We finished Hannah's bag today. What fun it was to sew with my granddaughter. My Oma would send me boxes of beautiful hand sewn dresses. I still remember strings around the packages and black crayon writing on the paper grocery bags turned wrapping. We never sewed together, and that's something I really want to share with my daughter and granddaughter. Hannah was very patient, especially with the lining because, as my Southern mother from Georgia taught me, it has to look as pretty on the inside as the outside.
Woke up to thunderous rain on the metal barn roof. It passed, then another cloud burst. Couldn't tell what time it was. Luke needs complete silence and darkness to get to sleep. We both sleep on big sofas on the living room, staying up as long as we can stay awake, reading, watching TV, sewing, playing with doggies and kitties, etc. We are so "on vacation." Last night I said Luke let's go night-night. He turned off the head light he was using to read his book and proceeded to turn everything off, I mean everything. I was proud to see he is so "green" about using energy. Trouble is, I like to go to sleep with the news on, or Jay Leno, or the Weather Channel, etc. Silence gets my mind racing and no Sandman. So I wait for Luke to go to sleep, then sneakily put the TV back on, very low. I woke up to see the little man standing up and marching over to the TV to turn it OFF! He's so adorable. On deck for today...finish a Bundaflicka tote that a nice graduate student has been waiting for, work on Hannah's bag, tidy up the house, tend to critters and take a dip in the POND. Monkey is still asking me where her baby is, poor thing. With five dancing goat kids in the maternity ward, and one running around the field, I'm happy with what I've got.
As Hannah, Luke and I started chores I noticed something protruding from Monkey's female end. It looked like a birth bubble, but deflated and not quite right. I asked the kids to hold her horns and head for me so I could examine her. I hated to do it but knew if something was wrong in there I better go in and deal with it. I prepped up and went in to find a small dead fetus, already partially expelled. The rest did not come easily but finally the whole little body was out of her. Poor Monkey, she kept asking me where her baby was. I don't think there is another one in there. I gave her a cracked corn treat and flake of hay, and let her go out in the field where she could nibble on thistles and get her mind off her baby. I still have John-John, Monkey's handsome blue-eyed son out of my gorgeous Tommy Boy. I think Monkey is retired. Luke is completely recovered from the experience. Hannah was really feeling sorry for Monkey and said later "I keep thinking about Monkey and what she must be feeling." So sweet...
Hannah started sewing her quilted bag pieces together today. I taught her everything I know about locking seams, which way to point the pins, putting the next piece under the presser foot to avoid wasting thread, how to make the seam to seam pocket panels and sew them to the lining, and the cell phone pocket. It was so much fun teaching Hannah all this. After two or three hours of tedious work I could tell she was waning. I asked if she would like to finish the bag tomorrow and she said yes. Luke was working along side us with soap wrapping. What a great worker he is. If a square of cotton was not quite right he had me trim it. Luke kept up until the Lavender was wrapped and I told him to take it easy. We'll do more tomorrow. I'm getting ready for the market on Saturday. Warmer weather today, with little breeze. Should be a lovely weekend.
The goat babies are absolutely adorable. Wish I had more black kids but still waiting on Monkey. Got her in the maternity pen, which she is not happy about, but I want her to drop her kid(s) where I can intervene if necessary. We are cutting fresh thistles for the mommies, who crunch down happily on the thorns that cause humans to shriek in pain. Don't know how they keep from puncturing their gums. Red mohair dyes beautifully so I don't mind it a bit. I'm planning on doing a black wool/black mohair run without color in it for the natural enthusiasts and myself. Still hoping to knit a Gansey on of these days, and weave some rugs. Many black fleeces in bags and boxes to go through and pick. Luke is happy to help with anything I ask him to do, but he prefers to dig and tote. Fine with me. I got him in a bubble bath in the big old bath tub last night. He is sparkly clean. It's been too cool to swim in the pond but warmer temps are on the way. The dogs chewed through the last screen in the living room while we were out yesterday. Woe is me. It's going to be a little buggy around here. Matt is off on another happy trip to Buffalo. A community college out there is building a weatherization training house funded by the last remaining ARA funds and he is supervising the construction. All those contractors at odds with each other and him far away in Syracuse makes for tense times. I have a bag to make for a very patient customer, and tons of lovely fabric to fashion into something functional and beautiful. We are hoping for a visit from the Kingston Parkinsons and Auntie Mia very soon.
