Saturday, February 28, 2009

Very Distressing

Chris (Christmas Surprise) is my big red/brown llama. Tonight we noticed he is a little unsteady on his back legs. One leg looks weak. This is exactly how Breeze started his decline into paralysis due to meningeal worm. The parasite, carried by snails, is then eaten by deer and spread everywhere in their droppings. With the marshy areas of my land, and all the deer passing through, we are always at risk. Dr. Rachel was not on call this weekend, but her partner, Dr. Johnson, called right back. He told us what to give him and I have the meds - Dexamethasone, a steroid, and ivermectin, a wormer. This will not be easy. Chris is semi-wild, perfect for a guard llama who roams the land with the flock, but not easy for giving shots. I had a catch pen for Chris and Breeze at the last place we lived, but the catch pens never got built here. We'll make one in the barn tomorrow and lure him in with corn. He needs shots every day for the next four days. My experience has been that when an animal is symptomatic it's too late. The worm crawls up the spinal cord and cripples the animal. It still hasn't hit me yet. We've been blissfully free of vet calls this winter, with minimal lambing and nobody real sick. Dr. Johnson said llama people worm every month, but everything I've been told says that builds a resistance to the wormer. Chris is the King of the Farm. I don't want to think of losing him - I'm still missing Breeze, his little white brother, the one the lambs and kids climbed on all the time. I bought them when they were living in the front yard of a llama breeder in NJ. She had 29 llamas in her yard around the house. Chris and Breeze had a tiny spot with hard, bare earth by the road with no shade. It took me two years to get them out of hock. When I finally brought them home to the field I rented, they were afraid to come out of the small training paddock I kept them in. The wide open spaces terrified them. Here, and at the last farm, they had fields, streams, ponds and apple orchards...llama heaven.

Day Flying By

We managed to get out in time to get the mail in town on the way to Louis Gale's feed mill. I get cracked corn and egg layer in 100 sacks at 50% savings from all other places around here. Waterville is closer to New Hartford than we are so I asked Matt if we run up there. I needed Sculpey and Fimo clay for bag buttons and thread from Jo-Ann's. I get a discount there with my teacher's union card. I go through thread like crazy, and when the doggies get a spool and chew it up I am extremely annoyed. One bite and it won't unroll right. Anyway, the weather is bright and beautiful, cold and crisp, and it was a perfect day for a ride. I ducked into B&N and was happy to find my February British Country Living. It's full of bulb planting, pig raising and nifty recipes on how to use those bits of leftover cheese from the Welsh Farmhouse section. She's the lady who plucks her own pheasants before roasting them...something I have thought about with my little Olde English chickens (and decided against). I bought Matt the latest Fine Homebuilding which has energy saving building articles that he can talk about in the office. He's so into his new career at NY State Weatherization, and very excited about teaching at the Allen Center, a juvenile corrections facility, next week, with the intention of taking some graduates into the weatherization field. He's a little overwhelmed, with four new trainers he has to train. The Obama admin. has increased the NY State weatherization budget from $100 million to $500 million. Now they have to use their windfall or lose it, and that takes planning. I could use some weatherization on this barn, but we make too much money to qualify. Next week the time changes again, signalling the arrival of spring. The time will fly and I'll be lying on my back in the middle of my hill soon, star gazing with sheep all around me. What heaven. Speaking of sheep, I'm needed in the barn.

Snowin' and Blowin'

It's cold, snowy and very windy outside. The sun peaks through the clouds once in a while illuminating the hill rising up from the north side of the barn. It's very beautiful but I want to stay inside. I like being warm and sitting on the sofa with my dogs up against me and a big fleece spread out on the floor in front of me. It's Saturday and I'm playing with my wool in front of the wood stove. With the downdrafts and wood to big for the stove I have been having fits all morning getting the wood to burn. My eyes are stinging from the smoke and I'm tired of bending over the stove with a blow torch. But the warmth can't be duplicated by the electric heaters, and besides, I owe my soul to the electric company- again. The State made me remove the hay above me and there's no insulation up there. Long story and I've made up my mind to not even think about it until I can do something about it. I have to start shipping runs to the carding mill to be ready for Maryland. It's so much work, but still a joy for me to run my fingers through the buttery soft fibers. I'm trying to get the dyed fiber dry after running those pots for a week while I was off. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Matt got the dogs out 'cause he slept with his clothes on, too tired to change. The sheep have hay from last night but I'm sure they need water. I'm resisting getting dressed, as I have to rush out of here every morning to work, and it's just so nice to linger in my flannel granny gown, drinking coffee and munching on toast. I have to get into town to get my mail before Barb closes the window at 10:45 (!?) New Berlin stays open 'til 12 but my mail goes to Brookfield. I should change my address to get rural delivery but I don't want to spell "West E-d-m-e-s-t-o-n" to everybody, which is where my mail really comes out of. They told me I was moving to Brookfield and that's what I got in my head. I'm almost finished sorting a lovely black fleece that was full of burrs but was very savable. Can't wait to see these runs when they've been carded. Oh, what a Motherlode of roving for me to sell over the summer and fall season. After all, I am in the wool business.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mercifully, It's Over

What a long, tedious week it was at school. Glad it's over. So many weird vibes, kids acting out, etc. Hoping it gets better next week. Warm and rainy all day, windy and cold tonight. I stopped and bought fish and chips for dinner at the local market but Matt was too tired to eat when he got home. He went comatose on the sofa and I did chores with Holly and Izzy keeping me company, along with the cast of hundreds. I love hanging with the sheep, goats, kitties and chickens in the barn. Hard to get lonely. Everybody looks happy and healthy. No surprise lambs - maybe they are just fat on the new second cut hay. Checking udders all the time - nobody bagged up. The girls don't like me sneaking in from behind doing a quick squeeze, but the sneaky reach is the only way I can do it without them taking off. Here it is, 11 at night, and I just finished chores. I'm spreading out wool to dry and heating up the fish and chips. The gusty wind is causing the fire to back puff and fill the apt. with black smoke. The empty hay mow is creaking in the wind. I'm going to pick another fleece, watch Bill Mahre, then Jay Leno while I sort through this lovely black fleece, then take my doggies to bed. Nighty-night.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taste of Spring

