Friday, December 31, 2010


As 2010 draws to a close I take stock and give thanks for all the love and luck that has come my way this past year. I am healthy and able to take care of my animals. My kids are doing well in their respective professions. Mia is going to marry a great guy she's crazy about and vice versa. It's a match made in heaven. They still like me at my school, where it's okay to be quirky and different. Matt's non-profit energy group is thriving and doing more weatherization trainings than ever. He is traveling to conferences in San Francisco and New Orleans this spring to teach and learn. I have supportive friends who amaze me with their generosity and willingness to give up their time to help me get by. There are not a whole lot of people who do what I do with sheep, or even understand what I do or why I do it, but Kim and Libby do. When Libby and her sons drove up with that giant horse trailer full of hay, bringing me my new ram she kept for the last six months for me, I was overwhelmed. Pete was all over the barn, taking apart motors to try to fix my elevator. Niko and Mia caught sheep for Libby to ultrasound so I knew what to expect. When the elevator couldn't be fixed, Libby and her sons carried all that alfafa up an icy slope to stack it for me. The truck and trailer became hopelessly stuck and one phone call to Stan brought him across the valley in the dark with his tractor to pull them out. Kim and her entire family are coming to farm sit in February so I can go to Mia's wedding...not an easy task with lambs dropping and storms coming through. The list goes on and on. I am one lucky ducky.

New Blood
Zack is my new Border Leicester ram, purchased from a 4-H family at Maryland Sheep and Wool last May. Libby graciously offered to transport him home to her farm and keep him for me until I was ready. She brought him the other day with her sons, Niko and Pete. Zack is gorgeous - big boned and bursting with wool. It's not as nice as my BFL wool, but I'm hoping to put some density in my fleeces and Zack should do fine. I kept him separate for a day, but Zack would have nothing to do with that and tried to squeeze through the wire panel requiring some quick work with the cutters. Libby was right - Zack is a lover and we've had no fights or fuss. My old ewe, Moira, has been butting him a bit but I think it is an old lady crush on a hot young fella. Zack is a "Babe" sheep and fits right in with my Bluefaced Leicesters. Thanks, Libby, for taking such good care of him the last six months!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

RIP Baby Thunder

I knew it was coming but was still not prepared for losing my cute little friend, Baby Thunder. Mia came to visit and lucky for me she was here with me when he passed. We went to pick out lining for the bridesmaid's capelets I am making, then caught a showing of Black Swan. When we stopped at WM for cat food, the car wouldn't start. AAA rescued us with a jump, but while we were waiting I called Matt to find out that Thunder was down and not doing well. We finally got home to find him flat out on the hay and only mildly responsive. Thunder always "talks" to me. When I spoke to him I heard a little mutter deep in his throat, like he wanted to talk but couldn't. We stayed with him a while, then covered him with blankets and went to bed. I woke with a start, feared the worst, then found him cold and still. I have a lot of sheep, but there will never be another Baby Thunder. He was my VERY FIRST SHEEP and started me on this wild adventure that I've been pouring my energy and passion into for the past 10 years. He was in a little cage outside Hope Yankey's booth at Md. Sheep and Wool. He was a Coopworth triplet who Hope decided she would sell as a bottle baby. I picked him up and felt his little heart racing against my chest. I was smitten and brought him home in the back cab seat of the Ranger. That was the start of my love affair with sheep. I can't bury him now and Matt made me move him out of the barn. I have him wrapped up and under a fence panel to protect him from varmints. I can see him from the window. I'll get a proper grave dug as soon as I can. No dead pile for Baby Thunder. Libby and sons came yesterday to bring me hay and pick up goats for her son, Niko, to raise for mohair. She offered to shear Baby Thunder so I could have his last coat, but I just didn't want him to be naked out in the cold. I was so lucky to be surrounded by friends and family yesterday, busy doing ultrasounds on the ewes, Pete tinkering with motors, chatting with Niko, unloading hay, all kept me upbeat and helped me get over the hump. Life goes on, and I have many Baby Thunder stories to write in this ongoing saga of Maggie's Farm.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Time to Enjoy