It feels just right to be home with the kids on the farm. I get up just as early but don't have to rush out of here - sheer bliss. I love having Hannah and Luke here. It somehow feels like I've gone back to the time I had AJ and Mia home again. We are keeping busy with trips to town yesterday to get badminton rackets. We put them to good use right away, with the lovely cool temps and breeze last night. Luke flies his remote control helicopter in the cavernous hay mow and helps me with chores without being asked. Fantastic! Hannah wants to sew and I'm thrilled. She is living in the House of Fabrics, and with two machines in working order right now we are good to go. Luke wants to wrap soap for me. How could I be so lucky? They are both looking forward to the market tomorrow. I suspect we will be ready for the pond after a day in the sun in Hamilton.
So wonderful to see Eric's family again. So good to be together. They love the farm. After their two year stay in the Dallas Palace, in Flower Mound,Texas, the farm was quite a different and relaxing country holiday. The kids were happy to be back on Omi's farm again.
Eric and Annie's entourage included three doggies, Booker, Perdita, and Dizzy, who was recently homeless on Craig's List in Texas. Eric pulled his trailer full of manly toys in Annie's Land Cruiser, while Annie followed in their old but classy Mercedes, stuffed full of things they'll need while staying at a Boy Scout camp near Portland. Eric bought that Mercedes on Ebay after it was listed by an Iranian restauranteur in Hollywood. That owner had the car fitted to take vegetable oil as fuel. Luckily, Eric is a motorhead and can work on this beauty himself.
Eric and family stopped for the night on their way to the new BSA assignment in Portland, Maine. After three days of driving from Texas they pulled in around dinner time yesterday. I was thrilled to see everyone and vice versa. Eric is driving Annie's Toyota Land Cruiser pulling a trailer full of his "toys" while Annie drove the 1980's Mercedes, purchased from an Iranian restauranteur in Hollywood, Ca. Hannah and Luke were thrilled to meet the new angora goat kids. After a spaghetti dinner we set about doing chores. It was great to have help in the barn. Our evening plans were to build a campfire, roast marshmallows, chat and catch up on the two years that I haven't seen my son. It's been a year since I've been with my grand kids. Way too long. Rain clouds were rolling in as Luke built the fire but we ignored them. Finally a down pour chased us inside. Luke really wanted to watch Forrest Gump together, which we did, snuggling on the sofas with the doggies. Annie and Eric bedded down in Hannah's Celebrity Trailer which I had all tricked up with candles and little white lights. They got a good night's rest before I filled their bellies with Swedish pancakes and French Roast this morning. Mom and Dad went on to set up temporary residence at a Boy Scout camp while the purchase of their lovely Cape Cod home in Gorham, Maine, is completed. I have Hannah and Luke to myself for a few weeks, after which I will drive them to their new home. So nice to have their good company and help on the farm. We have a lot of time to catch up on.
I'm happily rushing around trying to make some sense out of this place before Eric, Annie, Hannah and Luke arrive tomorrow. I don't know why I'm even trying to make sense as it is impossible to make any sense out of this place. I thought when I bought a 20,000 square foot barn that I would have enough room for all my "stuff" but even stuff requires storage facilities like walls, cabinets, etc. Fortunately my family knows what my life is like here on the farm and they love me anyway. My son is taking his family from one beautiful home in Dallas to another near Portland, Maine, where he will head up the Pine Tree Council of the Boy Scouts of America. While the paperwork is going through they will stay at a local Boy Scout camp to save money. Even tiny little Mom and Pop motels in southern Maine charge a hundred dollars a day in the summer. Hannah and Luke will stay with Omi until the moving is done and the family is settled in the new house. I haven't seen my grandchildren in a year and I am very excited. Hannah's Celebrity Trailer is all cleaned and ready for her, complete with little white Italian restaurant lights and candles. The "guest" room has long ago been taken over by fabric and fiber. Monkey has not given birth yet, lucky for me as I can concentrate on filling boxes and hiding them in various places. The temperature is a lovely 70 - 80 F. with beautiful sunshine. Hope it stays this way for our camp fires and sitting by the pond. The sunsets have been so lovely the last few nights, with hummingbirds buzzing around our heads and fireflies flitting about like little fairies. Better get to work.