The temp soared to 50 F. here today. The sun pours into the windows of the wing I work in, giving a false sense of warmth outside at times. Today it was real. Bikini weather here in upstate New York. I got home and promptly fell asleep in the driveway when I turned the key off. Glad I stopped to get the NY Times on the way home. I love that paper. There are all kinds of human interest articles I enjoy. The Home section today had an interesting article on outdoor fireplaces, a great idea. We always have bonfires in the summer when Hannah and Luke are here. I would like to build a sturdy fire ring, perhaps with concrete and stone, and run a gas line to it. Sure would make it easier when I don't have the Young Ones to run around and gather wood. There was also a very informative article about toilet paper. Matt and I have a running dialogue about potty paper. He likes the softest variety, which, the NY Times explains, has to come from standing trees, not recycled paper. I argue that coarser paper does a better job of keeping you clean and remind him of the pre-toilet paper method of wiping - the corn cob! I never experienced the corn cob approach to hygiene, but I did travel to the wilds of northern Finland where the common paper offered for that purpose was an old Sears catalogue or telephone book. Matt shudders at the idea. I thought it worked just great. Anyway, now I know the paper I've been buying, Scott, manufactured by Kimberly Clark, is not a green toilet paper and is sometimes made from old growth American forests. OH! What have I done??? Marcal is 100% recycled and has just come back from near-bankruptcy. I'll have to buy some tomorrow and listen for moans and groans coming from the Thunderbox when Matt does his business.


Sliding down the other side of the hump to the weekend. This week feels like it went on forever due to everything going on at Total Drama School. Woke up before 5, think it was a kitty playing with my hair. Matt was getting up about that time anyway and maybe I was anticipating his leaving early. Anyway, I will pay today about 1 o'clock when I want to lie down on the floor and take a nap. Not very cold this morning but I lit the fire anyway. I made porridge (Cream O' Wheat) for Matt and the kitties, made lamb bottles, got the foamy coffee done and fixed his travel cup as usual. He's going to Otego, around Binghamton somewhere, to teach a "Lead Safe" course. This lead issue is very interesting. Lead poisoning leads to learning disabilities among other things and is rampant among the poor because they don't have the money to take care of their homes, or landlords don't bother because the tenants are poor. Okay, it's 6 am now and I want to go back to bed but I don't dare. I would wake up at 8:30 when I should be at work already. I'll recline in the bath tub, soak my shoulder (which is much better, thank you SHARON for the meds and the home made corn kernel heat pack - it's great!!) and wake up when the water gets cold. I hope.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday or Crash Wednesday?

I did not see a single ash on a forehead today. In New Jersey the ashy foreheads were everywhere. Very interesting...we are indeed in a predominantly Protestant area. I was explaining to a student today that the word "protestant" comes from the time when Martin Luther and others were protesting against the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. He looked surprised and delighted as he could relate to anything having to do with protest. That was the high point of an otherwise difficult day. I don't feel comfortable discussing particulars of what goes on in school but suffice it to say this week just gets weirder and weirder. A few of us teachers got together in one classroom after school to share events of the day and just laughed so hard we cried. What else can you do? It was a great stress reliever. I didn't feel like stopping for groceries after work so I ordered some take out from the teacher's buffet. You check what you want, they pack it up for you, and you pick it up as you leave for the day. I checked tuna melt, veggies, etc. and went back to work for the afternoon. Wouldn't you know with all the excitement of the day I forgot to pick it up. I got two miles away, stopped and drove back to school, parked and went in to get my food. No food. They had run out and couldn't fill anyone's orders. Oh, joy. Pancakes for dinner!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Zero Tonight

Cold tonight but tomorrow will bring a reprieve with temps in the 40's they say. Have two pots of dyed fiber on the dye stove in the milk room that need to be dumped. Matt did all the chores the last two nights with me trying to get this muscle pull healed. Didn't have the heart to ask him to do my dye work too. Don't think the alpaca in one and wool in the other will be harmed by soaking in dye for three days. The color might even be better. I took a chance and left a table full of dyed wool on the kitchen table to dry on a sheet while I went to work. I have a back log of wet fiber waiting to be laid out to dry. Wouldn't you know the whole business was on the kitchen floor when I got home. I lined up the dogs and cats and interrogated them but no confessions. I bet someone took a leap up on the table and everything slid off. OH, WELL. Hope the dog hair comes out when it's carded. I had a felter tell me my fiber was a bit hairy once. I didn't understand at first then I realized she meant a fiber other than the wool, angora, mohair or alpaca. I'm leaving mohair out of the four new runs. Don't have any shorn and I fear it will be too coarse. I subbed alpaca instead. I'll do a coarse mohair run over the summer - good for warps, rugs, or sock yarns. School was okay today, always some kind of drama with the population I work with.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Real Cold and Windy

Got to work okay due to Jeep being automatic - couldn't have worked a shift with my pulled shoulder muscle - and the Advil I got at the gas station. Will have to get another bottle on the way to work tomorrow. I will have taken all 24 by then for sure. I'm okay as long as no one touches my upper arm or shoulder and I don't raise my arm at all, or try to lift anything. This has been a good conscientious-raising exercise in disability. Getting dressed this morning was awful. I quickly realized that if just started yelling OW-OW-OW-OW-OW until I was finished I could get through it easier. Poor doggies didn't know what to think. No more lifting heavy gas cans full of water. My job doesn't require any heavy lifting fortunately. It was good to see everybody at work. I complain a lot about getting there but once I'm there I like who I spend the day with. Storm blowing off the lake all day. Real cold. The faucet froze in the milk room while I was at work. Matt has to attach a hose to the well pump to get water for the sheep. Sheep will eat snow to an extent but goats don't like to and the bunnies need water in their cages. Will have to leave a drip on in the apt. tonight. I'm going to soak my shoulder in the bathtub, with hot water this time, and get to bed early, although sitting up feels the most comfortable. Wish I had some muscle relaxers/anti-inflammatories but the last time I called the orthopedic group in Hamilton they told me three months for an apt. This is not Morris County New Jersey with docs at every corner.


