Saturday, June 29, 2013

Driving Lessons

I think I'm finally beginning to wind down from school/spring shows/lambing-kidding.  I think taking the day off from the market helped down- shift me into summer.  Luke and I walked the hillside a couple of times then came back inside to relax.  For me that means sewing....but when I'm not sewing I'm spinning.  When I'm not spinning I'm cutting out more totes.  When I'm not cutting out totes I'm wrapping soap.  When I'm not doing that I'm playing with wool or mohair.  There will be a lot more of that when I find a new wool washing machine.  When I'm not doing the above I'm tending to critters - the biggest job there is around here.  When I'm not doing that I'm dealing with human food procurement and preparation.   Luke is great company.  He's not pushy or demanding.  He loves to read and relax with his little machines.  He makes pleasant conversation and asks probing questions that lead to long discussions.  Tonight it was What are Mormons?  He lets me know when he wants something.  He rubs the bumps and knots on my back.   Best of all - he always has a smile on his face.  We drove to New Berlin to pick up the NY Times and food for dinner.  Luke told me he wanted hamburgers and I asked if he would like to cook them.  He said yes!  That was a lot of fun.  He mashed the chopped meat in a bowl with salt, pepper and All Purpose Seasoning then fried them in a pan with a lid on to make them well done.  We ate the burgers with a pile of lettuce on top.  On the way home from New Berlin - don't know how they are surviving without me pumping around $50 a day into their local economy - we stopped to visit Shepherd Mary.  She invited us to come and pick up greens from her fabulous exploding garden.  Luke loves Mary and was very excited to spend some time with her.  She gave him a driving lesson in her Kubota ATV and they delivered some hay to the horses in her field.  Wish I had one but then I would never walk up the big hill.  Rain is threatened again, but then, it's been threatening all day.  Mary and I had a lovely visit sitting under one of her many shade trees with a gentle breeze.  Don't know if we'll get an evening walk to the pond tonight. Baby ducks inside are doing fine.  Have not seen Mama duck with the babies outside today.  On the advice of a friend we are dipping the duck eggs in a cup of warm water - Luke's job - to keep the shells from becoming brittle.   I have some gorgeous fabric I'm itching to cut up...but chores come first.  I love my special evening time with the critters, and with Luke to help out, everything is peachy.


Woke up at 6 and went out on the hillside.  Sheep are grazing already.  They like this routine - gate open to come out, graze, then go back in the barn whenever they like.  A week ago they were being kept in the barnyard while I was at work.  With all this blasted rain and the grass growing like crazy the sheep are getting fat on clover and the other juicy greens.  I had to make the call.  Should I wake up Lukie and load the truck for the market?   It's miserable to set up and get rained on, aside from the dampness my wool and textiles soak up.  I decided to let Lukie sleep, and took care of the morning barn chores.  Back inside for coffee, my spinning wheel and some absolutely mouth watering quiche made last night.  Matt is going to the Jersey Shore for a Newark grade school reunion and is taking two quiches.  I mix a bowl of my eggs with sauteed onions in butter, spinach, gouda cheese and lots of salt and pepper.   A dash of nutmeg adds a nice twinge of flavor.   Pour the mixture in a frozen crust and there we are.   Luke has blueberry muffins and a French baguette from Panera for breakfast.  I'll eat more quiche, drink coffee and stay in my jammies for a while.  I will sew a couple of bags today, to make up for sales lost with no market.  A day on the farm is never a lost day.  We have two baby ducks and a little chick under lights to play with.  Luke and his baby goat are bonded now.  Luke gives Comet his bottles and the little guy follows him everywhere.  So adorable to watch.  I'm holding on to every moment...and, a delightful bonus, Luke loves to cook!  Pinch me now!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy Days

Annie brought Luke on Wednesday and it's been non-stop fun.  The weather goes from hot sun, to rain, mostly rain, to muggy.  Does not deter our activities.  We hike up to the pond,  work in the barn, hang out and watch movies, play with doggies, eat watermelon.  We stayed on the farm yesterday and explored around the barnyard.  We spied a duck laying an egg on a pile of eggs.  When she left we collected them for hatching.  Luke loves ducklings.  Two nests were started this spring, but, for some unknown reason, the mothers abandoned them and scattered the eggs.  Perhaps something started them, or the male ducks became jealous of all the attention the moms were paying to the eggs.  The farm is busy with mother hens parading around with chicks in all stages of development, but Luke wanted ducklings.  We set up a hatching box under a light in the living room, vowing to turn them regularly the way a mother duck would do.   Low and behold, in the driveway this morning, there she was.  A Swedish Blue duck with a clutch of baby ducklings.  Matt called me out to see it and what a thrill.  They must have been hatched this morning.  Matt pointed out one lying on it's back, kicking a little, unable to get up.  Mom didn't like our attention and immediately called the babies away, under the trailer.  The handicapped one would be doomed if left there among all the hungry cats and chickens.  Guess where it is now?   Under the light in the egg box, along with another one who couldn't keep up with mom.  The weak duckling is sitting up already, two hours later, and the other is chirping away, talking to the warm eggs.  I hope the stimulation will help the eggs hatch more succcessfully.  On deck for this rainy day:

Barn chores.
Travel to Waterville and pick up the weekly grain at the Louis Gale Feed Mill
Continue on to Utica to see the new Superman movie
Eat lunch at Panera
Hit Barnes and Noble
Hit Sally's Beauty Supply
Hit Joann's Fabics for thread

When we leave the farm and head for town we try to get it all done.
Tomorrow is market day, with a party at the Hamilton Arts Center following.  Here's hoping this ridiculous rain will hold off long enough for us to set up.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Random Thoughts

No quid pro quo.  Putin won't hand over Snowden.  Kerry says we've given him seven people he's wanted extradited recently.  Does not make Obama look good, but I don't think Putin, or Snowden, cares about that.  I'm all in favor of someone taking on the government on behalf of the people, but when Snowden flies to China, than Russia, with lap-tops full of US secrets, well, that's not cool.