I've waited all year to see them again and now they are on the way! Eric, Annie and the kidlets are driving from Dallas, Texas, to their new home in Gorham, Maine, and will stop for one night on the way there. With the end of school just yesterday, and me who always has every excuse in creation not to clean (animals and heat are my two favorites) the place is a mess. There are piles of clean laundry, wool that needs to be picked and sorted (the dogs love to help with that) little balls of yarn, scraps of fabric, dishes, mail I chose to ignore, and the blankets and pillows I use to sleep on the sofa. Funny, my mother gave up her bed in favor of the sofa in her later years. I guess sleeping on the sofa makes me feel like I'm on vacation. There are boxes of teacher-crap I had to clean out of TWO classrooms the last couple of days. My truck has two sewing machines in it, and so much junk. Good thing I have a tractor shed to stash this stuff. It's unbelievable what a teacher can accumulate in just a year, and I had two rooms to do it in. With summer school coming in, and administration having no idea what they are going to do with me next term, I had to take everything home. Oy. Anyway...I gave up the market today to clean the house. I love the market and will miss my market friends, and my meager earnings, but I also know that absence makes the heart grow fonder. People often say are you going to be here all summer? so they don't buy that bar of soap or hank of yarn thinking it will always be there. Today it's not there, so maybe they will grab it next week. I'm glad I can check on Monkey, who is hanging against the wall in a spot of the barn where I rarely see her. Maybe it is her time. I'm so excited about seeing Hannah and Luke. Luke wants to make a tire swing and the hay mow is a good place to do it. Now how to get up thirty feet and connect a rope to the ceiling beam, and what kind of rope, and where do I find used tires? These and many pressing questions will be swirling around my mind as I try to make some sense out of this place. "Try" is the operative word here...
Sadie is a very happy puppy on the farm. No chance of her going to live in New Jersey, and Mia is fine with that. She is busy with her new exciting career as a surgical Nurse Practitioner and can't have a little puppy to worry about. Besides, Sadie is a purebred farm hound dog and is happiest when she is roaming around digging up all things gnarly and disgusting. Sadie has the happiest personality of any dog I've ever known, and she's even gotten old Izzy to loosen up and play with her. Izzy usually remains aloof from any other-dog activities, refraining from any involvement in their silly activities. He likes to go about his business around the farm, peeking down holes and eating various forms of dung. He waits for his favorite time of day, when I get under the covers and Izzy crawls in along side me. Woe to any dog that tries to come close. Izzy will jump on top of me, all four paws firmly planted on my person, and snarl at the interloper. Sadie waits until Izzy is very drowsy and crawls in on the other side. Smart dog. Last night Sadie had Izzy rolling around on the sofa, playing like a puppy, having so much fun. I didn't know Izzy still had it in him.
How lovely that the end of school coincides with the Summer Solstice. I will name my newest baby goat kid, a little white buck, Puck. Found him when I got home from work yesterday. No worries about freezing babies at this time of year. Angora goats take the heat beautifully - after all they are desert animals. I think Monkey will give birth tonight or tomorrow. Happy when it's over as she is not looking all that chipper. Eric and family are on their way to his new post as the Scout Executive of the Pine Tree Council in Portland, Maine. They will stop here for one night as they have to beat the movers to the new house in Gorham, Maine, ten miles away from the Boy Scout Council Eric is going to head up. I'm staying home from the farmer's market tomorrow to get ready for their visit. With rushing out to school and critters being born here and there, things have been sliding a bit. I may be on vacation but I still have to hustle. Happy Solstice everyone. Now we begin the long decline to winter. Doesn't seem right, as we just started summer.
Okay so it's hot. I mean really hot. Gotta deal. Somehow it doesn't seem right, living so far north and having temps so high, but here we are. The land of extremes. The sheep are taking it well, lounging on the cool dirt barn floor during the day and out to graze in the evening. The goats in the maternity ward are panting a bit. I've been pulling down the plastic sheeting on the windows which kept out the winter chill. I have very powerful fans up and down the barn, but I'm afraid to turn them on with the wiring so old and brittle. Better a hot barn than a burning barn. Chris told me he paid $700 each for those fans a long time ago so I wish I could get them working. In the meantime the little ones are doing fine. Little Hannah, born yesterday, is very tiny but is alert and nursing. Have to catch her to peel off that poopy pack that baby goats often get. One more mom in the maternity ward is due to kid along with Monkey, who would never stand to be put in a pen with other goats. She would whip her beauteous horn set around and make them miserable. Monkey is due to lamb anytime and I sure hope I am here to save the "second twin" who she loves to ignore, just as her mother, Celeste, did to her. Monkey was hand raised after finding her flat out frozen dead on the barn floor, in the pen right in front of her mother who ignored her in favor of the other twin. I was living in the trailer at the time and had an oven in the milk room for cooking. I warmed Monkey up in the oven and left her on the lid overnight in a laundry basket with a rack separating it from the elements. I gave her up for dead, but one should never do that. The following morning, on Easter Sunday, I opened the door to the milk room and found little Monkey standing up in the laundry basket. Naturally, she has been a VIG ever since - Very Important Goat. Speaking of Very Important flock members, I just let them out to graze and sure enough Lilly came over to me to say hello. Her affection taking first place to her need for green grass. Then her son, Forrest, was next to come for a smooch, then Luna, her daughter. This line of sheep is so very friendly. The others act like I'm not even there for the most part, except for when I appear with a bucket or a bail. I sure hope I can keep this "Lilly Line" going. I still have her mother, who must be 14 years old. I'll be thrilled if I have Lilly that long. Now to sit down and drink my morning French Roast leftovers with a good dollop of vanilla ice cream on top. I hope the ceiling fan will dry this tee shirt which is drenched and sticking to me, after just a few preliminary chores. No cooking tonight - don't dare light the oven. A salad will have to do. Last day with the kids today. Only two out of seven showed up but they might as well have been twenty with their acting out. The end of school can be very unsettling with anxiety issues. I had four extra aides, making six total, helping me clean up and organize my big classroom. It was wonderful having those ladies scrubbing and sorting. The pile of garbage in the hall was enormous. A secretary was retiring after 39 years and there was cake for her. I can't imagine working anywhere that long. My life has been so topsy-turvy it was impossible. The farm gives me some of the peace I've been searching for all my life.
