I have a middle school student who loves to sew and it has really helped us build a positive relationship. He has made two fabric bowls to put his spent cartridges and shot gun shells in and did a terrific job. Tyler asked if he could make a bag for his mother. It took a couple of weeks but we got it done. This lovely silk/linen messenger style tote is lined with durable Gunlocke office furniture upholstery fabric. I can't wait to hear how "Mom" likes it. I have two more guys in the same art class waiting to sew totes for their moms. They think sewing is cool. I told them throughout history soldiers have carried sewing kits with them to repair uniforms damaged by bullet holes and tears. I can't sew with all the students as it takes complete one-on-one attention to the one doing the sewing, but I try. The results are wonderful.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
After the 85 F. temperature yesterday I am loving this cool, cloudy weather. I stayed home today for a variety of reasons. I have a lot of sick days saved up. It's the time of year when teachers who do have a lot of sick days saved up are wearing a bit thin and figure, hey, I got myself here all winter and now I need a day to catch up on things. Maybe they have a farm that requires a Herculean effort just to keep up with the basics. My aide was okay with it and here I am. What a joy to wake up at 8:15 mid-week without a full blown panic. I had been up at 4 but was able to go back to sleep. The dogs love it when I stay home. I don't feel guilty leaving them shut up in the house, listening to them sing their goodbye howls when I say "be good doggies." I was determined to get all the little bags of rhubarb cooked today. Some of them were gifts from colleagues, some I purchased from the old lady on the roadside. Now they are lined up, seven quarts, ready for Eric, my Swedish son, to take home to Maine. He loves rhubarb and asked me not to add the strawberries like last year. No problem. I got the massive load of garbage down the lane after the guys at Holden's Haulers emptied the dumpster. How I love an empty dumpster. Our walk up the hill was spectacular. Buttercups cover the lush green hillside, with patches of pretty little blue flowers here and there. The piggies saw us coming and trotted over to join us, with a quick stop at their little self-dug pond to roll in the mud. The followed us up the hill and around the pond. If we quickened our pace they caught up. Scarlett and Sue Ellen don't like Tanner. When they were little she teased them by barking at them and nipping at their chubby back sides. Not any more. Tanner is keeping her distance, smart dog. I was a bit worried when we stopped for Cooper to do his BM and Scarlett took his outstretched tail in her mouth. She didn't bite down, just slid
Monday, May 26, 2014
What to do with a fleece that is buttery soft and lovely on the inside, and crusty from sunburn and weather on the outside? Not all of us can coat out sheep. It requires the purchase or making of coats and the people power to catch and hold them while fitting the coats as the fleece grows. I found this fleece in the bottom of last year's pile of fleeces. Deliciously wonderful but very crusty tips. I sometimes dye a fleece like this because the sunburned tips take on the dye differently than the shaft of the wool making a pretty variegated effect. You risk noils (fuzzy bumps) in your roving, however, and may not be happy with it. I am cutting the tips off this fleece and am loving the result. It's very time consuming but worth it if you want to save this beautiful Bluefaced Leicester wool. Sitting outside in this glorious weather with barnyard friends helps the time go quickly.
