Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cold, Clear Windy

Cold and real windy today, I mean real windy. When the hay mow creaks above the barn apartment it's windy. Good day to have my hands in hot water, as in washing dishes. They collect all week and I wash them on the weekend. It's unbelievable how many dishes two people can go through. I cook every night (well, one night we had take out - eggplant parm, hmmmm good) and then there's the dogs and cats, who are practically family members. I'm glad it was nice for the farmer's market yesterday. It felt like casserole day and I had onions that were growing lovely green shoots out of them, so I made my potatoe, onion, green pepper and carrot casserole. I add lots of curry powder and dill, along with salt and pepper. I cut up the rhubarb I bought from the older lady who puts it out on the roadside on the way to work and boiled it with fresh strawberries for dessert. I find the food around here rather bland. I think living most of my life in NJ with so much "ethnic" influence got me hooked on spicy food. My mother also put a lot of pizzaz into her Southern cooking. The BOCES Culinary kids are terrific cooks, but sometimes I think they don't put any salt in the rice, potatoe, or pasta water. Blah! I love to eat at Franks in New Berlin. He settled in NJ after he emigrated from Sicily and learned to cook there. Everything is delicious in his restaurant. I made a batch of Gingerberry soap. Gingerberry is a blend of ginger spice and bayberry oils and one of my favorites. I have a show coming up in New Jersey at an alpaca farm and want to have it ready by then. Rosemary soap is on deck. Earlier we caught my big Merino wether, Othello's brother (what do I call him???there's that cognitive difficulty again!) to cut the wool away from his eyes. He was completely wool blind and was following the flock out to pasture using other senses. Once in a while he would walk into the fence. He may be blind but was still able to run when we went to catch him, dodging and doubling back. Matt held him while I wormed him, clipped his hair and hoofs. He was a pussycat once caught, even though he's big as a pony. Now he can see where he's going. Bluefaced Leicesters are blissfully free from wool blindness as they have no facial hair. Merinos are covered with wool from head to toes. I have to put on a sweater and long pants to go outside and work in the barn. I wonder where my fleece pants are? Thought I was finished with them. I'll close with a picture of my potter friend, Suzanne Farrington and her friend. They entertained the patrons of the farmer's market with accordion and ukelele music. It was lovely.

Farmer's Market Day

I look forward to the market all week. If I couldn't be with Eric and his family for the birthday celebration I was happy at the market. It's a celebration of local people and their industrious, creative natures. Vendors wander around and compliment each other on their wares. Occasionally, patrons compliment us with their purchases. There are three soapmakers at the market now - a lot of competition. I am currently making more money selling handbags than soap. That's okay. I know I will sell soap at fall shows. They don't have anything else to sell and I have a few different things. I want everyone who takes the time and hard work to set up at the market to be successful in some way. The weather was absolutely gorgeous yesterday. Cool and sunny with a gentle breeze blowing. I know it won't last. The dogs days of July and August are miserable there. I sit there and wilt. Fortunately, I am next to a lamp post with a plug so I can bring a fan. But for now, I'm loving the market.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Eric

Happy Birthday to my first born son, Eric. He's a fantastic father, kind and loving husband, and a successful professional. Thank you for giving me another little blonde boy to love. I'm very proud of you.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday At Last

Only a four day week but it felt longer. Had my "summative" today with my supervisor. In NJ it's called a PIP (professional improvement plan). BOCES is different in many ways. In NJ you know in May or before if you will be employed the next year. Here they send you a letter over the summer stating they intend to employ you. Doesn't give you much of a heads up on job hunting. My boss wanted to set up improvement goals for next year, so I guess I'm in. Have to keep my long-suffering husband in health coverage. He seems to need it much more than I do so far. Speaking of health coverage, I came so close to passing over the Rainbow Bridge this morning I'm still a little shaky. I was barreling down route 8 doing around 70 mph when a yahoo country boy in a Dodge Ram pick-up pulled out RIGHT in FRONT of me. I had my lights on, but he pulled on out. No time for brakes or horn. We missed by a hair. I'm so superstitious. Just the other day I put my next of kin phone number and work number on my ID tag which I put on as soon as I get in the Jeep. Yesterday another teacher saw numbers on the back and said what's this? I said I knew a cop wouldn't find a license in my purse so I thought I would make it easy. Almost needed it today. When I got home I took the doggies high on the hill and soaked it all in. It's great to be alive!! Yippee!! Wooo-hooo! I guess it takes a good shaking up once in a while to appreciate what we have.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Raven and Her Sweet Little Girl

I have four goat kids and only one tiny little girl. I was afraid to let her out of the pen with her mother for fear something might happen to my only doe kid. So far she's going fine and keeping up with Raven nicely. I love to sit in the field and watch her jump and romp. She's so playful and happy. This is such a joyful time on the farm. Green grass and happy babies.

Monkey and Her Boy

Velvet, AKA Monkey, is a beautiful mother. I was afraid she would be neglectful of her baby as she is such a silly, carefree goat. I was wrong. She keeps that boy close at all times, chortling and nuzzling him as she grazes. He has bright blue eyes, a trait passed down by my angelic and mythical does, Moonbeam and Celeste.