My Nubian girls are settling in very nicely. They go out of their pen to graze on pasture and come back in by themselves. They've wandered into the main barn, tiptoeing past Thor while he sleeps in the doorway. I think they like having sheep and other goats around, but pretty much stick together as a team. Matilda, one month older than Fancy, is much more outgoing. She is the leader of the pair. I can't get over how beautiful and exotic looking they are.
There is something so special about baby angora goats. They are just so soft and cuddly - born with a good amount of hair, unlike lambs who really don't have any coat at all when first born. Once you catch them, goat kids love to be held and sink right in to your arms. My students found a little buck kid in the field yesterday and named him Rocky Balboa. After I got home from taking the human kids home I managed to get mom and baby into the kindergarten in the barn. I found another baby doe kid when I arrived home today, making a total of four does and one buck born this spring. I named today's baby Hannah, after my granddaughter who is 14 today. It's delightful having babies in hot weather with no chance of them freezing.
I went to work and piled my aides and two students into a school van for a trip to the farm. We picnicked next to the pond in the upper field. The weather did not exactly cooperate as we anticipated a sunny day with warm temps. Instead, we had cool air and cloud cover all day. That did not dampen our spirits, however, with the kids running wild through the fields, ecstatic over being in such wide open spaces. We gathered firewood to cook the food and went down to let the sheep out. It was so gratifying to be with these kids who are usually giving me such a hard time about everything under the sun and seeing their faces radiant with joy and wonder everywhere they turned. When I asked if they wanted to go with me to let the sheep out to graze, W. asked if he could open the gate. The sheep stampeded out and the kids' jaws dropped. I wasn't crazy about swimming in the coolness but they talked me into it. What a glorious feeling it was to be back in my pond, with the added fun of kicking and racing with my students. The doggies were in awe of the spectacle and Tanner decided to swim out to me. Didn't know she could swim! My colleagues were reluctant to go swimming, having no suits or dry clothes to change into. When it was time to leave the kids begged to stay a while longer so they could explore the farm. They even went into the spooky silos. Perhaps the high point of the day was when they found a newborn baby buck kid in the field. I winced when I saw they inadvertently chased away the mother, but we got them reunited later. What a thrill for these city boys to hold a baby goat, cord still hanging, in their arms. I know they will remember this day the rest of their lives. Back to Norwich to drop them off and get back to school in time to leave for the day.
My one and only granddaughter, Hannah, is 14 years old. I don't see Hannah very often, but she has been coming to visit me every summer since she was a little girl. Now she's a lovely young woman, talented, sensitive, intelligent and gracious. Hannah is a pilot and a Civil Air Patrol Cadet. I'm very much looking forward to Hannah's move to Portland, Maine, where her Daddy is now the head of the Pine Tree Boy Scout Council. She and her brother, Luke, will be six hours away by car instead of a long plane ride to Dallas, Texas. I hope to be with Hannah on her next birthday. Maybe I can take her whale watching out of Portland. It will be wonderful...
