took Sadie out with me then put her down on the grass so I could open my Poor White Gate,  only to have her shoot way up the hill with Reba.  I panicked and was only able to catch them after Reba decided to play with Sadie and roll her around a while.  I imagined them disappearing over the ridge into the wilderness, never to be seen again.  It's happened to me before.  I decided to put Sadie back inside while I photographed some Bundaflicka Totes to list on my Etsy site - www.bundaflicka.etsy.com. - for sale.   I just caught the light and got some decent picks.  Out to chores then sewing tonight and possibly some creme making for an order.  The air cooled down and I built a fire to make the place cozy.  

Sadie the Terrorist

Glad I don't have to drive an hour behind Chobani trucks to get to work this morning - only a little more than half of that, and I turn off route 8 halfway there.  I make a game of how many cars I pass coming the other way on the 15 miles I do on King's Settlement Road.  Most days it's 2-5.  That's a commute I like.  We've had enough snow to keep the ground pretty but it's still unseasonably warm.  I'm hoping to shear soon, waiting to hear from Big Jim Baldwin and Kimmie Cornerstone.  I'm hauling the goods into school for cabbage soup.  I have a student who loves it and the grownups don't mind it either.  Sadie is the terror of the kitties, who don't seem to want to fight back when she grabs them by the neck and shakes them like a rag doll.  One of these days the kitties will tell Sadie what they think.  I rushed Sadie right outside from under the covers this morning, but no good.  I think she peed on the floor when I was putting my coat on.  I peed on the snow to show her why we were running outside so early but she ran back to the door.  She's not crazy about her sweet little paws getting cold in the icy snow.  I have to be careful she doesn't follow the big dogs up the hill and into the dark.  Fortunately she knows her name and loves to run back to me when called.  What a happy, sturdy little dog she is.  I imagine she will look a lot like her mother, Reba, when grown.  More coffee then out to morning chores, that is, if I can get past Sadie, who, like her mother, has a habit of pushing through my legs to get out the door.  I don't want her around the White Boys just yet, as they could break her in two with their massive jaws if she annoys them (they've proven that ability with some unfortunate opportunistic kitties who got near their bones.)  I'll leave Sadie with her own leg-o-lamb while I'm at work, hoping it will give her a few hours of happy gnawing and licking.   There is always a possibility that Reba will take it away from Sadie and hide it somewhere in the apartment.  I'm still looking for that rib cage I put out last week...

Monday, January 30, 2012


Woke up to a lovely dusting of snow  this morning.  It was so much easier to have the bales at the top of the two hay mow ladders, thank you Loren.  I dropped them down  then placed the bales in the nifty hay feeder baskets - very, very, cool indeed.  Much room for the sheep to line up and eat with minimal waste.  Have to rush off to Masonville for teacher stuff all day.  They used to have a lovely breakfast for us with fresh fruit, pastries, etc. but that's been cut with austerity measures I guess.  Lunch is provided.  Hungry teachers are grouchy teachers!    Will rush home to the farm, as usual, as fast as the truck will go, envisioning some disaster that surely must have taken place while I'm gone.  Running hard and scared I call it. ..  That's just the way things are...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Night

Loren did a great job on another hay feeder today.  This one is 16 feet long giving the sheep a total of 32 feet of space to eat hay in the barn.  The simple welded wire panel basket is a good design.  Wish I had done it a long time ago but here we are.  Loren helped me count and stack my remaining bales and I was startled to find how little hay I have left.  Have to call for hay in the morning.  Luckily Loren has a trailer and will pick it up for me.  We found three poor hens, frozen on eggs, in the bales.  There is chicken feed and corn all around the barn but they chose to sit on eggs that never hatched and starved to death.  Poor girls.  I'm trying to catch my hens and put them in the chicken room where I can control things like this, but they don't come willingly.  Loren is turning out to be very handy to have around.  I got some sewing and spinning done today, and spent quality time with all my animals.  I'll hate to leave little Sadie to go to work tomorrow.  She is so much fun and very energetic and playful.  I am so worried about her getting into things while I'm gone.  Today I found my pin cushion on the sofa with all the extra long dressmaker pins pulled out.  I have to drive farther than usual tomorrow for a staff meeting at the sister BOCES school in Masonville, 40 miles south on route 8, on the way to Deposit.  I'm set in my ways and hate a disruption in the Force, but gotta deal.   At least no real storms are forecast and the roads should be clear.  Somehow I managed to finish a Bundaflicka tote today.  I've had the fabric forever.  It's a lovely earthy tapestry that is very practical.  I like the way the buttons came out.  Better stoke the fire, put my jeans in the washer for tomorrow, do a quick barn check then hit the hay.  My hay, that is, not the sheep's, of which there is very little.  Woe is me.

Dent in It

My new "closet" is a step in the right direction.   I came in from chores last night to find Matt had installed a clothing rack and shelf in my bedroom, and removed a support post that I had to squeeze around every time I walked in the room.  I had pounded large nails into it to hang clothes on which compounded the problem.  Now I have a sleek rack against the wall and no post.  What a difference a small improvement makes.  Trouble is there is still half a room full of piles of clothes and sweaters on the other side.  The clothes I rescued from the possums in the tractor shed are safely stashed in my bedroom where I can protect them from the myriad form of varmints that live here on the farm.  I have to make some serious decisions about what to leave out and what to stash away in tubs in the hay mow.  I hate to give up good clothes.  I'm still obsessing about a plaid suit I gave away thirty years ago.   I'm the child of Depression era parents and have a hard time letting a glass jar go.  You never know when hard times are going to hit, which they certainly have now, and good classic clothes are forever. I also have a job to go to every day - the best excuse ever to hoard clothes!   Interesting that I found little mouse droppings on my bed table, and a little hole in the ceiling above where a milk line pipe used to be with the insulation pushed out.  A brave mouse apparently ran the kitty gauntlet to come down and play in my bedroom.  That's so Beatrix Potter - she used to put out crumbs for the mice at night.  I found my book "Spinning Designer Yarns" by Diane Varney and am inspired to make some feather yarn.  When I attempt to catch the wild roosters and hens to put in the chicken room I invariably end up with a handful of feathers.  Maybe I can put them to good use.  Sadie is the star of the show right now, and we're enjoying her so much.  She is growing like crazy, and is a sturdy, happy, fun-loving farm dog.  I love watching her play with Reba, her mom, as it gives us a chance to see what Reba must have been like as a puppy.  To think we might not have found Reba if the absentee neighbor had not come to complain about my sheep wandering onto his grass...Lucky for us.  Now we have two very country Bloodhound/Coonhound dogs to love.  Yes, more mouths to feed, but they "fell out of the sky" and here they are.  Gotta deal.  I have a Bundaflicka tote on the machine, and my mind is swimming with ideas for more.  Yes, the basic design will remain the same as I just can't think of a way to improve on it.  I get eight, sometimes ten pockets in a tote, with loops for drop spindles (only spinners recognize their purpose)  and I still like the self-straps.  I think about purchasing wooden handles, or designer handles, but I don't think they are as practical as the fabric straps that can go over the bulkiest coat or sweater.  If I had money to burn I would hire a woodworker to make cherry wooden handles and do a line of old-fashioned knitting bags, but plenty of people are doing them - God Bless Them - and I am doing fine with my bags.  I am excited about the fabric I just ordered online.  I'm finding that two designs sell well in my totes - big graphic contemporary tapestry chenilles,  or flowery romantic tapestries.  FabricGuru.com had an incredible sale with fabric down to $3 - $5 a yard with delivery only $5.  Sometimes after a long day at the office seeing a bundle of new fabric waiting for me, even just a couple of yards, on the milk room steps is just what the doctor ordered.  My code won't let me buy anything for myself that doesn't contribute to the running of the farm, and fabric can always go for knitting bags.   If only time was as easy to come by...speaking of time, morning chores are calling and two lamb bottles are sitting on the shelf waiting to be consumed.  I think Joseph and Gabriel are close to weaning time, along with worming and second vaccinations time.  There is always something that animals need.  I have to call Jim Baldwin to set up shearing.  This winter has been so mild, and continues to be so, that I will shear sooner than later.  The fiber is ready on the sheep and goats and leaving it on won't improve it.  I have to sort it and dye it to get it ready for Maryland in eight short weeks!  The animals live in the barn and need never be exposed to the weather, unless they want to be as the doors are always open. I think I'll make a spinach duck egg omelette after chores.  The thought of it will get me out there and get the job done.  We had a lovely snow yesterday afternoon, turning the fields white again after a day or two of thawing.  I'm enjoying this mild winter, but I like it white, the way it should be in January, in northern Appalachia, on the farm.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Button Kind of Day

