Monday, August 31, 2009

Messenger Bags

My sister-in-law, Loretta Jankowski, is a classical pianist and movie music composer. She lives near some dynamite fabric outlets in New Jersey and shops for fabric for my bags. I love what she picks for me. These messenger bags are from the latest Loretta fabric. They are lined with dark denim and have six big pockets inside. I like the way they look. I made the straps longer as per Mia's request and Carol Crayonbox's suggestion. One character in the Woodstock movie wore a messenger bag with a very long strap that let the bag rest on his opposite hip. Very snappy indeed. I had to hang them on my silo for the picture - interesting prop, huh? Got my almond soap made tonight. Beautiful sunset.

Looks Great!

Mia took her new comforter home and put it on the bed right away. It looks fantastic. I think she will be cozy and warm this winter. Mission accomplished! I need to make her some pillow shams now. I only have the checked cotton left. I know Mia would like that and I have a lot more of that fabric. This was a total nothing-out-of-pocket project! We'll see. Weather is lovely today. I went to school and met with the teacher who did special ed. GED last year. He loaded me up with forms, pretests and practice tests, and workbooks. Words cannot express how I don't want to do this, but the special ed population is booming at our school and one teacher left for a local regular high school. Duty calls. We'll see how it goes. The paperwork is daunting. Fortunately my colleagues are top-notch and very helpful...or I don't know what I would do. One more week of freedom. I got two rather large messenger bags made today, with a long strap as Mia and Carol Crayonbox suggested. This allows over the opposite shoulder wearing. The fabric is gorgeous, but very heavy and difficult to sew on. I'll get the almond soap made tonight before I get too tired. I go like crazy, but when I drop there's no getting me up with a crane.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Night

I am pretty tired. Think I won't make the almond soap that I should make tonight. That would keep me up for another two - three hours and I don't want to stand up that long. So much excitement. Mia left to join Andrew in Syracuse, with her new goodies safely stashed in the back seat of her little Hyundai. I miss her a lot, but always do when she takes the sunshine with her. We have such good conversation and I love hearing everything that's going on in her life. She's such a great help to me on the farm, and says she comes here because she LIKES it. I don't hear that very often. I have a bad couple of hours when she goes, then I snap myself out of it. There are reasons why I keep myself crazy busy with all these things I do. I realized I was out of chick feed and went to town to get some corn meal. While in the market I almost bought the Sunday NY Times, then saw the price was $6.50!! For the first time I can remember I passed on the Times. That's a lot of money for a newpaper that I don't have time to read cover to cover. I got a few things and drove back the 10 miles to the farm, stopping at the tractor shed to pick up the Suri alpaca fleeces I need to wash. Got my goods in the apt. and gave the 13 bathroom chicks some pretty yellow corn meal. They don't like it!! I mixed it with oatmeal, but that doesn't seem to help. Hope I can get to the feed store before any of them keel over. I've managed to keep all 13 alive for a few days and don't want to lose any now. Matt called from Yosemite yesterday. For some reason I thought he and Sean were really camping, and boiling freeze dried meals over a fire, etc. Matt and Sean are enjoying buffet dinners at lodges in the park after hiking during the day. Not too shabby. They are having a fantastic time. AJ is back at the seminary in Yonkers and I am holding down the farm. I have to work hard to make product for the next two weeks. First show is on Sept. 12. Yikes!


Sunday morning and we're making tiebacks for the drapes I sewed for Mia last year. I have enough fabric left from the comforter to do a couple of throw pillows to tie the whole scheme together. I clipped the selvedge to use as a lovely trim. Mia does all the chores while I sew - a real good deal for me! She runs the doggies up the big hill to the pond every morning and night. Mia's off to Syracuse today to meet her boyfriend, Andrew, who is working there next week. We will ALL miss her so. Right now a very tired RN is taking a well-deserved rest. She spend three days of her vacation with me. When I was pregnant with Mia and AJ my mother and I sewed a whole nursery's worth of crib sheets, canopy top, bumpers and curtains. It was a lovely time spent together. Now the babies are grown and I'm sewing with my daughter. The wheel of life goes round and round - the cycle repeats.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mia's Blanket