They are gone but not forgotten. I'm so proud of my own two soldier sons and thankful I did not lose them to the last two senseless wars waged by my government. I didn't vote for either of the war mongers who sent our sons and daughters to die for oil, but I still mourn for them all. It's a beautiful thing to offer up your life for your country in a worthy cause. Eric joined the Army at age 17. I'll never forget the day the recruiter knocked on the door and said, "sign here, your son joined the Army." Now he is still serving our country, as head of the Boy Scout Pine Tree Council in Portland, Maine. AJ signed up after 9-11 so he could protect Yankee Stadium from terrorists. Six weeks later he was at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in a hut with 30 Spanish speaking guys from New Jersey. Now he is Active Duty Army, a Chaplain and a Captain, stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. My boys are continuing a long, proud history of service in my family, including my mother and her three siblings who all served in WWII in various theaters of operations. My mother's people go all the way back to service in the Colonial Wars, pre-Revolution. Putting down the plowshare and picking up the sword is in our DNA...and so is farming. I spent so much time on wool work this weekend I hardly got anything done on my list. I made a fabulous dinner for myself last night with leftovers in the fridge. A little chicken breast, broccoli and onions and what a feast. God Bless America.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
After a long work week that included a day at the farmer's market I am thrilled to be home today. I don't know where to turn next I'm having so much fun. I started with coffee outside with hummingbirds buzzing around the feeder, ducks quacking all around me, sheep and goats grazing on the hillside, and pigs asking for a back scratching. The weather is gorgeous, breezy, with low humidity and sunshine. I put the mohair from the two goats we sheared last night on the drying rack. I'm on a "dye jag" now and have had the washing machine and dye pots going for the last 24 hours. I've found some lovely fleeces from last year, buried in the barn, mostly black. I like to over dye dark fleeces with colors like forest green, teal green, purple or red. It's amazing what some elbow grease and a dye pot will do for a ragged old fleece. I get lost in a fleece, pulling the locks apart and inhaling the earthy aroma of lanolin and grass. My adult mohair will be great for sock yarn. The Bluefaced Leicester is soft and makes fantastic felt. I thought about sending my wool and mohair to be commercially spun, but I'm sticking with carded blends. I'm funny that way. I don't like the uniformity of commercial yarn, even if I know where the wool came from. It doesn't have any character. I get bored with it. I like little bumps here and there, and wisps of heathery color. There are plenty of people who spin roving into yarn, or felt with wool, so I'll keep doing what I'm doing. Tomorrow, Memorial Day, promises to be another good dyeing and drying day. God Bless America and My Farm.
Friday, May 23, 2014
I love cool, misty, spring weather and today was perfect. The first thing I do when I get home from work - after closing my eyes for a few minutes in the car before I get out - is let the sheep out of the barnyard to graze. Wouldn't you know, with the hillside covered in lush, green grass, the entire flock made a beeline to the upper field where my first cut is starting to look good. It took us ten minutes to hike up there, as fast as we could, and chase them back down to where they have plenty of food and we don't mow at all. Izzy seemed to forget what "Get 'em up" means but Reba remembered and did the job. On the way back down we enjoyed many lovely scenes of sheep grazing, goats jumping up to trim the branches of small trees, and dogs having fun after being locked up all day. Surprisingly, the pigs stayed in the barn, napping I suppose. Pigs are great nappers. After a long work week I was ready for a nap myself. It's Friday and I can scarcely believe it. I have to say, I'm amazed at how well I get myself to work. With everything I have going on here, more than most have to deal with, even those with human kids, I have pretty good attendance. If I can stand up I show up. There were a few people out today, getting a jump on the long weekend. Not me. I like to be in school on the eve of a holiday. There's a happy spirit among the staff and kids, and we sometimes show movies (educational movies, of course) and have treats. Today Gretchen ordered out for Chinese and I showed the kids some Monty Python and the Holy Grail for my Global Class who is studying Medieval History. Not sure they understood the humor, but they loved the flying cow.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