Matt took me to get closet building accoutrement today.  I am one step closer to actually having a closet.  An Irish ancestor of Matt's, as the story goes, left home to marry her first beau because she "wanted to have her own closet."   I have been waiting to have a closet for about five years now.    The clothing situation has become rather desperate since I rescued a truck load of clothes from the possums that were invading my tractor shed.  I hate to let good clothes go.  You never know when times will get hard and you will need a fresh outfit or two.  I hauled quite a load up here from New Jersey (by way of Pennsylvania, but we won't go there - I hated Pennsylvania).  I may be a shepherd from the wilds of upstate NY, but I like to look nice when I go to work.  Matt built this nice apartment for me, but has not found the time to build a closet.  Everything has either been hanging from bare nails, or has been stored in piles and tubs, making it difficult to plan my outfits.  Finally, he promised tomorrow, I will have real racks and poles to hang my things on.    I can hardly wait, but will have to, until morning.  In the mean time I am amusing myself with mashing clay and cutting out Bundaflicka Buttons.  I will be doing a bit of sewing the next few weeks and need buttons for my Bundaflicka knitting totes.  Here are a few that are ready to pop in the oven.  The wind is blowing out there and the rain we've had all day is turning to snow.  Good time to fire up the oven to help the wood stove keep us warm while I play with clay.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Happiness is a roaring fire on a cold, wet, icy night, and a warm puppy to keep you company and heat your belly!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Every once in a while I buy a bar of soap from another soapmaker to compare to my own.  Actually that's an excuse.  I love handmade soap.  I mean, I just love handmade soap.  I've always been drawn to it.  There's something mystical and magical about the chemistry of it.  It goes even deeper than that.  I purchased a bar of Canterbury Cabin Soap at the Plowshares Crafts Festival and am using it now.  This is very nice soap.  I like the large, hand cut block - 5 ounces, a very hefty size.  The scent is "Patchouli Spice."  Hmmmmm.  I like the brownish, bronze color, probably from the "spice" part of the scent oils.   I cannot, for the life of me, and I want to be magnanimous about it, discern any patchouli at all.  I checked the web site and there is a notation about how prohibitively expensive patchouli oil has been the last few years - and don't I know it!  Maybe she held back on the patchouli and went heavy on the "spice" for that reason.  I adore patchouli and won't mix anything with it.  If I pay that much for patchouli I want patchouli to knock me over.  I held off on making Patchouli soap for a year or so after the crop failed in India and the price spiked to $200 for the 16 ounce bottle I need for a batch.  It has come down considerable now, but half price of ridiculous is still expensive.  I like my soaps to have a definitive aroma, not a nebulous blend like "Patchouli/Chocolate/Raspberry."  Sometimes you end up with soap that smells like none of them.   My soap is also creamier and I'm not surprised.  I don't know any soap that is as creamy as mine.  I add as much shea butter and honey as I can, along with the goat milk, which makes for a very creamy soap.  I like the large chunks of oatmeal Canterbury Cabin put in this bar.  It makes for a lovely exfoliant and interesting texture you would never find in commercial soap.  I was relieved to find that her soap is not lasting any impressive length of time.  I worry that other soap makers have found ways to extend the life of their soaps.  Nothing to be concerned about - mine lasts and lasts.  I found some molds gifted to me from my dear soapmaker friend, Laticia Mullin, and think it would be fun to make some "man in the moon" soaps and "leafy rounds."  I might make a basket of lavender hearts to put out at Maryland for Mother's Day gifts.  I have the ingredients to make several batches of soap and have to get cracking on it.  On deck is Spruce Cedarleaf (an essential oil that is new to me this year - I like the piney scent and the name is very musical), Vanilla (essential oil, not a scent oil!), Rosemary (old favorite I haven't made in a while), Cinnamon (this time with a bit of orange spice in it) and, as always, lavender.  I have a batch of Patchouli that needs wrapping but for now it is so wonderfully aromatic on the rack where I sit and type on my computer that I've left it out to "cure" for a very long time.  I am totally out of Garden Rose and need to order the oil.  I give so much soap away over the holidays, and trade away some more at shows, I find myself woefully short when Maryland rolls around.  That's okay - 'tis better to give than to receive.

