Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Morning Dark and Cold

I wake up with a start even on Sunday, the glorious day when I don't have to rush out of here. Winter is bearing down and I expect snow any time. It's dark, cold and rainy out there, but nothing like what will happen in a month or two. I remember the first time we came up here in the winter after buying the farm. We got out of the truck and felt the howling wind that rushes through the little valley and made our jeans feel like frozen tissue paper on our legs. We jumped back in the truck. A taste of things to come, I was to spend the next winter in a little tin can RV while Matt continued to work in NJ. We put the RV on the downhill side of the barn to protect it from the wind, but the cold was unbelievable. Now we are used to it, as people tend to be because humans are resilient like that. I'm lucky as I have a dozen little projects going all the time, and a wood stove that makes the apartment too hot, and a gas range that can double as a heat source when the downdrafts become too much to bear. I'm making a special breakfast this morning - lox, red onion and creme cheese on poppy seed bagels - reminiscent of life in New Jersey. Garf's deli in Norwich offers this delicacy but I'm not driving anywhere on this Sabbath day when I may have to work all day but at least I can stay HOME.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oh, the Veggies!

Ron the Vegetable Guy across from me at the Farmer's Market, had a Mother Load of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages again today. By the time I got around to buying some the purple cauliflower was gone, but he gave me a terrific deal on all three and a 50 pound bag of "cull" potatoes for only $10. Lots of veggie soup for us this winter. I told Matt I didn't want to hear a word of complaint. The weather was cold, damp and gray but there was some traffic due to Parents Weekend at Colgate. I heard that Bubba was in town last night and drew a crowd of 5,000 at the university. Would have loved to hear him speak. Yes, there are some Democrats around here. I was starting to worry...We hoped on over to Price Chopper and Tractor Supply for some food shopping then headed home to unload and do chores. Tomorrow we get ready for the BIG BARN CLEAN UP starting Monday. Stan the Man and his son are coming with their trusty heavy equipment to go to work. As it is now my barn is only suitable for Hobbits to work in it. They are going to scrape off my concrete pad on the East End and get my big sliding doors to move. Hurray! I'll be able to shut out the snow and cold this winter. They will spread all the black gold mixed with hay across my fields. Trouble is, what to do with the pigs, sheep and rabbits. Many logistical problems still to be worked out. We are pulling up stakes and fencing to build a paddock around the upper hay mow door. The sheep will be able to get inside out of the rain/snow but still spend time outside in the fresh air while the lower barn is being scraped clean. I'm a little tired from standing on my feet all day at the market talking nice to people. Hope to hunker down and get some rest tonight. "Why We are Afraid of the Dark" is on the History Channel, and should make for some good Halloween viewing.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Robin Out

Robin, my co-pilot, went to her daughter, Jaryn's, school today to watch the Halloween parade. I helped Robin with Jaryn's puppy dog costume. Robin promised me a picture. We sewed brown suede ears and a tail on a white hooded sweatshirt with pants. Robin painted on the spots. It's a brilliant idea, so simple, cute, and warm in cold weather. Robin found gloves that look like paws!

Trick or Treat

What a treat it was to have the little ones from the Pre-school Program come to Trick or Treat in our wing. I look forward to it every year. My students enjoyed the tiny tricksters too.

Pumpkin Pies

What a fun day it was today. Robin brought the girls she works with in the morning to my room to bake a birthday cake for a classmate while I was working with one of my morning students. They were so much fun to watch. Later my GED class continued the pumpkin pie project. Yes, it took two days, raw pumpkin to pies. It's lots of work (and a big mess) but it was a lot of fun and totally worth it. I've never made fresh pumpkin pies and loved doing it with the kids. I put in extra ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon and it tasted sooooo good, with an interesting lumpy texture and light orange color. We brought hot pumpkin pie to the teachers on the floor, left a hefty piece for our favorite custodian, Sean, who keeps our room so lovely and clean, and saved a pie for Monday.