Blanket? Quilt? Comforter? Bedspread? Whatever it's called, it came out absolutely magnificent. We set up two tables and worked on it all day. We even added piping to the seams. Mia is very excited about taking it home to her bedroom in the upstairs apartment of the historic Victorian house where she lives. Her room tends to get chilly in the winter and the old steam radiator doesn't keep the place very warm. Well, she'll be plenty warm under this cover, with the heavy fabric and fluffy wool batting in the middle. I'll make a throw pillow and curtain tie-backs tomorrow. After cutting, pinning and sewing all day between critter chores we decided to split for the movies. We saw Taking Woodstock, which we thorougly enjoyed. Got a bite to eat and headed home. If we can prop our eyes open a little while longer we'll watch SNL, but it doesn't seem likely. Nighty-Night!!

Pouring Rain

I knew four market weekends in a row was too much to hope for. Mia and I were up early and eager to hook up the trailer but the gray soup soon drowned our enthusiasm. Nothing is sadder than damp vendors sitting in a tent with no crowds. Better to work at home and we have plenty to do. But first, we have three magazines that need thorough examination - Martha Stewart, Haute Couture, and British Country Living. OH, the sweaters! OH, the chutneys! Our minds are racing. First, we'll heat up some of Mia's whole wheat scones (I call the Wagon Train scones) for breakfast and make another pot of coffee. I want to start her bed cover, promised since last summer. Sally Campbell, my bunny friend from Virgina, gifted me with some gorgeous fabric. Her dear departed mother had to abandon a lavish decorating project when she went to a nursing home. Sally packed it up and sent it to me. I've made several Bird on a Branch Messenger bags with it, but the rest of it will keep my darling daughter warm this winter. I made her some fabulous drapes last summer and she's been waiting patiently for this bedspread. I can't pay for her master's degree in nursing but I can surely sew for her. In the meantime I am digging in the tractor shed and found some lovely bag fabric. I just happen to have the perfect button already made - good karma!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pizza Night!

I'm having so much fun I don't know what to do with myself. Mia is making me a whole wheat pizza with homemade dough. The apartment smells divine. Before she started rolling dough she fed the White Boys and bunnies. I started dealing with Mount Helen (the monster growing in the sink) and Mia took over when I got half way through. We will sit down to dinner with an empty sink to start filling up! Yay! The apt. floor is covering with bags of fiber and we'll assemble sample packs for the rest of the night. Bill Mahre is on, and who knows how long I'll last after that. AJ called to say he is on the way home from Fort Jackson after graduating from Chaplain School today. His National Guard cavalry unit will be deployed to Afghanistan in two weeks, but AJ is returning to seminary (thank you, Lord). I hope to see him before too long. We are spread out all over the place, but my kids are never far from my heart.

In the Mail

Mia and I got 71 pounds of beautiful dyed wool, mohair and angora off to the mill today. I will get three runs back to sell at fall shows - red, green and yellow blends. I love to open the boxes and see what they do with my fiber. It's very labor intensive but I do so enjoy the end results. What a scene we were, with the two of us taping together boxes and collating the bags on the floor of the shipping department. The sales people got a tickle out of us and gave us tape, etc. People stood around and stared - What is that stuff? they asked. This is where yarn comes from we replied. We treated ourselves to lunch at Panera, then went to Barnes and Noble for coffee and a look-see at the new magazines. Another stop at WM for soap making supplies and quick one at Michaels for button clay and we were on our way home. We were hoping for another swim but the rain started shortly after we pulled in. Doesn't look good for the market tomorrow. Very disappointed but nothing we can do about the weather...

Float, Soak and Bitch

The sun is not as hot and the water is real cold, but it's still fun to float in the pond. Mary wants to keep our swims up as long as we can stand getting in the water. She says we can leave the heaters on in our trucks, and run out of the water and jump in the vehicles to thaw out. Okay, Mary! She is very enthusiastic and energetic, and so are her dogs! We are planning a barbecue at the pond with Mary's own weiners cooked over the fire for tomorrow night. With the rain pounding on the roof now and the lousy forecast for tomorrow, I don't know if our barbecue will pan out. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Glorious Golden Yellow