Sewing Again

I had stopped sewing for several weeks.  Puppy duty combined with extra duty in the barn conspires against my time at the machine.  I had an order for three bags from a goatherd in western NY which got me sewing again.  I realized I missed the hum of my little machine and the constant refilling of my ONE bobbin (the Singer is as old as I am).  I have to start sewing in earnest as Maryland Sheep and Wool is right around the corner.  There is gorgeous, luscious wool roving everywhere you turn, and much of it is raised by shepherds like me (unlike the Wool from Undetermined Origin that I steer clear from).  Nobody, I mean nobody, has Bundaflicka Knitting Totes, however.  I have to make a good showing.  It's been more than ten years since I made the very first tote, a gift for Lisa Palmer, Mia's bestie, who worked as my aide when I taught knitting and quilting at the Morris School District's upscale summer program.  Lisa was getting ready to go on vacation to Mexico and needed a tote.  I said, let's make you one, and here we are.  She said she had to have some kind of closure and I made a red heart button out of the Fimo clay we had in the classroom.  I have a picture of that tote somewhere...I used to make a lot of heart buttons but people had very strong feelings about them.  Some customers would say, I love that bag but hate the heart button - can you change it?  I liked the hearts as they are very Swedish and work well with the fabric closure strap around the fat part of the button.  Once in a while I make hearts to put in the box of Bundaflicka Buttons I keep at the booth now.  If someone doesn't like a button on a bag I offer to sew on another one of their choice right then and there.  Some take advantage and leave happy.  Mia told me she is putting some of the Bundaflicka Bags I've given her over the years on Ebay to sell, and is getting hits on the listings.  I'm happy for her if it gives her tuition money, but sad to see them go.  They never wear out and I like to think of them as being handed down in the family.   I am trying to use up the fabric I have in the house now.   Once again I am shooting for 40 bags or so for Maryland.  It is foolish to expect that I can sew more than five per week.  When I did an analysis of my time on a day when I go to school it goes something like this:

One hour of chores in the morning.
Half hour to make and drink lots of strong coffee, wash, get dressed.
Hour and a half commuting, there and back again.
Six - seven hours in school.
One hour making stops on the way home.
Two hours of chores at night.
One hour human food preparation, eating, washing up dishes (maybe).
Four hours for playtime with dogs & cats, staring at the stars, watching TV, sewing, spinning, sorting through fleeces, Facebook, Yahoo and Blog, doing my laundry, checking the barn, etc.

Let's see does that leave any time for sleeping?  Tally it up...six hours for sleeping.  Sounds about right.  I can't imagine making something that is entirely frivolous, just for me.  Not since I've had sheep.  Do the sheep pay for themselves?  It depends on how hard I work, and I'm not working hard enough to make them pay exclusively.  If I put coats on the sheep and sold raw fleeces, I would do better.  That requires extra hands to help me hold them and catch them while the right size coats are fitted, changed when the wool grows longer, etc.  My yearling lambs from last winter are growing amazingly thick and soft fleeces from my ram, Romeo, who is half Merino and half Bluefaced Leicester.  He is stunning.  Thankfully I have something good to come out of that horrifically miserable winter.  I still have PTSD from last year and still can't talk about it.   Someday I may have to.  Only one more birth this year, from the ewe who was living out back with the boys.  She should come any time now.  Aside from the lamb/s coming from that lovely ewe,  I will have three lovely wethers - Joseph, Gabriel and TJ - and one cute little ewe, Robin.  They are growing very nicely and will leave the maternity pen as soon as I can get them tagged, wormed and another round of vaccinations.   I will have to step up sorting of fleeces, washing, dyeing and shipping to the processor for carding.  I need to call Jim Baldwin and set up a BIG shearing soon.  Fortunately, Loren is around to help and, if I'm lucky, maybe I can get Kimmie Cornerstone and crew to come from Ontario.  I think I should finish with last year's fleeces first.  Yikes, I get tired thinking about it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sadie and Her Bone

I gave Sadie a nick-name - "Jaws."  Her razor sharp teeth have us screaming OUCH!! when she clamps down on our fingers and toes.  I gave Sadie her own chew toy - a lovely leg of lamb for her very own.  Now she can chew to her heart's content.  I have a hard time keeping Reba, Sadie's mom, from sneaking it away and claiming it for herself.  Luckily, I have a few more available for Sadie.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Sadie is just the cutest thing on four paws.  When she is not sleeping, she's playing with Reba and the kitties.  When she's not playing she's looking for something to eat.  That Bloodhound nose of hers is always sniffing around for food.  Sadie quickly decided that canned food is MUCH more delicious than dry food and is willing to wait for the good stuff.  I have a couple of kitties I feed canned feed to in the bathroom (to keep the dogs from stealing it) and Sadie knows what's going on.  There's no keeping her out of the bathroom.  Sadie likes the kitties, especially the way she can hold them down with her paws and chew on their ears.  My kitties have been too nice to scratch Sadie - so far.  There's always a first time...I like to take naps with Sadie.  She sleeps on my shoulder and neck and makes the cutest little breath sounds.  There is nothing cute about those razor sharp teeth, and Sadie knows how to use them...

Kink in the Neck

This cute little hen can't hold her neck up any longer.  She is ancient, I have no idea exactly how ancient, but I've had her for around four years.  She was in a crate which was standing on end and full of tiny little chickens - Old English Bantams I was to learn later - who were waiting to go to auction in a friend's front yard.  I had stopped in to visit my friend and she told me someone didn't want them and gave the crate full to her.  She didn't want them and offered them to me.  I said sure, mostly to get them out of that crate.  I had no idea what kind of chickens they were, but they began to impress me as super-duper fly catchers as soon as I let them loose in my barn.  Prior to obtaining the Bantams, I couldn't walk through my barn with a cup of coffee without it being covered with black swimmers.  I only have a couple of the crate birds left.  They mated with my purebred catalogue hens and produced some smallish but very energetic roosters which I am still trying to catch.  My favorite way to catch the buggers is to put a bowl of cat food in the window sill.  The hungry cats jump up to get the food, but the nasty roosters zoom in to push the cats away from the food and proceed to eat it all, making for some very unhappy cats and very annoyed Maggie.  I sneak up behind them and clap my hands on either side to hold down the wings, hold them very tightly and toss them in the chicken room for "processing" later.  If I have heavy leather gloves on to protect me from the sharp talons, I can get them by the legs, in which case they squawk and flap wildly, which would probably scare any predator into letting go.  This little hen might have produced some of the pesty roosters I'm dealing with, but that's okay.  I'm sure she gave me lots of eggs (when I could find them hidden in the hay) and a few hen chicks, too.  I found her in the barn unable to hold her head up.  It's very difficult for her to forage for food and I'm afraid the other hens in the chicken room would be mean to her.  I keep her in a box in the heated room adjacent to the barn.  Her neck problem causes her head to rest leaning back all the time and she looks straight up at me.   A kitty occasionally jumps in to keep her company and drink her water.  I was delighted to find an egg in her box the other day, a thank-you for making her end years a little easier. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wood Detail

Loren split a good amount of wood for me today, after he built the dandy hay feeder.  Matt supervised the splitting of the wood and helped me tote enough inside to get me through next week.  The new hay feeders will allow me to put out enough hay at one time for the whole day.   The nicely sized split logs will make it much easier to heat the house.  Loren likes splitting wood - lucky me.


