Friday, February 07, 2020

Snow Day for Real!

Is there anything more exciting for a teacher than to find out that you don’t have to bomb out of the house and hit the road?  I anticipated this day off but I know not to get cocky.  My school has seven sending districts and they all have to close before we can.  All the pieces fell into place and here I am, home on the farm where I belong.  Doggies sleeping on the sofa all around me, kitties making little snores, piled on top of each other in boxes, and the wood stove humming.  I have a long list of things I want to do but for now I’m enjoying just hanging out and listening to the wind against the barn walls.  I made porridge for breakfast and thawed a pot of chicken soup on the wood stove so we’re set for food for a while.  Matt did chores for me and got everybody in the barn where it is cold but dry and out of the wind.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Snow Day, Almost

After several days of blissfully dry roads we are back in the throes of winter.  Brookfield School (k-12) is closed and the roads are miserable.  I am home for the day even though my school in Norwich only has a 2 hour delay.  Matt left for Syracuse in my beautiful pristine classic Volvo.  I have mixed feelings about him taking my car but it leaves me blissfully stranded on the farm which is absolutely delightful.  I am suddenly presented with many possibilities as to how I can fill my day.  I can make soap and hand cream or cut out Bundaflicka Knitting Totes to my hearts content, that is, if my gnarled fingers cooperate.  The sweet young rheumatologist I saw recently told me “we lose more tools to rust than wear.”   There is no going back, only pain management he says.  My hands have served me well over the years providing me with hundreds of totes, clothes, curtains, slip covers, and thousands of pounds of soap and hand cream.  Then there is the hundreds of lives I’ve brought into the world and the tons of fiber they produced.   I should be satisfied but I’ve got a long way to go God willing and Beaver Creek don’t rise.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A New Year

One month down into 2020.  This winter seems to be milder than years past which is a real blessing.  Let’s see what is the news?  After such a long hiatus I’ll try to catch up.

AJ aka Father Aaron has left the US Army after deployments to Cuba, South Korea and Afghanistan and most recently a year serving as chaplain at Fort Drum.  He is living in his hometown of Morristown NJ and hopes to get involved in local Democratic politics.

Mia has moved from Boulder Colorado back to NJ and is working in the emergency department at Jersey City Medical Center.  She loves the farm and is a big help to me in so many ways.

Eric and family are living and working in Monterey California where he is a BSA executive.  Annie misses her Maine house and the knit shop where she worked.  Eric and Luke are happy as pigs in slop.  Motorcycle weather all year round.  Hannah is serving in the Marine Corp at Iwakuni Naval Air Station in Japan doing avionics on F35 fighter jets for the third year.  Luke has joined the Marines and earned a full scholarship to the Virginia Military Institute starting this summer.

The farm is still the farm with plenty of sheep, goats,chickens,rabbits,dogs,cats, and three cows.  I still teach school full time but the farm is my primary job, 24/7/365.  It’s just the way things are.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Eric's On the Move

Eric is moving his family to California.  He decided he had accomplished as much as possible in the Maine Pine Tree Council and it was time to move on.  Eric is a motivated big project man.  He turned a failing BSA council into a thriving enterprise.  When a larger dining hall was needed and there was no money to be found Eric called in the military to build a gigantic state of the art facility.  He decided to sell the half empty staff office building and move headquarters to the camp grounds, saving a fortune for the council.  Eric the Shooter built pistol practice fields and together with his wife Annie established a safe shooting youth program.  Now he is on the West Coast, second in command of the huge San Juan/Monterey BSA Council.  They have a much bigger budget which Eric will put to good use.  He recently bought a fixer upper house in Carmel.  Matt is flying there in July to help him get started on home improvements.   Luke will attend a fancy Monterey high school for his senior year.  He sounds very excited.  Hannah is still in Japan with the Marine Corp, doing avionics on F35 Fighter Jets.  She's been there for two years without a trip home.  Now she will be coming home to California instead of Maine. Annie will have to give up her job in a cute little local Maine knit shop.   I will miss knowing I could hop in a car and drive seven hours to see them in Maine.  They hardly ever came to the farm, maybe once a year.  When they did it was a quick 24 trip and they put skid marks in the driveway getting out of there.  Eric never was into the animal husbandry thing.  

Green Grass

What a joy it is to have the sheep on green grass.  This rainy spring has given us ample grass for the flock to enjoy.  Bubbling springs have filled up the pond and made little water holes on the hillside.  I have two perfect pond sites if I ever get somebody in here to dig them out.  Ponds are wonderful for sheep and other wildlife.  I haven't had to drag around a cold stiff hose in the barn for a few weeks.    Just last week I stopped slinging bales.  The green grass fills them up.  The incessant rain can be worrisome for the hay farmers.  The grass is there but they need four days to make hay.  One to cut, a second day to fluff it up, a third day to fluff it again and a fourth day to bale it and bring it to the barn.  In a rainy summer four days of the needed blistering hot weather may not happen very often.  Too many days of very hot dry weather and the grass doesn't grow.  I need thousands of  bales for my flock.  No hay no sheep.  Hay is life.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Time Marches On