The pulled muscle in my shoulder kept me up most of the night. Aspirin won't touch it. I gave up on sleep and went to my bath to soak in hot water but someone left the water heater off in the milk room when he ran the dryer and forgot to turn it back on. And it's wash hair day times two. The cold water didn't do anything for this injury. I can't brush my hair or pull my pants up. This is really going to be a great day. There is a nasty storm going on outside with horizontal snow and howling winds. What a lovely day to go back to work but it suits my mood. I'll get in my ancient Jeep and pray it doesn't break down or go off the road on one of the hills I go up and down on the way to Norwich. I know this is all my own doing but please, someone explain to me how I got in this situation.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Did I Miss One?

I have testicles on my mind this morning. No, not those kind of testicles. They are a distant memory, thank the Goddesses. I'm thinking about ram testicles. I have several pregnant sheep and, for the life of me, I can't think of how it happened. We took the rams out last August, and whenever we found a wether (neutered male sheep) we tossed him in with the rams to give more food to the ewes. I wonder if I missed a testicle when I put the bands on? I always make sure I have a hold on both when I put the band on. If I can't pull both testicles down through the elastrator (the device that spreads the band apart) I wait until the lamb is a little older, to give them a chance to drop down. If one stays up the lamb can still impregnate a ewe. Did I screw up? Something happened. I thought that my purebred ram, Wooster, who is light and athletic, might have jumped the fence...but as Matt pointed out, why would he jump back in with the other rams if he made it to Nirvana? Matt says they are not pregnant, and the tummies are full of this good second cut hay. I hope so.

Up Early

Jackie woke me up at 5, scratching and banging on the door to the bedroom which had somehow closed during the night. Once I'm awake I can rarely get back to sleep. I forced myself to lie there anyway for a few minutes and ponder the past week and the week to come. Scary to think too far beyond. I tried to turn over and my right arm screamed don't move. I am devastated that when I need to do the most with my body it is not cooperating. The bales are heavier now and all this work with wool, pulling the fused locks apart, is using muscles I didn't know I had. I think it will take a while for the condroitin to work and I need more Advil. Better start using those Yoga videos Gretchen gave me. I have dyed a red run, a yellow run, a natural colored run and have started on a blue run. It will take a couple of weeks to get it all dried and will cost a bit of $$ to get it shipped to the carding mill. They will run it through their machines, blending the various subordinate colors with the main color, and bring it to me at Md. Sheep and Wool, saving shipping on the tail end. I have so much black wool, which I love blended with little bits of color, but I'm going for a brighter, colored booth this year. I hope I can sweet talk Beasty Boy into building me some shelves for the booth. He did help me yesterday with getting Baby Jane and her mother ready to leave their pen. I nuzzled and loved on that baby for a few minutes before putting her down. I may never catch her again! Now they are loose in the barn, with little Jane screaming for her mom whenever she ventures away. I got several German angoras sheared. OH, what a miracle fiber it is, and adds such softness and color interest to my roving. I hope Kimmie Cornerstone brings some to Maryland (hint, hint) as I can never have enough, even with all my bunnies. Cold and snowing outside but in here we are warm by the fire. I lit candles, too. Still pulling at the wool for the cobalt blue run. Glad I had all those dyes left over from last season. I buy them by the pound now - saves a lot of money. After this dye jag is over I'll get back to bags and soap. I never run out of things to do.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Twin Stars

When AJ and Mia were little the Twin Stars characters were popular, along with Hello Kitty and Cabbage Patch dolls. AJ's dolls were Marty Ty and Patton Cyril. Mia had a little black Cabbage Patch doll and I can't remember her name - I'm sure Mia can, that girl has an encyclopedic memory (for good and bad). AJ also had an Annie doll, which, tragically, lost her head in a freak accident (perpetrated by big brother Eric). I sewed it back on and AJ had his doll back. I have a picture somewhere of him giving her a great big kiss. When I find it I'm going to get it scanned and put it online. Won't he be thrilled! I could go on and on... At this time in 1980 I was resting after a night of labor and a twin birth that was 40 minutes apart. The USA Hockey Team was about the beat the Russians and the game was on TV in my hospital room. I thought my twins would come out holding on to each other, like those biblical twins (Jacob and Esau?) but no such luck. AJ stayed in and said no way, I'm not coming out there. Dr. Elizabeth Coultas, a bent-over (from delivering thousands of babies) older lady, a farmer with no social life other than her practice, (I didn't want a C-section just so the Dr. with tickets for the ballet could get going on time), with very small hands (I sat next to her at a dinner party and took notice of her tiny hands and forearms and said that's the doctor for me!), decided that she was going to make this birth complete and pulled him out. Did I say it was the longest 40 minutes of my life? I was to do the same thing years later with sheep, and I think of how it hurts every time I do it. (None of us had any anaesthesia.) Now they are all grown up, healthy, strong, smart and beautiful. Mia had to work a 12-hour shift at the hospital today, but Andrew is taking her skiing in Vermont next weekend. Mia met AJ and some fellow seminarians for dinner in White Plains last night. The future priests had spent the day in Atlantic City, gambling in the casinos (doesn't sound right, does it?) then motored back to NY to celebrate with Mia and Andrew. Wish I could have been there. AJ organized a chapter of Midnight Run, an organization that takes cold weather clothing to homeless people on the streets of Manhattan late at night when it's the coldest. He's taking his group to the city tonight. That's the kind of kids they are. One in the hospital ward keeping people alive with her angelic touch, and the other ministering to the weak and weary on the frozen pavement. I'm in awe of them.