The pigs joined us for a leisurely walk around the pond yesterday. I get the dogs up the hill for our "spa session" every day after school. After being locked inside all day they are raring to go. The pigs are locked in the barnyard with the sheep and are feeling very energetic when I let them all out to graze, too. The weather is fantastic, just a tad cool, with no flies in or around the barn yet. We started up the hill and the piggies followed us. They joined in our little groups just like two more dogs. They grazed on the green grass and drank out of the pond. When we started back down they started running and split apart to go around me. It was a tad scary but so much fun. We diverted to the apple orchard where Sue Ellen lay down in the cool dirt. The blossoms are so beautiful right now and I'm hopeful for apples, as long as the temperature doesn't dip too much lower. It's been 26 - 28 F. the last couple of mornings and I'm a little worried. We walked around the Hidden Pond. I've discovered where the water is leaking out of the pond, leaving it a big mud puddle that's perfect for deer, wild critters and the turtles I save from the middle of the roads. Planning on getting that fixed to we have another proper pond to play in. Back to the house and I have some time to turn on the box before dinner. I check out the news, the weather, and the movies I might like to watch after chores are over. I'm working hard on fiber and got another 26 pounds out to the carding mill after school. I've found a few more buttery soft black fleeces from last year. Oh, what a nice surprise. They've been languishing in plastic bags but are none the worse for wear. Some are slightly felted, requiring pulling apart the locks, one by one. Most have some VM - sheep speak for vegetable matter, the hay and dirt that naturally wants to stick to wool, and that has to be all picked out, every burdock, every speck of dirt and every strand of hay. I then wash the fleece in hot soapy water while preparing the dye pots. The wet fiber is added to the dye bath and enough water is added to allow the wool to move around. I add vinegar, or citric acid if I have it (has to be ordered in) and bring the pot to a simmer for an hour or so. The pot is turned off and the dye is allowed to cool down overnight before being turned into the washer again. The tub is filled and I swish the wool around, drain the tub, fill it again, and drain it again. I try to make all my fiber color safe, with no dye residue left in the wool. It doesn't always end up that way but I try. I have some dye pots simmering right now. Better go check on them.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
With little streams of water running down the hill everywhere you turn the ducks are in heaven. I hear them smacking their bills and quacking in glee as they stomp around in the mud. There is a babbling stream in back of the barn, and the Hidden Pond under the Piney Ridge, along with the big pond up high up on the hill, but the ducks like the safety of the barnyard with the White Boys on duty. The grass is green and lush, the sheep and goats have more than they can possibly eat, the pigs are fat and happy.
I clipped another wether goat kid last night and picked the mohair outside on the steps today. The weather turned glorious after a cool, cloudy morning. The kitties gathered around me and rubbed heads all over me as I worked. Some climbed in the bin and napped as I pulled apart the felted locks and picked out all the dirt and hay. I thought about how I was doing the same thing women have done on the steppes of Asia for thousands of years. I left a little in the bin for the kitties and put the rest in a dye pot - blood orange. It will be blended with a lot of deep midnight blue Bluefaced Leicester wool, and other mohair fleeces dyed gold, fuschia and green. I'm easily bored with roving that is monochromatic and uninteresting. I like to take it out in the sun and see many streams of color running through it.
It's my day off and I don't know where to start, but I've got a giant hot foamy cuppa Joe next to me and I can see the sheep grazing on the hillside covered with green grass. Oh, the joy of it. No more mudda forker here. I turned the dye pots off at 11:30. I have a huge drying rack full of overdyed black Bluefaced Leicester I'll blend with colored mohair from the 13 kids I had last spring. While I was checking on the dye pots I opened the door to the chicken room and there they were - the rats came out to party after all the animals were bedded down. They were blinking in the glow of my head light. I decided to open the door and let the chickens out to free range. I think most of them will go back into their room to get in their nests and lay eggs. If not, there are many places to lay around the barn and I'm used to checking for eggs from the free rangers anyway. I won't put down poison or lay traps. Too many other critters can be harmed by them. I'll prop the door open so the Kitty Cadre has free access to the chicken room. I've tried shutting cats in there but they always get out. This way they can come and go. I opened the front door to find a rat body on the steps, an offering from the cats to show me they are on duty. I don't have anything against the rats, but when they take ALL my eggs and feast on the egg layer I pay big bucks for, then it's war. Rats