Manna from Heaven

As I was rushing into the door of the school this morning - what else is new? - I saw Sharon, Special Ed. Secretary, going out the door with a cart and some muscle (young, strong male employee). Not too much later the door to my classroom opened and in came Sharon with this gorgeous, sparkling, sleek, shining black Singer sewing machine in a lovely cherry cabinet. The machine, built in 1953, a year younger than the Singer I currently call my favorite machine, looks like it's never been used. It was in the home of a friend of a friend who was moving and didn't want it. Sharon snagged it for me! She mentioned something about having a new/old machine for me but that was a while back and I forgot about it. This baby is a real gem. It's bigger than the old Singer I sew most of my bags on. Unfortunately the cord is missing so I couldn't fire it up. I called my sewing machine repair guy in Norwich, Doug Hilts, who fortunately has forgiven me about my pre-Rhinebeck early morning tirade about a machine not working, and picked up a cord from him after school. We'll see how it works on Monday. The pristine instruction booklet says to drop kerosene into the holes to oil it, but Doug sold me a bottle of Tri-Flow, the preferred sewing machine oil. I am totally thrilled with this new machine, which will stay in the classroom for the kids to use until I bring it home next summer. Thank you, Sharon, for your kindness and thoughtfulness.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Days

Today we got to work on the pumpkins we picked in the field yesterday. We are lucky to have a Culinary Arts student in our class. He spearheads our cooking adventures and supervises the kitchen. We cut up the special sugar pumpkins for pies and the other students made Jack O' Lanterns out of the other, larger pumpkins. It was a happy, fun time which is not over yet. We baked the pulp and prepared the crust today but ran out of time. Tomorrow we have to puree the pumpkin and bake it, and cut the faces in our pumpkins. I'm looking for my DVD copy of Sleepy Hollow with Johnny Depp, but I'm doubtful of success. We have enough to do without a movie, but Friday is movie day and I want something Halloweenie to show.

New Bundaflicka Fan

The lovely and talented Jen Joslyn, the Human Resources teacher at my school, wanted to make a Bundaflicka Bag for her mother. Always a supporter of mothers, and very flattered that one of my colleagues expressed an interest in learning how to make a bag of my design, I told her sure thing. I turned her on to my favorite online fabric site,, and Jen bought some beautiful chenille fabric in really nice orange, gold and green tones. It took several weeks for us to get a couple of bags cut out and start sewing, with meetings, students and what-not. Today we completed her mother's bag and Jen will finish one for herself. I think it came out just fine and Jen is happy. I think Mom will like it, too.

Chicks in the Bathroom Again

I didn't plant for this to happen. In retrospect I think I should have left them outside. But now they are inside and I have to keep them warm until they are practically grown before putting them outside in the cold. They are starting to fly around the bathroom already. These chicks are very precocious but not very pretty junkyard birds...but I still think they are kinda cute. Holly adores them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


We piled in the school van and took off for Stanton's pumpkin patch, just about two miles from the school. I had never been but Robin said it would be fine, and it was. There were still many pumpkins in a vast field, hidden by high weeds and grasses which made hunting for the pumpkins even more fun. All our students, all six of them, had a positive attitude and enjoyed themselves. We bought pumpkins for baking pies and found the Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins in the field. I picked some pretty dried botanicals for a fall wreath I want to make. Back to school to unload the pumpkins and put the kids on the bus home. We want to go on more trips, but have to figure out places to go that will only take two hours. I only have my GED class from 12 to 2. I drove home with that satisfied feeling that comes once every year or so. It lasted all the way home until I saw the piggies loose in the driveway. Looney tunes all over again. This time I got them in their field/pen with slop and feed but they ate a little and busted out again, pushing through the fence while lifting it up with their snouts. They only have a week and a half left to live and it looks like it will be an eventful time. I decided to let them roam while I let the sheep out to graze and hike up the hill with the doggies. From high on the hill I saw them running up and down the drive and rooting through plants and grasses. Good thing I don't have any fancy beds or a garden. Matt came home and managed to get them through the gate that leads to the inside of the barn. Maybe living with the sheep will keep them amused for the next few days. I don't think so but we can only live and hope. I had a lovely walk in this spectacular weather. What a gift.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Piggies Take a Walk - Part 2