Friday, February 20, 2009

California Living

It's one adventure after another for Hannah and Luke on the West Coast. Eric sent me this picture of them in their new wetsuits. Summertime on the farm in Central New York is going to be boring compared to their new California lifestyle. How can I compete with the wonders of a Pacific tidal pool?

Cold, Wind and Snow

Got out to the post office in New Berlin to mail some packages. Mia gave me some nicely broken in Dansko clogs and Lands End shoes along with a couple of nifty outerwear vests to send on to Hannah and Annie in Ca. It can be cool in San Francisco in the summer, too. Mailed that along with a soap order to my Dear Friend George in NJ, and another little one to Pa. that came on the Etsy site. Every bar counts. I am starting to feel like this long winter is winding down, then I remind myself that I had a baby goat freeze to death on April 17. Found her stiff when I got home from school. We can have snow as late as May here. The Postma brothers came with a dump truck full of hay. What joy not to have to go pick it up. The elevator cooperated after a moment of sheer terror when I threw the switch and nothing. These bales are much heavier than the elevator is used to and we could only send two up at a time. That made it a longer job in bone chilling wind and horizontal snow. Glad I had the job of sitting in the hay mow making sure the bales were falling down from the track right. What a blessing this new hay is. Giant solid green bales I can hardly get off the ground. The old hay I could carry two, each with one finger. Not much food in those bales, and only a dollar less. I am still figuring out how much of this new second cut to put down, trying to minimize waste. First cut has all the sticks left in it from the previous fall. Second cut only has green, nutritious grass. Have to go get an emerald green dye run spread out and start another pot. OH, I have to feed the BEAST - wood stove - again. If I don't keep the fire roaring I get more downdrafts. Yesterday the alarms were going off all day. My fabrics and wool will smell rather smoky, a unique Centra New York scent!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I Could Get Used to This

I love working around the house in my jammies and getting dressed at 1 in the afternoon. It's snowing and blowing outside but the woodstove has us toasty warm inside. We only had one episode of black smoke filling the apt. due to sudden downdrafts. I am elbows deep in wool, sorting out all the burrs, sticks, matted parts, and salvaging the rest for washing and dyeing. I have two dye pots going, and the washer full of soaking wool. The hardest part, besides finding the time, is getting the fiber dry. The hot summer sun is the best way to do it, but I have to get ready for my first show and have to get the fiber out to the mill for carding. I can only dry one batch at a time on the kitchen table, so I have a back log. While it's drying I seperate locks for faster drying and pick out any chaff that I missed. Right now I'm doing a bright red run, which will be variegated with some brilliant blue angora and emerald green wool, maybe other things, I don't know yet. I get bored with plain roving. People who buy my roving know they are going to get some crazy stuff. In the meantime, I have to figure out how I'm going to cut out bags with all this wool on my cutting table. Oh, to have a big studio with lots of tables! I am still wrapping the patchouli soap. I finished the lemon eucalyptus but have no labels yet. I really need a new well as a new camera. I borrowed a nice one from school but have to go back to work to get the pictures downloaded. Mia is going to check around where she lives in NJ for good deals on a point and shoot I can carry around the barn. I had a nice one that I think I ruined by carrying it in my sports bra. Now the view finder won't open - sweat maybe? My last one was drowned by a bottle of milk replacer that leaked in my jacket pocket. I am very hard on cameras. Back to the wool...oh, the pungent, earthy smell of it, the feel of it, the different characters of the fleece according to the animal it came from and the quality of the food it ate - I get lost in the crimp and the hours fly by. I guess that's why I'm in the wool business.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

She's Gone Back to NJ

Was it my imagination? Was she really here for a little more than 24 hours? What a simply wonderful visit. Mia arrived a day early - I had the message wrong - and I didn't even have time to clean. She didn't care, and we fell into our usual easy conversation about everything under the sun. Once we got the critters taken care of we motored over the Hamilton Whole Foods for lunch. Candace Cain, my "personal spinner" and now proud owner of a mini flock of BFL's, was next door working at the Hamilton Performing Arts Center. Mia and I wandered over there after lunch and were treated to singing and dancing skits along with lots of nifty paintings in the works. Since there is no school this week the place was full of kiddies - future entertainers buzzing about. We chatted with Candace and got the latest update on her sheep, who are busy gnoshing all day long on treats. On the way home we stopped at Mary's and had a visit with her horse, Slingshot, a beautiful Morgan mare. We brought home the wool shorn just that day. What a motherlode of fiber. Mia and I sorted through a couple of the fleeces while watching Billy Elliot and Mamma Mia. I made chicken soup from the carcass of the $13.00 Happy Organic Free Range chicken purchased from Adam Perrin at the farmer's market. I added organic kale purchased in Hamilton and OH, was it GOOD. Mia loved it. We went to bed happy and snuggled with the dogs all night. This morning I made eggs while Mia knitted and I wrapped soap. We fooled around until 10 AM, watching home movies of Christmas's gone by and ballet recitals. It was wonderful to hear my mother's voice again and see myself as the young mother of three beautiful children. After chores we went to lunch at Frank's in New Berlin. The snow was coming down and we thought she should get going. I'm always sad when Mia leaves. Saturday is Mia and AJ's birthday.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pupkie is Coming