Loren W. came today and built a terrific hay feeder out of the 16 ft. goat/sheep welded panel I bought at Tractor Supply yesterday.  He improved on the plan I had to make an angled pie shape feeder.  With Dolly, my petting zoo rescue,  watching intently (Dolly loves anything to do with food)  Loren bent and rounded the panel up so it will hold more hay.  He put secure sides on it and a brace on the top.  The feeder holds three bales with no problem.  The 4" squares are perfect for the little ones to pull hay out of while the big sheep eat from the top.  Loren is coming back tomorrow to build another feeder out of the same panel.  I'm thrilled that I have two sturdy, functional feeders out of one $45 panel fence panel.  Loren is bringing over a grinder to smooth some of the rough edges on the feeder.  I am thrilled on one hand and disgusted with myself for not making this happen a long time ago.  When Loren finished with the feeder he set about splitting enough wood to get me through next week.  Matt Redmond supervised the wood splitting and gave his Building Science Subject Matter Specialist Seal of Approval to the feeder.   When I manage to get more panels home Loren is going to build several feeders around the barn and help me with some other projects.  It is a great relief to me to know Loren is available for this kind of help.  Matt is living in Syracuse during the week to avoid commuting three hours a day in dangerous weather conditions, and with travelling on weatherization business, well, I could use an extra pair of hands.  Plans for tonight - The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep in New Hartford.  I'm looking forward to this movie about Margaret Thatcher who I heard speak at the Virginia Military Institute when my Eric was a cadet there.  She was a powerful woman who spoke for two hours, extemporaneously, about a variety of things from politics and the IRA to waging war in the Falklands.  My St. Elizabeth College friend, Maria Biancheri, and I drove home from Lexington, Virginia, in a freakish blizzard which closed the highway and sent us limping along country roads all night to New Jersey.  It was so much fun.


Woke up at 5:30 with some ridiculous language going on the TV...one problem with falling asleep with it on.  There was some awful MF this and FU that and I thought I was back in school.  Not a pleasant way to wake up.  I snuggled with darling little Sadie, who sleeps on my shoulder just like a kitty cat.  I am so enjoying this puppy time with her.  I can understand why people only have one child to lavish all their love and attention on.  I always wanted a dozen kids,  but it didn't work out that way, so I have dozens of animals.  Sadie has very soft, velvety skin and ears that are like long, delicate flower petals that hang from either side of her head.  She has the sweetest little snout, with those wrinkles of bloodhound skin on her nose, making her absolutely delicious to cuddle with.  The pads on her paws are the softest rubbery little buttons.  We spent a half hour playing on the pillow before I had to get up and put on some lovely classical music.  I was putting it off as long as I could as I knew that as soon as my feet touched the floor all the dogs would jump up ready to go out.  It is just as cold as I thought it was...around zero...with a gentle snow falling.  Sadie HATES the snow.  I keep taking her out just in case she might decide to pee on the frozen iciness, but so far no good.  She can't relax enough to let it go, and jumps up on my leg or runs to the door to get back in.  Thor barking at the inside dogs who have just run past his door in the barn doesn't help.  He must look like a great white nasty polar bear to little Sadie.  I carry her back in and snuggle some more.  My fire situation is not good.  I bought two fabulous cords from a teacher at work, but the logs are too big for my stove.  Her husband, God bless him, threw in some small logs, but they are long gone and I can't keep spending big bucks on store bought firestarters.  Believe you me I will invest in a maul and a new axe head to start splitting some of these big logs.  The axe head I have is dull as a rock and bounces off the log.  It will be awkward at first but women have been splitting wood from the beginning of time so I can do it too.  Loren W. is coming today and I am very hopeful.  Randy never showed up with the hay feeder he swore he built for me so I can only imagine it never existed.  The pricey one I bought from a feed store before I moved here has completely fallen apart now with the rungs posing a threat to the eyes of my animals.  I had the carpentry students build me one a couple of years ago but it lasted two weeks.  I almost brought it back to the carpentry teacher thinking how can these boys build a house for people if they can't build a simple hay feeder but I just told him about it instead.  They had glued it but not screwed it.  Matt laughed when he saw it in back of the truck, but the Master Builder never got around to building me a hay feeder himself.    Enter Loren, my former student, who did a good job of painting part of my barn last summer.  Loren is coming over to put on together from a panel I bought at Tractor Supply yesterday.  I went there after school, which requires driving across the city of Norwich, in the wrong direction from my farm, which I hate to do, but this hay situation is ridiculous.  I walked through the yard and picked out the panel I wanted - four inch squared of sturdy welded wire, eight feet long and five feet wide.  I got the name and number from the tag and went back in to tell the clerk.  While waiting for the line to die down I walked around getting some things I needed like puppy food, rabbit pellets and wormer, and bumped into my dear sheep friend Lisa Merian. Lisa introduced me to this area, and helped me find my farm.   I hardly ever get to see her as she lives in Bainbridge, an hour south of Norwich, and I am almost an hour north of Norwich - therein lies the problem.  We both are so tied to the farm that the only real frivolous visiting time we do is at sheep shows between waiting on customers who, thankfully, keep our farms alive.  Marie Merian, Lisa's mother,  is recovering nicely from her broken hip and getting around in a wheel chair.  Marie is a world-class knitter and  rug-hooker who we went to all the shows until recently.  She takes care of all the little lambs who need extra TLC, tube and bottle feeding, and holds down the home front while Lisa travels to schools with her fiber art teaching.  Lisa and I talked for a while and she commiserated with me on the hay feeder issue.  I asked some TS guys if they would cut two panels for me and help me mount them on the top of my Blazer.  The one in charge said we will cut them but we can't be responsible for mounting them on your truck.  Lisa kindly said she would help me, and I bought bungee cords to do the job.  The TS guys decided to help me anyway and we all got the panels secured.  I left them there for Loren to take off when he comes today.  We'll fashion a hay basket and tie it together with the spool of wire I bought and secure it to the wooden stanchion.  Raising sheep is all about clever management and building of the proper equipment  - something I've never had, but dream of constantly.  Speaking of dreaming, I think I will lie down for a little while and watch the flickering fire, which, thankfully is showing some flame.  I managed to get outside in my nightie to dig deep for some smaller logs in the Two Blondes Wood Pile.  I think next year Mia and I will separate the smaller logs from the bigger, and maybe we will both be splitting wood.  "Wouldn't" that be fun for her to tell her friends in the upscale fancy hospital where she works?  There is a lovely Lake Effect snow coming down, making my beautiful barn look like something in a Currier and Ives calendar.  I wonder if those calendars exist any more?  Farm Family Insurance sends me a barn calender every year, but none of the barns are as pretty as mine. They may be landscaped with flower beds and perfect windows, but I doubt if there is as much love going on inside, along with the pain and drudgery.   I won't live as long as I need to live to really make something out of this place, but it's all about the Quest, isn't it? 