Home Sweet Home

The flock was still in the pen when I got home, a relief after the adventures of yesterday. They were all bunched up at the gate. It's fun to let them out and watch them run willy-nilly hither and yon, grabbing mouthfuls of grass as they go. Matt is in Jamestown, near Buffalo, tonight and I have the place all to myself. I have a new issue of Wild Fibers, today's NY Times, and two Netflix videos - Jane Eyre part 2 and Quantum of Solace. Hmmm, tough choice. Talked to Mia while sitting in the field and got all the poop on getting AJ out of his seminary dorm. She found things I thought were lost forever, like his Boy Scout Merit Badge sash full of patches, and other BSA paraphanalia. I loved sewing on all those patches, on both my Boy Scouts. Eric is still in the Boy Scouts, only he's on their payroll and doing fantastically. AJ is flying to Las Vegas to check in with his National Guard unit out there, then getting ready to fly to Europe for three weeks before he reports for US Army Chaplain school part 2 at Ft. Jackson, S.C. Busy guy. Maggie is home on the farm, the best place to be. The weather forecast for Saturday is good so we'll be back to the market. Right now it's off to run around the hillside in the almost darkness to get the sheep in, do chores, then sew a bit while watching TV. It will be bedtime before I know it and morning even quicker, then off to work, then freedom for two days. I got an acceptance to the new Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival to be held in September. I hope being near Saratoga will help. It five hours from here, about as long as I care to haul my trailer. September will be a busy month for me with two new shows. Exciting times...

New Roving

I'm putting some of my new BFL, Angora, Alpaca roving up for sale. It's soooo lovely, so light and airy, with lots of colors streaking through it. I sold lots of it in Maryland, but the run was so big (98 pounds!) I was able to bring some home. Wish I had more time to spin it myself.

The Twins

They don't get much cuter than this. Mom parked the boys and went out to pasture. I was able to get some shots of them waiting for their mommy like good little boys.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cloudy and Cool

Gotta love this weather. Warm enough to go without a coat, yet cool enough to wear a sweater (cotton, that is). Mia called me when I was rushing to get out of the apartment. She was helping her brother AJ pack to leave the seminary and was about to bring him back to NJ to stay with her for two weeks. They are so cute together and I can almost see them when they were three and four - Mia taking care of AJ, always looking out for him and intervening on his behalf when he was in trouble. Nothing's changed. I mailed the second custom bag order after work today. The bag is beautiful, hope she likes it. I saw Mary Liebau, my shepherd friend, in the little market in New Berlin and chatted with her for a while. A big local farm has been sold as four acre lots. Too bad. Brookfield is changing. Way too built up for me. I was nervous driving home for good reason. The sheep had pushed or chewed their way through the Poor White Gate and spread out over the hill. One ewe, the Cotswold cross a student talked me into buying, had her head stuck in the graduated wire. I had to find wire cutters and snip a square around her. After tending to various critters, making dinner, doing laundry, rounding up sheep and goats, etc. it was ten o'clock. Where does the time go. Never even got to the dinner dishes. No surprise.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Big Fellas O' the Field

Othello is my Merino stud ram. He is gorgeous and makes beautiful babies. He is Larry, Lester and Levi's dad. He's loving being out with the girls, free to roam the hills, for a couple of months. Come July I have to return him to the pen behind the barn or he will be "covering" the girls (sheep talk for breeding them.) For now he's strutting round looking handsome. Tommy Boy is his goat counterpart. TB has the best rack around - a real poster buck.

Wandering Goaties

The goats decided to take off and go exploring this afternoon. I took Izzy and Holly and made a wide circle around them in back of the barn. When the mist gave way to rain they doubled back on their own and opted for the dry comfort of their big barn.

Misty on the Moors

I took a walk around the hills with the sheep and followed the goaties out to the back meadow. It's cool and rainy, just the way I like it. I got my trousers wet to the knee but it was worth it to hang with the sheep in their element. The goats are the explorers. All it takes is one adventurous goatie to take the whole herd off on a jaunt.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Farm Story