Izzy and I cut the piggies off at the road and got them turned around and pointed toward their pen which was all the way up the driveway at the back and side of the barn. Unfortunately the three boys would split and run hither and yon around Chris Kupris (neighbor and former owner) yard and back up toward the hill where the sheep were grazing. When we got them rounded up again the piggies started digging and eating the succulent roots and grasses along the driveway. Pigs LOVE to dig, and are often used for turning over fields before planting. I called Matt to tell him all three pigs were loose, and he said don't feed them and he would be home as quick as he could. Matt has a very good relationship with the boys, as he feeds them every morning and dotes over them. He said he could get them back in. As it was a lovely, warm evening I stayed at the end of the driveway with Izzy, guarding the pigs and preventing them from going into the road. The boys were tired from their adventures and digging up the lovely grasses. They laid their amazing bulk down on the grass for a rest. I confess I felt great affection for them as they rested, and wanted to sit down next to them and scratch their backs, but I was afraid they would jump up and run away at this strange human behavior. Some kitties tip-toed up and down the split rail fence that runs along the driveway, amused by the unusual goings-on this evening. Izzy took the opportunity to sniff places on the pigs that he would never be able to do safely if they were on their feet. Won't he have tall tales to tell the other dogs! Matt finally made it home from Syracuse and in his commanding, and slightly annoyed, way chased the piggies into their pen. I ran into the barn to get them a bucket of fitting, the sweet molasses soaked grains they love. Matt mixed their slop and gave them their night-night meal. The three BIG pigs were worn out and happy to be back in their lovely room in the barn where they have dug themselves quite a comfy bed in the packed manure and hay. Sweet dreams, Winken, Blinken and Nod.

Piggies Take A Walk

I heard the dogs going nuts outside and thought I better take a look. There they were, poking around the field. Winken, Blinken and Nod had escaped their pig field and were wandering around the farm. Ordinarily I wouldn't mind, as the boys are not vicious and do not bother the other animals. I was worried they would go over to the Sister's flower beds and start digging, as piggies love to do. I didn't realize they had bigger ideas. To my horror, they started down the driveway to the road where Izzy and I cut them off and blocked the way to the road. Pigs are not easily persuaded to anything they don't want to do unless food is involved. I was reluctant to go back up the driveway and get a bucket of feed with them so close to the road. When I shooed them, they shot off in different directions. What to do????

Still Some Color

The weather turned warm and balmy today, but the hills are turning gray and green as the leaves fall. So glad I have some evergreens on the ridge. I let the sheep out to graze when I get home from work and took the dogs for a walk among the sheep. I had my yearly observation today, always stressful for me even after all these years. You never know how it's going to go. No matter how much I plan, I can't plan the kids response or behavior. They were absolutely terrific and my supervisor loved my lesson on writing a five paragraph essay (required on the GED and an awful hurdle for my kids). They didn't show their phones (although Robin says one kid did the side-long sneak out of the pocket to check for calls and put it back again). They kept the chew hidden deep in their cheeks and didn't get up to spit. I got some feedback from my prompting and they stayed focus all the way through This Day in History, the GED Most Misspelled Words of the Day, and used their graphic organizers we filled out the day before to write the essay entitled, Why CTE is Good for Me (Career and Technical Education). My supervisor said the class had a homey, comfortable feeling. So glad that's over for another year.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Monday

At this time of the morning I feel like a meteor, hurtling through the universe, bouncing off asteroids and whizzing by planets, on no certain path. I have the news on, which is all political now with mid-term elections coming up. Gee-whiz, FDR couldn't pull America out of the Depression with all those alphabet soup New Deal programs but everyone thought Obama could. I knew better. One out of every seven people in the US are living below the poverty level, more than any time in history. I'm lucky I can do a few things to hustle a buck. Just like the Great Depression, poor people have to draw on any extra skill they can muster to survive. I still can't bring myself to eat lamb, but I've got lots of young hens getting ready to lay eggs this winter if I keep a light bulb on for them. I traded wool for another old, reliable sewing machine from Carolyn D'Agostino. Have to make a date with her to pick it up. Maryland Sheep and Wool comes early in the spring, the first weekend in May. BUT, in the meantime, I have MIA and ANDREW's WEDDING to look forward to. Just the thought of it brings a smile to my face. Hold on to that thought...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sublime Sunday

