The farm is hanging on and I won't let go. It is very cool to be a part of something that is bigger than me. The farm is who I am. My family thinks I'm crazy and lately has said some very unkind things about my lifestyle, but that's okay. This "dirty life" isn't for everyone. It happened to me and I believe has saved me from a meaningless rat race. It works for me. Matt is hanging on and although he has his escape fantasies I think he's sticking around for the mean time. He will never be into the animals the way I am, and I don't think he knows the difference between wool and mohair, but he is here. He goes to the feed mill for me and carries in the 100 pound sacks. He forks down hay every morning before work while I tote water and feed the chickens, rabbits and cats. Yesterday he was stapling plastic sheeting over leaky windows to reduce drafts in the barn and I am thankful for his help. I thought buying a huge historic barn with a big pole barn would be a dream come true for a carpenter but he told me he is not a carpenter - he is a builder. Builders can "pick up the phone and get $10,000 right away." Maybe in New Jersey but not so here. I do have to remind him from time to time that he found his dream job in teaching weatherization building skills here in upstate NY - which would never have happened if I didn't buy this funky little sheep farm.
My love of natural fibers grows and grows. There was a time when I could knit with acrylic yarn without a problem. Now I can't even stand to touch the stuff. Every Saturday spent at the farmer's market is an opportunity to enlighten people about the world of real wool, mohair, and angora. Most people have no clue. They don't know why they are cold and pile on layers of cotton and pull on a nasty little plastic hat from Walmart that does little more than cover their heads.. With every passing year I appreciate natural fibers more and more and it's the love of the animals that turned me on. The bonus is always being warm and comfy in any kind of weather and always having something to do with my hands. The love of natural fibers has taken me back thousands of years and provided a tunnel into history and geography that I never dreamed of. Just pick up a copy of Linda Cortright's Wild Fibers magazine and you will know exactly what I'm talking about.
I'm thankful for all the fiber friends I've made with this fuzzy life. I love the cyclical nature of the "sheep shows" and look forward to seeing my friends and supporters who come to see me every year. They validate all my efforts in every way and words can't express my gratitude. I owe them big time. I recently had a call from a woman who said she visited the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival last September with her 89 year old father. She took home a 2 ounce jar of my Shepherd's Friend and called to say she can't get to sleep without it. I sent her the creme and some for Dad, too. The knitter who wore the sweater she made from my Mother Fiber to Rhinebeck to show me was wonderful. There are so many faces with names and so many nameless faces. I wish I could thank you all personally, but here are just a few...
Lisa Merian is a perfect example of how one person can radically change the course of your life. I met Lisa at wool shows, specifically New Hampshire Sheep and Wool I think, where Lisa had set up shop with her mother, Marie. Marie and her husband originally come from Clinton, New Jersey, not far from where I grew up. They came up here after he served in the Korean War and bought 300 acres and a beautiful Italianate stone farmhouse in Bainbridge. Lisa was born on the farm and has been raising sheep for years and years after the family converted from dairy. I was complaining to Lisa about how I wanted my own land and she suggested "Why don't you try Central New York?" I said, "Where's that?" I was one of many who referred to anything north of Manhattan as upstate NY. I say north because I never considered anything west of the Thruway I used to get to Vermont for skiing. Lisa found my farm for me and has supported me in many ways. Lisa and Marie are a constant source of inspiration to me. Marie is a world class knitter and I wear a sweater she made for me every single day on the farm. It never wears out and there is courage in every stitch which soaks into my blood and sees me through the worst of times. They've figured it all out and I will, too.
Kim Parkinson AKA Kimmie Cornerstone, my loyal friend and biggest fan who faithfully follows me to all the shows and helps me with the Herculean effort of setting up, working the booth, and taking down. I met Kim when she purchased her very first Angora rabbit from me years ago at Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool. Now Kim is big in the bunny world. Kim truly understands what I do and is a talented spinner and lover of natural fibers. She lives in town but would love to have a farm someday so she can raise her own fiber. For now Kim focuses her energy on raising two fantastic human kids, Jared and Lindsay, along with angora rabbits and she keeps me in the luscious fiber. Kim is an expert drop-spindler and teaches on both sides of the border. Kim is evolving into an expert knitter and knits all my favorite hats. This time of year I reach for them every time I walk out the door.