Matt went to bed after taking his new medicine. I don't mind doing chores alone, as I am never alone with my four footed friends. Some are more friendly than others. My sheep and goats are just like people, with many different personalities. I play music in the barn and it helps me work. I let the flock (meaning sheep, goats and one llama) out to graze and sat on a chair to watch them. I had been sewing all afternoon and was berating myself for not being outside in this glorious weather. Well, I got my outside time, leaning back in the folding chair and taking in the sun and breeze. You just can't beat this weather and I know it won't be like this in August. I had the dogs with me, two of them on leashes, and decided to walk up the big hill and around the pond in the upper meadow. It's a climb, but the dogs pulled me along. Buttercups covered the field and the breeze made ripples on the pond. As we walked I heard the plop and splashing of frogs jumping in to get away from us. A little band of goats ran ahead of us through the tall grass. It was heavenly. I made my way down, careful not to step in ground hog holes. I wasn't following the path I usually use, which is free of pitfalls. My land is a hill full of little hills. Perfect for goats, but tricky for humans with two legs and bad ankles. I went back in the barn, satisfied I had my exercise for the day, but watchful of the flock out the window. Sure enough, the phone rang and it was Sister Grace, very annoyed and snappy. "Your animals are eating my lilacs, would you PLEASE lock up your livestock!" Yes, Sister, I'll get them right away. I ran out the barn door and there they were - Chris my big red llama, Monkey, her baby kid, and Thunder. Those lilacs were hard to resist, hanging over the fence. Sister Bernadette was also home from the convent this weekend. Their yard is very overgrown and full of dandelions on steriods. You would think they could use a trim from my critters. I wouldn't even charge them...but no deal. Just an "order" to get them back on my side. Anyhow, it was getting dark and I thought I better start rounding up the flock and get them inside the pen adjacent to the barn. I took Izzie with me, who was very enthusiastic tonight. We walk up the big hill and around the furthermost animals and drive them down. Everybody came along nicely, but a little fast. It wasn't until we got in the pen and I had tied the door shut that I saw Tess looking back up the hill. Where were her baby twins? My heart sank when I realized they were left behind in the stampede. I opened the gate and tried to get Tess back out the door. She is rather wild and very suspicious of anything having to do with humans. The harder I tried to get around the back of her and drive her out, the more she ran in the barn, screaming for her babies. I decided to go find them myself. I put Izzie in the house for fear of him spooking the babies when I found them...but I couldn't find them at all. Up and down the little hills in the big hill. I had two lights with me, but it was dusk and I did better without them, just using my eyes in the dim light. I quickly realized this was useless. I tried making goat sounds, then listening. Mom was still calling her frantic goat call, but she was so far away her cries did not come up the big hill. I trekked back down with an idea. I got in the pen and herded all the sheep and goats in the barn. I picked up the fence length I use to keep them in and started blocking the door. I knew Tess would not want to be locked in the barn when her babies were still outside. Sure enough, she darted out. Everyone else was in and Tess was out. I disappeared out the other end of the barn and watched from afar. A thin crescent moon had come out and a pink glow burned from behind the western mountains. Tess tiptoed up the hill to the pen gate, looking up into the distance. I knew she could find those babies. It took a lot of courage for her to leave the safety of the flock and the barn and venture up that hill in the dark to find her babies, but up she went...tentatively at first then faster. I followed her in the dark, keeping far back. Then I saw a dark figure coming down the hill. I couldn't make it out, was there a light colored dot behind her? My heart sang when I saw two tiny dots running beside her. A mother's love prevailed! She took them into the pen and I quickly closed the gate. I got a bucket of corn and put it near her but she wouldn't come near it until I left. What have I ever done to her to make her so skittish? If I succeeded in catching her the day the kids were born it would avoid all this excitement. But all's well that ends well on the farm. I am bushed. One more barn check and I'm calling it a day.

Too Big A Sacrifice

I just heard the news about a US Army Medic who was killed in a suicide bombing yesterday in Afghanistan. He leaves behind SEVEN children under the age of 14. After I got over the shock I asked myself what's a father of 7 young children doing in a war zone? Then I realized he's probably doing his best to support them. Army enrollment is up due to the bad economy and scarcity of jobs. Oh, Please, Lord, let's get out of Afghanistan. What can we do that the British and the USSR couldn't accomplish???? Don't Presidents do their history homework? Let's fortify our own country and make it impervious to terrorist attacks. There's my political statement for the day. On the home front....Matt has gone to the ER. He held it together for AJ's visit but can't take the back pain anymore. It's been two weeks and he is still in pain. I pray they give him some good drugs so he won't be so cranky. His doctor's apt. is not for another week. Good thing there are emergency services around here because you can't get a doctor quickly. He has all kinds of big stuff happening at work with his Weatherization Boot Camp opening soon. The non-profit he works for, NYSWDA, has had more money made available to them and they have to figure out how to use it. Matt might be building more training centers around the state of NY. I have a friend who has been on the list for weatherization services for FOUR years. She has no insulation, no furnace at all, drafty windows, roof caving in, and a disabled husband and son. (And we are pouring billions into the Middle East in a useless war.) I am so bummed. What to do when I feel this way, angry and frustrated???? Go out into the barn, pick up Monkey's new baby goat and nuzzle his white curls, wander through the lovely fields and breathe the fresh air, come back in and run my little 100 year old sewing machine and make tote bags to carry the weight of the world (and this farm, which is heavier sometimes).

Pause and Reflect

Our families involvement in warfare becomes a part of our collective history, and a part of us. On the way to Maryland we listened to Kim Parkinson's incredible stories about her family's part in the Dutch resistance in WWII. Her uncle was arrested by the Nazis and put on a train to an unknown his resistance group blew up the tracks and rescued him! When the Canadians liberated Kim's ancestral village in Holland they were so grateful and impressed with the soldiers they decided to emigrate to Canada. My mother, her sister and two brothers all inlisted in the Army together. The girls went right into the Army Nurse Corps and the boys became infantrymen, fighting their way through the Pacific and the European theater. I was raised on WWII stories, nurturing my love of history and respect for the military. I passed it on to my kids, two of whom are soldiers. And so it goes. We'll go to the little parade in Brookfield today, and pay respects to the vets, living and dead...always remembered.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tess and Her Boys

My new mom, Tess, is taking good care of her buck twins. I found them in the back of the barn, where I first saw them two nights ago. Mom was out grazing, so I could check bellies without causing her concern. Warm and full. I must have tipped off her radar, as she came right back and took the babies outside. I saw them walking up to the gate which was open to let the whole flock out to graze. She paused every few steps to let them nurse, which reassures the little ones that mom is going to take care of them on this big new adventure. Sure enough, the forecasted thunder storms came and the sky opened up. I watched as she turned them around to lead them in. She would run a few feet, then stop to let the boys catch up, then run some more, urging them on with little bleats. Angora goats are fabulous mothers.

Another cup of coffee, Columbia by Starbucks (not strong enough for me, I'm going back to French Roast, Italian Roast, Expresso, Cafe Verona or Ethiopia - they don't make my favorite - Yukon Blend any more!)) then get ready to work. AJ is going to help me shear a couple of goats. That black mohair is not improving on the animal and I want it!! I have angora bunnies that need plucking and clipping too. The dye pots will be fired up this summer? I gave Candace a few pounds of yellow, orange and blue roving to spin for me. Can't wait to see how that comes out. Most of what I've given her has been natural colors - gorgeous, but some color will be fun to work with. I'm going to knit some hand bags ala Crayonbox Designs and see if I can imitate Carol's magic.