I got the ping!  My refrigerator needed cleaning big time.  Couldn't mash a gallon of milk in there no how.  I peaked in and found many jars opened jars of Pace salsa, several jars of pickles made by the Sisters next door dated 2008, and a few bowls covered with plastic wrap. Whatever was in there surely was no longer palatable.  I bit the bullet today and went to work.  Lo and behold there was the rhubarb I've been collecting from the old lady's driveway kiosk in Norwich...and the lovely strawberries I bought from the Amish neighbors several days ago.  Both looked pretty good so I decided to get the jam pots going.  I always pick the hottest days to do this it seems, but summertime is when the fruit comes.  Lord help me when blueberries appear at the Hamilton market.  Much chopping, stirring and boiling later and I have several big jars of fabulous strawberry/rhubarb jam.  The color is gorgeous, the consistency perfect for pouring over ice cream, and the taste perfect.  The strawberries do overwhelm the rhubarb just a little.  With Annie bringing Luke tomorrow I wanted some rhubarb to take home to my Scandie son, Eric.   I sent him some pure rhubarb jam  last month and he loved it.  With so much tasting of sweet jam I had to lie down - after the refrigerator was clean that is.  Oh, my chickens were having a party with all those leftovers.  With Ron, my veggie neighbor at the market not coming any more, I don't know where I'll get the giant cabbages the chickens loved so much. I finished the fridge, well, as much as I was willing to do, and had a little nap with the doggies.  They are so used to me being gone all day, and love it when I stretch out with them.

Off to pick up the old truck which left me in the lurch yesterday when I was attempting to see Nurse Tanya and get blood work done.  Here I was trying to get myself taken care of, a rare occurence, and the bucket of bolts wouldn't start.  Ofcourse it started for spouse who managed to get it to the mechanic.  I hate the thing, but it holds six hay bales in the back, and two or three sheep if necessary.  It got me through the school year and will have to keep going a little while longer.  The hunt is on for a fuel efficient vehicle, maybe one that does not carry sheep.

Pond Run

I think my animals have it better in some ways when I go to work.  I have no choice but to get out in the barn and do chores at 6 am.  When I'm home for the summer it's a great temptation to stay in my nightie and spin wool, sipping coffee and snuggling with the doggies on the sofa.  They are the only ones who are tended to without delay, as they will punish me with bombs away on the floor if I don't.   I am spinning some teal green wool, as the next to the last ball was purchased at the market on Saturday, along with the last teal green hand spun.  What does that tell me?  People like teal green!  My teal is actually a blend of several different blues and greens, along with a little purple thrown in, skillfully blended by John at Frankenmuth.   I am itching to get to work on this fall's blends, but my wool washing machine is broken, full of dirty water.  Yuck.  I have a nifty space saver washer right outside the apartment door, in my studio room, but I am forbidden to use it for wool.  I prefer the milk room (where the bulk tank used to be) set up because I have dye stove, sink and washer just feet away from each other.  I can spill over and there's no damage.  I do have to work around the chicken poo as the little buggers manage to get in there to get the grain stored on pallets.  When it's frigid cold and damp the milk room is a refuge for barn cats and free range chickens.  I chase them out in the spring.  Hey, they have 18,000 square feet of barn to roam in - a haven for cats and chickens - what's the problem here?  I have four skeins of handspun hanging to dry in the bathroom.  Love it.

I've started to sort through the beautiful fabrics gifted to me by Sally Newhart Upholstery in New Orleans, and my fabulous personal shopper, Carol Crayonbox.   Carol, long time art professor and talented fiber artist, recently assisted a local Ithaca shepherd, and my shearer, Jim Baldwin, with taking the wool off 50 Shetlands.  This was an epic experience for Carol, who has had a hard time understanding "why we keep all those animals - you would have so much more time."  She can do anything with wool, but stops at the hands-on animal part.   Her level of consciousness has been raised I reckon.

 I'm reading a real good book called "The Dirty Life."    I highly recommend it.  Kristen Kimball met a farmer and reluctantly followed him down the dirty road.  Her story reminds me of my situation with Matt as the reluctant farmer, only Kristen eventually embraced the agricultural life wholeheartedley.  She and her husband are MUCH younger, and only work the farm.  We are older and both work off the farm.  Hard to compare, but I like to imagine how it might have been if I found my farm at 25, not 55.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Crash Boom Bang