I really took some time to relax and enjoy myself over Christmas weekend. I think I kind of crashed. It's not like to me to sit on the sofa watching TV or reading the paper. I even read a few pages of Vendetta, a book by Victorian writer, Marie Corelli. An English PHD was at the Riverkeeper show selling copies of Victorian era books he had recently edited. This book reads just like Edgar A. Poe. I got through a few pages before my eyelids became very heavy. I realized I had been going full-tilt since my first craft show last September. Something's got to give and I'm trying not to feel guilty. I pulled my dusty spinning wheel over and played with wool for a while. My kitties had other plans for my wheel. They knocked some little balls off the Christmas tree and rolled them under the treadles for their favorite "find the elusive mouse" game. How gloriously wonderful to rest, relax and enjoy the little things we miss in our daily rat-race.


I'm not sure exactly what constitutes a blizzard, but it sure looks and feels like it right now. The wind roared all night, shaking the empty hay mow above me, and causing the hay mow elevator door to bang, bang, bang. I slept like a log for five hours, then made myself get up and get out for a barn check. No lambs yet. Glad I pushed everyone to the inner barn and put up a barricade. I normally leave the barn open as the sheep like to go outside and eat snow, but not with this storm going on. I stoked the wood stove which was not a good idea. Even with the updraft fan Matt installed on the stove pipe I'm getting down drafts. Eyes are burning and tearing, causing me to open the window a crack to let the icy wind in to help the draft. Kind of defeats the purpose of having the stove. If I have to rely on electric and the power goes out I am in deep doo-doo. I better go fill up all the water buckets just in case. AJ is still here and I'll ask him to help me build jugs and cover the remaining broken windows with plastic today. Doesn't look good for Mia coming. She was called in to the hospital to work for people who couldn't get in due to impassable roads. Living a mile away is definitely an asset, if she can get that far. We planned to spend three days addressing wedding invitations and starting work on the bridesmaids black velvet capelets. Fingers crossed for tomorrow but if this wind keeps up I don't want her tiny little Hyundai getting blown all over the road. Better have another cuppa Joe and ruminate on all this.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas in Dallas - 2010

Perked Up

The Well-Gell Dr. Rachel brought ov for Baby Thunder is definitely helping him. He's still way too thin, and I don't have any unrealistic expectations for a miraculous recovery. I really didn't want to lose him at Christmas. This morning as I was doing chores - not really chores as I love to be with the sheep - Thunder got up and walked over to some cracked corn and started eating. I haven't seen him eat in weeks. The rest of the sheep are wonderfully fat and happy. The pregnant ewes look fine and fit. I have two with no udders and one with half an udder, and I didn't mean for them to breed, but here we are. Everyone else looks great.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


After a quick nap - what is it about Christmas that makes me so sleepy??? - AJ and I are heading for the movies. He wants to see the new Narnia movie and I'm going along. Matt will stay on the farm and hold down the sofa while checking for lambs once in a while. The weather is gray but no snow for now. Roads are not too bad. AJ is driving or else I would say, no thanks. I love to be driven around while I knit or look at magazines. Driving Miss Maggie!

Boot Hill

A good pair of boots is very important in our line of work. I slip in and out of mine many times a day. No matter how much cold weather clothing you put on if your feet are not taken care of properly you are miserable. Matt and I gave each other Muck boots for Christmas. I looked and looked for boots that are not made in China, but, guess what? They are all made in China. I go through boots about every two years. They crack and leak - not fun when you are trudging through mud, manure and snow. I was wearing a pair of leather lug boots that I bought Eric for Christmas several years back but he didn't like. They were too big and not warm. Now I have squishy, warm, rubber boots on. Together with my Carhartt jump suit I am ready to rock and roll.

Cold Ducks

The duckies got extra sweet feed this Christmas morning. Life is tough for them when their beloved water is frozen. We haul warm water to them every day for a swim to keep them happy. They are so beautiful against the snow, and seem to be thriving.