Pupkie, AKA Mia, is coming tomorrow morning for a short visit. She can only stay one night as she has to be on duty at the hospital in NJ on Friday and it's a four hour drive. I often wish I had found a farm down near Bainbridge, as it would be an hour closer to Mia and NJ. As it is Matt commutes an hour plus to Syracuse from here so this is a good location. I'm a half hour from Hamilton, a half hour from Cooperstown, a half hour from Utica, a half hour from work in Norwich, etc., but I'm just too far away from my daughter. I have our whole visit planned already. We'll shear a couple of goats - something I won't even try to do with Matt anymore, he's so mean, nasty and horrible about it I don't even ask him anymore (clever on his part). We'll sit in front of the fire and pick fleece together while she tells me hospital stories and gives me the news on all the high school friends she's heard about. Mia is so happy and chatty, and is just so pleasant to hang with. We'll go to Hamilton and have lunch at Whole Foods (where I can check in with Candace and find out how she's doing with her new little flock), then walk two doors down to Jane Porter's and page through fiber arts books and maybe knit a little. But before she comes I have a lot to do to get ready, which includes things like:

Suit up and get out to the barn to do bottles with Larry and Lester, after taking the dogs out for pee and poo for the second time. Somehow get Blind Jack outside.
Tote water to the tank and two pens
Come back inside and clean the bathroom (Mia is a RNBSN and can't help but imagine images of various bacterias whenever she sees dirty places). She's such a neatnick.
Make piles of a mountain of fabric on the kitchen table
Strip her bed and wash the sheets
Tidy up her room, which is piled high with fabric, fiber and overflow items
Sweep the apt. and mop the kitchen floor, after washing a big pile of dishes

After all this, I need to go to town and get the mail, go to the bank, and drive over to Mary's to pick up the wool she is saving for me. God Bless Her, she promised me the wool from the sheep I gave her. Depending on where she's at with the shearer, I'll show her how to cast off. Mary is learning how to knit and I'm so pleased to help her. It makes sense for a shepherd to knit things from her own wool. She's outside all the time and can use sweaters, hats, scarves, etc.

After all this it will be feeding time. Somehow I got several rabbits clipped over the weekend and dyed their angora - oh, the joy of that fiber. It soaks up the dye like nothing else, not even mohair, and adds such an interesting touch to my roving. I have more fiber dyed now than I have room to dry in the apt., another reason to get this table cleared. Better get started.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Rainy Day Hikers

On the other side of the country, Eric and Annie are hiking with Hannah and Luke. Eric sends me pictures so I can see what's going on. It's the rainy season in the San Francisco area but the hikers are undeterred. Sunny, crisp and cold here in upstate New York. Mia is flying out to visit our California kids in March. Her beset friend, Lisa, who was recently married in Morristown, lives in SF now. Nice that she'll be able to visit with Lisa, too. Mia will be there to help celebrate a very BIG birthday for Annie!

Tugging My Heart Strings

Libby is great at keeping in touch with me about the sheep she took last month. She sends me pictures of them and let's me know how they are getting on. I do so appreciate her thoughtfulness. When she's not cleaning out the barn with one of her seven tractors, she's spreading manure in 40 mile an hour winds and freezing rain. Remember, this is the lady who is nationally ranked in 100 mile endurance horse races. I'm not surprised. Libby's husband, Quentin, is blind and paraplegic as a result of an equestrian accident. Libby gets him on a horse for a daily ride. Libby has 55 lambs so far and 31 ewes still to lamb. Here is a picture of one of my, now Libby's, sheep with her twins, in sweaters I sent for them. Oh, how I wish I could mother them. They are just so adorable and mom has such an angelic face. I know they are in good hands. When Libby first took my sheep home she sewed coats for them. Here they are lounging in the sun at their new home in Caledonia.

Poor Ole Jack

I think Jackie had a stroke or some sort of cerebral episode. He is stone blind and kind of unsteady on his feet. I found him this morning by the cat box (favorite spot)with his head on the wall, barking for me to come and head him in the right direction. The small apartment is manageable, with no steps, but I feel bad for him. Jackie has a lot of spunk. He was an infant beagle puppy in the Louisville SPCA when Eric and Annie adopted him 13 years ago. Jackie was an adored dog-child until Hannah was born and he came to live with us. We've been carrying him upstairs and down since his legs went bad four years ago. His outofcontrol weight problem didn't help. Now he's trim and thin, but blind and crippled. I guess I'll have to put a leash on him to lead him outside to pee, as he hates to be carried anymore. I hope he just goes to sleep and crosses over quietly one night.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hay We Got Good Hay

Mary (the first long-distance rider I met up here) turned me on to a dairy farmer in South Edmeston with fantastic hay. OMIGOSH it's good hay. I mean, the bales are so big I can hardly lift them and they are all green second cut HAY, no sticks. My sheep don't know what to do with themselves with all this good hay to eat. It's 6 at night and they are still eating the bales we put out this morning. I just called the farmer's wife to tell her how great the hay is and to make sure they have enough to get me through until May, maybe June. If I am losing my shirt over hay it's nice to have real hay and not brown sticks to feed them.

We motored up to New Hartford to Tractor Supply for some milk replacer. I had made up my mind to wean Larry and Lester and had been watering down their bottles when I ran out on Friday. They looked so miserable and I got worried. The only bucket they had in Norwich was the big $60 jumbo and I didn't want to do it. I found a smaller $26 sack of Save-a-Lam at TS today in Utica, so Larry and Lester have a reprieve for a couple of weeks. They are growing into such beautiful big boys and I want them to thrive. With this new, good hay they should do just fine. Panera was lovely, with good broccoli cheddar soup in the bread bowl, and the Sunday Times spread out on the table. We went from there to B&N and I got my stack of fiber magazines to flip through. Half hour later picked up a couple of things from WM and home to the farm. I found an order for my Purple Passion Bag on Etsy - yes!! Good thing, since I spent the C-note I brought home from the farmer's market in Tractor Supply.