Back from the Hamilton Market. The weather was beautiful and traffic was much better than my last visit to the market. I think absence makes the heart grow fonder, as one woman threw up her arms in joy when she saw me. She had run out of hand creme and was looking for me last week. People often ask are you going to be here all summer? and I tell them yes, I will, if the weather is good. Soap and wool don't do well in the rain. I saw Bob Adams who made pop corn and Lemon Blizzards for us at the Bouckville festival last weekend. He was so thrilled with our little show and can't wait to come back next year. Haven't heard a thing from Pam or anyone else on the committee as to the success of the show. I had a great time with my friends but money has never been the whole story for me. Today I had a few people from Brookfield who I would never had met had I not been set up at the market in Hamilton. One woman reminded me that she desperately wanted a Bundaflicka tote at the Madison County Fair and asked her hubby to buy it for her Christmas present. He never did and she says she's still waiting. A young girl about Hannah's age told me about her goats and how she milks them for all the family's dairy needs. We talked about how goat milk tastes just like cow's milk if you drink it fresh, but a day or two old and yuck. I gave her a bar of Lemongrass soap to keep the bugs away when she's working in the barn. She came back a few minutes later with a big loaf of homemade bread her mother sent over. I broke an end off for my breakfast. Anthea from Seattle Washington spent some time with me today. She's attending a Colgate University Writer's Conference, then going on to a program for senior students at Mount Holyoke in Mass. I thought about what I would be doing if I did not have this farm. I'd have much more freedom and money to travel and experience various opportunities. One has to wonder why I saddled myself with all this responsibility. Then I go out into the barn and look into the faces of all my little friends and know why. So many people at work were talking about parties they were going to this weekend, how this one and that one in their families were having picnics and celebrations for graduations and Father's Day. With no one around to celebrate with, the Farm takes up the slack and keeps me too busy to get lonely. I got a lot of spinning done at the market. What a blessing to have something to do with my hands while people are looking at my stuff. A box fan plugged into the lamp post kept me nice and cool.
My beautiful little Diamond is coming along nicely. She is still out on her own with her mom in the flock. I have Jubilee and Elizabeth in the maternity pen with two more expectant mothers. I've caught Diamond once or twice to check on her tummy which I found full and firm. This tells me she is nursing nicely. The fields are bursting with greenery which the sheep and goats are enjoying thoroughly. Lilly came up to me to say hello yesterday and I hardly recognized her - she's big and fat. Farmers all over the area are making hay while this glorious weather lasts.
School was okay again today. The weather was so beautiful I decided to take the class up the big hill behind the school to the pond. The aides, all five of them, were up for it, making the hike a happy time for all. The boys reminded me of the Stand By Me movie, since all of them are about that age. They loved the pond, and stripped their shirts and shoes off, hoping to get permission to swim. We decided against it, since none of us wanted to go in and rescue anyone, having no spare clothes, etc. I promised them they could swim at my pond on the farm when I bring them out here on Monday for a picnic. My frogs and fish have been undisturbed for entirely too long. Maybe we can wake up a turtle or two in the mud on the bottom. Hope there are no snappers....
Thor is one supremely happy farm dog. The farm is his whole world and his life is very simple - protect the sheep and goats. I have never had a coyote loss. I've never seen one since the night when we landed here with the flock. I shined a search light up on to the ridge and saw a line of glowing eyes watching us. The resident varmints were lined up, checking us out. Thank you Thor and your brothers, Finn and Knut, for doing such a good job for me.
When I pull in from work, after making my stops at the little market in New Berlin and the PO, I sometimes sit in the car for a minute or two, listening to Public Radio, watching the chickens scratching in the driveway and the kitties milling around my car. I contemplate the first part of my day before I go into the next shift. It wasn't too bad I have to admit. After having one of the worst days of my education career on Tuesday, on the day of the Special Ed. graduation when parents and guests from the various sending districts were roaming around the school, my head/chest cold took such a turn for the worst I had to call in sick yesterday. I couldn't talk anyway, which is the most important tool a teacher has - speech - so what's the use? I spent a great deal of time on the sofa but made my way to the way back of the barn midday to check for babies. After nine hours of cold medicine aided sleep I feel much better. The throat is letting up and the voice is coming back. My supervisor gave me three more aides, making a total of six aides for 7 kids. That did the trick, along with a key student or two being absent, and allowed today to be much more manageable. Once home and in the barn I go out and check the little ones. Spotted little Jubilee with her mom, but where is Elizabeth, the two day old newborn? Tried not to have a seizure and kept my wits about myself. Peeking around every nook and cranny I saw nothing, then took a cue from Mom, who was standing up on the hay, leaning against a wall. There in the space between two boards was little Elizabeth, napping with a few abandoned eggs laid by a hen who found the same private spot. A couple of years ago I had a panicky time when I lost a lamb in the way back of the barn. Again I took a cue from Mom and found little "Tank" squeezed into a two inch space between the water tank and the wall. The little ones sure do like to hide. All is well on the farm.
