As we went out for our night-night walk under the stars we caught the ducklings, all eight of them, getting ready for night-night in the barn yard. Mom and her girlfriends were close by. We had a lovely walk under the stars with the Milky Way prominently displayed across the sky. The neighbors across the valley kindly turned off their glaring yard lights, leaving only little golden dots inside their windows. I imagined them reclining on their sofas watching TV or reading the paper before they go night-night. The doggies did their pees up on the hill and suddenly Thor, Finn and Knut began barking. Between their woof-woofs I could hear a large band of coyotes singing up a storm on the ridge. They won't come near because they know who owns this neck of the woods. We can all rest easy tonight, even eight little ducklings and their mama in the barnyard.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
I love seeing the same people at shows year after year. I really look forward to catching up with old friends. Some of them keep up with me via this journal and tell me how much they are enjoying my updates. I appreciate their loyalty and feel very much buoyed by their faithfulness. This dear friend came into the Ag building at Fingerlakes last week and said Maggie! This is the year for a bag! She picked the lovely tapestry chenille with the Asian camels, stags and monkeys. I am very appreciative of her support, along with all the others who support my farm. Without you....this would be a lonely venture indeed.
The glorious weather continues. Temps in the seventies next week. I've got to get my last licks in with fiber drying outside. It is just so much easier to carry it outside and plop the wet fiber out on the rack under God's good sunshine and gentle breezes. I purchased this alpaca from a school bus driver named Mark at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival. The fawn colored fiber was a really good price and just so pretty. I intended to card it with angora for more hand warmers (I love the pair Kim made me last year) but the jar of Chartreuse Dharma Dye was calling to me. The result is a very warm deep lime-ish green. I love it. I've got two runs in the works but am seriously considering having Heather at Dreamweaver spin it into yarn for me. I've got too much wool to spin myself and there is a market for commercial yarn. I've had a bit spun in the past and it sold alright, but never really excited me. There is nothing like handspun yarn. It feels different and has so much character. I can still spin my own fibers and get some spun by machine locally without sacrificing my principles of homegrown fiber from happy animals who are not raised for meat. We'll see how this works out.
My fiber art buddy, Kimmie Cornerstone, entered several skeins into the spindle spun skein competition at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival last week. Yes, she took first place, grand champion skein. She always does. Kim is an expert spinner and spindles are her specialty. Spindles are the hanging devices that turn around and twist the fiber. Prehistoric people spun fibers, probably grasses, with spindles. When wannabe spinners sign up for spinning lessons most instructors make them learn to do it on a spindle first. It can be maddening let me tell you. I was very relieved when allowed to move on to the wheel. Congratulations to Kim who now moves on to the big time show at NY State Sheep and Wool at Rhinebeck in three weeks. We are rooting for you
I do so love my misty morning morning walks with the doggies before the sun comes over the piney ridge. Aside from going to the village of New Berlin, ten miles away, to pick up the paper, which we missed last weekend, I'm home for the day. Glory Be. Can it be true? It hasn't hit me yet. What has hit me is the fact that even though I hold down a good, albeit stressful, job....along with running The Farm...there is house keeping to be done. Big wool show in three weeks, but there is a certain quality of life issue here. The sewing machine is calling, baby goats bursting with luscious kid mohair are begging to be shorn, dye pots out in the milk room need to be rinsed and put out to dry, but the floor is crunching when I walk on it. I don't own a vacuum cleaner - something I hope Santa Claus will remedy - but I own a broom and it is a lonely broom that has not come out of the corner in several weeks. The weather continues to be gloriously beautiful. There is so much grass out there it's ridiculous. I was feeding hay this time last year. I'm sure the sheep will graze until the drifts are so high they can't dig through to it. What a gift. I'm bringing wool into school tomorrow to do some wool felting with the kids. I'll start with colorful little balls to string together into necklaces and take it from there. I can't do needle felting with our population, but I can do wet felting. I'll try a project I watched Lisa Merian of Spinner's Hill do with a room full of 40 people a few years back. She had us cover a tupperware container top with wool and wet felt it inside a zip lock bag. It was amazing what the kids did under her direction. I can't do it with the profoundly handicapped kids, but maybe, we'll see. Miracles happen every