Lazy Sunday Morning

The weekend is flying by. So lovely to have AJ here to keep me company. He and Matt talk religion and politics non-stop. Matt is on a spiritual journey that began with Roman Catholicism and is evolving through the Episcopalian Church to Buddhism to some form of Animism via Maggie's Farm. AJ was deployed to Guantanamo Bay for a year, so he has many stories to tell of the island prison facility. He remembers letting groups of civilians into the prison - interrogation teams? Very much discussion in the news right now. No comment here, other than to say I am totally against torture of any kind. Why? Because I don't want my son tortured when he is deployed overseas. Period. No torture of any kind, anywhere, by any government. I toasted the baguette purchased last night and served it with pulpy orange juice and real butter to the Young Lieutenant for breakfast. Matt decided to camp out in the sheep show trailer last night to hopefully get some relief for his back, which still has him crippled. I miraculously slept to 8 am. It feels fantastically energizing.

I keep thinking about the wonders of the farmer's market. Vision of pretty pots of flowers, perfectly ripe vegetables, Mennonite children in their cute costumes, but most of all....the new rug hooking vendor, Audrey Swan of Adriannas Thoughts in Wool. I am crazy about her hooked rugs. I tried primitive rug hooking a while back, but events conspired against it. I bought a wool cutter, a frame, hooks, and I always have wool. Primitive rug hooking has an interesting history. English farmers would use every bit of precious wool to hook rugs. The most prized wool of all was the bright red regimental jacket, which is why many old rugs have a thin red border line around them. Few survived as they went from the living room or bedroom floor to the kitchen door, to the barn, and then the trash heap. I know they wouldn't last long in my house. Hooked rugs would be hung on my walls. Anyway, Audrey Swan's daughter set her up in a lovely tent with a MacBook and IPod playing music, and built a fabulous web site for her! Members can post blog posts on her rug hooking site! I'm so envious! I'm saving up for the rug called "Country Girl" which has a long haired blonde girl and all her animals. Bundaflicka means country girl in Swedish - what could be more appropriate for me??? It would look adorable in my booth. Fantasties are free, right? You can check out Audrey's creations by logging on to You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday PM

Picked up AJ at the train station in Utica last night and ate at Frank's NY Pizzeria. Lots to catch up on. Came home at 10 to find a pair of tiny red buck twins at the east end of the barn with their mom, Tess, a wildish black doe. It was apparent she had been feeding them, and since she had been shorn the kids were finding the teat just fine. We tried to catch mom and get her in the pen but no deal. There was no catching her and we were bushed. When Matt crashed his head into a beam the chase was over. I caught the babies and dipped their cords and let them go. Mom gathered them up. Ordinarily I would give mom lots of TLC, molasses and water, corn, extra hay, etc. I can also check to make sure mom is doing her job. But this time mom is on her own. Up early for the farmer's market. Lots of work to set up but the day was lovely and I saw a lot of people. Always gratifying to see folks appreciating my work. AJ took walks around Hamilton exploring coffeeshops and the Colgate bookstore. I had the pop-up sunscreen up and bought a lovely pot of blue lobelias to hang on the pipes. Lots of people looking at my farm photo notecards today. There's a rug hooker set up at the market now. Oh, her work is amazing. I've always wanted to hook. I bought the equipment years ago, then moved too many times, then sheep. Can't do it all, but I'd love to try. Came home and let the sheep out. Monkey is loose with her buck kid but prefers to stay in the barn with him. It's warm, humid and black clouds are rolling in. If rain comes the sheep will run back into the barn. Hope they get enough to eat first.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Turtle Patrol

It feels like Friday but not quite yet. We'll have a reduced load tomorrow due to sending schools closing early, etc. That's what I love about the education field. Just when you think you are going to totally lose your mind, they give you a few days off. Monday is Memorial Day, then the slide through June to Liberation Day. It's HOT and GREEN here in CNY, and my new classroom has terrific air conditioning. The neighboring rooms are not nearly as cool, and how I got so lucky is beyond me. Some students came in and tried to open the windows to let the hot air in and I said NO, STOP what you are doing and nobody will get hurt!! Meeting after school then off to the New Berlin PO, then the little market, then to Pittsfield Veterinary to get more kitty medicine. On the way back, on a very busy two lane road, I saw a little turtle stretching it's neck, looking at traffic, waiting to cross. I couldn't put on the brakes so I found the first place to turn around and went back, with flashers on, real slow, ready to block traffic and get it across the road. It was gone!! No mashed turtle on the road, no little head peaking from the weeds as far as I could see. I turned around again and went real slow, a line of traffic forming behind me. I hope the little turtle changed his mind, or scurried across safely. I had to get home. I remembered an old friend who pulled his Land Rover broadside on busy Eisenhower Parkway in Paramus, New Jersey, to save a turtle trying to cross. A police cruiser pulled up and blocked the other two lanes on this four lane highway while the turtle marched across. It's a tough asphalt world for turtles. If they are not killed by pesticides, they are run over by cars. Last year this time I stopped, again on my way home from work (why me???) to help a snapping turtle cross in front of my neighbor farm. It must have come from the creek across the road to lay her eggs in the plowed field. She stopped to rest or take a sun bath, but I wanted her to get on off the road. All I had was a windshield brush, and I tried to push her along. She whirled and hissed and tried to bite me (which probably would have severed my whole hand!) and wouldn't move! A line was forming including Fed Ex and a couple of pick up trucks. I finally gave up and got back in my car and went home. I figured that old girl had lived a long time (she was as big as a garbage can lid!) and she was on her own. I sure hope Luke and Hannah don't step on her in the creek - or her friends!! I'm waiting to hear from AJ to find out when he's coming this weekend. I'm excited to see him.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Matt Has All the Fun