I love to see how artists set up their little booths. It's a challenge to present your goods artfully and efficiently in a 10x10 space. Having so much product to squeeze into a minimal space, I long ago opted for the convenient industrial box and basket method of displaying my goods. I wander around the check out everybody else and get ideas that I might never use, but it's still fun to look.
I met Jan Buck after hours at the CNY Fiber Artists Showcase. She's a spinner friend of Peggy Van Vorce of West Creek Family Farm, somewhere in the wilds of Western New York near Newark Valley. Jan was making a bed for herself in Peggy's booth with fluffy sheep skins. I couldn't help but have bed-envy, but that was before Daryl P. showed up with the air mattress for me. Jan followed us back to our tent to chat. She loaned us a nifty camp lamp so we could wrap soap and spin after dark. I found out that Jan is also an early riser when she greeted me in the early dawn hours with a coffee pot! I knew I found a friend. When I told Jan I was up at 12, than again at 2 and 4 she told me not to call my fitful sleep "night terrors." Jan describes them as "night watches," or waking up to check things out and make sure all are peaceful and safe. I like that. Jan went on her way back to the wild frontier of WNY, while I waited for Daryl and Kim to wake up and go to Quack's Diner for breakfast. Yes, we brought food for the animals, but humans are farther down on the list. I hope I run into Jan at another fibery event.
I decided to spend the night with my sheep, and new goats, at the CNY Fiber Artists festival. I was not alone, as Mindy Laymon was sleeping over with her Southdowns, just across the tent from me. I was concerned about my sheep jumping the three foot hog panels they were enclosed in. BFL's are notoriously athletic and I knew they could scale those panels if they wanted. Luckily, the sheep seemed to be content behind the wire. I think having three of them there, along with the new goatie friends, made them more comfortable. Still, I did not want to worry about it. Daryl Parkinson surprised me with a sweet air mattress and Kim gifted me with a thick, sturdy Army blanket. We partied until dark, wrapping soap, spinning wool, and chatting about the festival before bedding down at dark. I liked sleeping with the critters. I think it helped me bond with my new dairy goats, Fancy and Matilda. I looked over to see Mindy's hand slipping through her fence to stroke her babies. Life with sheep is very, very good.
Kimmie Cornerstone is knitting some lovely, fancy hats these days. She had some on display at the CNY Fiber Artists festival over the weekend. You can even purchase one of Kim's kits with lovely handspun designer yarn and directions to knit your own soft, warm hats. Kim's hats have been keeping my brains warm for years now. My current favorite is an orange earflapper knitted from my Rambouillet, but I also like a little greenish-brown skull cap that matches my Carhartt jacket. I save the earflapper for below-zero temps. I remember when Kim did not knit at all, preferring to crochet everything she made. I'm glad she decided to pick up that second needle. Kim knitted this manly cap for my shearer, Jim Baldwin, to thank him for the luscious Merino fleeces gifted us with.
Going back to work after a weekend of serious sheep and wool submersion is always rather surreal. The Special Ed. Dept. Annual Picnic took place at the North Norwich Park yesterday. It was a great way to ease back in to another week of school. The high school kids take their Regents Tests then stop coming, but the middle school kids come right up to the last day - next Friday. It's a challenge to keep them working and occupied. I'm very much looking forward to staying home on the farm with all my little, and big, friends.
I don't usually bring live sheep to a festival. It's an enormous undertaking to bring my wool, soap, creme, yarn, Bundaflicka totes and photos. The animals require another trailer to transport them, and another space to house them, with panels to keep them contained yet visible. Then there's the food, water and hay they need for the weekend. Pam Haendle really wanted me to bring sheep to our new festival and I told her I would. I was very proud to display Nicholas, Joseph and Robin, Bluefaced Leicester/Border Leicester crosses, all born around Christmas. A sheep tour came through and I was able to talk to the patrons about the Leicester breeds and the British Longwools. The sheep were very well behaved, and didn't try to jump over the 3 foot hog panels we used to house them.
Susanne Farrington, local felt artist and potter, demonstrated her craft at the CNY Fiber Artists and Producers Festival this past weekend. She made several felted wool hats, explaining the steps to the festival patrons. Susanne said she had a fabulous time and I really enjoyed seeing how a hat is formed and shaped over a ceramic head.