Good news from Mia - she is coming for a visit on Wednesday and Thursday!! I had been down about not seeing my twins for their birthday, but Twin A is coming to me!! AJ doesn't have a car and is having mid-terms at the seminary this week, so I know I won't see him. Mia is so much fun and I love to hear her hospital stories. I bet she'll hold some horns for me so I can get the mohair off a goat or two.

More Carol

Okay, so I'm a fan. Look at what she makes and see how organized she is. Carol spins my fiber and knits it into her bags. I am so fulfilled...Everybody needs something to aspire to. Oh, what I could do if I were organized. I need somebody to follow me around and pick up after me. A personal assistant? Dream on...

Okay, I'm Jealous

This is what my life would be like without a teaching job and all these animals. I would have a cute little fenced in garden with skeins of wool hanging in the sun to dry. We all make choices we have to live with in life. I am still going to try for the garden this year. I promised Hannah we would garden when she comes. Carol Crayon Box, you are an amazing make these bags and be SO organized AND do miles on the treadmill every day???? I am so impressed. (And she has handmade art books in the Smithsonian, no kidding.)

Midnight Wool

Up until 2 am picking through black fleeces. OH, this BFL is so fine the black tips burn up in the sun. HAVE to SEW coats for the black sheep. Yeah, in my spare time. I really get into a zone when I pick. I get lost in the crimp. I spread out the newspaper under my feet in front of the wood stove with the fleece on the floor next to me. I snip the burned tips off then pull apart every lock. That way it washes better and the dyes can penetrate the wool more thoroughly. I have movies on but rarely see the picture, just the sound. There Will Be Blood, our Saturday night special Valentine movie, was so disgusting and depressing I was glad I had the wool to concentrate on. Wait until I get ahold of cute little Gretchen. I gave her Beowulf which grossed her out - I guess this was payback!! Yikes, what a sick movie. The old Moby Dick came on and that entertained me until the locks were falling out of my hands and I staggered off to bed with my dogs. I have to get coats on my black sheep. It would make my life so much easier. It's one thing to keep sheep alive and healthy, but keeping the wool marketable is another thing altogether. The five hours I spent clipping and picking last night would have been reduced significantly by coats on their backs. Have to wash dishes so Matt can make omelettes. Big outing today - trip to Panera then B&N to see if the February fiber magazines are there, along with British Country Living. Then back to work on the farm. Still a ton of soap to wrap, bags to cut out, dye pots to fire up. I had a nice chat with AJ yesterday. He had been away preaching to troops at Fort Dix, and up to Boston to visit with another seminary. AJ, Mia and Andrew are getting together in Yonkers where AJ's seminary is this Friday for their birthday celebration. I'm happy they will be together. Their placentas were fused together in the womb. When I saw that I knew they would always be friends.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

EOH Farmer's Market

The market was a great success. I got there in plenty of time and got VIP parking by the front door. Debbie gave me a good spot by a sunny window and I set up a cute table. Staying up until 1 to wrap soap, then getting up at 6 to make creme paid off. The creme sold out (20 jars at $5) and I sold a bit of soap. Two bags were purchased, including the fabulous hand knitted, pieced lining art bag Carol gave me for fiber. I didn't sell a single strand of anything fibery - not even a fiber sample pack, or handspun yarn, but Carol's knitted bag was a big hit. I brought it at the last minute to decorate the booth and two people wanted it. A lady came back three times and finally bought the windowpane bag with the triangle button. The opera house was full of farmers with their veggies and meats, yogurt and cheese, even oven-roasted Chenango County coffee. I was so busy at my table and socializing all morning I didn't take a single picture!! They had a terrific turnout and plan on doing the indoor farmer's market on the second Saturday of every month until the outdoor market opens in Hamilton.

Off to the Farmer's Market

Debbie Z. organized an indoor farmer's market at the Earlville Opera House. I'm late, as usual, because I wanted to make fresh creme this morning. We'll see if anyone buys it. Don't know how much of a turn out we'll get on the cold, clear morning. Better load up and get going. Oh, how I wish I could stay home and sew, but I have to feed all these animals, oh, yes, and two humans as well. Talk to you later.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nice Note

I do just fine when I take my fiber and wares to shows where people can see, touch and feel them. Not so easy to sell on the internet. Today I got a note from an old friend, Lea, who bought a pound of my angora/BFL on the Etsy site. She was so excited and just loved the fiber, saying it spins like a dream, etc. It was just what I needed to hear. She ordered two more pounds. This particular run has much more angora than I usually put into it. I just didn't have any more wool on hand and wanted to get the run done before NY State Sheep and Wool. I'm clipping bunnies and sorting through fleeces now. I plan on doing some dyeing next week when I'm not sewing. Multi colored roving is so much work. Each color is a seperate dye pot, with sorting and picking before hand, then washing, then dyeing, then washing again, then setting it out to dry and protecting it from the wild hoardes of cats and dogs, then picking again, then packing and shipping off to the mill for carding. When it comes back and I open the box and gasp, only then it's all worth it. Competition is very stiff at the shows, with so much beautiful fiber around and artists who know what to do with it to make it marketable. It's one way to make this grand experiment pay for itself. So far it's definitely not paying but I'm still trying - for now.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Poop Talks Nobody Walks