I adore yellow. It's the color of the sun and fire and warmth and happiness. Mia and I picked this alpaca and angora outside yesterday, then went to swim with Mary and the dogs. The summer day had just the hint of impending autumn in it, and the water was freezing, but still so revitalizing and wonderfully delicious. We drank gin and tonic then chatted on our floats for an hour or so. It was so much fun I was afraid to pinch myself for fear the scene would vaporize and I would be driving through a blizzard to BOCES again. I made a fabulous dinner of pork chops, Mary's veggies, pierogies, corn-on-the-cob, and homemade coleslaw. We assembled Mother Fiber sampler packs until one in the morning while watching silly movies on TV. I woke up at NINE AM, a miracle, when wet doggies piled on the bed. Mia had taken them on a hike up to the pond already and was on her way out to buy cat food in B'field. Am I the luckiest Crazy Cat Lady on the face of the earth???? Oh, the Nasty Anonymous Commenter is back. I really do think it's kind of funny. Anyone who publishes their thoughts is open to comment, good or bad, but even in newspapers people must give their names to get their comments in print, I believe. I'm kind of flattered that I say something worthy of controversy or argument. But this is hardly either. It's just nasty. I suspect this person is from around here and, being a "Downstater," I can't do anything right anyway...but the important thing is that I'm TRYING and I won't give up. I'm tough and creative and, like Celie says in "The Color Purple," I'm HERE!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to Red

The clouds drifted away last night long enough for me to get a couple of hours of fiber drying in. The days are getting shorter and colder. I wore flannels last night and put on my Carhartt to take the dogs out this morning. Another hurricane is coming up the coast. Looks like the hay weather is over. A neighbor farmer is taking most of the grass across the road, but is not getting nearly as much out of that field as he could have. Too bad. If properly managed that field could yield thousands of bales. But it's not my field. The people who have been taking hay out of there for years never fertilize it. It just doesn't seem right. I'll have to downsize again this winter. I'm trying not to think about that now. Mia is coming today. What a joy she is. Three whole days with my sweet baby girl. I was hoping we could do the market together on Saturday, but with Danny on the way, it's doubtful. We'll make the most of the time anyway. I want Mia to swim with Mary's Amazing Dog Team. It's better than swimming with dolphins! And very local!

Little Miracles

I love my new bathroom buddies. They are the cutest little things. Mom still has four underneath her in the barn, in the pan on top of the rabbit cage. I don't have the heart to take all her chicks, but I don't think all 17 would survive these cold nights and all the barn cats, as diligent as mother hens are about protecting their babies. I will have to get a bigger box pretty soon, as the babies grow fast on the high protein chick starter.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sassy Kitties

This picture is for Gretchen at BOCES. She LOVES sassy kitties with attitude. Gretchen does a great sassy kitty imitation. I haven't seen her all summer, but we are soon to be reunited in the quest to educate the youth of Chenango County and set them on a meaningful course. I wish I was on a meaningful course... I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up!

Oy Vay!

I was happily sewing away with Jaws on the TV when I realized it was raining. My latest batch of wool got wet before I could get it inside. OH, well, not too much you can do about the weather. I was going to go up to New Hartford and get it mailed UPS from Staples, get soap labels copied, etc., treat myself to B&N, get olive oil at WM, Sculpey clay at Michaels, on and on. Hopefully tomorrow. In the meantime I am busy sewing, picking more fleeces, dyeing them, and, writing on my BLOG. If only I was as faithful with my housekeeping...but this is much more fun! I have a story to tell! There are four more chicks in the rabbit cage, peeping for their mother. She is up on top in the pan with yet four more chicks who haven't fallen out yet. Nine are inside with me, that makes SEVENTEEN chicks this hen hatched! Wow! I have to figure out what to do...maybe I will slide the pan she is in off the top and lower it to the ground. She will surely attack me if I do this. Should I throw a towel over her? I want her to keep some chicks but most I will raise in the bathroom to save them from cats, etc. I better buy stock in the chicken feed company! If times get really hard I will have lots of chicken soup.

Before Ten O'Clock

Fed cats at four feeding stations.
Walked and fed dogs.
Collected and took first wave of garbage to dumpster.
Picked dandelion leaves for bunnies.
Fed and watered chickens. Rescued three more chicks from the rabbit cage after distracting mom with dandelion leaves. Got away before she started coming after me.
Spread out last night's fleece on drying rack.
Washed next fleece in line, divided between two dye pots, got them cooking.
Now it's time for breakfast but no eggs in the nestboxes. Had a hankering for scrambled eggs. Oh, Well, there's that box of Wheaties...I had two bananas but I fed them to the chickens. Sure would have been good on the cereal. Stop whining and get back to work!