can chew on the electric wires around the barn and bye-bye barn. I had a terrible rat infestation in the last place I lived. It was an old stone farmhouse and I had rabbits in the banked basement. I could hear the rats climbing up inside the walls behind my bed at night. I would open the front door and see them scurry out from under my truck where they had been chewing the wires. The rats chewed through my rabbit cages and feasted on the pellets. When they saw me coming with a stick they would squeeze back out and run. It was totally weird. I traded a goat for a Jack Russell Terrier - - but he couldn't fly up to the rafters where the rats taunted me. Enter the kitties. Cats can go almost anywhere rats can - above ground that is. My cats drove the hundreds of pidgeons roosting three stories high on the ridge pole into the silos where they are still living. Better go feed my kitties to thank them for their service.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Back from the farmer's market and I'm ready for a day of rest. A day of rest for me is a day of working on the farm. It doesn't feel like work when it's farm work. A six day week of school,and then market, is a bit of a drag on my energy, even though I get to do amazing things with my art classes. The weather cleared up nicely around nine am, but the torrential rain yesterday kept us from loading up properly last night. We had to transfer tables, racks and goods from the trailer (miraculously, it did not leak in the day-long downpour) to the Blazer AKA Bucket of Bolts this morning, with one eye on the cloudy sky. The bumper ripped off as we pulled in the driveway from the market last week and we could not pull a trailer to the market this week. We did okay, but it took some doing, then hauled it over there and set up the shop. It is Colgate Graduation Weekend and traffic is usually good, but it can go either way. Today was more the other way. There are now about a dozen soap makers in the market now, including a teacher from my school who was downsized. Fortunately I make a variety of things and my main focus is wool. There is another shepherd at the market with her own wool, and frozen lamb, and she also makes soap. I always have fun, chatting with my market friends, catching up with Candace, Susanne Farrington, Chris the Roller Derby Queen, and various acquaintances. I can't help but think of all the work I should be doing at home on the farm. I spin wool so I'm still being productive at the market. It helps to pull people into the booth. I'm down to five Bundaflicka Knitting Totes and need to hit the machine. I would LOVE to spend more time sewing so that's not a problem. I hope to cut out some totes tomorrow. Matt will be working on the truck. We picked up parts for a broken wheel bearing and worn out brakes. As soon as I got home I let the sheep out to graze. They are overjoyed to be out on the green grass, and I am thrilled for them - and me.
Stepped outside in the rain last night for a breath of fresh air during chores. Was delighted to see a little hummingbird buzzing around the feeder close to the house. Two more were dancing around the feeder out by the big pine tree. They were very energetic, as if they had just flew in and were happy to see their sugary juice waiting for them. Maybe they were trying to keep warm in the cold rain. When I woke up this morning I looked out the window and sure enough, there she was, at the feeder by the thermometer that reads 28 F! This weather is wild. Hot all last week, so much so we took the windows out of the barn to let the cross breeze through. I adore hummingbirds. In all my life in NJ I had only one at my feeder. Up here in NY we have lots of them. Off to the market. Would love to stay under the covers but no way. Maybe tomorrow.
Friday, May 16, 2014
After delaying shearing for intense cold, then for Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, I am desperate to get my sheep shorn. By waiting so long I risk having the wool felt on the backs of the sheep. Bluefaced Leicester felts if you look at it anyway. The heat of the animal, plus rain on the wool, produces felt. Big Jim Baldwin is coming June 7. I wish it was tomorrow. Shearing is the culmination of an entire year's work of forking hay, toting water and grain, and TLC. I don't sell animals for meat, or send them to auction. It's all about fiber. Wool is the Mother of All Fibers.
Sue Ellen and Scarlett follow us whenever we go for walks on the farm. Sue Ellen is much more friendly than Scarlett and asks to have her back scratched. Scarlett bolts when I try to pet her. Both girls ask for food when they are hungry. They are really enjoying the green grass. Tamworths are also called "Irish Grazers" and are aptly named. I don't mind them grazing but they will dig holes in the pasture to eat roots and other tasty tidbits under the ground. Sue Ellen followed us through the old apple orchard, to the Hidden Pond, to the way back field, and back to the barn. She is delightful company and walks with her head down, looking shy, or maybe watching out for something to eat on the ground.