The days fly by and somehow it became hot, I mean hot.  It seems a month ago we were below freezing.  That's how it is in the Northland.  We freeze, then we cook long enough to get the hay in, then we get ready to freeze again.  I confess I prefer the cold to the hot.  Still acclimatizing.  I have to train myself to get barn chores done early AM, before the oppressive heat comes up.  This is officially my first day of vacation, but I haven't felt it yet.   There was a ridiculous rush to finish up the new oppressive Dept. of Education paperwork (thanks to all the teachers who are marching in Albany to protest it.)  Then the rush to clean up my art room so that a summer school class can set up in there.  The teacher lunch on Friday was okay, too bad the Italian food at Nina's was downright mediocre compared to our own local pizzeria in New Berlin.  I should have known better and ordered a chicken sandwich.  My unhappy aide seemed to enjoy herself, and was able to say goodbye to me and something about starting over in the fall.  I will if she will.  Would have been a spectacularly successful year if she had not gone wobbly on me.  Granted, working with a teacher who gives you work sheets to correct is much easier than working in a chaotic, yet wonderful, art program where there is a big mess to clean up on a daily basis.  Saturday morning and we were up early heading for the farmer's market, where I had a great helper, my spouse.  He can set the tent up and get the goods out in no time flat, but it can be awkward with the barking of orders and hurry up scolding I get from him.  I see the other vendors rolling their eyes and waiting for me to slap him upside the head.   Traffic was slow but steady and I sold $80.00 worth of handspun yarn.   That was enough to get me back on the wheel big time.  I just took the dogs out to pee and saw storm clouds rolling in.  Good, I thought, it would break this awful heat.  Funny, I was just having a talk across the driveway with my neighbor, Chris, about storms and lightning hitting the barn.  He cautioned me to pound the rods that are connected to the lightning rod system into the ground at least once a year.   Chris also said, with his keen farmer's insight, that we are in for a stormy season ahead.   So later on in the day I take the dogs out and suddenly a very loud crack of thunder over my head rocks me to the core.  I was bent over double holding on to dog leashes, with the loose dogs huddled up against me shaking with fear.  We ran into the upper hay mow for cover as the big doors were open and waited a few minutes, with me talking to them telling them mommy was here and everything was okay.  Over the giant door to the mow was the barnyard light, hanging by a wire, from the time the barn was hit by lightning five years ago and the big metal light blasted off.  That light was screwed into metal plates, screwed onto the door frames and it was blown off the door.  Yikes.  So we decide to run for it back into the house.  Another crack over our heads.  My poor dogs ran for their sofas, the islands of comfort and love in our house.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Doggies Get Wet

Some of my dogs absolutely love the pond.  They can't wait to go for a dip to cool off, or just paddle around.  Every day after school we take the hike up to the high pasture where the spring-fed pond is located.  Bertha, just one year old, daughter of Reba and Thor, is quite the swimmer.  Her mother, Reba, hardly touches the water.   Cooper, son of Tanner and Thor, follows Bertha in.   I've been in once myself, with Hannah,

back when we had the spike in temps. Too cold lately for human swimming, but I'm ready.  Only a matter of time...

Field of Flowers

I love the wild flowers that grow in the fields this time of year.  When the grass is mowed there will be no more flowers.  I'm enjoying the beauty on our daily walks before they disappear.  The weather the last day or so is gorgeous.  Some people are cutting hay, but I'm suspicious.  It still does not seem hot enough.  I notice muddy ruts in the ground where farmers are driving tractors over the wet fields in that desperate attempt to get some hay in.  I'll be thrilled when the real hot weather hits and Julia's crew can come in and do my fields.  In the meantime, I'll enjoy the flowers.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Harris Tweed Jacket

I am new to Ebay, but decided to check it out to see if sheep people are putting their products online.  Lo and behold I found several vintage Harris Tweed coats and jackets on Ebay.  I'm a goner.  I adore this hand spun and hand woven wool yardage, from the Outer Hebrides in Scotland.   I search thrift shops for Harris Tweed clothing, and sometimes find these woven wool treasures for as little as $3.00.  Don't know why people would give them up but their loss is my gain.  I have a plan to design a Harris Tweed knitting bag but, as yet, have not had the nerve to put a scissor to a Harris Tweed.  Perhaps if I find one with holes I will, but they wear so well this has not happened.    As I was scrolling through some jackets on Ebay, I saw several and put them on my "watch and wish" lists.  I must have pressed the wrong button because I got an email that said thank you for your purchase of a man's Harris Tweed jacket and it's in the mail.  Please pay up.  Luckily it was $20 and not $200.  The jacket arrived yesterday, from Carson City, Nevada, and is drop dead gorgeous.  The creme colored wool has threads of denim blue running through it.  It looks like it's never been worn, and fits me perfectly with the cuffs rolled up.  I don't think I will be cutting up this baby.  It will look great with jeans in the fall.  I'm lusting after a vintage Harris Tweed man's overcoat on Ebay.  This time I will be careful as to what buttons I push.

Find the Goaties!

Everybody said let the Nubian babies go.  They said Fancy will take care of them.  I was still reluctant to let them out of their baby pen.  Every night Fancy would come back to the pen for her cracked corn dinner and feed her babies.  Then Babette started wiggling out of the pen, leaving her brother behind.  Last night Matt said it's time to let them out.  We made an opening in the baby pen so they could go out when they are ready and come back in to nap in a familiar place.  I was still apprehensive.  These are my first Nubian goat kids and I adore them.  This morning I looked out the window and saw Bubba and Babette under the big pine tree with Knut.   They would dance around like little ballet dancers in the tall grass.  I went outside to check on everybody and found a group of goats in the hay mow.
With all the lush, green grass everywhere they turned, the curious goaties decided to eat the spare round bale I had stored in the mow.  They were jumping up on the bale and the trailer under it, like a kindergarten class on the playground.  I had to get ready for work, but I couldn't leave the tender scene.  Fancy was being a good mother, calling to her babies once in a while to make sure they knew where she was and to stay close.
Bubba and Babette are just three weeks old, but growing quickly.  I'm new to the milking business, and have to figure out the logistics of milking Fancy for me, and leaving some for the babies.  When school is out, in two days, I will figure it all out.  For now, I'm leaving them alone to enjoy this glorious weather and being alive.