Thursday, January 19, 2012


The alarm woke up Sadie who started wiggling on my neck which woke me up.  I ran out of logs last night, didn't carry enough inside, and was too tired to go out and get more.  The apartment will hold heat for a little while, but I will have to either tote in more wood and get the fire going, or break down and turn on the thermostat.  Think I will put it on 40.  The critters have blankets and sofas to snuggle on.  Yes, the sofas in my house are great big dog couches that they share with humans.  I'm hoping to get to the Salvation Army in Syracuse to check out the sofas sometime soon.  I don't dare buy new furniture with all these animals - that would turn my hair grey pretty quick.  I got the milk mixed for Joseph and Gabriel then realized I left the bottles in the barn.  When they see me they go NUTS for their milk, but now they will have to carry on a bit longer while I bring the bottles back inside to fill them up.  I am determined to get out the door in a reasonable time today so I don't have to push the envelope on icy roads.  I might even stop at Stewart's and get the skralings some cheap bread for peanut butter sandwiches.  Our school cupboard is bare with no purchase orders coming from the school - hard times for all - so anything we eat is purchased by yours truly.  My normally magnanimous nature is not nurtured by the student's naughty behavior, so we don't eat much in school besides duck eggs every morning and maybe popcorn in the afternoon.  The kids call my eggs "poo eggs" because they always seem to have a bit of poo stuck on them.  I think that's kind of cool because it drives the city slicker kids crazy.  Yes, we are in Northern Appalachia, but we still have city slickers.  They don't have any money, but still make fun of people like me saying we smell and are generally not cool.  Heh, heh, heh.  It is I who think they are not cool, but I will never tell them.  I'm going out to get some fresh sheep dung on my shoes and sling those bales.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Sadie does not care for the snow and ice.  It hurts her little paws and she jumps up on my leg as if to say, please, please, don't make me stand in this stuff.  I take her out whenever she whimpers, as per Mia's instructions, but it's too cold and wet for the little darling to relax and pee.  I put a sweater on her when I took her out after school today, but I don't think she liked it.  She stood there, stiff and still, and I brought her back inside.  I'll continue to take her out for potty training, but I have a feeling it will be newspaper for now.  When Mia takes her back she can take over the supervision.  In the meantime, Sadie is supremely happy living inside with her mother to play with and kitties to chase.   I was so worried about leaving her alone during the day, but she has plenty of company and is happy to see me when I'm home from school.  Sadie is so silky soft and cuddly, and just so smart, happy and playful.  She looks the most like Reba of all the puppies, with her Bloodhound snout,  long ears and smooth coat.  She knows her name and loves to nibble on my ear.  When Sadie says my name I'll really be impressed, but not at all surprised.

Cold Tonight

I don't mind this kind of cold, in fact I kind of like it.  Twenties at night, low forties during the day.  No problem.  The barn manages to stay just above freezing inside, even with the end doors always open so the sheep can go out and eat snow...and get out in the event of fire, heaven forbid, if the silly darlings know enough to rescue themselves.    Last night the bunny water was not frozen, and the spare kitty litter containers I keep filled just in case the power goes out and my well pump doesn't work were not frozen either.  I can put a coat on over my nightie and do morning chores instead of the three layers I must wear in order to function in minus 20.  I stoked the wood stove only twice during the night and built it up before leaving.  When I got home at four after a quick stop at the little market in New Berlin I had just a few coals burning and got it going again quickly.  The house was cool but nothing in danger of freezing.  I drove to work in snow this morning and it was slower going with the roads covered with ice for the most part.  I am wearing my Icelandic Design sweaters now and they are just right with the lining and a turtleneck underneath.  My class room is in the corner of the wing with many windows, making the room nicely cool for wearing wool.  I rarely turn the heat on and luckily my aides and students don't complain.   I have one more lamb coming from the ewe who was out back with the boys.  Her udder is damaged from past mastitis but it is still swollen from impending birth.  I had one ewe with past mastitis who luckily started giving milk again from one teat.  It's always a relief.  I hope this girl does the same thing.  Her fleece is amazingly soft and I'm looking forward to shearing.  I would like to have all last year's fleeces skirted but that is wishful thinking unless Kimmie Cornerstone comes for a weekend to help me.  Alas she has a job now and her kids are very busy with Air Cadets, parties, sports and activities, just the way it should be.   In a nice stroke of luck, the lambs born last year, the Woeful Winter when lambing lasted four months,  fathered by Romeo, the BFL/Merino black ram, have incredible fleeces.  The Merino gave them wonderful density along with the Bluefaced crimp.  Oh, how I wish I had the extra hands to get coats on them.  I might have a show fleece from one of them someday.  Out to chores while I still have some daylight.  I put a little chicken in the oven to roast and make the house warm and fragrant, and to make a little gravy for the White Boys.  Not that they need any pampering with all the fresh goat and sheep meat they are eating currently.  I gave Thor a new rib cage this morning and he looked at me in wide-eyed-wonder as if to say what did I do to deserve this????  I know he enjoyed it anyway....

Lucky Break

Lucky me, I didn't have time to miss the puppies too long.  Little Sadie has come back to me for a visit while Mia and Andrew adjust their living situation.  No problem for me.  I'm loving the chance to enjoy one puppy.  The wild hoarde was wonderful, but having the time to lavish love and affection on one "child" is sublime.  She is so smart and playful.  Reba rolls around with her, play fighting and having the kind of fun she couldn't with the whole litter.  Sadie slept wrapped around my neck last night, with Izzy cuddled up to my belly and Reba at my feet.  The wind roared and blasted the sturdy barn, and the creaking was music to my ears.  Life is good.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Too Quiet

The puppies are all placed in their new homes and initial reports are good.   Pictures are coming in from the kindly new owners.  Gosh, they are cute puppies and so healthy and happy.  Reba is taking the departure of her pups very well.  I can't detect any anxiety at all, and teat discomfort seems minimal at this point.  I have not even noticed her looking for them.  Who knows how many litters she's had?  Maybe she's used to her babies suddenly being gone?  There won't be any more litters.  Reba's job will be to keep me company around the farm and hold down the sofas with the rest of the dogs.   On deck for this morning- suit up again and get out for more watering.  Animals get thirstier in this cold, dry weather and not all of them eat snow like sheep.  Goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits, cats and dogs all need water.    When I threw down bales this morning the sheep attacked them like they've been starved for days.  Hardly!  The thermometer told me minus 10 F. this morning, a little warmer than yesterday's minus 18.  Sunny weather continues, but a weather system is moving in tonight making for icy conditions while driving to work tomorrow.  Have to get to the Louis Gale Feed Mill where I can get almost everything I need for everybody, except for lamb milk replacer which I will have to drive miles and miles for.  Joseph and Gabriel are almost ready to wean off bottles, but I don't have the heart to do it cold turkey.   I reduce to two watery bottles for a few days, then one bottle, and so on.  How old are they now?  Have to check back on this journal.  They were the first to be born.  I am missing the puppies, but how in the world can I be unhappy when they are being showered with so much love this morning, and many years of mornings to come?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Puppies to Grow Up With

Is there anything sweeter than young kids and their new puppies?  They will be friends for life.