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Couldn't quite believe the sound of the alarm this morning. Friday euphoria had me believing I was in for a little rest but it was not to be. Twelve straight days of up early to work and long days have me a little worn around the edges but in a good way. Got to the market with a decent amount of goods left from Fingerlakes and some lovely new wool runs. I love the market in the fall when the mornings are cool and the sun gentle enough that you don't need a pop-up. The patrons came slowly but steadily and the day was busy. I saw New Jersey friends, school friends, fiber art friends and market buddies. Sales were steady and I was able to barter some of the new teal and orange wool for Susanne Farrington's lovely mugs. I made my usual purchases of local Jake's Gouda, Heidelberg bread, hand churned butter, Heirloom cherry tomatoes, local honey, beeswax bricks and beeswax candles. Stocking up on those for winter. When the tapers run out I can make my own with braided twine. The weather continues to be absolutely glorious. I was wishing I could go to Vermont Sheep and Wool but with the Hamilton market being so good this year I'm happy to stay in my own neighborhood. Vermont vistas could not be as spectacular as Brookfield and environs. My own ridge lining the farm is lighting up with the annual show that entertains me whenever I walk out the door. After my grocery packages were toted in I ventured out with the doggies to give them a wade in the pond. There are still plenty of apples up in the trees to knock down for the sheep and goats
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Finally settling down after an amazing weekend at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival. The drama preceeding a "sheep show" can be daunting, between my "other job" and arranging transportation (that is sadly total drama around here) and getting product ready. I always whine about needing help, but I can't imagine anyone putting up with the chaos and lunacy in this crazy barn of mine. Once I get there I have all the help and support any shepherd could ask for, with Kimmie Cornerstone and other shepherd friends standing by. It's getting there... I am still high on the weekend and seeing all the folks who follow me through this journal. I adore the Fingerlakes festival, sponsored by the Genessee Valley Handspinners. Friday was brutally hot, with people sweating like crazy while unloading and setting up. I always feel sorry for the poor animals in tow, taken out of their cool grassy pastures to be hauled in a frightening noisy hot truck then poked and prodded by little kids all weekend. The heat was only to last one day, with rain pouring all day Saturday. It was expected but not anticipated to come down all day long. I was once again thankful for my building with the good roof. Only a tiny drip or two. The faithful patrons came out in droves. I love those Rochester people. They come to see me every year. Sales were brisk and Kim and I were hopping around like jack rabbits. Saturday evening came and there was Libby Llop, inviting us to come home with her and spend the night in her carriage house. We slept fine in Kim's ample van Friday night and were ready to do it again, but this was too good to pass up. We followed Libby further west through Geneseo and Avon, to Caledonia where her beautiful 500 acre horse farm is located. I've always wanted to visit Libby's farm and catch a glimpse of her charmed life with sheep and horses. Libby's son, Quentin Peter, cooked a fabulous meal whie Libby and her husband, Quentin, played a duet on flute and violin for us. We retreated to the apartment/tack shop in the carriage house and settled in for a good night's rest. I awoke at the crack of dawn and was delighted to see the first streaks of sunrise way off in the distance as the land in that region is very flat. Libby's farm stretches as far as the eye can see, with horses munching on fallen apples and sheep baaing. Libby sent us home with several luscious fleeces which I have already cooking in the dye pots. Sunday turned cool which was great for wool sales. Kim and I wandered alternately through the festival and I caught up with many friends including my dearest Lisa Merian, the shepherd friend who found this farm for me. Carol Crayonbox brought me many goodies from our fiber art friend, John, who sadly left this life last week. He gave me the greatest gift he had to offer - his industrial Singer sewing machine with the beautiful and sturdy butcher block table. I will think of John every time I sit down to sew. He was a master textile artist and I hope I can make his spirit proud of what I produce with his machine. I journeyed home Sunday night in clear weather incident free. No deer jumped in front of my van. Everyone was ecstatic to see me and I was much inspired by the time spent with my shepherd friends and fiber art sisters. We are a dedicated and unique community, those of us who raise our own natural fibers. I am extremely grateful to the Western New York patrons who came out in the extreme weather to support us. It was back to work on Monday, dragging my behind to be sure, but with happy wooly visions floating in my head. I've spent every afternoon this week walking the sunny hillside after work, knocking down apples for the sheep and playing with my dogs. Life is good.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
After a very "trying" day at the other job I spent some time on the hillside with the sheep and dogs. Really helps to clear my head. The sheep are loving the apples I knocked down for them yesterday and ran right over to the orchard when I opened the gate. A misty cold drizzle was falling and I thought this is real sheep weather. I cut up 130 bars of Clove Bud soap and made dinner. Chores follow dinner and then it was time for a night of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme. I started at nine and am now finished at midnight. I took the doggies out to look at the moon and clear my head of the wonderfully intoxicating lavender. Didn't work, but the moon was beautiful. More creme making tomorrow night. I'm very pleased with the way it came out - just oily enough to fit in all the nooks and crannies and soaks in nicely. I'm bushed. Have to work hard the next two nights to be ready for this weekend. After school night on Thursday. I won't be home until 8 pm....ouch. It happens every year but it's never a good time. Better go horizontal or I won't be good for anything or anybody tomorrow. Grouchy teacher...