It was a big thrill to see my yarns spun up by Karen La Brague, local fiber artist from Hamilton. Every spinner has her own style, and I love Karen's. My spinning is very tight and I'm having some trouble loosening up. Karen spins a bulky thick and thin style, letting the fiber breathe and showing off the lovely flecks of color in the yarn.
I came home from the Central New York Fiber Artists Festival with two new friends - Fancy and Matilda. They are Nubian dairy goats, purchased from Peggy Van Vorce of West Creek Family Farm in Newark Valley. I've wanted dairy animals for a long time. It will be a while before Fancy and Matilda can give me milk, as they are only three and four months old. They have to grow up, be bred and give birth before they can be milked. I figure that will be almost a year, but it's worth the wait.
I have a lot of respect for shepherds who regularly transport their animals to shows. I'm sure they have their act down pat. It was quite a chaotic exercise for us whose animals never leave their barn and pasture. I forgot how fast the six month old lambs are. Mom is still nursing these Bluefaced Leicester/Border Leicester beauties and she is very upset. I told her they are going to a lovely little farm in upscale Manlius where they will only have one very aged sheep and a horse to compete with. If there is a horse there the hay will be fabulous. My college professor friend is thrilled to get these wethers, who are bursting with very soft wool. I don't usually offer sheep for sale, but Diane has been asking for BFL wethers for a couple of years, and I am very happy to accomodate her. We are packing up for the CNY Fiber Artists and Producers Annual Showcase. I know, very fancy name for a little country show, but the show is growing so fast the name will soon be appropriate. If there is something you want in the way of fiber art, we probably have it, including some incredibly beautiful hand spun yarn from Maggie's Mother Fiber. Commercial or mill spun just can't compete with this gorgeous art yarn. Come out to the fair tomorrow and Sunday. We are located on Route 20 in Bouckville, just five miles from Hamilton where Colgate University is located.
Yes, that's what I call it. Our committee decided on the "Central New York Fiber Artists and Producers Annual Festival" but I call it a sheep show. We'll have five giant circus tents full of fiber producing animals and every variety of craft from their gifts imaginable. The Butternut Hills Campground is located on Route 20 in Bouckville, the Antique Capital of New York State. I took a personal day - thank you teacher's union - to set up my booths. Kimmie Cornerstone is traveling south from Ontario to teach drop spindling and will be set up next to me. A kiddie tent with a petting zoo and kid-crafts will entertain the kids while the grownups wander. Matt Redmond is providing Sheep Security and Parking Supervision. There will be a fair number of llamas and alpacas at the show, but we must remember that Wool is the Mother of All Fibers! Come and see us at the fair!
I got close enough to little Diamond to pick her up tonight. Mom saw me coming and gave her a warning whinny, but I snatched her up before the little darling could dash away. Once cradled in my arms, she calmed down and settled in nicely. What a fat, full tummy she has! Mom is doing a good job of feeding her, but then the fields are covered with lush green grass. I carried her inside to find my camera while mom snacked on cracked corn. Angora goat babies love to be held, unlike lambs who are hard and bony and wiggle until you let them go. Kids are soft and squishy, with lovely soft curls. I cuddled and loved on her a bit before taking her back to mom, who was not all that upset with me after all. Once on her feet, Diamond ran under mom to gobble down some milk - reassuring both of them that all is well.
What is it about a camp fire that is so wonderful? We only do it on very special occasions. It was not our first fire of the season. We had a ritual sofa burning of the loveseat we bought from a side-of-the-road used furniture sale for next to nothing. It was on it's way to Catholic Charities as the shop owner was selling the farm and heading out in a Winnebago, as many people do around here. I think I gave him $20, and the loveseat lasted for three or four years. With dogs in the house, old sofas are the only way to go. This sofa was ready to go for good. It made a lovely fire and Mia was here to enjoy it. This time Brian Redmond was here, and our fire was first used to cook a fabulous meal. He put corn on the cob on the open flame and it was delicious. Knut LOVES when we sit outside, next to the tree where his igloo is. The lovely cool temps we've been having make the warmth of the fire so inviting.
This little darling greets me in the barn every morning. I have another angora goat baby, Diamond, bouncing around the fields with her mother. Diamond is jet black with some white spots on her. Diamond was born in the barn and her mom took care of everything. I decided to let her continue taking care of her baby since it looked like everything was going well. Jubilee needed some help being born. Mom was running around screaming with a tiny head and hooves peeking out the back. Luckily I was home to assist. Goats don't like interference with the birth process but I had to step in. Nursing also went a little rough at first. I think we are out of the woods now. I adore angora goat kids. They are so soft and cuddly, and love to be held as long as you don't walk too far away from mama.