More Chicks in the Bathroom

As I was working in the barn yesterday I heard the distinctive PEEP - PEEP - PEEP of newborn chicks. The mother hen hatched her chicks in a feed pan on top of a rabbit cage. I had been saying hello to her every night when I feed my bunnies, and wondered how she was going to get her chicks down from there, but I decided I would "cross that bridge..." later. The chicks did hatch, but some jumped over the edge of the pan and fell into the empty rabbit cage below. Mom kept talking to them and they didn't seem to be that upset. After all, they had no idea why they were in a rabbit cage and not under their mother's wings! What to do? I waited until nightfall, thinking the hen would be a little calmer, and not attack me. I sneaked in to grab the chicks in the cage. They would surely chill and die if I didn't do something. I now have five little chicks in the bathroom. I'll check for more bunny cage chicks, and figure out how I'm going to get the hen and her babies down from there. I better drink some more coffee first...

Midweek Musings

The days are flying by. I'm nervous about the fall shows, but these jitters get my mojo working. I have to get out today and pick up olive oil and shortening for almond soap. Have to drive 25-30 miles to get to a grocery store big enough to get decent prices. Some things on my mental to-do list:

Find stencils to change the location on my booth sign - I no longer live on the Delaware.

Order hand creme jars from Sunburst Bottle Company.

Order more shea butter and lavender oil.

Order more hand creme jar stickers.

Print more soap labels - still no printer so have to order out.

Order more note card inserts.

Haul some of this mother lode of fiber to Staples, buy boxes and ship to mill. Include bribe to get it rush carded and shipped back to me in two weeks!!

Resolve pop-up tent issue. I have to leave my booth overnight in Norwich during Colorscape and it will surely rain.

The list goes on and on. Ofcourse, this all takes $$ at a time when funds are low. It takes money to make money. What to do, what to do? Just keep plugging away and make all the product I can with what I have. Mia is coming tomorrow! Her visit is always a delightful and happy time. I hear all the hospital stories, and what's going on with her girlfriends, and Morristown gossip. Time to hit the sewing machine, or the sorting table, or the dyepots. Or maybe I should wash the mountain of dishes waiting for me. No, let's not do that!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flaming Fiber Fest

The dye pots are still boiling over. It's amazing I have two burners left. Good thing I have a dedicated dye stove in the milk room. Picking, washing and dyeing wool can be very messy. This particular batch is all mohair, one very fine colored kid fleece and one rather coarse adult colored fleece. Mohair takes dye very nicely. The weather today was absolutely gorgeous and perfect for drying fiber outside, warm sun and gentle breeze. I have a huge, soft and lovely colored fleece in the washer right now. I should wash and boil it tonight so I can put it out early tomorrow, but I'm too tired. After swimming with Mary and enjoying her home-made sunflower wine, then doing chores tonight - I'm bushed. Chores included rounding up all the sheep and goats so we could catch the angora bucks - again. Their pen is, hopefully, secured this time. The goats disappeared today and were found gorging themselves in the neighbor farm's second cut hay field. They were chased away and lit out to the hidden field under the ridge - prime coyote territory. Luckily we found them before dark. I'm hoping, with the boys locked up, the girls will be less adventurous. I had a nice chat with Luke tonight, who is ecstatically happy with his birthday gifts. Annie brought him pineapple upside down cake and ice cream to school to share with his friends.

Happy Birthday Luke

My favorite grandson is 8 years old today. I wish I could be there to help celebrate. Every year I say next year I will be with him on his birthday, but it hasn't happened yet. Maybe next year. Luke is happy, engaging, smart and fun. He has a big, loving and loyal heart. I remember when he was born and Eric called to tell me they were naming him after a gun. Yes, it's true. Luke is named after one of the four cannon parked in the courtyard of the Virginia Military Institute, of Stonewall Jackson fame, where his daddy went to school. They are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, after chapters in the New Testament. Luke is very affectionate and lovable. When he was in pre-school in Louisville, he would come home smelling of the teacher's cologne, evidence of the smooching he received every day. I know he is having fun in California. His Mommy and Daddy take him on adventures every weekend. Eric has already bought him a motorcycle (heaven help me!) and I wouldn't be surprised if he is flying his father's airplane sometime soon. I hope he flies cross-country to see his Omi, who misses him very much.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Green Day

The skies are blue and the wool is green, mostly. There are some interesting blue tinges that I can't really explain. Minerals in the water? I dyed two fleeces and they both came out green and blue. I don't mind - I like the variations in color. The kitties like it just fine!