How lovely and wonderful to not have to get up and rush somewhere. I woke up around 4 and rested on the sofa with the dogs and cats and my coffee. What luxury. I didn't take my hot bath until after 8. In an effort to not waste hot water, I had socks, undies and a hand spun skein floating around in the bubble bath with me. Thank you, Kim, for the organic bubble bath I found in the fabulous gift basket you brought me at Rhinebeck! I'm still finding little treasures in it. Speaking of treasures, I spent some time in the tractor shed going through the bins of fabric I brought here from New Jersey. I found some terrific chenille pieces I can use for linings, and some tapestry I forgot about. I also found some booties I can clean up for work, and some waterproof Timberlands I can use around the farm. I'm still unearthing llama, mohair and wool fleeces that will be wonderful once washed and carded. Back in the barn to get some housework done. I cut up six heads of cauliflower and four of broccoli from the farmer's market yesterday and steamed them in a big pot with onions, olive oil and lots of lemon curry, herb seasoning, veggie pepper and dill. I'll freeze the spicy concoction in bags for later use in soup. Many vitamins and minerals to get us through the winter. The pigs go to the unmentionable place on Nov. 8. Plenty of pork products to eat and share. I decided to put a pallet in the duck pen to keep their pretty feet out of the mud. They get their water so dirty jumping in with dirty feet. The hens are laying eggs in the new nest box - yes!! I'm afraid some of them are squeezing under the platform and sitting on eggs under it. I should have removed it before putting chickens in there. It used to be a "calf room" for the poor creatures who are taken away from their mothers so humans can take her milk. So goes the dairy industry. My Sunday is rushing away with record speed and not nearly as much done as I hoped. Hardly a dent. Gone are the days when I used to get through a good bit of the NY Times on the sofa in front of the fireplace. This is much more fun...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

AJ Came and Went

AJ, my Army Chaplain son, came for an all-too-brief 24 hour visit. He met us in New Berlin for dinner at Frank's then we came back to the farm to watch the Yankees lose to the Texas Rangers. AJ is a life-long Yankee fan but he took it very well, chosing to go to bed and get some rest rather than see the game through to the painful end. It seems like yesterday that we were taking trains from Morristown to Yankee Stadium because I was afraid for him to do it with friends. When I found that it cost forty dollars and took forever, about four trains I think, I drove him instead. Now he is all grown up and building a future for himself. I'm so lucky that all three of my kids are, for the most part, secure in what they've chosen to do. I could die tomorrow and they would be just fine and happy (not that I'm planning any such thing.) What else could a mother want? The market was warm and lovely, contrary to dire weather reports and I was set up by ten. I met Susanne Farrington and we traded wool for cups I need for shaving mugs. Ron Wagner, the veggie guy across from me, had nice big bunches of broccoli for dirt cheap. The bunnies and I will enjoy it very much. I also got more cabbages, cauliflower and carrots for my 4-C soup (with chicken and lots of dill, salt and veggie pepper). AJ and Matt went to the Louis Gale mill and picked up my weekly feed, then came back to the market to relax and chat with folks. We packed up and ate lunch at the Hamilton Whole Foods before coming back to the farm. AJ had to get back to the seminary for evening services. I have "those pangs" again and am reminded of why I have my animals. I get so miserable and lonely for my kids and miss them horribly, even after all these years. I still can't believe we are all so far apart. People around here have several generations on one road, or in the same town, and are always having family gatherings and parties. They don't realize how lucky they are. Better make some strong coffee, spin some wool while Matt snores away on the sofa, let some kitties jump on my lap, and put on a movie or some absorbing documentary. Chore time will come soon and I'll be too busy to be sad.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Snowy Drive to Work

Yes, we have snow in upstate New York. Time for everyone to get the snow tires on, drive slowly and leave earlier. I go through two cell phone dead zones on my commute over twisty, hilly roads where you don't want to slide off the edge. There is no passing for about 15 miles, from New Berlin to Norwich. If I get behind a milk truck I might as well sit back and enjoy the view. Sometimes it's a blessing because it prevents me from going to fast in bad conditions. It's Friday, AJ is on the way, the sheep are grazing on the hill. Life is good for now...