Matt just got back from an energy conference at Lake Placid. He ate dinner with a member of the 1980 USA Hockey Team which beat the Russians, Dave Silk. He scored two goals against the Ruskies. A surround theatre showed a film of the game while they ate dinner on the floor of the rink where the historic game was played. Matt gave me a tee shirt signed by Dave Silk and a hockey puck! It's very meaningful to me because I was lying in a hospital bed that night, very sad because they took away my tiny little Twin B, Aaron Joshua (AJ), out of my arms, and whisked him away to another hospital, St. Joseph's in Patterson. I did not think I would see him alive again. Just as the US Hockey Team rallied to beat the Russians, AJ rallied to beat the Respiratory Distress Syndrome he was born with. Now he is as healthy and strong as a horse, and never gets sick! Anyway, Matt's conference was very successful and Dave Silk thanked the group for helping so many poor people keep warm in the cold winter. He said they won the Olympic Gold Medal, but the weatherization people win gold medals every day with the services they provide and the energy they save.

A Thomas Hardy Setting

After school I worked on a bag order. It's adorable - a little bag, about 14 x 14 inches. A miniature Bundaflicka bag. I hope the lady likes it. One more on deck, a regular sized bag for another lady who needs long straps. I have lavender soap to cut and put out to cure. It's wonderfully perfect. I took the doggies outside again and decided to tie them up while I let the sheep out. I sat down in a chair that was out there and watched them graze. A nice breeze blew the tips of the grass making waves across the hill. The birch trees, which look more like aspens to me, shimmered in the sunlight. It was all so surreal, and since I was tired, I went into dream mode. Sometimes I think it should be a perfect fairy tale, which it is certainly not, but this comes darn close. I look at this sheep which might be a little thin, or this one who is limping, and this one who needs a coat or her black fleece will sunburn, and all this goes through my mind along with the big problems I still face, but when all is said and done I'm in heaven! I walk up higher on the hill and take it all in. I think of what Henya's little son said when they took him from the country to move to Brooklyn, "I want to go back to America!" It's grand!

High 80's???

I knew it had to happen. High 80's, maybe 90's today. From 28 to 90. That's Central New York for you. My sheep will not be happy. It just doesn't look right when a sheep pants. Have to get Jim Baldwin back to shear one of my Merino boys. He is completely wool blind and won't let me get near him. Since he is as big as a pony with a head like an anvil I think Jim will be the only one to handle him. Jim is almost 7 feet tall with a size 15 shoe. Oh, that Merino is heavenly, even with the short staple. I think it would take two years to grow it 4 inches, a nice length for the mill. These Merinos are rescues and all I know is that they are "mature" meaning OLD. My lavender soap made Sunday came out so nice. Nice and hard, ready to cut, and the aroma is heavenly. Good weather forecast for this weekend, thankfully. A hen jumped off her nest with a newly hatched chick. I found one more up high in the nest box, not knowing what to do with no mommy. I put it down on the hay, she let out a big CHEEP and mom came running. What to do with the other eggs??? They were still warm. I put them in the convenient oven, my sports bra. After chores, which took me until 10 PM, I brought them inside and tried to find a light bulb to put them under. All my bulbs are the new energy bulbs that don't make a lot of heat!! I searched and searched and finally put them on some wool in a little pot under the energy efficient bulb and went to bed. Sadly, they are cold this morning. I know I have enough chicks, but every life is precious. Better get a little incubator to have on hand...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

17 Days?

Today Kelly told me only 17 more days of class, then Regents testing starts. Testing is stressful but the kids are quieter and there are not as many here. I have to turn in my "summative" and be interviewed by my supervisor about goals I set last year and did I achieve them, etc. etc. Then I have to find out if I'm hired again next year. BOCES is different than regular ed schools. You get a letter sometime in the summer stating they intend to hire you back in September. It was a bit unsettling at first but now I don't even think about it. If they want me, fine, if they don't I'll just stay home on the farm and spin wool and be happy. I'm not going to worry about it. Matt called from Lake Placid. He's all mushy over the beauty of the mountains yada, yada, yada. I told him to stay longer than two days, because he is finally getting some time away from the farm where he feels so miserable and put-upon, but he wants to get back to Syracuse to continue work on his company's weatherization training center. He hired a carpenter to work on it - poor guy - and Matt has to supervise him. I'm thankful Matt is so gung-ho and fired up about his new career. If he was half as enthusiast about my farm business I would be selling shares on Wall Street by now - but that didn't happen and I'm resigned to it. My farm and my business are my doing and my responsibility.