Happy Birthday Hannah

Hannah is my only granddaughter, so she has special status to begin wtih.  Here are some thoughts about Hannah, in no particular order, on her 15th birthday.

Hannah is beautiful, on the inside and outside.
Hannah is tall, a trait
    which is increasingly rare in our family, and very much admired.
Hannah is talented in many ways.
Hannah can spin yarn like she's been doing it for years and years.
Hannah can write.  She was published at the tender age of 14.
Hannah is physical.  She can get on a horse or a motorcycle and ride it with no fear.
Hannah can fly an airplane and shoot guns.
Hannah has fashion sense.   She puts together interesting, attractive, artsy outfits.
Hannah is kind and sweet.  She hardly ever raises her voice.  She doesn't need to.  She says it all with her
     large, expressive eyes.
Hannah loves animals, especially cats.  She is very sensitive to their needs.
Hannah loves her family.  She is Daddy's little girl, and Mommy's too.
Hannah is a loving, protective big sister.
Hannah is focused academically.  She will be successful at whatever she chooses to do.

I could go on and on.  I love Hannah.  She is blossoming into a lovely, beautiful young woman.  I hope to always be her friend.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wooly Dreams

I keep thinking about what I'm going to do with the mountain of wool I have waiting for me.  The white wool will be dyed many beautiful colors and blended in schemes that will come to me in dreams.  The black fleeces will be triple picked for sale as raw wool.  Bright colors sell better as roving, ready for spinning and felting.  Black fleeces are a favorite of spinners.  I raise the sheep and goats for fiber, not meat, and shearing day is the culmination of many months of care and nurturing.

Harried Mommy

It's tough for a mother Nubian dairy goat to get her meal with two little munchkins jumping all over her.  Fancy pushes the babies away while she's eating but that doesn't seem to help.  They are so adorable...

Babbette is the camera hog - Bubba doesn't care two baas about being photographed.

For Real

I sometimes joke about this happening and it did.  I went out yesterday morning and found my last little angora doe with a tiny wet bundle on the hay.  I thought she was laboring to deliver another twin.   Why couldn't this happen on the weekend?  That would be just too convenient.  It was seven o'clock - late to be starting morning chores, but the rigors of the shearing weekend, combined with some throat and chest issues (sucking up airborn debris while mucking/forking hay I think) are dragging me down.  I got water and hay for everybody else and went back inside to prevail upon spouse to help me for five minutes.  Found him naked as a jay bird admiring his punim in the mirror, getting ready to leave for work.  He said he would get his work clothes on and be out in a minute.  I needed him to hold mom's horns while I nursed out some colostrum for the baby.  She had licked him off nicely and seemed to be very fond of him.  I was feeling better and better about leaving them for the day.  She was in with a bigger doe and her twins, almost a month older than this new baby.  Sunday night we gave shots and wormer in preparation for letting them go but did not go so far as to take the panels apart.  I was worried this older pushy doe would harrass the new mommy with her baby, but that was not the case.  Big doe and her twins were lying on the other side of the pen, watching the birthing process with a kind of respect and reverance that really impressed me.  She seemed to be saying to her kids, look at the new baby, isn't he pretty?  I left for work and thought about them all day.  It was torture, but I kept telling myself this is how I support them, yada, yada, yada.  On the way home I made my first baby turtle rescue of the season, on King's Settlement Road, helping a turtle get all the way across on a fast curve.  Felt good when two cars came whizzing by bumper to bumper after I placed the critter in the ditch on the other side.  Down the road a bit more and there was another turtle, on the side of the road, looking like it had been clipped then spun off.  Picked him up and no movement.  I decided to take him home and put him near the pond, paradise for turtles.  Wouldn't you know he perked up in the box and I heard scratching on the sides.  After obligatory stops at PO and  the Dollar Store for Friskies, I finally made it home.  No twin.  Just one little red buck.  Everybody was fine.  My phone rang and local hay broker Wayne Tanney was returning my call for hay.  I  may have pasture choking with grass but I still needed square bales for the moms in pens.  Drove to North Brookfield and pulled up to Wayne's barn, with a crowd of Belgians milling around looking for food, and one being shoed by the farrier in the barn.  Wayne said this is all he will give me until he gets more hay in.  He says this time last year his barns were full.   All this rain is creating havoc with farmer's haying plans.  I brought home six bales of hay so pretty I thought of feeding it to Matt for dinner as salad.  We took apart some pens and let two sets of moms with babies loose last night.  Much screaming and chaos in the barn, with babies terrified of their freedom.  Checked before bed and the barn was quiet with everyone together in their little families.  I whispered hush and turned in myself.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My Boys

There is a definite advantage to being a high school teacher.  I had three former students here yesterday helping me shear sheep.  They were a tremendous help.  I did not hear a single complaint all day - not even when I accidentally stuck Loren in the leg with a needle aimed at a struggling sheep.  I told him he might even benefit from the tetanus vaccine.  I've known Randy Dungey since I moved here and started at BOCES.  Randy helped build the home I live in.  Dimitries is new to the Maggie's Farm crew, having recently graduated, but he quickly figured out what we needed him to do.  The guys stayed after the shearing was over to help me do some mucking out of the barn floor.  Now I can open the door to the milk room!  It's the little things...