Spring is in full bloom now and with all this glorious rain we've been having the world is so bushy and green it hurts your eyes. My commute is long but very beautiful, especially the 15 mile leg on King's Settlement Road. I do ten miles on the busier Route 8, a corridor coming out of Utica that goes straight to Sidney and Deposit where you can pick up Route 17 and head to New Jersey. Once I turn on to King's Settlement I like to count the cars I pass in the 15 miles to Norwich. Most days it's 3-4 coming in the other direction but some days it's only 1 or 2. I have had days in the last 5 years where I've been the only one on the road. The lovely spring weather sadly brings out the babies who are not very adept at getting themselves across the road in one piece. I can only imagine the mother who tip-toes out, coaxing her babies along, but doesn't get them to hurry quite enough. The horror and confusion they must experience when the baby is no more. I've observed at least two tiny tragedies of newborn fawns in such a state. Today I was rushing home on Route 8, just having crossed the Madison County line, with cars behind me pushing me to go faster than the 55-60 I do. The buggers sometimes pass me in sets of three on the straightaway by Woodchuck Hollow Farm. I was rounding a curve and spied a small patch of brown on the yellow line. I whizzed by then thought that's unusual. That patch of brown wasn't squashed, it was just there, kind of fluffy. I put on the brakes and turned around in the snowplow pull-over by the Unadilla River foot bridge. I drove back and pulled up next to the fluffy bundle and saw two little faces, nose to nose. To my horror I realized they were baby ground hogs who somehow were stranded in the road. Had mama encouraged them to venture across the road with her, then couldn't get them to come all the way and gave up? Was she watching from behind a bush? I put the flashers on and blocked them with my SUV, opened the door and scooped them up. They were soft as bunnies and didn't make a sound. What to do, what to do? I thought I should take them home, then thought better of it. I walked over to the bank of the Unadilla and put them down in the grass. They could drink water and eat grass. Hopefully mama would come along and find them. Oh, they are so cute. So glad I stopped.
Brian Redmond, Matt's nephew, came through for a brief visit before reporting for a summer job at a Vermont circus. Brian is an "art handler" in Manhattan, and has just finished hanging a Picasso exhibit. I can't imagine holding Picasso masterpieces in my hands and straightening them on the walls, like a photograph of my sheep, but that's what Brian does. Brian is also a chef, and decided to cook dinner for us over a wood fire in the barnyard. It was a real treat for me to sit and watch as a handsome young male cooked dinner for me. I wanted it to last forever. When Brian expressed a desire to do some homesteading, I offered him a few acres here on the farm. Amazing what a delicious hot meal can do. Brian is as sweet and soft spoken as he is handsome. If I could figure out how to download pictures with this lovely new camera Mia bought for me, I would show you. Matt is driving Brian to Burlington, Vt., today while I work at home. The weather was just too gray and drizzly for the market yesterday, which gave me a rare opportunity to linger on the farm a little while before venturing out to the Louis Gale Feed Mill. I have several pregnant angora goats who eagerly look forward to their corn snack at night. I love the way they sneak back in the barn to get the corn before the big fat sheep figure out what they are doing. I toss out the corn then almost like they have radar, the sheep stampede into the barn and push the skinny goats out of the way. Long range plans include separating the two species for better feeding arrangements. My two little does are doing fine. The black girl, who has cute white splashes on the black, is wild as her mother. I have the second mom, a bit wildish herself, in a pen with her baby. I just wasn't satisfied she was nursing properly and kept them in to make sure. I checked her yesterday and found an impossible fecal impaction covering her cute little butt. Took a bit of careful clipping to free her up. A baby goat's first poo is horribly sticky and we wouldn't want flies getting at the mud pack. I am excited about the goat babies, fathered by a nicely covered, although smallish, red buck. The famous Velvet, AKA Monkey, is expecting soon. I have her penned in also, in hopes that I am around when she gives birth so I can save the second twin. She has, for three years in a row, favored one twin over the other - just her mother did with her. Fifteen more days of work and I will be in a much better position to prevent that from happening. In the meantime, the Bouckville Sheep Festival - that's what I call it as the name CNY Fiber Artists and Producers is a terrible name - is taking place this Saturday and Sunday, from 10-5 on route 20. The Fabulous Kimmie Cornerstone is travelling from the wilds of the Canadian outback to teach drop spindling and be my booth neighbor. A great time will be had for all, wallowing in wool, mohair and llama fiber and all things practical and frivolous we can do with it. Can't wait...