Mission Accomplished

It's been a long and happy day.  The puppies woke me up at 3:30 - 4:00.  Rosie and Molly had succeeded in climbing out of the puppy box and the other two were making a big fuss.  I lay in my bed, just like I did thirty years ago when my baby twins were making a fuss  in the wee hours, hoping they would quiet down.  No deal.  I was up.  A quick check out the window at the thermometer told me why I was cold in the apartment - minus 18 F., and we're not talking about wind chill.  I got the fire built up quickly and picked up the fussy babies.  Today is the day they would leave us.  No more puppies.  My sadness was tempered by the joy in them going to such good homes.  My long-time fiber artist attorney friend, Carolyn D'Agostino, arranged this match with her high school friend, George Yostpile, in West Babylon, New York.  As luck would have it, George's sister-in-law was also looking for a puppy.  How fortunate the puppies would be related by marriage and see each other at holiday gatherings, etc!  We met at the Sloatsburg rest area on route 87 just north of the New Jersey line.  The weather, although bitter cold, was perfect.  I was shaking with excitement when I handed over the puppies, one by one, to the combined families who ALL came to pick up them up in a giant church van!  It was just too good to be true.  The kids immediately ran back to their van to get blankets to wrap the puppies in,  or stuffed them inside their jackets.    Mia and Andrew pulled in and the joy was complete.  Andrew had a carrier and a back seat full of new puppy chew toys ready for Sadie.  Shoshanna will go to Mia's college friend Corey's parents in Harmony who just lost their aged Springer Spaniel.   I couldn't dream up a better scenario for Reba's puppies if I tried.  We all hugged and said good-bye,  then Mia, Andrew, Matt and I visited for a while in Starbucks.  Mia is busy studying for her Nurse Practitioner boards coming up, and Andrew assured me that the 1% is still playing golf (he sells insurance to golf courses!)   After a nice chat the young couple drove off with their babies and we started home, snacking all the way on the goodies in the giant gift basket from the Yostpile and Valenti families.  I have delightful images of their kids cuddling and loving on the puppies.   It seems like yesterday we took Reba in after she had languished in the field across from Hollow Road for I don't know how long.  Now she is lying on the sofa watching the Giant's game, in no apparent distress at losing her puppies.   I think I will suffer more from puppy withdrawal.  Reba was a fantastic mother to them and her job is done.  Now she will live happily ever after on my farm.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bye-Bye Puppies

I didn't look for them but they found me.  What a blessing my puppies have been these last few weeks.  I remember when we went to see this poor dog, lost or abandoned in the neighbor's field.  I still have no idea where she came from, or how long she was out there in the elements,  but Reba lives here now and is supremely happy on the farm.  I don't think Reba will miss the puppies.  She was a fabulous mother, but she's tired and needs a rest from her ordeal.  Reba loves her leisure time on the sofa, or at the foot of my bed.  She follows me around the barn when I do chores, and now barks protectively when she hears things.  For several weeks at first she did not bark at all and I was worried.   Reba has some annoying habits, like pushing through a door ahead of me when I go outside, but I know she just doesn't want to be left behind.  I can deal with her abandonment issues.  I feel very satisfied and grateful the puppies are going to good homes in the suburbs of Long Island and New Jersey.  They will go to the vet when necessary, have dog toys to play with and wear cutesy designer outerwear and canine accoutrement.  Sure, they won't have sheep poo to eat or come home dragging carcasses and bones of various varmints, but that's okay.   They will have ID chips implanted and contact info velcroed to fancy collars, with dog licenses always up-to-date.  Their nails will be naturally ground down by all those walks on development sidewalks by yuppie runners, and have favorite fire hydrants and mailboxes to leave calling cards on.  Every Christmas the puppies will have stockings hung for Santa Claus,  fluffy new LL Bean plaid doggie beds, and nifty food bins that let fresh kibble fall as needed.   There will be tins on the counter with tasty treats in cellophane packages and the puppies will learn tricks to earn their goodies.  Most of all they will be loved and adored by nice, responsible, employed people who took pity on a homeless country mutt and her predicament, and were willing to drive hours to fetch the darlings and give them forever homes.  Sure, they could afford to buy whatever breed of purebred puppy they want, from breeders who charge ridiculous sums of money and ignore the fact that there are thousands of homeless dogs waiting for homes.  Instead, they adopt needy but adorable angels who are blessed with the variety of genes that will make them healthier and live longer than dogs with the fancy pedigrees.  I thought about keeping one of Reba's puppies as my "code" will not let me purchase dogs from breeders but allows me to take in dogs who are homeless and desperate.   I have my hands full, and I want Reba.   We're both a couple of old ladies who are just looking for a little peace and comfort in life.

Friday, January 13, 2012


I like to make scrambled eggs for my class every morning, and fully intended to do so today had I not left a bag of eggs on the barn floor somewhere as I rushed to get out the door.  The weather forecast was ominous, and the storm hit a half hour before I left.  I hate to drive in bad weather but it was too late to call in and the sturdy old 4WD Chevy Blazer was waiting for me with a full tank of gas.  I put on silk underwear under my jeans and threw boots with heavy socks, mittens, hat and a coat in the truck - just in case I had to hike.  Gusts of wind were causing the stove to back draft despite the updraft fan and I was concerned about the puppies breathing smoke.  What to do, what to do.  I cracked the window thinking it would help the stove draft.  The puppies could cuddle in the box with their soft blanket and be happy chewing on the meaty goat leg I gave them.  Oh, they are so cute...but they are taking over the house.  I remember picking up Tanner and Java, who lives in Canada now, from the farm down the road.  It was so bitter cold, and they were living outside in shed with their litter mates, unlike these pampered puppies.  Speaking of bitter cold, it is back with temps diving this weekend.  I'm sitting at my desk contemplating my long drive in the snow on roads that have been snowed on all day.  I have no choice but to get out in it and make my way home, hoping I will find everyone okay when I get there.  It was a good day in school, all in all, and I work with such terrific people.   I'm waiting for Friday Euphoria to set in...but there's a slippery drive home first.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Grazing in January

Mild weather continues and the sheep are loving it.  I let them out to graze over the weekend and they thoroughly enjoyed the icy coating on the grass provided by the pretty "lake effect snow."

Monday, January 09, 2012

Hello Monday

When I make it back to work after a weekend on the farm I feel like I'm dwelling in a parallel universe.  School is so clean, brightly lit, and orderly compared to the farm.  Everything is vibrantly colored plastic and sparkling tile, with ceiling lights everywhere and floors you can eat off of.  I have so many friendly people to talk to.  Not that I don't have anyone to talk to on the farm, but they don't answer back in English!  Hello Monday morning.  Funny how you come back around again and again.  When I make it to my classroom, which is on the far wing, in the farthest corner of the school from where I park, and get the key in the door, and get my coat hung up and a quick peek in the mirror to make sure I got the make up in the right places,  I take a deep breath.  Every single species of creatures are fed, watered and contained for the day, no easy feat, until I return to them, hopefully, at the end of the day and do it all over again.  The rhythm works for me.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Mia on Mount Marcy

What do graduate Nurse Practitioners do when they are not studying for boards and caring for patients on the ward?  They hike the Adirondacks in the dead of winter!  Mia and her husband, Andrew, hiked to the summit of Mount Marcy yesterday and spent the night on the mountain.  I hope they make it back down safely today, and back to New Jersey without incident.