Every year it comes as a surprise. It snowed a bit yesterday, along with some small hail stones. We have very varied and dramatic weather here, living east of Lake Ontario. I had never travelled the great state of New York prior to moving here, other than to go to Manhattan very occasionally, or to Rhinebeck for NY State Sheep and Wool. When I did decide to move here it was on the advice of my old friend, Lisa Merian, who was born here after her parents came from New Jersey after the Korean War. I had a full time job, and sheep, and couldn't spend a whole lot of time roaming around looking for a place to put my sheep, and me. This lovely barn was, and is, the best barn that I found for sale. I had been keeping my flock on rented land with no electric or running water. I had only a stream and a couple of lean-toes. They were a mile away from where I was living, way too far. I would drive up and find them crowding into the lean-to, many with only their heads sticking in out of the weather. When the stream would freeze, I would break up the ice with a big iron stake. When that didn't work I had to truck big Jerry cans down to the field. This situation, rough as it is, is infinitely better. We will be starting work on winterizing the barn this weekend, after the farmer's market. My priest-in-training is coming to visit, soon to be Father Aaron. To me he will always be AJ. Time to get on the road. Fridays are my favorite days at school. Everyone is euphoric at the idea of being free for the weekend. It is movie day in my GED class. My This Day in History the last few days has been full of notable events like the Battle of Trafalgar, ratification of the Louisiana Purchase, launching of Old Ironsides, etc., that I decided to show them Master and Commander with Russell Crowe. Perfect for discussing imperialism, naval warfare, British and the French at war, etc. A student asked me why we talk about war so much and I thought about it myself. It is war that changes governments, national boundaries, and advances technology, etc. We watched Cold Mountain last week, and talked some about the Home Guard. When I was in graduate school I came across a PHD dissertation about the home guard in North Carolina torturing the civilian population for information about deserters, etc. I think Charles Frazier used that same research for Cold Mountain. Sad and fascinating. I saw the most beautiful rainbow ever on the way home from work yesterday. I had to pull over and gaze at it for a while, on the hill overlooking New Berlin. It was huge, with incredibly thick stripes, with very brilliant colors. It went right down into the town, illuminating the buildings behind it making them look eerily iridescent. Arrived home after my usual stops at Homestead Feed Store where I picked up a hand built nest box, done by Vinnie the carpenter son of the owner, PO and the little market. One pig was loose, who I left for Matt to deal with later, and found the place more or less intact. It's always a blessing to find everybody okay...but not for long. I ventured too close to Knut when taking Pip and Tanner out on the leashes for our walk up the hill. I picked up a rib cage to toss back to Knut and Pip lunged for him. When the White Boys were puppies Pip would pee on their pen and in their faces. The Boys have never forgotten and still want to tear Pip to pieces. Knut got Pip's snout in his mouth and wouldn't let go. I guess Knut has about a hundred pounds on Pip, a Jack Russell terrier. The tug of war lasted a few minutes with me trying to pull Pip away from Knut. He let go after a while and there was blood everywhere. Pip is fine, although his mouth is swollen. He's wagging his tail and eating, but looking a bit odd in the face. Both dogs are satisfied that they drew blood on the other. I could do without the drama after a long day at work. Daylight is coming, I'll check for snow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fat and Happy

The weather was glorious today, not a cloud in the sky and very pleasant temps. I let the sheep out to graze while walking with the doggies. The sheep and goats are nicely on the fat side. Not too fat, but filled out and fleshy. There is still a lot of grass on the hill and I want them to eat as much as they can before it is covered with snow. My friend Jim Baldwin says it's easy to make them look good now - it's making them look good in April, after they've wintered over on hay, that's challenging. The elevator should be fixed by the next hay delivery, making it infinitely easier to get the bales in the barn. Chris Kupris tells me he paid $12,000 for that elevator in 1992. I want to keep it oiled and working as long as I can. Mia called today. She's very busy putting in hours in a doctor's office as part of the Physical Diagnosis part of her Nurse Practitioner degree requirements. She has to go into Newark to UMDNJ once a week for lectures, do a lot of homework, and keep her full time nursing job in Morristown Memorial. AJ is preparing to be ordained as a priest soon, and Eric is working on his big project for the BSA - the new permanent adventure center and permanent Jamboree site in West Virginia. I'm so proud of them all. I think about them all the time, although we are all so busy we hardly talk anymore. Out to finish chores, get my laundry out of the dryer, then clip another bunny. I'm fading fast, so better get it done.

