Friday, October 24, 2014

Week After Rhinebeck

This time last week I was scrambling to get ready for NY Sheep and Wool, going full tilt between work, farm and product, wondering if I was going to pull it all together.  Well, it came together like a perfect storm of wonderfulness.  The ride through the Catskills was gorgeous with weather cooperating nicely.   Kim and Daryl met me at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds and got the Maggie's Farm machine going.  My booth was bursting with colorful balls of wool, yarn and goodies.  Bundaflicka on parade in all her glory.   We retreated to the Everready Diner for dinner, then tucked ourselves into Kim and Daryl's motel room.  Up early for showtime.  Mia met us Saturday am and the crowds came in force.  Is Rhinebeck ever not well attended?  All the hard work, investment of time and $$, paid off with the most heady experience I've had since the last time I did Rhinebeck.  I felt humbled and completely validated through the weekend.   Mia stayed with us Saturday night and through Sunday before she returned to New Jersey to prepare for her departure to Panama for a vacation with her pal, Lisa Palmer.  I was thrilled she was there to share in a most successful weekend.  Daryl minded the booth while Kim, Mia and I roamed the fairgrounds taking it all in.  I was definitely in my element, with every form of fiber art imaginable on display, complete with the people who raise the animals, like me!  As the mundane work week grinds on with every problem imaginable presenting itself between work and home, my mind wanders back to an incredibly wonderful wooly weekend.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Market Day

There won't be too many more market days.  I hesitated to go with so much to do for Sheep and Wool and sat in the driveway for five minutes before deciding to just go on and do it.  Matt was staying back to do some work on the farm.  I hate to miss the market when I know people come by to see if I'm there (thank you, friends).   I took a skeleton booth and no tent.  I needn't have worried as the Pettingills and Tennants, my wonderful booth neighbors, jumped up to help me unload.  I even got a curb parking space in front of my little patch of lawn.  The market was slow and steady.  I scored a dozen of the fabulous mugs I need for shaving soap from Susanne Farrington.  She likes to trade mugs for wool she can use for her beautiful, and warm, felted garments.  The morning was cloudy and cool, with market friends stopping by to say hello.  Robin Mizrahi's son, Nathan, is now raising English Angora rabbits.  She was delighted to see that I have a buck for him to use on his doe.  We decided to trade for her delicious granola.  Bartering is very popular around here and makes perfect sense when we raise or make products we all can use.  I got a lot of soap wrapped while sitting behind my table.  Home to the farm where I stopped at the upper field to check on the sheep.  They were lying so comfortably on the hillside, sunning themselves and chewing their cud.  The flock is so used to me chasing them back down to the barnyard they got up and started in that direction.  Tanner, Bertha and Reba heard me up top and came running up to greet me.  I couldn't go back on the road with them following me so I slowly drove the Honda van down the hill.  Matt showed me the flood lights he put up in the hay mow with another shining on the north side barnyard.  The mow won't be quite so spooky this winter.  I'll have to climb up there to put the barnyard light on, which is inconvenient, but here we are. New wiring in an old barn is tricky and expensive.  When the farm was in it's former glory, and the giant mow was filled with thousands of square bales, Sister Bernadette would climb up to the roof and replace the bulbs on the existing lights.  With the round bales I'm using now, and the gamboled roof, I can't get up that high.  We're talking 30 feet up.  Times have changed and life goes on.  On deck for today...working very hard to get ready for sheep and wool.  That "other Maggie" seems to be showing up a lot lately, the one who stays up late, stirring pots, spinning wool and running the machine.  She looks a little rough around the edges at work the next day, but the farm, it's own living entity, has to be sustained by whatever grist the mill requires, as Captain Jack would say. 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Lovely Fall Sunday Morning