Hungry Boys

Joseph and Gabriel are still on three bottles day - soon to become twice a day.   It's just so hard to listen to them scream, and scream they do, but soon it will be weaning time.  They get a morning bottle before I leave for work, and have to wait until I get home, get settled and get the afternoon bottles mixed.  I've been giving them a night-night bottle before I turn in, but that's the one I'll eliminate first.   Milk replacer is prohibitively expensive - $33 for a small bag if I buy it in New Berlin, $20 if I buy it at Tractor Supply.  I'm on my second bag.  Thankfully TJ and Robin are doing fine on their mother's ample udder.  All four lambs are eating hay and grain and thriving just fine.  I took the sweaters off as the weather is wonderfully balmy and the lambs are growing a thick little coat of baby wool.  It's snowing now but the forecast is for another above normal week ahead.

Where Is She?

Joseph and Gabriel are out there waiting for their bottles.  I have them ready, but I'm enjoying this leisurely Sunday morning just a little longer.  Cold in the apartment this morning, and I broke down and turned up the thermostat.  The wood fire thing is wearing out.   I don't have enough kindling and starting the fire is always problematic.  The logs in the two cords I bought are wonderfully hard and heavy, but a real chore to haul inside several times a day, even though we've hauled them up the stairs and into the room outside of the apartment.   Fire starting aides are expensive and my stash of scrap wood is gone.  I should go up on the ridge and collect sticks for kindling before we get any snow, if we get any snow.  I love a wood fire - there is nothing like it for lovely, intense heat, and much less costly than the electric back up I have here.  With such a big barn to light up, and the big bath tub I love to fill up with hot water every morning before work, I'm using electric like crazy anyway.  I'm resisting going to the back pen to see who's left from the purge yesterday.  I can't bear to say their names because they are gone.  Cute little boys who I might have been able to keep if I had enough hay to feed them.  I confess I engage in some useless and non-productive "shoulda-woulda-coulda" at these times.  But here we are, and I can only manage to have so many sheep and goats.  The reality is I can only afford to have so much of the fiber processed, and I only do so many shows where people buy carded fiber for spinning and felting, which limits the number of animals I need.  Then there's the "extra pair of hands" issue.  I just wish I had wethered little Dexter, who is in heaven now.  He would have been such a good old-age companion for his mother, Dolly, who adored him so.   I need a sheep partner to remind me of things like that. I'm still hoping to find an intern to live here and share the experience.  Matt is devoted to Weatherization, and who could blame him.  I went to the Louis Gale Feed Mill yesterday and Teresa, the clerk, said  Hey! I saw Matt on TV yesterday!  In the meantime, two little boys, who are already wethered, are yelling for their bottles out there.  I better get out of this nightie and this warm apartment, and take care of them.  I hope I get to keep the four lambs I had this year.  They sure are cuties.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Puppy Love

The puppies have had their evening nursing and feeding, and have played "outside the box"  for a while and are going back to bed so Mommy and Daddy can get the heck outta here and go to the movies.  I want to see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy which just came out and promises to be a good escape movie.  Much too much farm drama today, with 15 boys processed and packaged with parts already fed to dogs and coyotes.  Randy and Doug Dungey, along with the Wild Irish Boy, worked all day on cutting down my numbers and getting some meat in the freezer for the dogs and cats to enjoy over the winter.  No, I don't eat lamb or mutton.  Never had a taste for it, and don't now.  I'll offer some to Sister Grace and Sister Bernadette next door, but I suspect they still have some in the freezer from the last time we did this.   The White Boys say, that's okay - more for us.  The puppies are too little to gnaw on rib cages and leg bones, and will be going to their respective homes shortly anyway.  For now it's their pricey Science Diet Puppy Chow and mom's milk.

Happy Doggies

I thought I would never have to do this...but too many boys on the farm and the hay stack is getting smaller and smaller.  Randy and Doug Dungey came today and made a tough job a little easier to take.  Thor, Finn and Knut are very grateful for the legs-o-lamb. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Everything is Relative

Ten degrees is warm compared to zero.  The first intense cold snap took a bit of adjustment for sheep and shepherd.  I was worried about pipes freezing, hoses freezing, animals freezing, but we got through it.  The right clothes help.  I get dressed twice in the morning - first, to go out and do chores and that requires several layers of silkies, ski pants, turtleneck, sweater (just the right sweater - it's a very personal thing - now it's an angora/wool pullover knitted for me by Lisa Merian's mother that fits just right under my Carhartt) hat and thick gloves.  The jacket pockets are necessary to hold scissors and  the gloves which I have to take off to get a hold of the baling twine in order to pull the big bales across the barn to the boy's end, and when I have to turn the nozzle on the hose.  I use leather work gloves with fleece inside as they are thick enough to afford me some kind of warmth and don't get wet.   Joseph and Gabriel get their bottles first.  They jump up and go nuts when they see me come out.  I'll be happy when they are drinking water but I haven't seen it yet.  I drag the hose out and fill water containers that are hanging on the fence first.  One would think the sheep would be less thirsty in the cold but it's quite the opposite.  Ducks, chickens and rabbits all need water before I climb up into the hay mow to drag bales.  The bales fell off the elevator track and fell in a giant pile.  I can't pull the lower bales out from under the ones on top so I have to climb up to the top and throw them down.  These lovely bales are thick and heavy, around 50-60 pounds at least, which require a mighty heave to get them down to the floor of the hay mow.  Then I have to drag them across the barn and throw them down the ladder chutes.  I climb down the far ladder and cut the bales open to pass flakes to the silo room for the boys...cute little boys whose destiny is to go in the freezer.  I'm making sure they are enjoying life for the short time they live it.  Then it's climb into the duck pen to retrieve the beautiful, large eggs from under the one duck who wants to hatch them and is keeping them in a lovely feathery nest of hay.  Funny there is only one duck desiring to do this as there as several females.  She is taking care of five or six eggs for the others.  I then cut the bales for the sheep on the near side of the barn and distribute some to the kindergarten pen that contains the lambs, and carry hay over to the rabbits and little Sidewinder, the pregnant goat, who has her own pen.  All this goes on while the barn cats are waiting for the little handfuls of food I give them in the morning to keep them happy.  I know they are catching mice and rats as my barn is blissfully free of rodents.  Thank you Kitties.  Don't need rats chewing on electric wires or killing my chickens.  Only then can I come back inside and think about getting myself ready to go to work.  Today is a rare day that I got my clothes ready the night before.  It's usually a free for all with me sorting through piles and piles for something clean and relatively wrinkle free.  I like getting a little dressed up for work as I'm quite the opposite at home on the farm.  Little do they know at work what I looked like an hour before I arrived there, thankfully.   All this is making me realize I should get out there and get this show on the road. 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Back to Work