Sunday, September 15, 2013
I took my hill walk and did my Sunday worship at the Church of the Universal Shepherd. I did not win the Powerball but that's okay. I muse about what I would have done with the money but my life wouldn't change that much. I'd buy Mia a house in Morristown, pay off Father Aaron's car, put money in a fund for Hannah and Luke's college and do a few things for myself. I need a tractor with a front loader, a little house on the hill as it looks like Farmer Chris is not moving from the farmhouse that goes with this farm, fencing, a carding mill to do my own wool so I wouldn't constantly be in hock to Frankenmuth, and a whole lot of cats fixed. Oh, and a fuel efficient car to get to work. Work? Hmmm, I don't know. I'm working for health benefits as long as Matt works for his cute little Weatherization non-profit that doesn't provide bubkas. Matt is very lucky. He would keep his job even after winning the Powerball, that's how much he loves it. Me, not so much. I have plenty to do on this farm with my sheep and goats that I love to do. My art program is going well but it's good to leave on a high note. There are plenty of young teachers being churned out by all the SUNY schools here in NY who can't find jobs. I wouldn't mind moving over to let one of them in. Not everyone can work with my student population as we all aspire to sainthood on a daily basis. Amen. On deck for today....Clove soap, after I rub some of it on this tooth that either needs to be pulled or plugged up with more lead. A great big giant 1950's filling came out exposing the nerve. You would think it would be good to lose a few pounds but no such luck. Amazing how humans adapt to handicaps. I adore clove soap and people have been asking about it. I have several Bundaflicka totes on the machine. I tried to sew late into the night but Matt kept yelling for me to stop making noise. I have a good bit of soap to wrap up, which I do enjoy. It's like wrapping little toys and I love the way it looks in the box with the beautiful fabric Annie, Carol and Kim find for me. I'm using smaller boxes I found at the dollar store, finally, making it easier to set up my soap table. I have to find roving to bring West next weekend. I'll have much more for Sheep and Wool in October. Every minute is precious this week and I have to pace myself or I will stay up too late and be groggy at work. A blessing I'm very aware of this Sunday is the hillside covered with lush green grass, clover and wild flowers. I was feeding hay from my precious stores this time last year. I should be grazing my sheep until snow covers the ground this fall. Have to get Big Jim Baldwin over here for a shearing. Might have to take a personal day as I'm sure his weekends are booked and I still have the farmer's market. I have lots of goats to shear and the four giant beasties who escaped my yahoos when shearing this spring. I hope their wool is still okay after a summer of rain and humidity. I need to take those fleeces to Sheep and Wool this fall. This time the yahoos won't get paid until all the candidates for shearing are caught and done. Oh, yes, I have to get black fleeces out and skirt/pick them. Raw fleece is a gold mine as it can be sold as is without washing and dyeing, saving me lots of time and $$. Manna from heaven.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
The weather has changed so radically it's going to take some getting used to. After 95 earlier in the week it was cold and damp today. The market was uncomfortably cool and cloudy. Jeans and a fleece vest were not enough. The only warm part of me was my feet, enclosed in a delicious pair of Lynn's socks and boots. That's the last time I'll be caught without a sweater. Was worried about any patrons coming out then it got nicely busy. Both Robin and Fawn came with their little ones along with other BOCES people including an administrator along with neighbors from Brookfield. Was a fantastic day. So funny to see their trucks parked at Tractor Supply after the market. We all spend out money at the same place. I went over to Price Chopper where I bought 3 Powerball tickets. Somebody's got to win, right? Home to the farm where I set out with my long bamboo pole to knock apples out of the trees for the sheep. Now I know why the orchards use machines to shake the apples down. I spied some oddly shaped fruit on one tree and realized I had pears and never knew it. The sheep and goats are very grateful.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