My beautiful apple trees are blooming, finally. This is a precarious time for the little flowers that will turn into luscious apples for my sheep, and me, to eat. We could still have a killing frost, even in late May or early June. This is upstate New York. We could still have snow. Right now there is such a deluge of rain coming down all day I am, once again, thanking my lucky stars that I am on high ground. All the sheep are high and dry in the barn. I don't think I will let them out to graze tonight. I still have some hay to give them. They are going to be shorn June 7 and I don't want the heavy wool fleeces to felt. I'm sure there will be local flooding. Weather forecast for tomorrow is good which I can hardly believe looking out the window now.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
It seems we went from cold to hot in a flash. We've had 85 degree days all week, with a rolling thunderstorm last night that had the White Boys protesting loudly. They are living outside now that the sheep are out and they hate thunderstorms. The inside dogs are lucky. They get to hunker down under the covers with Mommy. The Big Brave White Boys have to dog-up and stay outside. Okay, I confess if I know a bad storm is coming, and I haven't gone to bed yet, I let them in the barn. After all, I am the Jewish mother of dogs. A big rain is coming day after tomorrow. With this heat and rain the grass will be fantastic. I just might get a first and second cut this year. Julia called about helping me get my barn cleaned out. What a good farmer friend she is to me. She says I need to fertilize the top field to get more hay. I've got the poop and she's got the equipment. Today was the annual roller skating trip to Interskate 88 in Oneonta. The kids were great and had a fabulous time. Our sister BOCES in Masonville joined us and I was able to say hello to some colleagues who used to be in my building. I left the skates off this year and volunteered to do the challenging job of watching kids and staff's bags. I knitted on my socks a bit and had quite a few curiousity seekers. I brought big needles and bulky yarn in case somebody asked for lessons, but no takers. That was fine with me as I was chatting with friends and knitting. Oh, wow, I just heard on the news that Chobani corporate headquarters, near my school in Norwich, is moving to Delaware. The factory will remain in NY, five miles away from my farm. Leave it to New York to drive business away, but, come on, how many more billions do they want to make? I know people who work at the corporate headquarters. Too bad. I feel secure in my job, so far, but one never knows. In the meantime I keep my sheep and spin their wool. I feel very fortunate that, in a precarious economy, people still love to play with wool. Wool is the Mother of All Fibers.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
I lost track of the moon then there it was - huge and round - in the daylight! It's staying light so late the daytime eclipsed the moon rise. Spring is full speed ahead with the pasture so lush and green. Hot, sunny days with plenty of moisture in the ground is making the grass grow in abundance. The sheep are so happy, and so am I. They get a lot of their water from the green grass and we don't have to tote as much around the barn. I'm busy working with fiber, taking advantage of this warmth and light to dry it outside. I'm not comfortable with leaving it outside when I got to work, even with a wire rack over it, as rain/wind storms can blow in quickly. I'm dyeing some kid/yearling colored mohair a lovely mustard yellow which leaves the fiber a dark gold. I get ideas for roving runs, using only the fiber I have on hand and dyes I have on the shelf. Once a year I put a bulk order in to Dharma and use it throughout the season. I'm excited about this run as I have a lot of black Bluefaced Leicester that I'll variegate with gold, green, orange and blue mohair. It should be very soft and interesting. The black wool will mute the colors. I'm dyeing any black wool with sunlightened ends blue. The tips are lovely. I'm easily bored with mono-colored fiber blends. I like to take my fiber out in the sun and see many strands of colors within. Big day at work tomorrow. It's time for the annual roller skating trip to Interstate 88. I am certified to drive the youngin's, having peed in a cup for the powers that be to determine that I am clean and sober. Don't know if I'll skate this year, with the sciatica driving me nuts and my trick ski-knee bedevilling me. Think I'll bring some knitting needles and yarn to spark some interest among the non-skaters in the snack bar area. We'll see how that goes...
Monday, May 12, 2014
Forgot how it feels to be hot and sweaty until I ran errands after school in 85 F. heat. I need to do grocery shopping for my class, pack and mail some orders, stop at Tractor Supply while in Norwich. On the way home I noticed the familiar sign at the end of a little farm lane on King's Settlement Road. My little old lady is putting out her rhubarb again. Eric will be thrilled with his rhubarb preserves. No strawberries included this time he asked. Once I got home I fried a lovely chunk of cod fish and served it with really good crunchy cole slaw. Felt like summer. After chores I grabbed another little wether goat and clipped off his mohair. If I do one or two every night I will have enough fiber for the run I am working on for Bouckville. The goats will be much more comfortable too. A couple of them are starting to slough off their coats - not good. They should have been shorn already but it was just too darn cold, then there was the focus on Maryland Sheep and Wool. I'll get it done. A creature of some sort is living under my chicken room and stealing all the eggs. I fed and watered the chickens faithfully all winter and should be having a mother lode of eggs now. The furry varmint I saw diving down the hole out of the corner of my eye must be sneaking them away. I put a big old Tom in the chicken room tonight. I hope he stays at least for the night before he figures a way out. I don't trap. I don't poison. I have a problem. If only I could put Ole Thor in there...Izzy, my rat terrier would be the best option, but Izzy likes to sleep laying up against my belly and I like Izzy there, too. I better sleep on it....