Monday Morning

Mia is coming at the end of this week to help me sort wool, assemble fiber sampler packs and wrap soap. We'll do the market together on Saturday, weather permitting, and hobnob around Hamilton. She'll be starting back to UMDNJ in Newark, NJ, next week to continue her MSN in nursing. AJ should be coming north after graduating from US Army Chaplain School. Hope to see him before he goes back to seminary. Matt is off to San Francisco later this week to vacation with Sean in Yosemite National Park. I made a cute little horse bag with some small pieces I found in a tub. Wish I could find more of this fabric. I'm almost done with another Purple Passion tote made of some Carol Crayonbox fabric. I need a lot of bags for Colorscape, as I don't know how many fiber people will be attending a show like that. Almond soap is on deck as soon as I get some olive oil and shortening. I have a double fleece load of dyed emerald green wool to put on the rack. Cloudy and cooler this morning. The heat wave is over, making it much more pleasant to work with wool!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cooler and Cloudy

Not as humid today. We had some sun for a while but now the sky is dark and I hear rumbling. Don't think Mary and I will get our swim today. The day started off a little rough when I did not have a single piece of napkin or paper towel to use instead of the coffee filters I ran out of. I plugged in the new fancy Cuisinart coffee machine, that does not require a filter, from Jan's unclaimed salvage and tried to get it working. It was like rocket science, and I must not have done something right as the coffee ran all over the counter and onto the floor. I was not amused. I decided that it's too big for my tiny barn kitchen anyway, and that my little four cup Mister Coffee does just fine. Early on, with fuzzy heads from no coffee, we got to catching the angora goat bucks to seperate them from the girls - again. Matt was willing and I was eager to decrease my chances of January babies. That's all I need - sitting in school in the wintery cold and snow, worrying about babies freezing on the ground. While sorting out the bucks and heaving them over the fence back into their area, we spied Wooster, my registered BFL ram. Wooster has also been a naughty boy - escaping over, or under, the fence and getting back in with the girls. We grabbed him and popped a halter on him, as he was scheduled to go to his new home on Mary's farm today. I got him wormed and clipped - not a big job as maybe one pound of fleece, ten months growth, came off him, unskirted. He's a beautiful boy, with a perfect blue head and nice long body, but not a heavy wooler. And I am in the wool business. Therein lies the problem. Mary was happy to get him, especially when he dove right into her flock and buried his nose in the derriere of one of her ewes. As we drove away I saw him mounting the girls already. And he didn't even wave to me!! Back to the farm to find the goat boys had escaped again. What else should we expect as we did not repair the areas they were getting out of? I caught two and Matt fixed the pen, but we have a few more to catch - Manny, Barack Obama, Hecky and one other. Anybody want some cute black or white angora bucks? I am plugging away with sorting wool, washing and dyeing. I got two big pots of emerald green wool done today. Not going as quickly as I would like as I have to pull apart many felted clumps of wool and remove hay and burdock. Angora is so easy - it goes right into the pot of dye, unwashed, and sucks up that color. Oh, I love it. I hope Kimmie Cornerstone keeps growing that amazing fiber for me. And she's so good at getting it off the bunners in time. Back to work. I might sew a little as it gets my head straight, kind of like spinning. There's nothing as soothing as spinning - the wheel of life goes round and round. Mary gave me some filters and I fired up my little Wal-Mart coffee maker. Life is good.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Market Day