Christmas Morning 2010

I slipped out of bed early to get out and do chores before AJ and Matt woke up. No lambs to my relief. Girls very pregnant and one or two are "puffy." I spend extra time with the sheep this morning, loving every minute of it. They are so beautiful, some in full fleece, very round and serene. The girls get a faraway look on their faces when they feel their lambs playing in their bellies. I like to watch the movements while they kick and swim. Took me a couple of hours to get everybody taken care of, then back inside to wrap presents and finish decorating the tree. AJ is my only child this Christmas so he is getting a LOT of attention and loving it. Matt made us fancy omelettes and we put on the Nativity Story. It's my favorite Christmas movie these days. I love the textiles and music and just about everything else in this lovely depiction of Jesus' birth. And I especially appreciate the attention the movie gives to the SHEPHERDS!

Christmas Eve 2010

After picking up our tree we motored north on 12 to Utica to my local Barnes & Noble/Panera/WM shopping center. I needed a couple of last minute things and the guys were hungry for a quick bite. Home for chores, then dress up for church. The candlelight service at the Brookfield Baptist Church was delightful and just what we needed to soothe the stress of this earthly life. We sang carols and listened to Pastor Mark talk to us about letting Jesus' love enter our hearts this Christmas. Home to a lavish dinner of Swedish meatballs, yam casserole and cranberry sauce. Once full and sleepy we drank strong coffee with Annie and Mia's fabulous biscotti. It fortified us for putting up our Christmas tree!

Happy Christmas Everyone!

Mission Accomplished! We scored a Christmas tree at the last minute. I wanted to brave the drifts up to the ridge but I was voted down this year. Next year I plan on planting my own Christmas tree crop closer to the barn. That way I can supply friends and family with my own live trees. We got this tree from the Alcott Nursery in Madison, just as they closed down for Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I found my desk covered with presents from colleagues this morning. I was really overwhelmed and so grateful to everyone. There was a skein of lovely dyed yarn and handmade Ginger Bath Salts from Gretchen, a box with three kinds of fudge from Rosanna, a primitive sheep statue from Laurie and a jar of cookie mix from Kelly. I opened some and took the others home to put under my tree - when I find a tree and get it put up that is. I remember being this late getting ready for Christmas once years ago, when I was in school. I had two finals on Dec. 23 and was so strung out I staggered into the house and fell on the sofa. My kids were a bit concerned. I have more stamina now, thankfully, but there is just not enough time. With the two weeks of back to back shows in December, and work, and regular chores, and filling orders, the time slipped by so quickly and here we are. I'm trying not to let the spirit of Christmas get lost in the frenzy of preparation for Christmas, but it is easy to succumb to pressure and be cynical. Not me. I'm grateful for the way this year panned out and have much to be thankful for. Baby Thunder is hanging on. Dr. Rachel dropped off some nutritional supplement called "Well Gell" on her home to Canada for Christmas. I found it when I arrived home and mixed it up for him right away. I also found Matt laid out sick on the sofa with some kind of strep throat. He was hoping to get some work done at home today but nothing doing. I'll do chores tonight and whatever housework I can manage tomorrow. AJ will come home on Christmas Eve and we'll do the tree and put up some lights - an appropriate task for a priest-in-training. We'll let Christmas come in when it comes and take it any way we can get it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Junk Yard Dog