Let's Get Going

These dark, cold, damp mornings are not helping to get me going. It's "hump day" which usually helps, knowing I'm on the long slide to the weekend, but I'm not feeling it. My pretty moose and pine tree candle box is ruined, after a soy wax jar candle broke sending wax all over the TV and table below. The carbon monoxide alarm was going off for a while before I realized it was not Matt's alarm clock. No headache yet, but I'm waiting. Holly chased a skunk and was thoroughly sprayed this morning. Between the smoke and skunk my apartment is very aromatic. Good thing I have to get the heck outta here to go to work. I'm dying to spin my new Rambouillet roving, then the Merino/BFL I finally picked up from the mill. Should be very springy and soft. I'll spin it into yarn, then dye it. That will have to wait until work, then chores, then dinner, then more chores. My bit of free time last night was taken up with a very wooly German angora, who was very anxious to unload his gift of fiber. I have an idea of what to do with the little matts that come off the bunnies. I will dye them, then felt them between two pieces of wool. It should make for a trapunto effect. We'll see. For now I have to be satisfied with doing it in my head, as duty calls and I am on the road to school. I have a more challenging class this year. No knitting and sewing just yet. We'll see. I sure do miss my girls from last year. Now I have mostly rowdy boys. Gotta deal.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pond Water

Rosanna, science teacher in the room next to mine, and Brookfield pumpkin farmer, asked me to bring in some pond water to put under the microscope with our students. I hiked up to my half-a-hidden-pond under the ridge just before dark. The waxing gibbous moon was rising over the pines, with wispy black clouds drifting over it. I love that kind of mysterious moonscape. There was just enough light for me to take a picture. The spring that makes the big puddle was bubbling away. Someday I want to get this pond done over into a full-fledged body of water. It will be lovely and beautiful, and completely private. Skinny dipping anyone?

Sheep Pinata?

I wasn't sure what this sheep was all about until Kim explained this is a sheep pinata. How crafty and cool! You hold it up with the crook and let the kids have at it. I think it's brilliant, and might try to copy it for a future birthday party. I have the same wooden crook, too. I did buy myself a nifty leg crook, as my festival "treat" this year, but it's not the same classic crook like this one. I wish I had taken the time to compliment the crafter, but I never saw her over the weekend. Too busy in my booth, thankfully.

It's All About Sheep

Behind all the lovely yarns and fibers, there are the sheep who make it all possible. Wool is the Mother of All Fibers. Alpacas, Buffalo, Musk Ox, Goats, they all pale in comparison to the animal that is the skeleton on which it all hangs - sheep. Sheep have fed and clothed us through the ages, paid for the Crusades and all those castles in Europe. Wool is a miracle fiber that, no surprise, is taken for granted because it is so plentiful. What other fiber is flame retardant, water repellent, and even breathes while keeping you warm? If there is another fiber that does all that please tell me. I better go hug and sheep.


I winced when I picked up this bag of Mother Fiber roving from Frankenmuth. I was grateful they were able to card it for me with such short notice and bring it to Rhinebeck for me, but the angora was shredded and it just didn't look the way I imagined. It was made from old wool, mohair and llama I unearthed in the tractor shed, with lots of nice angora. Kimmie Cornerstone was in love at first sight. I was almost ashamed to put it out but she insisted. She was right - it sold steadily through the weekend, a miracle to me since we were surrounded by lovely roving in our building. The spinners and felters all said the same thing, this is unique! I demonstrated spinning with this roving, and it made a pretty tweedy yarn, with the chartreuse angora standing out nicely. It sold out, without leaving a single pound ball for Kim. I can't possibly duplicate it. I sent Kim home with some natural Rambouillet and Merino/Bfl roving for her to spin and dye just the way she likes it. I know she will come up with something stunning, as she always does.