I met Sally Newhart at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  Sally was helping her friend, Julia Hildebrant, who makes the stylish industrial felt bags.  We struck up a conversation and Sally told me about her slipcover business in New Orleans.  Sally is also a published author with a book out about the history of a New Orleans band called  "The Tuxedo Jazz Band."   We started chatting about fabrics and I told Sally how I like to use high-end remnants for my bags and a new product called Yarn Pockets.  Yarn Pockets are basically a fabric box that holds a wound yarn ball and protects it from falling apart and getting caught on things.  Sally told me she often has scraps from her slipcovers and that she hates to throw them out.  Well, I don't have to tell you how happy this made me.  Sally offered to ship me the scraps for postage!    Since Maryland I've received two boxes full of the most beautiful luxurious fabrics.  My head is swimming with visions of what I will make with these lovely pieces.  It's fun to see what the New Orleans glitterati are  using to cover their furniture!  I really appreciate Sally's kindness and generosity.  Sally's fabrics, along with the great load of beautiful yardage recently purchased from Carol Crayonbox's friend John, will keep me busy sewing for the upcoming show season.  I'll make Bundaflicka Totes, needle cases, Yarn Pockets, and perhaps some electronic gadget covers.  I better oil up my machines.

Shearing Day

I had locked up the sheep in the awful rain on Thursday, anticipating shearing on Saturday, but Friday brought some sun and I let the hungry beasts out to graze.   There was something in the hay that I was forking down to them while they were locked in that upset my lungs.  I didn't realize what I was breathing and why I was feeling poorly until a ray of sunshine through the slats of the upper hay mow illustrated what was floating in the air.  It would   clog up anyone's airways.    The sheep were thrilled to get out, and I set about my usual routine of critters, dinner, then chores, then moving things around in the barn to make room for Jim the shearer to work.  I had been calling around for hired help, which costs a fortune but is worth every penny.  Still I was worried.  My barn needs to be cleaned out and the hay pack is high.  A Hobbit would do fine herding sheep in there, but not big tall farmboys.  I had vaccines and syringes delivered and picked up wormer and bags.  I thought I would sit down for a while at ten then go out and lock up the sheep.   Found out about my friend dying then spent a fitful night grieving for everyone's loss....and never went out to lock up the sheep.  Woke with a start and ran out into the mist to find sheep everywhere - and quite wet.  It doesn't have to rain to get sheep wet.  They can walk through wet grass and get soaked that way, or stand in the morning mist.  Chased them in and wondered what to do.  Should I call Jim, who is coming from Ithaca, 80 miles away, and cancel?   Mia was coming from New Jersey, and what about the boys, who needed the $$ I offered them?  I decided to let it go and hope for the best.  Randy and Loren came early as I asked them to do and we scraped and raked a whole lot of hay and poop to get the floor ready for Jim. They corraled a bunch of sheep close to the shearing floor just as Jim pulled up.  Jim is so easy-going and does his best in the worst of circumstances, but shearing wet sheep is something all shearers hate.  Most will flatly refuse to do it.    I got a good scolding, even yelled at a little, but he soldiered on.  Most of the sheep were dry, but three or four were good and wet.  I did 180 hooves, hoisting each one up between my knees for clipping while Loren straddled them and held their heads.  I gave them shots, Loren wormed them, and they were away to lunch on thick green grass in their summer haircuts.  Most of the sheep are FAT.   A couple of old girls are a little bony, but that's to be expected at their age and with the young ones pushing them away from the food.  We sheared Lilly for the first time in two years, who was looking a little weary of the whole business.  Four big fat black sheep, the Merino cross 200 pounders, escaped the herders and shot out the windows of the barn.  After doing 45 animals the guys were reluctant to go out and find them.  I was a little disappointed, but Jim was looking forward to going home and hopping on his tractor at that point so I didn't push it.  Don't know when I'll get them done.  They have lovely jet black wool which will burn reddish tips in the sun.  I would love to get coats on them.   We visited with Sharon, my friend from school, and Dimitries, former student, and hiked up to the pond.   We soaked up some sun and took a break.  Sharon played with kittens and gave my goat baby his bottle.  She and Dimitries left for home and we tidied up a bit.  I have a lot more work to do out there, including finding a place to put the mountain of fleeces.  Would love to get to work on washing and dyeing them, but my wool washing machine is broken.  Have to shop for a used machine.  There's always something.     Mia and I took Matt out for Father's Day dinner at Frank and Betsey's in New Berlin.  Gosh, they put out a hefty plate of food.  I had grilled salmon piled high with salsa and marinated Utican greens and squash.   I downed a glass of Zinfandel to celebrate a successful day of shearing.  Home to chores.   I grabbed one little goat and Mia held her while I got a nice bag of mohair off her.    I'm hoping Matt R. will do the same for me today, but it is Father's Day and I won't push it.  I could work on animals every day, all day, but it is not the same for him.  