28 F.

Okay, it's cold. I'll have to scrape the ice off my windshield before I drive to work. There's a heavy frost on the fields. Glad I didn't put a garden in yet. The chicks are huddling under their mother's wings. Truth is, I love cold weather. I've had the wood stove on the last two nights and wore my flannel nighty to bed. Izzie didn't want to come out from under the covers this morning. Have to get a move on. I have two more annual review meetings this morning. Every year the home the people at the home school who are involved with a student gather together with the BOCE people to discuss his/her progress. It can be tricky. The parents and student are there and how do I say what I want to say diplomatically and professionally? I usually err on the side of sweetness and swallow the bitter words. It's not going to make a heck of a lot of difference anyway. Matt is off to Lake Placid. I should make my favorite lentil soup tonight. I'm working on two custom bag orders. One is a tiny version of a bigger bag she saw in Md. I forgot how much easier it is to work on a small bag. I can cut it out on the sewing machine cabinet and the seams go very quickly. I could get to like small bags. When I stand over a length of fabric with a pair of scissors (I don't use a pattern) I tend to cut big...but then, when life gets complicated and you have a lot to carry, you need a big bag. Oh, I had a nice note from my good friend and shearer, Jim Baldwin, cautioning me not to move to Lowville, the land of the wind turbines. How sweet of him. He says the dirt is very poor. Don't worry, I'm not moving. I just threw out Lowville because I know so little of New York State and that's one name up north that came to mind. Besides, Bodie and Jasper are planted here and I wouldn't want to leave them.

Monday, May 18, 2009


So it's one of those days when I'm's too built up around here, why didn't I move farther into the country? I don't like being on a road where people go 60 miles an hour and run over my cats, I don't like having neighbors close by, they pull into my driveway and I feel like I have to be dressed all the time. People are always pissed off at me because of dogs or sheep. I'm working way too hard, I'm in the same rat-race I left in New Jersey and I hate it. I want a little cabin and a manageable barn with some flat fields and nobody around me for miles, with dairy goats for my milk and chickens for long as I can get internet and UPS comes my way I can sew bags, spin yarn and cook soap, and make a buck and maybe buy some health insurance, or be so poor I can qualify for Medicaid...I just want to hide in my own little world with my animals...people are so tedious and they drain me. So I get on-line and check around. Lowville comes to mind. That area is one of the least populated in New York State....but WHAT is going on here? The prices are sky high! I bought this place four years ago, and I haven't checked lately, but there's a recession on, with so many foreclosures and people out of work, you would think little farms would be cheap. They are still asking the sun, moon and stars for real estate! What gives? I am making a decent living and I can't afford to move! Even in Upstate New York! The world has gone insane.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lovely Bucolic Setting

I climbed the hill to watch the sheep graze from on top. What a view. Lush, green grass waving in the wind, bright sunshine, and the wooly wonders munching away. It was cool enough that I needed my sweatshirt and vest. Supposed to dip below 32 F. again tonight. Poor gardens with the tender new shoots will be in danger. I got some spinning done in front of the wood stove this morning. It felt terrific to be spinning in my jammies on a Sunday morning. We got Larry, Lester and Levi vaccinated and wormed before letting them out of the large pen they've been in with their mothers since birth. Wooster, my BFL ram, was in there with them, getting fattened up and spoiled. All the adults ran outside to get to the grass and only Levi followed them. Larry and Lester have been hanging inside and wouldn't venture out no matter how I coaxed, waved my arms, pushed, etc. I figure they'll go out with mom Lilly next time when she moves a little slower. I moved some kitties out into the barn from my future workroom and cleaned the floor. Can't wait to get that room painted with a tile floor and better lighting. The kitties don't want to be out in the big part of the barn, but they'll get used to it and be running around the rafters soon enough. I have lavender soap going now. The oils and lye mixture are cooling down, getting ready to pour. It takes time and can't be rushed. I'll go do evening chores then come in a finish the soap. There is nothing as lovely as the scent of real lavender essential oil....

Feels Like November

Okay, so it's May 15 and it was so cold this morning I popped my carhartt jacket on when I ventured out of my warm bed and built a fire. I love it. Without realizing it I took Pip, Tanner, Jackie and Holly out for their morning respite and there was Finn at the door. I forgot he was loose in the barn. Oh, NO, we'll have a fight I thought. Finn was okay, just excited to see us, and I ran by and through the milk room door and outside. The White Boys want to kill Pip, for past transgressions, and they are many. Dogs have a long memory. Finn is the lover of the three White Boys. Thor would have picked Pip up in his massive jaws and squeezed hard. I got Pip neutured, figuring with no package and hormones he would not be as annoying, but the White Boys don't care. I was relieved when Finn did not run around the other side of the barn and catch us outside. It's cold and windy. Lying in my bed last night the wind was making an eerie groaning sound in the hay mow above me. The dogs started to growl, it was a bit scary but fun. I'm plying some angora with a strand of wool and mohair for bunny mitten kits. I'm working on product for all those fall shows I signed up for. Now I can flush the Royal Potty without a care. The septic is installed and inspected. Next is the fire wall three stories high, then the concrete block foundation has to be coated with foam board, and the electric inspected. I'm being bureaucratized to death here. Right down the road people are living in old trailers that are about to fall apart around them with no legal trouble at all. In retrospect I would have done this move differently, but I wanted a nice barn for my sheep and this is the best barn that I could find on two quick weekend visits up here, and it is truly magnificent. The problems started when I wanted to live in it. I think there are more people living in barns in NJ and Pa. than here. The building inspector, who wears a military uniform, when he found me living here, said he "Heard a rumor that someone was living in a barn!" Yep, that's me.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Jumped up at 6 and drew the curtains to find a grey, damp morning. The radar shows a wall of green headed this way. By afternoon thunderstorms will be here, with scattered showers this morning. It's ridiculous to haul my trailer over to Hamilton, set up, then have it all get moist and damp. I was really looking forward to the market today. I wanted to dig out the orange and yellow roving as I have orders for both. Oh, well, I'll keep busy with sewing the two "small" bags people ordered at Md. Sheep and Wool, and making another batch of lavender soap. Can't keep enough lavender on hand. Have to get over to the feed mill in Waterville and find a new pair of Fiskar scissors. Lost my good pair in the hay, and my old scissors only gum what I need to cut. I need to catch Barack Obama and get the mohair off him. He's dragging something already and I don't want him to get caught up again. I need to tidy up a bit. With spending all of my spare time over the last couple of months on making product, the place is a mess. AJ is coming next weekend. I know he doesn't recognize this new mother of his. I used to be a maniac housekeeper. My brothers would joke, don't put your glass down - she'll wash it! What's happened???? I know - I got a LIFE!! It started with college, then sheep, then soap and handbags. I'm having way too much fun to clean house, but it gets to a point...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Back to the Market