Orpheus is my Friend

Seven hours straight of good, sound sleep. My sleeping buddies, Izzy, Pip and Tanner, along with Blix and several other cats, kept me warm and snug. It's getting cold very quickly this year. We have to start getting the barn ready for winter. Broken windows have to be covered with plastic, and pipes have to be wrapped to prevent freezing. I have to talk to Stan about starting the BIG barn clean up. That will be very exciting. I will finally be able to stand straight up while doing chores. Stan and his son will not only take the poop out with their amazing machines, they will chop it up and spread it on the fields. That hard-as-rock manure and hay pack under my feet is worth it's weight in gold as fertilizer. The snow will cover the fields and melt the little bits of poop and old hay and it will be absorbed into the ground, soaking it with nutrients. Yes, the glitzy yarn shows are very exciting, but getting my barn cleaned out is a close second. Matt installed a draft inducer to get the smoke up my wood stove chimney. No more choking on black smoke. We need yet another section of pipe outside, but it would require getting a lift to do it. This machine will help until we can get that done. The draft inducer is electric and won't work in the event of a power outage and the wind could still cause back-puffing. I still have my gas oven as an alternative heat source. Yes, heat is good.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hunks O' Soap

Before I started pouring molten soap into mugs I poured it into copy paper box lids. I'm still doing it. People are fascinated by these funky, earthy blocks. I've never been one to make fancy, artificially colored soap, preferring the natural beauty and color of the miraculously saponfied oils and fats. I love the way some of the unmelted chips and slivers show through, giving the block a granite look. The customers must have liked it, too, as this basket was almost empty when the show was over.

Suzy and Kim

Suzy Fatzinger brought her whole family from southern Pennsylvania to visit us at Rhinebeck. Suzy is a faithful follower of my adventures and I do so appreciate her friendship. Suzy's husband and sons were entertained by the catapult pumpkin-slinging demonstration while Suzy made her way through the many buildings and barns that make up the NY State Sheep and Wool extravaganza.

Newly Adopted Bundaflicka Bags

I was thrilled and gratified to see Bundaflicka Bags leaving the booth on the shoulders of their new owners. I know they are going to good homes. I am anxious to sew more bags, as my stash is way, way down. When the world gives you a heavy load, Bundaflicka Bags will help carry the weight.

Henya Came to Visit

My dear friend, Henya Kazatchkov, of Chicken Stitches fame, came to visit me at Rhinebeck. She brought her daughters, Rivka and Rochel, and her husband, Eli, with her. Henya is emigrating to Israel in a couple of months. I wish we had more time to spend together before she leaves. Henya is an expert's expert knitter and creates the most beautiful and elegant stitch markers, pendants and "knitter's jewelry." I'm wearing a pair of her lovely sheep stitch markers as earrings now.

My Buddy, Jim Shelley

Jim and I met at Maryland Sheep and Wool a few years back. I was sitting on the grass eating lunch and naturally fell into conversation with the handsome fellow sitting near me. We've kept in touch ever since. Jim has evolved into an expert knitter, designing his own sweaters and taking on challenging patterns. I remember when knitted caps were a big deal for him. Jim saves and brings me all the wrappings from the soaps he's purchased over the years. He has many sisters and keeps them all in my soap and creme. Jim lives and works in Philadelphia. I wish I lived closer so I could attend the knitting workshops he gives at Knots in Philly.

The Right Fit

Some bags are just waiting for the right person. I thought this orange paisley chenille bag would have sold two shows ago, but it apparently was waiting for this lovely lady with matching hair, skin and clothing to find it. It was meant to be - a perfect match.


These sisters bought matching bags. Their mother gave them money for their trip to Rhinebeck and told them to buy something special. I was thrilled they found their special purchases in my shop. I think they were thrilled, too.

Celebrity Sighting

I wandered over to Donna Carlson's Sheep Shed, just across the aisle from me, and saw Uma Thurman poking around. She kept her head down and was moving very fast. The Red Maple guys next to me came over later and told me she bought socks from them. My excitement at spotting her was tempered by the fact that she walked right past my booth without coming in. Can you imagine the thrill of having such a beautiful movie star buying my soap or creme, or, better yet, a bag? Uma is very tall and slender, with her wispy hair pulled back in a knot. I really liked her Cats and Dogs movie, with Jeanine Garafolo. Wish I had the nerve to speak to her, but I know she preferred her privacy.