I was ready for another trying day at school, and it started out that way in the AM - I won't go into the gorry details but it had to do with students/food/cafeteria - use your imagination - but it turned out okay. I went to work with a student in the Career and Technical wing and heard a presentation on cutting out vinyl car logos using a Macbook and cutting machine. This particular teacher had already asked me for manure for his compost pile. After his talk I approached him about cutting out a logo for my little sheep show cargo trailer. Another student designed one for me last year and I have it on disk. He said sure, just bring him the poop and the logo and he'd be happy to do it. When I was doing my student teaching at Boonton High in New Jersey I would bring sacks of rabbit poop to a math teacher. I'd pop it right into the back of his pick up truck before school. I waited to work with my student but another teacher gave them a motivational speech all about work ethics, not burning bridges no matter how menial the job, etc. He told the story of his life and how he wanted to be a motocross rider and saved for his own bike by pulling weeds in a garden center, etc. He went on to college to become an accountant then worked his way up in a company to become an international sales rep and made a lot of $$, success, etc. The company was bought out and he eventually made his way to upstate NY. Here I was thinking oh, what a great example of a country boy who was raised with values, integrity, etc. It turns out he comes from the same area of northern New Jersey as I do! We had a nice chat about it after class, and I got to spend some time with my student.

Pigs in a Poke

My ride home is so beautiful, with lovely old farms and grand views. Very foggy this afternoon, with the warm air meeting the cold ground. The great snowcone is melting exposing the slick sheet of ice below. The driveway is very tricky but the old Jeep goes up and down just fine. It's walking on it with feet that is problematic. If only I had four feet, not two.

I talked to Candace today. She tells me her sheep are doing fine but all have the runs, something I suspected would happen with the rich hay and sheep feed they are eating now. Mary came and took her sheep today while I was at work. They'll be eating some delicious hay themselves tonight. While Mary was here she helped Matt load the piggies in her trailer for the one way trip to heaven. Thank Goodness, as Matt says he could never have done it himself. The smart porkers got as far as the door then saw the milk room steps and said no way. They gently slid the pigs down the stairs on their backs, then got them in Mary's trailer with corn. Matt said they chowed down on the corn all the way to Larry's Custom Meats, a family operation recommended by Mary where the animals are treated gently and with respect. This is the first time I raised my own meat for food, and it was way too easy. The pigs were so beautiful, sleek and pink with a covering of silvery white hair. I'll miss their squeals and chortles while doing chores in the barn. Izzy will miss playing catch with them up and down their corridor. Matt ordered all kinds of sausage, chops and roasts. I told my student at school, who got me into this piggy situation, that they were gone and he immediately started working on me to buy more piglets he has for sale. I said, no, thanks, not right now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is It Friday?

Feels like the end of the week already. Between school and farm I am wrung out. Mild weather trend is melting the snow. Don't worry, the cold and storms will be back. Off next week to cut out bags, sew, wrap soap and do many farm chores. Too many to mention. Larry and Lester are following me around everywhere. Levi will be loose soon. Mary dropped off one bale of gorgeous second cut hay for the ewes she picked out. I'm ashamed to bring it in and show it to the other sheep, who have the awful first cut full of sticks hay to eat. Matt will help her get her sheep over to her farm tomorrow. I hope Candace is doing okay with her sheep. If I know her she slept in the barn last night and could hardly go to work today.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Ewes for Mary

Mary spent the afternoon here yesterday picking out 8 of my best ewes to live on her farm. They are so beautiful with gorgeous wool, which Mary promised to save for me. She brought me some of her grass fed beef and lamb sausage along with her own eggs. We had a nice visit while playing rodeo with the sheep. Mary and I noticed that, incredibly, I have a pregnant ewe. Don't know how that happened, unless she leaned up against the fence where the boys are. It's happened before! I won't mind another lamb to love, even though Larry and Lester have me jumping hoops with their bottles. We got Mary's ewes penned up in their own area, wormed and marked. Good thing because two of the more energetic girls have escaped and jumped in with Levi's mother to steal her food. We'll have to catch them over again when Mary comes to pick up the group. I visit with the girls and tell them how much I will miss them but how happy they will be with all Mary's delicious pickled haylage, corn and second cut hay, then 80 acres of fields with a stream in the summer. Nice digs! Mary helped me build two hay feeders with hog panels before she left. And...she gave me the number of a local dairy farmer who will deliver good second cut hay! I talked to him tonight and he's coming next week. Finally I can tell Matt he won't have to pick up hay on Saturdays. I can take the hay off Mr. Postma's truck and send it up the elevator myself.

Candace Is A Shepherd

Candace is very happy tonight. She and her husband Henry came to get six yearling ewes for their own little flock. Candace has been wanting sheep for years. She was beyond excited, squealing with delight. I had caught most of them and stored them in the milk room. Candace helped me worm them and give them their spring shots. We got them loaded into the back of the Ford Explorer where Henry had stashed a bale of second cut hay from the Morrisville Equestrian program. My sheep have not had hay quite that delicious and immediately starting gnashing on it. We left them and went to find #6. Candace and her little flock drove away in the full moonlight. Her birthday is this weekend - how perfect. Sheep for her birthday!

"Monday, Monday...

...sometimes it just turns out that way." (John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas). My Monday turned out okay but began with a fire. I was awakened in the wee hours by the fire alarm screaming in my bedroom. One of my candles had burned down and through the container and started my pine bed stand on fire. The flames were a foot high. The dogs were sleeping beside me and didn't make a sound - no barking to wake me up like the movies - but the alarm did it's job. I jumped up and started pounding on the flames with my hands. Don't know why I didn't throw a blanket on top of it, but I just didn't think. Matt came running in but went back to bed after voicing his opinion of me and my candles. I went back to bed but the room was filled with smoke and I didn't sleep very well. Cranky at school today.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Windy Sunday Morning

What? Another post? Well, not really a post but some random thoughts...