Goodbye Kay

  I was derailed late Friday night when I learned of the death of a fiber artist/shepherd friend, Kay ten Kraft, in Berlin, New York.    Kay had embarked on a walking program and was out on her road around six o'clock in the rain when a young man hit  and killed her.   We are almost the same age, with children, grandchildren, many animals, and a love of life that cannot be suppressed by any calamity that may befall us - save the Grim Reaper.  A senseless tragedy like this makes me question the love of God, but I have learned in my old age that God does not "let" things like this happen. God is sad when terrible things happen to us, but God gives us free will and, with that free will,  we have ecstacy and agony.  Kay leaves behind a large extended family and many friends.  We kept in touch on line but the last time I saw her in the flesh was when she came excitedly into my booth at Rhinebeck, looking fabulous as she lost a lot of weight, to tell me she had a fantastic show and wanted to buy another Bundaflicka tote.   Kay was one of the few people who understand what I am all about. We fiber people are a small enclave of rural society.  Kay was talented, honest, and full of infectious energy.  I know I will meet her on the other side, and we'll  tell farm stories, like the time her silo fell down in a storm and spooked her LGD who ran away.  Kay hiked far and wide, tracked that dog, and wouldn't stop until it was home safe and sound.  We'll knit together and trade stories about our grandchildren.   Until then, I will keep raising these critters and making yarn.  Kay would understand.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Shearing Day Tomorrow

I always get excited and nervous about shearing day.  I raise sheep and goats for wool and mohair.  Getting the fiber off the animals is very important.  It does not improve if left too long on the animal.    I've ordered vaccines, syringes and bags to put the wool in.  I've hired helpers and will purchase wormers today.  I panicked on the way home from work in the pouring rain when I realized the sheep are outside.  Herded the very hungry and confused sheep back into the barn when I got home.  They wanted to go out to pasture to graze but I wanted them to go inside and dry off.   The sun is out today and everything should be fine.   Tonight I rake out the part of the barn where Jim will set up his board and put up a table for skirting.  Mia is coming up from New Jersey to help, which I feel badly about as she works such long hours.  She has Father's Day complications back home and has to leave early on Sunday.  Rounding up the sheep and getting them penned in is not easy in my barn with the hay pack up so high and holes everywhere for the animals to escape through.  No fancy handling equipment on this farm.  Hopefully Loren and Randy, long-time farm hands and very sturdy young men, will wrangle the big, giant monsters without mishap.  We have lots of babies running around that have to be put aside to avoid being run over.   White sheep first, then black sheep, then goats.  Then a lot of time for me, sorting and skirting fleeces.  The weather looks promising, with sunny skies and cool temps.  This is late to shear, but there are advantages to doing it this late.  Less chance for flies to burrow in and lay eggs resulting in the nasty fly-strike.  Better get home and get organized for tomorrow.  Me?  Organized?  No such thing.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fancy and her Babies

Fancy is taking very good care of her babies.  When she jumped out of the pen and left them to go out and graze I feared I had a neglectful mother on my hands.  On the advice of my goat friends, I finally let the babies go.  They clung together and wouldn't leave the barn.  I don't blame them.  The walk up to the field is a nasty, muddy, wet climb with all this rain and run off we've been having.  The angora goats are so funny.  The moms will come up to the edge of the pasture, look back to the barn ands start screaming for the kids to follow.  The babies stay in the barn and scream their heads off, as if to say, come and get us, or no, we don't want to go out there.   Finally they come, dancing and bouncing along.  Fancy doesn't mind leaving her babies in the barn.  It gives her more freedom to roam the hillside with her sister, Matilda.  They stand on their hind legs and pick leaves off the apple trees.  When I noticed them doing that I realized who was getting to the flakes of hay I have piled on top of the hanging rabbit cages.  I put Fancy's babies back in their pen and let Fancy in with them when she comes back in from the field.  She can jump over the panels easily so it's no problem when I'm at work.  The corn I give her inside the pen with her babies is a great incentive.  Still haven't decided when I'm going to start milking her.  Some goat people wait two weeks or more to give the babies a good start.  I'm out of school in another week so I'm thinking I will start then.  I have a big job ahead of me with cleaning the milk room, which is full of junk, and hosing it out.   I have to pull the pieces of my milking stand out of the pile in the back of the barn and put it together.  I'm sure it will need some work.  I'm hoping Luke will be on the farm by then to help me with all this.  I'm very excited about my first dairy adventure.  I've been preparing Fancy for this intimate interaction with lots of petting and stroking of her udder.  I want to find a Nubian buck for Matilda, and, in time, Fancy's daughter Babette.  Bubba will be banded and play to his heart's content until I decide what to do with him.  I'm totally enthralled with my Nubian goats.  They are beautiful, sweet, mesmerizing animals.