Woven Beauties

Someday I will weave lovely shawls like this. I own a Glimakra floor loom, and now have a lovely new Schacht loom to weave with. A place to set up a loom is a challenge in my funky old barn where animals are everywhere. I spent a week at Swedish weaving camp in the Berkshires five years ago, but will need a refresher course. I would love to weave some mohair rugs from my adult mohair someday.

Far Away Fibers

This fiber artist brought her art-yarn, handspun from her friend's Wensleydale sheep, and felted hats all the way from New Mexico. I adore handspun yarn and steer clear of commercial machinespun. Sadly, there was way too much of it at Rhinebeck. What this young lady (and I, and Kimmie Cornerstone) do with our fiber is very rare, and very wonderful...and we always know where our yarn comes from!

More Spectacular Knitted Fashions

I was in awe of the knitted creations coming in and out of my booth at NY State Sheep and Wool. Whenever possible I took snapshots with my new Canon camera (thank you, Dan!)

Fashion Show

The Rhinebeck festival brings out the incredibly beautiful knitted garments. This handsome couple is sporting Kaffe Fassett sweaters, knitted by the lady pictured. My favorite is the wavy one on the gentleman.


Kimmie Cornerstone and her faithful hubby, Darryl, stick with me through thick and thin. They propped me up in the booth the whole weekend and put me up in their hotel room. We were so tired Friday and Saturday night we all bedded down together in the comfy king size bed. Kim wrapped countless bars of soap and put together a giant basket of fiber sampler packs for me. She is very organized and quick, getting the job done in no time. These hardy Canadians are not ruffled by much. I'm so lucky to have them in the fox hole with me.

Shaving Mugs

These lovely mugs, created by Susanne Farrington of Hamilton, sold very well at NY State Sheep and Wool. The brushes come from Cotton Blossom Crafts in Georgia, and I really like them. The soap is simply scraps from all my varieties melted down and poured into the mugs. I also filled my own kitchen sheep mugs from New Hampshire but Susanne's earthy pottery went faster. I hope she comes to the farmer's market this Saturday so I can trade my wool with her for more mugs.

It's Showtime!

Ready to rock and roll. Maggie's Farm is on the road again. Darryl, Kim and I got the booth set up in about three hours, carrying in everything in the pouring rain. I brought the storm east with me. People who set up earlier did not have any rain at all. Fortunately, most of my things were in bins or bags and we ran fast through the drops. I missed Frankenmuth on Friday but got my fiber Saturday morning. It's interesting how Zeilingers, their major competitor, is always open for business before Frankenmuth is. I teased John Erlinger, my personal carder, about laying up in the hotel while Z. is already taking in wool. He blamed it on the ladies travelling with him.

So Validated...

Back on the farm after a fabulous weekend at NY State Sheep and Wool. I'm happy to report the fiber/knitting universe is alive and well in our neck of the woods. Saturday was a dream - with booths full of happy patrons. After a miserable trip with driving rain and wind, and taking a wrong turn around Albany, Kim and Darryl met me Friday night to set up and took me back to the Ho-Jo's in Saugerties. I was planning to sleep in the truck but good company, a quality mattress and hot baths are infinitely better. The sun and the crowds came out on Saturday and for the whole day my world was a beautiful place. Everything I make was validated in some way. So many fans and repeat customers came by to say hello or pick up hand cream. I heard things like, Thank Goodness you are here - I'm running out of creme! Susanne's shaving mugs went steadily and so did the roving I prepared this fall. I was especially gratified by the sale of my wool, with so many gorgeous, stunning offerings of roving and yarn everywhere you turned. Most of the Bundaflicka Bags sold on Saturday, with a few left over for Sunday visitors. I'm anxious to get back on the sewing machine. Kimmie Cornerstone's Mei-Mei knitting needles flew out of the booth along with her spindle kits. Henya Chicken Stitches and her family came to visit from Brooklyn and I was able to meet her new baby, Rochel, Eli,her husband and daughter Rivka. She presented me with a lovely stitch marker pendant and earrings. I'm very happy we had the opportunity to meet in person before she emigrates to Israel with her family. Off to work now in the dark and cold. Would love to rest on the farm today but duty calls. More show details later. Thank you all for your support and encouragement. I felt like loving arms were around me all weekend.