Don't worry be happy. Don't worry be happy. Don't worry be happy. Easier said than done.

I bought eggs on the way home yesterday. Why am I buying eggs when I have all these chickens who are not laying? I should eat them but they are so cute and they eat the flies in the barn in the summertime.

Should I apply to the Chicago show where Jane Porter made $14,000? She says my products are good enough and bags like mine sell great there. She filled six boxes with knitted things, etc., and shipped them to Chicago then flew there. The boxes were placed in her booth and waiting for her. The booth fee is $2,500 and I don't have that kind of cash. Besides, could I make that kind of product while working full time and raising sheep? Don't think so. There is a counterpart to the Chicago show in NYC this December. Jane says I should come and check it out.

Mary is coming over to pick out sheep today. She wants to worm hers then seperate them and keep them here until they poop out all the worms. I don't know where in the heck we can put them. I'm happy for my sheep because Mary has a barn full of delicious hay and haylage courtesy of her devoted farmer boyfriend and all his hay making equipment. Some girls have all the luck. Candace is coming for her lambs tomorrow after work. She was supposed to come yesterday but didn't have her barn ready. It's cute to see her so excited about her first sheep.

I need to wash a mountain of dishes but it's much more fun to sit here and type away as I listen to the classy Sunday morning baroque music channel.

I have a bounty of gorgeous fabric to sew thanks to Carol Crayon Box. Everybody raved over the Crayon Box knitted/felted bag I brought to the studio yesterday. I still have some Jane Porter fabric purchased last summer. She told me yesterday there is still more if I need it. It was great to find out more about the fabric she has custom made for her by European mills. I didn't realize the fuzzy lining I was using is alpaca and mohair woven for her in France. Oh! That girl is sooooo cool!

Okay back down to earth and wash the dishes and start chores.

Windy But Mild

The doggies have gone back to bed on the sofa in front of the fire. Maybe I should, too, just because it's Sunday and I can. My internal alarm clock woke me up at 7 after a gloriously undisturbed night's sleep. I still have visions of the lovely time I had spinning yesterday at Jane Porter's. So glad there is such a classy place locally (well, in upstate NY 18 miles away is still local) where I could walk in and sit down on one of her comfy sofas and look at the vast library of fiber art books, or take out my knitting, or set up my wheel and feel perfectly at home. Hamilton Whole Foods where Candace works is just next door. I can get all kinds of neat stuff there including a curry tofu pita sandwich, handmade earrings, Suzanne Farrington's pottery, radical alternative lifestyle magazines and a sack of organic whole barley. A fantastic sushi restaurant is on the other side of Jane's and the Colgate Book Store is just down the block. Wealthy families from New Jersey gather up armfulls of books and sweatshirts and flash American Express Gold Cards, untouched by the economic depression. An afternoon like the one I had yesterday goes a long way to alleviating my SHEEP AND HAY anxiety and all the EVIL and ANGRY thoughts therein. I'm going to lie down for ten minutes, drink another cup of coffee then take the doggies out. I've got the fire built up so high the apt. is getting hot. The blast of cold air is very refreshing as the doggie brigade pulls me outside. The weather will be milder this week, no single digits. Good thing because I've started to get the angora off my bunnies. I'll fire up a dye pot today. Larry and Lester will be waiting for me to come out and I've got their bottles ready. Trouble is I can't feed bottles and hold dog leashes at the same time, and the lambs try to follow us outside. My life is a logistical nightmare so what else is new?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Jane Porter's Studio

Jane Porter moved her studio across the square to a new space in Hamilton. It's absolutely fabulous. I was awestruck. High ceilings, studio lighting, wood floors, Asian carpets, plush sofas, and everywhere you turned there were shelves filled with gorgeous fibers, art books, yarn and toys. Jane had a buffet table heavy with cakes, cheese&crackers, wine, chocolates, punch and coffee. There were spinning wheels out to play with plus baskets of all different kinds of fibers to experiment with. There was a needle felting table, a drum carding table, a coffee table with big glossy books, and LIVE MUSIC!! I didn't want to leave. When I wasn't wandering around ooohhhing and aaahhhing I was sitting on the sofa spinning some of my own fiber I've had since last fall but had no time to play with. Candace and Susan Carr were there, my friends from the Farmer's Market and Earlville Opera House. I met some other people involved with the arts in Hamilton. Jane is very business savvy and is very generous with her advice. So glad I live close to H., it's an amazing town. Back to reality with Larry and Lester meeting me at the back door. Now that they are out of the pen they see me as one big walking udder and they are always hungry.

Slightly Annoying

The kitties turned their noses up at the warm, buttery oatmeal I made for them this morning. Truth be told, they prefer the cheapest gnarliest dry cat food to the soupy goodness I offer them. Here I am, climbing the hay mow ladder with a warm, slimy pot of oatmeal in one hand and hanging on for dear life with another...they sniff it and look at me like what's going on? Where's the mutton? Well, the mutton is gone and we're back to dry cat food, except when I run out like last night. They are barn cats, and surely they can find some little furry creature to eat. They've driven the pidgeons out of the barn and the tops of the silos, where I never thought the kitties could go. I guess the birds have to come down and eat sometimes and that's when the cats strike. I was an avid bird watcher for years and years when I lived in a development in NJ. I had families of cardinals, finches, etc., and would fight with neighbors when they would bring in trucks to spray their yards with insecticides for fear the mist would float into my yard and harm my birds. Oh, I could tell you stories about neighbors. I plan on writing a book someday called "Rolling Hill Drive," the name of my street. But here we are on the farm and I need the kitties to keep the rats away...I wish they appreciated my oatmeal!