After a brief sunny respite yesterday, the rain is back.  It is pouring now and the forecast says rain tomorrow too.  Local farmers have crops in the ground that are drowning in all this water.  One of my dairy farmer neighbors is the postmaster in New Berlin.  She tells me she can't get her corn started it's so wet.  My fields are waist high in hay and Julia is ready to mow for me but there is no way to get it dry.  I've heard conflicting reports about baleage.  Baleage is wet hay that is wrapped in plastic to preserve it.  The hay is "pickled" and the sheep love it...but I've been warned about listeriosis, a brain disease that comes from wet leaves.  Humans sometime get it from salad bars.  With all these little babies running around the farm I'm concerned.  They are more vulnerable to just about anything.  I would love a repeat of last summer where Julia and her crew put 50 round bales in my barn over three blistering hot days.  Trouble is, that kind of heat might not happen until sometime in July.  With the waning sun I might not get a second cut later in the summer.   I'm hoping for 60 or more round bales to get us through the coming winter.  These and other things weigh heavily on my mind.  Right now the flock is getting fat on all the grass out there. When you live in the North Land you don't forget the chill of the last winter, and you are always getting ready for the next one. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mother Lode

Some incredibly beautiful fabric is coming my way lately.  Carol Crayonbox has a friend who decided to let go of his stash and gave me first dibs.  They brought the gorgeous cloth to the CNY Fiber Festival for me to look over this past weekend.  I can't wait to get started on some new totes when school is out.  I also have a new fabric friend, Sally Newhart, in New Orleans.  I met her in Julia Hildebrant's booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  Sally is a published author and slipcover designer.  She offered me the upholstery scraps from her studio for postage.   The first box arrived and the cloth is not to be believed. I feel like it's Christmas morning.

My Bunny

I've wanted an English Angora rabbit for some time now.  I had them for years and years, then tried raising Germans for a while.  I much prefer the English.  I used to call angora rabbits the "poor woman's alpaca."  Now I call them the "smart woman's alpaca."  Angora fiber is wonderful and blends fantastically with wool.   I put a towel on my lap and watch TV with the bunny while I gently brush out the loose angora with a tiny cat brush.  The process is painless and makes for a more comfortable bunny.   The angora/wool skeins in my handspun basket always sell first.  This baby is the sweetest little thing and runs over to the door of the cage to say hello when I walk by.  I can't wait for Luke to meet her.   Trying to come up with a name...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wet Felting With Susanne


Susanne Farrington came to the CNY Fiber Festival and taught us how to craft a wet-felted hat over a ceramic form.  Susanne picked out some green and blue Bluefaced Leicester wool from my booth, and fashioned a hat that looks like a globe.  We could even pick out Madagascar in the design.  The crowds were mesmerized with Susanne's talented hands.  I learned how to use needles to trim the edges.  Susanne is also a potter and used a ceramic device of her own design to help the felting process.  

Who Da' Man?

Behind every shepherd there is the man (or woman) who gets the wool off the sheep and makes her look good.  For me it is my faithful shearer from Freeville, near Ithaca, Big Jim Baldwin.  He is the only shearer who doesn't make me nervous and fretful.  His easy manner and sense of humor actually make shearing day fun.  Jim really cares about the sheep and gives me good advice, sometimes painful, but nonetheless appreciated.  We have a date for Saturday - thank the Solstice Gods - and I will have a mountain of luscious wool to play with.  Jim demonstrated shearing for the crowds at the Bouckville festival this past weekend.  The fiber fanatics bought his Merino fleeces as they came off the sheep.  Jim gifted me with a gorgeous, long-stapled, highly crimped, fabulous black Merino fleece.  He asked me to be sure to share it with Kim, my wooly side-kick.  Feeling grateful for all the help she gives me at shows, and feeling wonderful after a night in the cozy bed she made for me in the van, I gave her the whole thing to take back to Ontario with her.  I'll be sure to work her like a rented mule for that fleece, but don't tell her what I have planned.


I spent the weekend at the 3rd annual Central New York Fiber Festival in Bouckville, New York.  CNY spells heaven on earth, and when you add all manner of fiber bearing animals, along with talented artisans who know what to do with luscious natural fibers, you have Shangri-La.

Wool sales were brisk despite heavy competition from local shepherds, goatherds, paci-people, and bunny ranchers.  I was able to barter my goods for various things including much needed and longed-for hay feeders offered to me by a local shepherd who is down-sizing her flock.  I traded a Bundaflicka tote for some gorgeous Lincoln Longwool yarn I was lusting after.  The artist contacted me to say how happy she was with her bag, and how she hopes I am happy with the yarn.  She has no idea...

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Welcoming Party

I arrived home yesterday to find yet another mother hen and her hatchlings waiting for me in the driveway.  I have such a big barn that chickens can find dozens of places to hide their eggs where I can't get to them.   No wonder I have so many free-range chickens.   I love the darlings, but fear for their safety with the hungry cats around.  My hens are pretty tough.  I've watched them scare off the cats many times.  It's not about size - it's all about attitude.


I went out for my late night barn check and found Miss Fancy lying quietly near her babies' pen, with her girlfriend, Matilda.  It did not concern her that the little ones were jumping up and down, wanting their evening meal.  I mean, this was after ten o'clock.  I opened the pen and coaxed Fancy inside with corn.  I think she was more interested in corn than the babies.  They nursed eagerly.  Who knows when they had their last meal, as Fancy had been outside grazing for many hours. Surely her udder was full.  I don't think we are going to have any separation anxiety on Fancy's part when the time comes.  I think I will start milking her next week.  No time this weekend as I will be at the CNY Fiber Festival in Bouckville.  With Tropical Storm Andrea coming up the coast, who knows what the weather will be like. Secretly...I like it cool for the animals.  I hate to see wooly animals hauled to shows in the hot weather.  It's awful for them.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