I got out early with the doggies while the frost was crunching under my boots.   The morning was already giving way to a lovely sunny fall day.  The sheep and goats were out grazing already.  I am still in awe of the wild beauty of the pasture in the early morning.  It is the perfect time to give thanks in my Church of the Universal Shepherd.  We wandered back down to the barn to check on everything.   I love to do my morning chores in my long, plaid nightie and boots with a sweater that is quickly removed when I build up some heat.  The barn is my favorite place at this time of year.  The flies are gone in the barn, but, sadly, still active inside the house.  I have several tasks in the morning including carrying water and grain to the front barnyard for the dogs, chickens and ducks, and more to the driveway where the chickens and two remaining Swedish Blue ducks live.  So far they've eluded the fox.  I'm planning to bring them inside the barn when it starts snowing but they won't like it.  The rabbits get fed and watered morning and night, with snacks of fresh hay stuck in the doors for snacking.  My new sheep, Gippetto, Finute, Edie and Erin (they came with those lovely names) are still in quarantine in the pig run which stretches the full length of the barn and offers them views of the barnyard and hillside. They are very healthy and sturdy.  The ewes have thick coats of lovely black wool.    I saw Louie, Wensleydale ram number one, on the hillside, trotting after a ewe, checking her back side for the signal that tells him if the time is right for mating.  I still have not seen him successfully mount a ewe, but he is trying, and I'm not always outside to look.  Some sheep prefer privacy - the ewes not the rams.  I don't think they care.  I'll let Gippetto out as back-up in another month.  I'd like all my lambs to come on spring vacation in April.  Wouldn't that be lovely?    With my luck - not a chance.  I had a very productive day yesterday with a batch of Lemongrass soap that set up very nicely.  Soap is tricky and most people take it for granted with so many people doing it.  Truth is if you are not very careful you end up with a failed batch that has to be re-poured.  I got two more knitting totes partially completed last night.  Summer School put a real dent in my production and I'm struggling to get back into speed.  It took me two hours to cut out three totes last night.  When I was too tired to sew any longer I sat down to cut out soap wrapping fabric and spin some yarn from my latest roving.  I still have three more runs to get shipped home before the next wool show.  So much depends on how well I do.  Many repairs are waiting, like the sliding wooden doors on the East End which have been bashed to bits but sheep pushing through.   Fence must be repaired.  Once again time has run away with me and many jobs will have to wait for spring.  With spouse laid up for three months things had to be put off.   The big barn cleaning and manure spreading on the fields will cost me a fortune.  Why do I do it?  This life is amazingly wild and wonderful, with never a dull moment.  With all the anguish and heartache, I wouldn't trade it for the world.  It challenges me and keeps me outside in the fresh air.  The farm keeps me healthy, mentally stable, and young.  I love the smell of wool and manure in the morning.  Without my sheep I would be as fat as a cow, sitting on the sofa knitting sweaters and reading books all the time, sorting out my antidepressant, blood pressure and rheumatism pills.  No thanks!

Thursday, October 02, 2014


I can't walk out my barn door without gasping in delight at the burst of colors on the piney ridge running along the edge of my land.  This is the spectacular week of peak foliage here in the middle of New York State.  The weather has been cooperative and provided us with sunshine and mild temps to be outside and enjoy the show.  The flock is still enjoying a hillside covered with lush, green grass.  This time two years ago I had been feeding hay for a month already.  Local farmers are getting third and fourth cuts of hay.  I'm happy for them and all the animals that will have full bellies through this winter.

New Blood

I've been talking to Dr. Ann Merriwether of Nyala Farm in Vestal about a Wensleydale ram for a year or so now.  I finally took Louie home with me.  He is absolutely adorable and a real sweetie.  My plan is to have fewer sheep with heavier fleeces.  I adore my Bluefaced Leicesters and crosses but some of the fleeces are very light.  I've been noticing that Bluefaced Leicester breeders often have another breed of sheep that produce a heftier fleece.  I tried a Border Leicester ram, Zack, for a year or two and have two lovely ewes from him, Margot and Margareta.  The Border Leicester wool is a tad coarse, but the fleeces are huge.  Louie was living with his buddy, Spike Lee, a purebred Nubian buck, for a month.  They kept each other fantastic company while I was feeding them well and preparing them for the task ahead.  Spike Lee is going to pair up with Fancy and Matilda soon to give me Nubian babies and goat milk in the spring.  When I put Louie in with the flock he went right to work, doing his best to mount the big girls from behind.  Louie is on the small side but his will is mighty.  I don't see a lot of breeding going on - some sheep like privacy - but I see that his nose is always in the right place.  We'll see how it goes.  In the meantime Louie is enjoying the lush green grass that still covers the hillside.