Sunday, May 11, 2014
The weekend is turning out to be the shot in the arm I needed, after a long, cold winter and a lot of hard work getting ready for my first big show. The weather yesterday morning was iffy for the farmer's market, so I lingered a while, waiting for the rain to stop and clouds to clear. I'm so glad we decided to go. I had missed the first market day when I was at Md. Sheep and Wool. I hear I didn't miss much as it was cold and rainy here. The sun came out and we had a fantastic day, with steady traffic and friends stopping by to say hello. I even had people from the Morristown area, where I lived in NJ for so many years, visit me in Hamilton. I had a huge wool sale, which was quite the thrill, as most people have no idea what to do with all that colorful fluffy stuff, and my artsy handspun is way too pricey for "civilians." I was able to pick up the Amish butter, jalapeno muffins and Jake's Gouda I had missed over the winter. I spent some time plying the bobbins I filled in Maryland while chatting with customers. LOVE this recent run of Mother Fiber. It slips through my fingers so beautifully, and the chartreuse next to the fuschia and purple is so pretty.
Friday, May 09, 2014
We've started a garden with some of my high school health class students and the phys. ed. teacher on the hill above the school. It gets us outside doing something physical and teaches them how to raise their own food. We were picking out rocks today and raking around the edges of the plot so the mower can go around easily. I plan on working summer school so I'll be around for watering and weeding. We have a cistern collecting rain water beside the garden. I might let this be my gardening adventure this year - no chickens, sheep and goats to chase out of the veggies here.
Did I really work a five day week after returning from Maryland Sheep and Wool? I think I might just have to pat myself on the back once or twice. I'm starting to catch up physically and emotionally. My amazing colleagues are very helpful with my mental well-being. They can't do chores for me and make me get enough sleep at night, but they surely do help me get through the day when I'm running on fumes. I did a lot of painting with the youngin's this week, my favorite activity as an art teacher.
The sheep are out on pasture. With enough rain and sunshine the grass will continue to grow and I won't have to worry about hay. The sheep are so happy, doing mule kicks and leap frogging about the hillside. Scarlett and Sue Ellen are enjoying the grass as well. They are Tamworths, also known as Irish Grazers, and graze they do. They come back in at night looking for their buckets of warm slop, then tuck themselves in along with the rest of the flock.
Thursday, May 08, 2014
I love to walk around the farm. A walk is the perfect way to take the edge off after a day in the trenches. Spring is finally starting to take hold and eclipse the brown landscape. There is a tiny tinge of green everywhere. I love my land. It's not the typical flat hay-friendly farm land that's easy to work with. My land is up and down with all kinds of interesting nooks and crannies, shale outcroppings, springs and groves of trees. It has so much character and places to explore and hide in. My colonial apple orchard is tucked under the piney ridge which provides the panoramic background for my little patch of Earth. I've been walking the back field with the dogs which is semi-wild and perfect for goats who love to eat brush and trees. We found the fox den yesterday. Matt says she is still here but I think Tanner has driven her away. Too bad. I love wild animals and foxes eat rats and mice. I wouldn't mind if she took a rooster or two as I have way too many roaming the barnyard but the dogs would never allow that. The den looked empty, or maybe she's hiding way down deep like a smart fox. I checked out the apple orchard. We have buds, but we also have cold mornings that could kill the tender flowers that turn into apples. 20 F. yesterday morning, but we are slowly warming up. I loved travelling down south to Maryland where the red buds and dogwoods were growing wild along the highway. Not many flowering trees here, just wild apples that fatten the deer before winter. Farmers don't ordinarily plant hybrid trees to watch them bloom. We are much too practical for that. I just might buy myself a little flowering Weeping Cherry to plant outside my window and hang a little hummingbird feeder on it.