Carol Schwartzott AKA Carol Crayonbox, a retired college art professor and fiber artist who has helped me immeasurably with encouragement and finding fabrics for my Bundaflicka totes. Carol designed my soap labels and has given me tons of great advice and ideas for my art classes at BOCES. She recently engineered the gift of my latest industrial sewing machine, bequeathed to me by John E. Davis, a textile designer and fiber artist who recently passed away from cancer. Once in a while a box will arrive full of goodies and gadgets that Carol thinks I might need. She sent me a dog choke collar which has probably saved my life walking wild young Cooper. Carol is a dynamo who no one can keep up with. Her art career is vast and varied. She even has art books in the Smithsonian Institution. I'm in awe of her.
Sally Newhart - I met Sally at Maryland Sheep and Wool when she was helping her friend Julia Hildebrandt across from me. Sally is a slip cover designer for the New Orleans glitterati and offered to send me her scraps for my bag designs. Her fabrics are unique and luxurious, the type of textiles you don't find in local stores and must be ordered from the high-end companies. My cup runneth over.
Annie Tarbox - Annie has spun my wool into yarn for sale in my booth and the skeins fairly fly away. She finds fabrics for soap wrapping and drives them to me all the way from Maine. Annie helps in my booth and keeps careful track of sales. She is a world class spinner and knitter, and gave all of us hand knit socks for Christmas! Annie gave me the most precious gift of all... two incredibly wonderful grandchildren.
Peggy Finnegan - Peggy coordinates the Colorscape Chenango fine arts festival in Norwich every year. She wandered into my booth at the New Berlin Quilt Festival a couple of years ago and invited me to apply. I adore this festival in the town where I work. Colleagues get to see what I do, otherwise all they know is that I live in a barn with the sheep and always have poop on the bottom of my shoes. Peggy is married to a retired cow vet who used to take care of the cows on this farm, back in the day.
Pam Haendle - Pam is the driving force behind the Central New York Fiber Festival, our own local natural fiber fair. Without her it might have fizzled out after year one, but we are at year four coming up and growing. She puts up with me trying to keep the focus on sheep. Pam is wonderful.
Dr. Lea - Dr. Lea gets the prize for owning the most Bundaflicka Knitting Totes. She uses them to keep her operating room gadgets organized when she provides anaesthesia for surgical patients. Dr. Lea is the one who started me making the messenger style flap bags. Her faithful patronage keeps me sewing.
Sharon Winans - Sharon is the Captain of the Mothership at my school. She was one of my first customers when I moved here seven years ago and is a faithful fan of my soap and hand creme. I know she will read this and I don't want to embarrass her. I do so appreciate all the leftover food Sharon brings to school to feed my chickens. She is so thoughtful and I appreciate her friendship.
Kathy Herold - Kathy founded the Hamilton Center for the Arts. She has boundless energy and creates programs for locals to experience many artistic genres. Kathy is very supportive of my work and has asked me to put my hand spun skeins in the art center for sale. She also has the VERY BEST parties in her historic Victorian farmhouse on River Road in Hamilton. We are invited to her annual Tamale Party next week and I'm trying to decide what to bring....a big pot of chili, maybe? It's the high point of my winter, as I go from work to farm and back again, with an occasional night at NY Pizzeria. I love to sit in Kathy's living room surrounded by plants, paintings and books. I'm always one of the last ones to leave. I just might go upstairs and high-jack a bed this time and stay 'til morning.
Mother Katherine - Mother Katherine is an American Orthodox nun who resides at the Holy Myrhhbearers Monastery about an hour from here. Mother Katherine raises sheep, dairy goats and cows at the monastery and cares for them exclusively in all the challenging conditions life in upstate New York presents. She is a talented weaver and knows fiber. Mother Katherine has that special insight into the needs and minds of animals. She is truly a "whisperer" and speaks to them in a language gifted to very few. Mother Katherine has taken in homeless animals in need after owners died and farms disbanded. She builds shelters for them in the field out of sticks and hides. I am in awe of her and so proud to know her. Whenever she is called away from the farm there is no one else in the nunnery to take over, as most of the residents are older. I asked Mother Katherine who takes care of the animals when she leaves and she answered, without hesitation and with much certainty, "God." Her faith in inspiring.
I didn't know where this post would take me, but I like where we went. I realize that most of the above people are in my life as a result of moving to the farm in New York. I count them among my many blessings.