A few isolated drops fell down but not enough to cover anything at the market. Business was moderate but enough friends were there to make it a very enjoyable day. A nice thing happened...Prof. Jane, a lovely lady who teaches at Colgate bought a bag for her daughter in England. After the bag went to live in England, Professor Jane thought she wanted one for herself. I had no idea what fabric her daughter's bag was made of, and however she tried to describe it I couldn't remember it. I found some fabric I thought was it and made a bag, lining it with some fabulous Ralph Lauren houndstooth called "Canterbury." Not having seen the professor for some weeks, I brought it to the market anyway and put it out. Along comes Prof. Jane, who is thrilled to pieces and buys the bag! I also sold my last messenger style orange leaf bag to a niece of my BOCE friend, Adrianna O'Neill. Soap sales were slow, but that's okay, as I need all the soap I have for fall shows. I got home to find my green wool nice and dry on the rack outside, with none scattered by kitties while I was gone. Mary called and we went for a very relaxing and refreshing swim with the border collie trio, plus a new dog, Meg, who had been away on geese patrol assignment. We exchanged veggies, with me getting fresh basil, broccoli, beans and cabbage. Mary got a huge bag of tomatoes from New Jersey courtesy of my sister-in-law, Loretta. They were very much appreciated by Mary, especially with the tomatoe blight we've experienced in Central New York. Black clouds are rolling in now. Better get the White Boys taken care of before the downpour starts.


I'm nervous about the weather today. The computer and TV say the morning will be okay and thunderstorms will come in the PM, but it sure looks dark and threatening now. It's a big job to haul my shop over to Hamilton and set up when I'm just going to have to take down and run from the rain. I'll drive over there and see what's happening. My little valley here in Brookfield seems to hold the bad weather. I got some GORGEOUS new fabric yesterday, sent to me by my sister-in-law, Loretta, from New Jersey. She's a classical pianist and movie music composer, and lives near the outlets. I stayed up to make a bag out of one of the fabrics last night. Pictures to follow! Have to load up!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In The Pink

I adore pink, but many people don't care for it. I like streaks of it in a colorway, kind of like the sunset over the ridge across the creek from my farm. I have enough of Hot Fuschia, Jacquard, to make a good many streaks through this batch of roving I'm working on. I'll have to dye a lot of purple, red, and orange to balance it. I'm in a groove now, which I've been trying to get into for the last three weeks. If I keep up this pace I'll have enough for the fall shows. Maybe.

Fingers Crossed

We just might make the farmer's market this weekend. The forecast says 20% chance of rain. My pop-up tent, the one that replaced the tent that washed away in one of the Delaware River floods (I just hope it wasn't consumed by a whale), is not waterproof. Don't ask. Somehow the person who purchased it for me decided a sun shade pop up was enough for now and we would purchase the waterproof cover later. Later never came and after moving I don't have the paperwork. I could always pull an ugly tarp over it but it's my first year at the fancy Chenango Colorscape and I don't want to look like country bumpkin from Brookfield (which is exactly who I am!) Moving forward...I have a pot of Hot Fuschia BFL lambswool which I plan on blending with purple - orange - red - and maybe golden yellow. We'll see. I get on a roll and the blends just happen. I like several colors and fibers in my roving. Some of the fibers are so fine they tear in the carding machine and become "tweed." Janet Ambrose, the textile professor from SU, tells me second cuts put back into the processing was the origin of tweed. Very intesting. I have a big tub of brown Merino and black BFL I need to sort through for a plain, natural run. I had a request for it last year at Rhinebeck. Hope that lady comes back if I make it. It will be lovely any way. It's still hot and humid here and more rain on deck for this afternoon. I better get the hot fuschia washed and on the rack. I am backed up with drying space already. I found some old fleeces from when the sheep were grazing in Pennsylvania. Oh, they are so luscious, and, I have to admit, better wool than what I am raising here. Long, glossy, sturdy locks. I had heard that the eastern Pa. dirt is the best on the east coast. Too bad that dirt cost too much money for poor teachers like me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's Hot

Okay, so it's hot. It's not like we are in Texas where it's been over a hundred for a month...but we are not used to it up here in the Great North Land. The flies are out in big swarms, all over the windows and sitting on my arms and legs when I sort wool in the work room. They like the salty sweat on my forehead - have to find a schmata to wrap around my head! I have a lot of chickens eating them but the little feathery friends are working overtime. At least we don't have the biting flies like they do in New Hampshire. I know I've told this story before, but the worst flies I've ever experienced were in the wilds of northern Finland in 1965. The horses were black with them, and the hired man where I visited was swatting them with a blanket, killing hundreds of them at a time. I know this won't last for long. We might have a killing frost in late September and they'll be gone. In the meantime I am trying to keep my barn ventilated. I have one working fan which I had to clean the angora out of before I could turn it back on for fear of fire. I was told by the previous owner that these barn fans were $700 each, new, 15 years ago. Wish I could get them all working. Having this giant "historic" barn is wonderful but I fear I will never get it in the kind of shape I would like. Just keep plugging away...after all, it's the quest that counts. Keep on picking, washing, dyeing and drying. Thank you water, soap, sun and thank you sheep!