More storms threatening. Dark, humid and steamy when I got out of work. I let the sheep out to graze right away before going in to deal with the doggies. Grabbed a long bamboo stick and beat some little apples out of a tree for the sheep and goats to munch on. Funny how they do not come down easily, even in the wind we had last night. I'd rather the sheep have them than the bugs so I whacked away at the branches and covered the ground. I'm sure they are all consumed now. I checked out my Goatie Boy, either Nils or Lars, I can't tell anymore, to make sure his fly-strike is gone. I noticed him kicking at his belly a few days back. With Colorscape and work I never got to him, but it was nagging on my mind. When I was watching the flock file out of the gate I was able to grab him - only because he is as old as the hills. I rolled him over and sure enough - the buggers were doing a job on his private parts. I dragged him closer to the barn and called Matt to hold him for me. An hour later he was all trimmed, medicated and sprayed with Catron - the maggot spray that kills the worms and keeps more flies away. This was my only fly-strike this year. I feel fortunate as the heat and rain combined with a wet coat are invitations for an infestation. You don't wish this horrible affliction on hour worst enemy. Life on the farm. Got the doggies out and climbed the big hill so they could take a swim. A little hotter and I would have waded in too. Back down with thunder rumbling in the distance and a light rain coming down. After such a weird night I'm wary of losing power again. I went out very late and saw a truck going around across the valley with a searchlight shining into the trees. Must have been looking for downed lines. My fan turned on around 1 am and I went to sleep. I would have liked to hear all the 9-11 coverage but not this year. What I did hear was barn yard sounds, babes calling mothers, mothers calling babes, cats yowling and roosters crowing. I got quite a bit of soap wrapped and even read two issues of the NY Times. I often buy it and never open a page until it's time to start a fire, then I try to skim all the interesting articles. More soap wrapping tonight along with some sewing I hope. The pile of totes on the machine has not diminished even by one. Just too busy, then too pooped. Glad I got some made before school started.
Oh, I do love my electric power. Sadly, I was minimally equipped for the eight hour outage starting when I got home from work yesterday. It was 95 when I left Norwich and down to 88 when I reached the cooler elevation of Brookfield. The cold front moving in wreaked havoc in the heavens and the storms rolled in. I ran around getting everybody watered but needn't have worried. Soon enough the rain came accompanied by much thunder and lightning. Surprisingly didn't bother the sheep a bit who kept grazing on the lush green clover with the light show going on around them. Sadly the dogs are not as relaxed about it. Poor Knut, who lives under the pine tree, begged to be brought in the barn and I brought him in. Finn hid under his trailer and Thor in his igloo inside the barn. When I got back inside everything was quiet...and stayed quiet. I think I will put a new generator on my Santa Claus list. Too sweltering hot in the apartment for candles, but I got the gas stove going with a match for dinner. It was a quiet night for me with storms continuing until midnight. I saw the electric truck going along Beaver Creek Road across the valley, shining lights into the trees to find the problem I suppose. I wrapped a lot of soap, sitting on the sofa with nervous dogs all around her. I even got through the last two days of NY Times, previously untouched. Lots of good stories, even the obits which I find fascinating. I better write mine now to get it right, just in case. As I tried to hypnotise myself into sleep with only Izzy's breathing to lull me into lalaland, the fan started up. Typically, I got up to turn on the news. All the 9/11 coverage I missed... Seems so far away. I was not yet living in Paradise where we feel so safe - and where we even have electric power most of the time.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
With the beginning of school and the start of fall festivals my life changed radically. I was doing morning chores in my pajamas sometime before noon. Suddenly I was in the barn at 6 am, stumbling around with my coffee mug trying to figure out how to hold Comet and Boo-boo's baby bottles while drinking my cuppa Joe. One bottle between the knees solved that problem. Luckily my vo-tech school with a special education component starts later than the local high schools or I would have to be out in the barn at 5 not 6. Ouch. It was good to be back with the people I work with, as they are really good people, but leaving the giant day care center unattended all day was a bit much to take at first. I think I obsessed more about the baby ducklings than any other animals. One very attentive Mama Duck was not enough to keep all eight babies alive. I'm down to six very healthy looking pre-teens