35 F. on the farm this morning.   Quite a switch from the nineties of the weekend.  The weather has been glorious the last three days - sunshine, cool temps and low humidity.  I could get used to this but don't dare.  Rain coming tomorrow through Saturday.  Looks like the first day of our Bouckville festival will be rainy.  Sunday will be lovely.  Everything is under big roomy tents but we would get more people through the gates with sunny skies.  Lots of soap to wrap and two Latin messenger totes on the machine right now.  Miss Fancy has started jumping out of her pen during the day when I'm at work and going out to graze with the rest of the flock when I open the gate upon arriving home.  I was quite worried about it last night but then I found her waiting next to the pen.  Same thing today but she's staying out longer.  I think the babies are a bit too young to let them out with her.  Maybe in a week or so.  I don't think they could make it up the big hill with Fancy.  They grow so fast it won't be long.    Hannah and Luke left without giving me the many goat names I need.  The white bottle boy is such a chow hound I can't believe it.  His sister is nursing so you would think brother would get with the program and take some too.  No, he would rather wait for his bottles - one in the morning, one after work and one night-night bottle.   He drains them dry in no time.  Everyone else, including my one little lamb, Cinco, is nursing the way nature intended.  Thank goodness. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Bubba and Babbette

I had no idea what my Nubian twins would look like, having been fathered by a red angora goat, but they couldn't be cuter.  I love the markings, and they have the lovely, artful, long Nubian ears.  I adore them.  After more than a day of nursing the babies, I checked her milk last night.  I wanted to make sure both teats were working properly.  I only got a half cup full.  The babies must be taking it, which is just fine.  I'm wondering if there will be enough to share with me.  Might have to wait until they are weaned before I do any serious milking.  I have a lot to learn about dairy goats. 

Sunset Swim

It was not the first time I swam in the wonderfully invigorating pond water this year.  I had indulged myself the day before after arriving home from work in the oppressive heat.  After working all day at the Hamilton Farmer's Market where we melted through the morning a swim was unavoidable.   Annie and Hannah joined me along with several of our dogs.  It was just what we needed.  We stayed in the spring water until the sun started to sink then made our way back down the hill through the sheep.  I live in Paradise. 

Travelling Chickens

Camp Hinds, the Boy Scout camp near Portland, is gearing up for 350 campers to arrive shortly.  They will have some help with breakfast now that Annie has provided them with a crate full of Maggie's Farm hens.  I even included a mom with chicks.  There is undoubtedley a rooster included in the tiny puff balls, so the future of the colony is secure.   Morning cock-a-doodle-doo's will sound wonderful ringing through the piney woods. 
As Annie pulled away from the farm the chicken house was being built at Camp Hinds.  The caretaker has two little boys who were anxiously waiting for the precious cargo. Chickens are so easy to care for - and their nutritious, delicious gifts come in biodegradable packages.  What's not to like? 

Silos are for Climbing

Luke couldn't resist.  He had to climb up the silo wall, or give it a try.  There is a ladder going up, but it is rusted and probably unsafe.  Now I know who will put my Christmas star up in the fall.  I didn't let Luke go very far up.  It was tempting for him, but without a safety harness and a fireman's trampoline to fall on to, there is just no way. 

Bye-Bye Kitty

I knew that Annie and the kids wanted a kitty friend for little Fergus, the multi-toed tuxedo cat they adopted last summer.  I thought it was going to be a striking calico kitty that they would take home to Maine this past weekend.  Hannah said that kitty was short on the cuddle points.  They picked a sweet little white kitty and Luke named her Arvi.  Sounds very Norwegian to me.  When I called to make sure they got home okay in the terrible storming yesterday, Eric told me they were home safe and the kitty was having a bath.  Lucky little kitty to find a home in an upscale Maine home with lots of stairs and rooms to play hide and seek....and the wood stove is always on.

The Future is Here

I used to be concerned about having no one to pass my skills to.  I don't worry about it any longer.  My daughter, Mia, knits and spins - when she's not running marathons and working as a Nurse Practitioner.  Now Hannah, Eric and Annie's daughter, is spinning exquisitely beautiful yarns.  She learned by watching her mother who I taught to knit and spin when Hannah was born.  Hannah has been spinning on the Louet I bought for Annie on her first anniversary.   I've been very impressed with Hannah's yarn, and so appreciative of all the help she's been to me at NY State Sheep and Wool at Rhinebeck, and, more recently, at Maryland Sheep and Wool.   I gave Hannah a cherry Robin wheel for her 15th birthday.  How fitting that the Robin is made in southern Maine, where Hannah lives now.  This very classy and talented granddaughter of mine deserves a classy, hand crafted wheel.

Fancy and her Twins

One of my Nubian queens gave birth to twins on Saturday.  It was hot as Hades, and we were working the farmer's market in Hamilton.  I noticed Fancy was full of milk that morning, and predicted a birth shortly.  Sure enough, there she was, in a spot she picked herself in front of the chicken room, with two great big colorful and healthy babies.  What a thrill for Hannah and Luke who had come from Maine to pick up a load of chickens to take the the Boy Scout camp near Portland.  Luke named the babies Bubba and Babbette.  Fancy is a first time mother.  I purchased her along with Matilda a year ago from my friend Peggy Sue at West Creek Family Farm.  I am thrilled and looking forward to gallons of delicious Nubian goat milk.