A Brief Reprieve

Much cooler this morning. I followed Matt across B'field to drop my Jeep off at Zuke's Garage. I'm trying to get some more wool dyed before the oppressive heat comes back this afternoon. I melted some beeswax for candles this morning. I was selling soy wax candles from my booth but now I think I will do beeswax from local beekeepers instead. We'll see how they throw the scent. I have a good supply of acrylic scents from a wool barter. I don't desire another heavy thing to carry but I love candles and they kind of go with soap and wool, in my fuzzy logic. I have a huge fleece from my Andrew, a BFL/Natural Colored wether, to wash. It's colored but I will dye it purple and blend my bright red BFL with it. It's fine but slightly coarse and will "hold up" the baby soft Bluefaced Leicester. My BFL is almost too soft, if you can imagine that. It's horrible to pick, as every little thing sticks to it. I must get jackets on them after next shearing. I picked the wrong breed for the wool business. The BFL wool is divine but there's not enough of it on the animal. It just doesn't seem right for a great big giant sheep to have such a small amount of wool on it. I love my sheep, but I would have been better off with another breed of longwool, like Border Leicester. Much more bang for your buck wool-wise. Live and learn.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cooled Off

REAL hot and humid for most of the day. I got two more pots of cherry red BFL dyed, washed and spread out to dry. I went into town to run errands and watched in horror from the little grocery as the sky blackened and rain started. OH, well, I decided. My wool can stand another rinse. The sun will surely come back tomorrow. The rain was so hard coming home from town I almost had to pull over. When home I went up to the hay mow to check on things, thinking of Luke and how he loved to "watch the rain" from the mountain of bales, when I heard screaming kittens. Holly heard them, too, and we searched and searched. There they were, outside on the platform where the giant feed bins sit. A cat who I think is their mother watched and did nothing as I wiggled and crawled out to retrieve them from the rain. Bad teenaged mother! They hissed and spit but I think were relieved when I got ahold of them. I brought them in to dry and will put them back in the hay mow. In the meantime it is nicely cool in the apartment after the storm. Off to do evening chores. I am real sleepy from the heat I think. I heard from AJ in SC at Ft Jackson. Chaplain school is over in a week. I hope he can come for a visit. All he needs to do is finish seminary and get himself ordained and he is a full-fledged chaplain. I just pray he gets a stateside assignment instead of going to the unmentionable place. It's out of my hands. Just keep busy and tend to my critters. Doesn't Monkey and her baby make a lovely pair?


I have lots of helping hands, or paws, here on the farm. Thor is very excited about my coming outside to spread dyed fiber out to dry on the rack. He thinks this cherry red angora is just divine! The others are a little less excited and content to rest in the shade of the silo.

First Day of School

Hannah and Luke are back to school in San Jose as of today. It's a long way from the pond...

Dye Jag

I am elbows deep in wool, with some angora, mohair and alpaca thrown in. It's time to convert all this fuzzy stuff into money. I have the dyes and the electric, and the sunshine so there is no excuse. It's amazing how quickly the fiber dries in this weather, although rain forecast for this week might throw a damper on my schedule. I sort, wash, immerse in dye pot, simmer for an hour or so, then turn off the burner and let it cool down overnight while I sort and pick more wool. I'm going to the milk room now to turn the dye pot into the washing machine to wash again to get the dye residue out. After washing by hand in the machine tub I'll spin it and put it out in the sun. The cycle starts all over again with the next batch. Very labor intensive, but this is how I turn a bag of dirty, nasty wool into fiber I can sell for $35 a pound. I had to force myself to get into this part of my business this year, as it is just too much fun to sew in front of the TV and fan. Don't get me wrong - when I open the box from the carding mill and see those colorful balls I get a real thrill - and fortunately, so do my customers. The louder the colors, the better it sells. I love the muted, natural colors as I have some lovely colored sheep, but sometimes I even dye the dark wool. It's ghastly hot and humid again today, so I'll work hard this morning and head to the pond later. I swam with Mary's fabulous artsy Cape Cod friends yesterday. DLinda is a metalsmith and Mary Beth is a graphic artist and geese chaser with her Border Collie, Madge. What good fun that was. Mary brought some of her homemade salads and hummus for a snack - sooooo delicious. Back to work before it gets so hot I'm moving in slow motion.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Musings