who I think will survive. They are getting tall but their wings are still baby wings and it's so funny to see them flap those little things. The two caged ducklings, hatched from eggs left behind, are big and fat from having copious amounts of feed in their bowls. Matt says they have to be let loose, but I am reluctant. I know how mean ducks can be. They are extremely clickish and run in gangs, one on the north side of the barnyard and one on the south side, also known as the driveway ducks. Nary the two shall meet or there is trouble. They better get used to the idea because I decided to pen them up this winter. I made it through last winter with minimal duck losses but never saw an egg. The monkeys layed them in place I will never know. I want those eggs and plan on corralling the ducks in a long corridor along the stanchions in the barn. I will be able to feed and water them without going out into the weather. They won't like it but the word that comes to mind is....tough! In the meantime, I am working hard in school and working hard at home. If anyone told me, 30 years ago, that I would be working this hard at this stage of my life I would have laughed in their faces but here we are. Colorscape preparation was a bit of a stretch, with staying up waaay too late at night for a week before the festival, with trying to get a handle on school at the same time. Luckily, school is going well and Colorscape was fantastic. It rained but not hard enough to keep people away. I heard the rain pounding as I rested Saturday night, knowing my little tent was being pelted over in Norwich, and feared the worst. Made it over there Sunday morning to find everything stayed dry due to good boxes and much wrapping and tarping. Sunday was a banner day. Lots of good music and people who don't want their hands to shrivel up when the bad weather comes. School is coming around and I am learning how to work with little ones. I still have my naughty-boy classes but they are manageable. We've been making puffy stars, clouds, and a big sun and moon to hang from the ceiling of our art room. Last year we had sea creatures and seaweed. Instead of swimming we are flying. Today I taught the little ones how to draw a symmetrical heart by folding and tracing. They love painting and coloring. I love the way they are so easily pleased. the aides that come with them are angels and I learn a lot from their patience and dedication. We are having a little heat-wave with wildly spiking temperatures into the nineties. I rush out of here and get home as quickly as I can, as I always have, back to the farm. It's all animals until dinner time, then chores, and only then can I work on my wool crafts. Sitting at the sewing machine or spinning wheel is a rare treat when I'm almost too tired to enjoy it...but I still do it when I can. Life on the farm.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Dozing off while making Patchouli hand creme labels. Don't think I'll have any problem sleeping tonight. 4-5 hours a night is catching up with me. Nasty toothache is making my jaw throb. Dentist didn't answer the phone today. I left the farm later than I wanted this morning. I'm so neurotic about every water container getting filled, everyone fed, all things that doggies would be tempted to gnaw on put away, dog toys out, on and on. Oh, yes, and me washed and dressed. I zoomed down route 8 and noticed a car was in front of me for almost the whole 50 miles. Sure enough it turned where I had to turn and into the BOCES school where I was going. It was the Excellus Blue Shield rep. We parked head to tail and as I jumped out to run for the gymnasim I heard do you have any empty hands? She gave me a model of five pounds of fat - terribly life-like - for me to carry in to her table. Just then a colleague pulled up on his Harley, and another teacher came rushing up the drive. Misery loves company on the "walk of shame." After dropping off the fat I was able to slide in the back of the gym but in full view of the Superintendent of Schools as he was starting his address. One of these days I'm going to be slammed for this. Meetings all day. So tedious, but many colleagues in the same boat. Finally an hour's drive home to very happy doggies. Can't believe no messes. Got them up to the pond for a swim I was so proud of them. Checked everybody over just a lot of needy goat kids and kitties. Poor duckies in the cage had no water and were hopping up and down. Have to give them a bigger pot tomorrow. Got dinner going and poor Matt came in from the foot doctor. Bad news they may have to operate and fuse his ankle. Doc ordered him to lose 60 pounds and suggested no carbs, just meat, veggies and fruit. Many changes around here. Out to chores, then much soap to cut up. Pushing hard to be ready for Colorscape.