I wondered what I would write about after this long gap in reporting but I don't think it will be hard.  I'll just start with what's going on now.  We sheared 27 sheep this past Monday.  My faithful shearer, Jim Baldwin has had a couple of years of health issues and is not quite back to his old numbers.  I'm attached to my shearer, kind of like people get attached to their doctors, and don't want to switch.  I know what to expect from Jim and don't get quite as nervous as I would with a new one.  I would like him to shear more sheep at one time but don't want to hurt his feelings,  Funny, I bet Jim would like me to find somebody else who likes big flocks so he could devote more time to shepherds with little flocks.  I haven't had lambs in two years and don't plan on having any this year.  I have limited grazing available and my hay bill is astronomical.  We've had several weeks of rain and I'll be thrilled if the hay guys can get any mowed and baled this summer.  Who knows?  We're enslaved to the weather.  Just when we think we'll be okay it slaps us down and shows us who's boss.

After three years of mourning for Coco who died suddenly after giving birth to her daughter Mocha, I decided to buy a cow.  Mocha has been a pampered only-cow all this time and has not even come into heat.  I thought she would feel more like a cow if I found a friend for her.  For all I know Mocha thinks she is a 1,500 pound sheep.  Betty Boop came to us from a local organic dairy family who lost their milk contract.   She  has horns and a tail the way cows should and I love her.  Betty is not the love muffin that Mocha is having lived in a herd of cows all her life.  I'm very excited but nervous having lost Coco at Mocha's birth.  Betty has had two calves previously.  Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I'm Here

My intrepid grandson, Luke, has inspired me to keep writing.  He was here to visit me for one short, glorious week, this summer.  I noticed he would duck into his trailer every once in a while.  I asked what he was doing.  Taking a nap?  He said, no, he was writing in his journal.  That really touched me.  My farm is a story that deserves to be told.  I should keep telling it.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Bagged Up

Coco is not the only thing bagged up around here.  Bundaflicka Knitting Totes are being born as well.  There are a few new bags hanging from the barn beams, the only safe place for them in this barn.  I am having a lot of fun sewing them, but never have enough time as I would like.  With my premier spring show, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, fast approaching I'm going to have to find the time. 

Coco is Having a Calf!

Coco was very unhappy and SCREAMING all day long.  I mean, really screaming.  The drive to breed is very strong in dairy cows.  They know what their purpose is.  Mr. Tim Powers, local cow inseminator came to our rescue.  Mr. Powers and his wife, a local high school physics teacher, are across from me at the Hamilton Farmer's Market.  His phone has an interesting message, "All calls received before noon will have their cows serviced that day."  Mr. Powers showed up at the farm and handed me a halter to put on Coco.  We had not put a halter on Coco up to that point but she cooperated nicely and we tied her to a post.  Now, we had been warned that this would be a difficult process.  Someone told us to tied her front to a post and her back legs to the tractor.  Not necessary.  Mr. Powers, a consummate professional, walked up to Coco, lifted her tail and in he went, up to his armpit (it seemed).  I gasped at the profound gesture and watched Coco lift her head up, nose to the sky.  Out the arm came and, I swear, Coco never screamed again.  Not at all.  It was the true meaning of "settled," the term farmers use when the females are bred.  Now it is nine months later and we are waiting the blessed event.  Coco is happy, calm, sucking up her warm sweet feed slop twice a day, munching on hay, and enjoying life.  Dr. Parfitt came out and looked at Coco.  He said there is no reason why she wouldn't do just fine birthing this calf.  The weather this April has been a roller coaster.  The early warmth and greening of the hillside has turned back to wintery snow and ice.  We built stalls in the barn for Coco and her buddies, the steers Rocky and Blacky, but they like to be outside.  When a hideous cold wind whipped up a couple of weeks ago, Coco slipped into the upper hay mow when I wasn't looking.  She wanted to be a warm, dry, safe place to have her calf.  I fenced her in to keep her there, with the big doors still open so she can see outside.  Monkey and her baby, Velveteen, are living in the hay mow along with baby angora goat wethers Bernie and Benny. Coco never gets lonely.  Yesterday I noticed a little discharge and checked her female area. It is puffy and soft.  I think we will have a calf this weekend.  I sought out my neighbor, Chris, who owned this magnificent farm back in the glory days when it had a hundred cows in the barn and 350 acres surrounding it.  He has birthed over a thousand calves.  Chris gave me a half hour tutorial on what to avoid, etc.  If Coco gives birth standing up the calf can break its neck falling to the floor, which happens when the cows are on concrete.  Coco is on a soft wooden floor covered with a few inches of clean hay (except for the intermittent cow pies).  He advises separating the calf from mother as calves will butt the bag and injure it.  I had hoped to leave the baby with Coco, as she had one calf two years ago that did not survive.  Her previous owner told me how grief stricken Coco was at the time and how she tried to give Coco another calf which did not help.  We'll see how it goes.  Chris said I can put Coco in a stall and tie the calf nearby but I would have to milk Coco to feed to the calf.  Doesn't see right, but this cow thing is new to me.  With Matt roaming around Texas in search of adventure I am on my own.  We'll see how it goes...