There are not enough fans in this barn apartment. No way by a long shot. It's not yet 11 and the dogs are flat out already. I'm not driving to Lowe's in an old car with no AC to buy fans.

I decided I'm going to hire Loren to take me to the farmer's market in Hamilton on Saturdays to set me up and take down the booth. He's just soooo sweet and cute and NEVER snarls and complains. I don't know if he would mind lying under a tree and waiting for it to be over, as I'm sure he would rather be fishing in the Unadilla River.

Mary called to swim at noon with her classy Cape Cod girlfriends. I said great but will make myself do chores and fiber and get nice and sweaty before I go up to the pond. Pay then play.

I have to drag the drying rack down from the field where we used it to launch the fireworks on the fourth. I need a multi-tiered rack and have a picture of one owned by Janet Ambrose that shouldn't be too hard to bang together. I'll show it to Loren.

I offered to make potatoe salad for our pond lunch today but will bring a BIG bottle of pink Zinfandel, a gift from my Mia, instead. Too hot to boil potatoes!

Ciao for now!

93 and Steamy

I have so much to do but it's just fabulous taking my time in the morning. Matt's out of town teaching lead-safe weatherization in the Adirondacks so there was no rushing around to get out of the house. I slept on the sofa watching TV and woke up to one of my favorite movie scenes - all those Rambouillet sheep swarming over the mountainside in Brokeback Mountain. I switched to the Today Show, which I never get to watch when I'm back in school. Loren is up in the hay mow stacking bales. The tropical storm in the South is giving us all this lovely humidity. We've been spoiled so far this summer. I'll be sorting fleeces, washing and dyeing the wool and checking on critters. I found a new, unopened box of Wheaties in the larder and had a bowl with ripe nectarines and cold milk. Hmmmm, good. More coffee than I'm ready for action. Hannah and Luke start back to school in San Jose today. Wish I could have seen them on the first day. It was always a big deal in my house. Every year I took pictures of AJ and Mia all dolled up with their new gear, and watched them get on the bus. Those were the days...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Will They or Won't They?

I've been waiting for the sheep and goats to start eating the lovely and tenacious thistles in the field. They look good enough to eat but my critters seem to want to eat everything else first. Today, I finally saw them nibbling on the pretty purple flowers, even tasting the prickly parts. They must have very tough mouths. I hope they continue to consume the thistles, however, you can lead a goat to thistles but you can't make it eat!

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Kitty

This little kitty, who Hannah named Autumn, followed me through the field and played around the sheep and goats as I took pictures. She's quite the stealthy kitty.

Sunset Swim

Ninety degrees and steamy today, as forecast. I started dyeing fiber, after leaving it go in favor of sewing, soap, spinning, etc. I'm not giving myself much time to get it carded before the shows start, but here we are. I'll have to apply myself to sorting, washing, dyeing, washing after dyeing, and setting it out to dry. A few days of rain is forecast which is not helpful, but I'll do what I can. I got several Celestial Bags cut out after clearing off an eight foot table in my future "work room" for cutting space. It was the kind of day when stationing myself in front of a fan would have been nice, but I had things to do. The day flew by, hot, but lovely enough to take some pictures of the sheep and goats in the field. They are so beautiful grazing in the thistles, which, to my happy surprise, they are starting to munch on. I had heard the thistles are more palatable at the end of the summer and I think it's true. After my photo session I drove over to Jan's to look over some of the "unclaimed salvage" from her garage sale. I tried to talk her into a swim, but no deal. Not her cup of tea. So Izzy, Holly and I headed up to the pond and I had my cooling, soothing swim. No amount of coaxing could get them into the pond. The sun was setting and I watched it through the cattails and reeds. It was time to go, or I wouldn't get my chores done before dark.