Okay, quit whining and just suit up and get out there.  Snow last night, temps diving, hope the hose didn't freeze in the milk room.  I was up every two hours to stoke the fire.  Will have to  turn the thermostat on before I leave for work, first time this year.  Temps diving all day but warmer by the weekend.  I wonder if we will have the minus 20 we had last year.  I know it screws up the natural scheme of things but I can tell you I don't mind this milder weather.  Yes, I wanted a sheep farm in upstate New York but this morning I am really dragging my behind and trying to get it in gear.  I hope my students are in a good mood today.  They should be as they have a beautiful, heated, clean, well-lit building with good food to eat and people (like me) who are nice to them, care about them, teach them necessary things, play basketball with them, etc., but it doesn't always work that way.  Gotta deal.  I hate to leave the puppies - they are just sooo cute.  I let them play for a couple of hours out of the box but they've got to go back in where they are safe while I'm at work. I hope Reba gets in and feeds them sometime during the day.  She's getting pretty tired of them so she might now.  I know those pups will be very happy to see me when I get home. 

Monday, January 02, 2012

Kitty Drama

I saw some cats on top of the water heater in the milk room and shooed them away.  Somehow, unbeknownst to me, a cat took a header off the top of the water heater and became wedged, head down, in the corner of two walls.  The crying was pitiful and I was frantic.  The 80 gallon water tank is mounted as close to the corner as possible without any room to reach behind it.  I tried dropping a blanket from the top down to the cat but that was no good.  She couldn't turn around to climb up.  Matt was about to leave to go help a friend mount snow plows onto his trucks in Syracuse and was anxious to leave.  What would I do?  Luckily for me, and the kitty, he felt sorry for the cat and grudgingly disconnected all the lines.  It took half an hour to drain the water tank to make it light enough to move.  With great effort, Matt tipped the big tank back while I reached in and grabbed Kitty by the tail and yanked her free.  She, a cute little calico female, was bruised and shocky, but thrilled to be free.  I brought her inside for TLC and Matt hooked everything up again.  He tested all the lines to make sure I had water and went on his way.  Don't know what I would have done if Matt was not here, short of calling the Brookfield Fire Department.  Wouldn't that be funny - all those farmers in my milk room to free a cat from a water heater.  Farm drama...

Cabinets, Interrupted

Matt built this cabinet unit and got it mounted today, but has decided that it is not perfectly straight and wants to take it down and rehang it.  I think it looks fine, but he says he won't be able to live with a crooked cabinet.  It's off less than an inch, but that's too much.  With the barn ceiling and walls a little less than perfectly aligned, it's tough to get anything to line up.  I'm very excited about my cabinets which will alleviate much of the clutter in the kitchen.  I would like to have doors on the unit, but the lower cabinets are store bought stock grade and it would be tough to match them with this lovely real maple wood Matt used.  I have so many lovely hand made pottery pieces that I'd like to show off.  We'll see...

Chicks in January?

I was afraid this would happen.  The hen sitting on eggs on top of my haystack hatched her chicks today.  She somehow brought three chicks down from the top of a huge pile of bales, all the way across the barn and dropped them down to the floor below, an incredible fall for a tiny chick.  I found them huddled under Mom at the foot of the hay mow ladder.  Matt helped me gather Mom and chicks and put them in a rabbit cage in the heated room adjacent to the apartment (also called Kitty City).   With temps going down to single digits at night I don't know how long the chicks would survive, even with a very doting mother stopping to heat them up under her feathers periodically.  This way I can protect them from the cold and cats and make sure they get water and feed.  I pull all the eggs from the ducks (6 today!) and ladies in the chicken room, but I have no control over the free range girls who want to hatch eggs in hidden places. 

Tractor Garage

We wanted to get this done before the big snows came.  When this farm was a working dairy the poop wagen would be backed into this shed to have the manure poured into it from the gutters that run the entire length of this 240 foot barn.  Now the shed houses our vintage 1946 Ford 8N tractor.  The rear blade is for snow plowing.  With 8 to 12 inches forecast for tomorrow the tractor will come in handy.  The shed has sliding doors which will take some work to get back in order.  The kitties will appreciate having one of their favorite hiding places shielded from the snow.  I'll put boxes of wool in the back of the shed for the kitties to snuggle in when the temps dive.

Kitchen Shelves

Matt is building me some much-needed shelves for all my "stuff."  I own a lot of dishes, pots, pans and other kitchen paraphernalia and this is a good start to getting semi-organized, a common New Year's resolution.  The shelves are very much appreciated and I know they will be very strong and hold a ton of weight. The DeWalt saw was a Christmas gift for Matt several years back.  Mia and I went to Home Depot looking for power tools for Matt.  That was really funny - two blondes on a mission with no clue, I mean, no clue as to what to buy.  The salesperson told us to get this, but a stranger tapped me on the back and said, Ma'am, you should get this one, I'm a carpenter, and I know that your husband will like this other one.  So I got that one and Matt has been happy with it for years.  Work boots and Carhartt clothes come and go, but good tools last forever.

Wooly Puppies

While the NY Giants were having their way with the Dallas Cowboys last night, I was spreading my luscious black Bluefaced Leicester fleeces on the floor for skirting and picking.   The puppies woke up from their naps and decided to "help" me sort through the wool.  What absolute darlings they are, play fighting with each other and romping around the floor.  They decided that wool is the absolute bomb - I agree!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Starting Over

I like the cyclical nature of our calendar and the opportunity to flip the page on a year and start over.  I'm wary of hard-fast "resolutions" but will try to amend certain bad habits and steer myself in a better direction.  The warm weather continues here and I find myself very grateful for it.  It's much easier to endure a harsh cold winter when you can hunker down inside and keep warm.  When you have animals outside and no choice but to get out there and take care of them it's a whole other ball game.  I have a tractor on the farm now, with a blade for snow plowing, if we get any real snow this winter (that's okay - there's always next winter for snow).  I can drag dead sheep up to the dead pile with it instead of stashing them behind the barn until spring.  Implements will be hard to find for a 1946 tractor, but, hey, my tractor is paid for and didn't cost as much as a house.  I'm hoping to skirt some fleeces today, and get that pork loin dinner going  while taking down the Yule Branches (not quite a tree).  Puppies and falling needles don't mix well.  The little monkeys are running all over the place.  I feed them their ground up Rachel Ray Nutritious dog food slurry, then put them to nurse on Reba, then let them run around and do their pee/poo so they don't soil their box.  Then the babies are put to bed.  They are growing like crazy and are so happy, healthy and responsive I have no doubt they will make fabulous family dog companions.  Reba will live happily ever on Maggie's Farm.