Monday, September 02, 2013
Must be up at half past five to get everything done and be out of here by seven. It's fifty miles to the Masonville campus of our sister school where we must report for teacher's day back. I pushed hard today to get as much done as possible, as if I will be cut off from everything I love from now on. Not so but I will definitely have less time to play with animals, keep up the farm and make product. I got a fair amount of wool washed-dyed-washed again-set out to dry today. Will have two more nice runs at Rhinebeck this fall, Peacock Blue and Mustard/Magenta/Orange. Just got a big rack of mustard inside in time for an incredible deluge of rain accompanied by another crash/boom/bang thunderstorm like the one that kept me and the dogs awake from 3 to 5 this morning. Gosh we've had some wild weather. I started making Shepherd's creme at 3 and finished at 9, starting chores late. The rhythm of the farm was disrupted by the storm and my lateness but we all recovered. Still have to screw on the tops of the jars and do labels, along with wiping my oily fingerprints off them all. Half Patchouli and half Lavender. The old hippies in Norwich will love the Patchouli at Colorscape this weekend.
Started with a rumbling. Did it wake me up, who knows. I fell asleep "early" for me, like ten-thirty, and, by two, I was ready for my middle passage. It started as a rumbling, became a full throttle crash-boom-bang, then heavy rain, then rumbling, then back to a banger again. I tried not to wake up the dogs but the storm did it for me. Much snuggling and comforting on the sofa. Poor Knut hates thunderstorms and was yipping in the barn yard for me to come and get him. I've done it a couple of times and that did it. He's afraid of nothing on four feet but thunder is a different story. What a downpour accompanied this storm. I like the fact that there is endless barn and hay mow for little and big critters to take cover in. No one needs get wet. Thunderstorms make me miss my Lukie and how we used to sit on the haystack in the barn and watch them roll off Lake Ontario. The kids have started school in Maine. Talked to Hannah and she sounds optimistic about the school year. Luke has lots of buddies on the bus. Mia is in the Hamptons with her boyfriend for the weekend. I have never met him but she likes him. She doesn't want to bring him to the farm and that hurts me, but I understand. This "alternative" rural lifestyle I live here isn't for everyone. Eric and Annie just got back from a big dog Boy Scout meeting in Washington DC. AJ is busy with the Episcopal Church in Las Vegas, and taking care of his soldiers. We are all so far apart and did not spend much time together this summer at all. Mia hasn't been to the farm since spring shearing and when AJ comes east he has lots of friends to see in New Jersey. Eric is crazy busy with his Pine Tree Council in Maine. Thankfully, he lets the kids come. Good thing I don't start school tomorrow as I would be dragging my behind. I cooked soap and dyed wool all day yesterday interrupted by a lengthy search for my lavender oil. I had put it in the back of a dark cabinet behind a large chunk of cinnamon soap. It was hot as Hades in the house and perfect drying weather outside. I should have plenty of wool for shows this fall and spring. On deck for today, critters, more wool - if the sun comes out - and lots of hand creme. I have goats to shear. Might be able to get spouse to help me since he is crippled with his broken ankle. He fell off a tanker truck as a young man and nearly ripped his foot off. Needs more surgery which I have encouraged him to get as he is covered with my teacher's insurance and who knows how long that will last? Someday I will tend critters, read books and knit sweaters. Starting Wednesday my life will be a rat race of working with kids, racing home to animals, keepting them alive, making product to support them, and going places to sell that product. I think I will spin a bit and drink this double strength chamomile tea with milk and honey I made to help myself go back to sleep. The wheel of life goes round and round.