Good weather forecast for tomorrow so I'll hit the market early. It's the Colgate graduation day and I'm hoping parents will stroll through. What a long, dreary week with losing Bodie and Matt's crippling injury, and always so much drama at school. Matt made it back into the office today and managed okay but crawled into the barn upon returning home. The whole group is leaving for an energy conference in Lake Placid and Matt is presenting. 78 people signed up to hear him speak already. Hope he makes it. I heard good news from San Jose today. The power couple (Annie and Eric) are powering away. Eric talked the San Francisco 49'ers into starting a Boy Scout troop - Troop 49! So cool. Annie has BIG news that is a secret for now. All systems go for Hannah and Luke to come the end of June. The septic should be done tomorrow. Everything was going fine until I came home and Mr. Maines, the excavator, told me this doesn't fit that and we have to have four of these that fit before it starts to rain tomorrow afternoon and the whole project is ruined. Lovely! Matt came home, called the place where the thingys were purchased and the guy said CUT them to FIT!! Anyway, Mr. Maines covered Bodie up nicely, a relief since all Bodie's doggie friends kept trying to visit him. I keep waiting for Jasper to reappear from the "cave" I place him in last summer. I guess Knut and Finn dug a good hole because he stayed put. I have a cute little plaid purse to finish tonight, and some soap to wrap. Carol sent me some luscious red/coral trapunto lining for a black bag I want to make. So glad she is still on board as my "personal fabric shopper." Have to get over to Ithaca to visit her and all those lovely haunts of hers. She has a big art book exhibit opening over there now. Can't wait to see the pictures.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another Horsewoman in My Life

I had a note from an old friend from Morristown, Sherry. She and I attended St. Elizabeth College together. She was a sociology major and I was history, taking a daily flogging from a psycho department head. I shudder to think of that chapter of my life now but I got my degree and was out of there. Sherry had much more fun. Water under the bridge. But anyway...Sherry was on the CSE Equestrian Team and I would go to events and watch her ride. She's a tiny little thing but she could get on any big giant horse and make him do her bidding. AND Sherry owned her own horse...a life-long dream of mine, still unfulfilled. One day in class Sherry turned and said to me, look, my mother is going to tie my dog to a stake in the middle of the highway - can I move in with you? Sure, I said. We've been friends ever since. I asked Sherry to move up here to the wilds of Central New York and manage my farm for me. She said, no way am I moving to that freezing cold ice box you had the bad sense to buy a farm in. I said, okay, see you around. Well, I just got an email saying Sherry is coming up here to ride in an endurance event! You see, Brookfield is famous for it's hundred miles of state-maintained horse trails. Sherry wondered if that was anywhere near me and I said yes! Three miles!! So I will have a visit from my old friend in July, and her little Arab mare. July weather is a little warmer around here so we should be okay. Wish I could talk her into staying! While I was at the farmer's market on Saturday I thought I would give Libby Llop a call. No answer. I thought, that's funny, Libby always carries her cell around the farm. Well, I find out later in the week Libby was on an endurance ride in the Alleghany Mountains. No wonder she couldn't answer the phone. Libby and her Fly are now 1st and 6th in the nation!! Her son was in the same race with Mabel, a mare they are training for endurance. Mabel timed out at the 42nd mile. I can't imagine hanging on to a horse for 42 miles, or the hundred that Libby does. I think I would forget to breathe and just fall off. That's what seperates the riders from the admirers.

Rainy and Cool

The cold frosty weather gave way to an all-day downpour of rain. Something wonderful is happening in the barn...hens who have been sitting on hidden clutches of eggs are bringing their hatchlings out in the open. I have to watch every step I take. I've purchased day old chicks before and they have to be kept under a light bulb and the temperature monitored carefully. Mother hens know just what to do. Every once in a while they give a signal and all the chicks run under her feathers for heating up. She gives another signal and they come out again. She brushes the side of her beak on the ground in a back and forth motion to teach them how to forage for food. I put a shallow water bowl on the floor in front of a hen just in case she needed a drink, and a bunch of tiny chicks came dashing out and jumped in the cold water! I bet they needed extra time in the oven after that. Chickens and chicks love their water. I'm afraid some of them will jump in the stock tanks and drown so I'm putting out shallow bowls around the barn. Unfortunately they get covered with hay from the big animals and scratching hens requiring cleaning out twice a day. It's hard to keep up with it, but I love my chickens and they eat FLIES like crazy. Good girls! When I pulled in from work I spied little Barack Obama standing in the same place near the rams' fence as he was in this morning. I thought, uh-oh, he's stuck. Mia and I couldn't catch him when she was helping me clip the goats last weekend. Long mohair is deadly around the fields as goats can get caught on barbed wire, brambles, and branches. If I don't hear them calling they are in trouble...and we don't want any more trouble than we already have here on Maggie's Troublesome Farm.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Goodbye Bodie

I called home all day from work but no answer. Matt was outside watching Mr. Maines with the septic installation. I had been up with Bodie in the wee hours, lying on the sofa above him, stroking his fur. I covered up his paws with woolen socks because he was kicking his legs and making his pads raw. I kept him covered with a pillow under his head, but every time I came out to the living room he had shaken them off. I gave him water before I left for work, and put the mashed up food in his mouth, but he wasn't eating. Then no news all day. I got home as soon as I could and there he was, still on the floor. Matt had Mr. Maines dig a grave in a lovely spot in the field, Bodie's field. No more leaving beloved pets behind in rentals. I'll wrap him in a blanket and pull him out of the barn and lower him in. I'm devastated to lose him, as I thought he would live forever, but I'm relieved that he is at peace. Some Bodie recollections:

Aunt Carol called me from the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ, and asked if I wanted to adopt a puppy. One of the pups had exhibited signs of a neurological disorder, a "MS" for dogs, and they decided to adopt out the whole litter. She would vouche for my character and help the paperwork through. I had to wait a couple of months for them to make sure Bodie was healthy, then we met at the Seeing Eye facility. I had to put on a total body suit with shoe covers and stand outside of the run. A ball came out of a little door, followed by several golden balls of fluff. One of them was Bodie. I carried him to my car and brought him home in a cardboard box next to me on the seat. He kept popping up and I kept one hand on him the whole ride out to the cottage I was renting on 68 acres in Phillipsburg - Bodie's first home. I was an "at home mom" for a year after leaving Morristown, and had Bodie all to myself (along with Daisy, Sparta, Jasper, and Georgia). We were a pack. I had just moved there in August and Matt was helping me get settled. He decided to stay and a wedding was planned for Dec. 19, 1998. I asked Matt about taking Bodie and he said, no, we have enough dogs. But I had other ideas (so what's new?) Matt came home from work one night and I put Bodie's head outside the kitchen door curtain so that's all Matt would see. I gave Bodie to Matt for a wedding present, and he always said it was the best gift he's ever received. Bodie loved growing up in the country. He could catch a ball in his mouth, thrown at full speed from across a field. He swam in frozen creeks and ran wild through the piney woods with his dog pack. Daisy was a grown one year old when we got Bodie and she thought Bodie was her own personal chew toy. Daisy loved to gnaw on Bodie's head. She gnawed on it so much I didn't think his scalp would ever grow back. People would wince when they looked at him. Dr. Sandra Frey was not amused when she saw the damage Daisy did to Bodie. I didn't know how to stop it, as Bodie thought Daisy was just loving on him, and he didn't stick up for himself. Bodie had some issues, though, and one of them was fireworks. We were celebrating New Year's Eve with our traditional fireworks show, orchestrated and operated by AJ, when Bodie took off and disappeared. Matt and I were leaving on our honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean for 10 days. We almost cancelled the trip. Mia came to the rescue, as usual, and canvassed the neighborhood. She found Bodie, living in a complex of greenhouses with some of the local dogs. We didn't find out until we put into a port on some island and called home. What a relief! Bodie could be mischievous and naughty at times. One of his favorite nasty habits was to push down the bunny playpen on the lawn and kill the bunnies. I would find him lying side by side with a dead bunny and Bodie would be looking at me like what's wrong? The bunny hair between his teeth proved his guilt! Bodie's cherubic baby-face masked a down and dirty country dog. But I always forgave him...even when he broke my leg! Yes, I will be reminded of Bodie 'til the day I die with the weather pangs in my bones! He didn't mean to do that to me. I was carrying bunny buckets to the cages when all of a sudden, BANG, POP, and I was flying through the air. Bodie was carousing around with the other dogs and either tripped or misjudged his space and rammed into me. He thought I was down on the ground to play with him, and wondered why I was pushing him away! I healed up eventually. It was not easy to negotiate the "Jersey winder" colonial staircase to get to the upstairs bathroom, but Bodie got into the bed with me every night and kept my cast warm. Enter the camp potty that was to serve me well when I moved to this farm and they took my portopotty away in the winter. Time to go and bury my old friend. He's lying so peacefully on the floor, I hate to disturb him...but his soul has moved on to a better place. Let me take care of what remains.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Frosty Morning

Woke up to heavy frost on the the middle of May! Didn't keep my colleagues from wearing flip flops and tee shirts to school today. I'm not quite ready. Came home to find Raven and Jean Vierre (have to check with Hannah on that name) escaped from their pen. The baby had dropped down a ledge into a place where mom couldn't get to her. Lots of screaming going on. I thought at first another birth was going on. Matt is real crippled. The pipes were dropped off today for the septic field and the gravel is coming tomorrow, along with the excavator I think. I have no idea how he is going to manage this septic installation while flat on his back, moaning and groaning. I managed to make him eat some dinner to make the pills sit easier in his stomach. I massaged the bulge in his back with Ben Gay, trying to spread out the swelling. He won't get in the bath tub, so I don't know what else to do. These things take time. Out to do chores. It takes me about two hours working alone. Gorgeous weather, bright sunshine, cool temps. Have to get to bed earlier tonight, I'm still tired from Maryland.