I stayed up late, half hoping to see some of the lunar eclipse starting, or some meteors, or, in some way, to feel like I was not giving up on this fabulous celestial event that was happening. I got my teacher gifts all collated and packed, and made a fresh batch of 2 ounce hand creme for the little tote bags. As I reached for a coat the doggies jumped off the sofas to come out for their night-night walk. There was no sneaking out without them. We all stumbled for the back door and I opened it, looking up to the sky, hoping that the wind had blown away the cloud cover. Bad move. Before I could yank everybody back inside, Thor and Finn jumped on Pip. Too late I heard Matt's voice telling me they were loose and not to take Pip out tonight. The White Boys hate Pip due to much teasing and bullying when they were puppies. Pip would pee in their faces when they were in their puppy pen and the White Boys never forgot. It's unbelievable how they carry this blood vengeance years later. There I was standing in the dark in the snow in the middle of a big dog fight. Even little Izzy joined in, jumping into the frey, on his hind legs, jaws snapping. I've tried two different approaches when this happens - screaming like crazy or walking away. This time I didn't have a chance to do either. The door to the apartment burst open and Matt ran out, in his stocking feet and ski underwear, screaming like a banshee. He ran into the snarling, squealing, ferocious throng of fighting dogs, kicking and grabbing them by the scuffs of their necks, throwing them off into the snow, cursing a blue streak. I looked across the little valley to see if lights were going on on the hillside. Nobody could sleep through this! Now I know why the Romans gave up on invading Ireland! The dogs scattered, all except Pip, who saw this as an opportunity to run after the retreating Thor and bite him! That's a Jack Russell Terrier for you! Matt grabbed Pip's leash but Pip, terrified of Matt, yanked away, ran for the hay cart and hid in the bales. I pulled him out and my hand came away bloody. Once inside I only found one sizeable hole in his head from a Thor fang. Not too bad as Pip has suffered worse. Matt went back to bed but shortly went for some comfort in the form of vanilla ice cream and polished off half a gallon. I huddled under the covers with Izzy, who was still hiding from Matt, the biggest, baddest Junk Yard Dog on Maggie's Farm.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Winter Solstice

I love this holiday. The tilting of the earth away from the sun. And this year we have a lunar eclipse and a meteor shower to help celebrate. I didn't even mention the birthday of my dear Opa on December 18, my Swedish grandfather who came here from Sweden and settled with his little family in Brooklyn. I like this picture of Opa - I think I knitted that scarf. There's that "strong nose" I see on AJ and Mia. So we had Opa's birthday, our anniversary, and the Winter Solstice in three days. Today we made Christmas dinner with my students in school where I served a ham from my boys, and the Swedish meatballs we made together in school last week. Yams, corn, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes rounded out the meal along with red Kool Aid. What a feast - and lots of good left overs in my freezer now. Tomorrow we bake a cake for two student birthdays, Santana and Brandon. So much to celebrate. The wind is blowing hard out there and perhaps it will make a break in the cloud cover so we can see the eclipse. Not sure I could stay awake anyway, but it's a nice idea. I spent some time walking up and down the barn to check on the pregnant ewes and does. Pretty cold out there but they are dry and sheltered from the wind. Sweaters are ready to go. I have some orders to get out and gift packages to put together for colleagues. I think I'll lie down for ten minutes - a rare treat - before dinner and chores.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Welcoming Committee

I returned home from running errands in Hamilton to find this welcoming committee waiting for me. Baby Thunder was standing in the driveway, then Matt came out looking for him. What a lovely sunny day it was today. I did some Christmas shopping, which, for me, in recent years, is an erratic, spontaneous happening. I just pick things up here and there as I see them. Tonight I'll wrap and get a few things out tomorrow. I spent some time tonight scraping the milk room floor after it flooded when Matt cleared the drain. A couple of inches of poop, hay and dirt had made a thick carpet that was extremely annoying to me. I could not do any washing for a couple of weeks, even with the new washer, until the drain was cleared, and that meant dealing with the water. I spent two hours I would rather have spent on other things but there we are. The farm is a full time job that is never done satisfactorily, and the inside, combined with my farm craft business, is the same. I can't do one to the exclusion of the other so I vacillate between the two. Then there is my teaching job, which takes away from the other two. I need three of me, but that's not going to happen so I just deal with it. The Berlin Ballet is doing the Nutcracker and that makes me happy. We are cooking our Christmas dinner in school tomorrow and that will be nice. Robin's "Special Emotional Needs" class will join us. I have cranberries and popcorn for the kids who are not cooking to string, while we watch Coraline on the Smart Board. Then Tuesday and Wednesday and I am free to stay home on the farm for a week and a half. Since lambs are coming any minute, that will be a blessing indeed.

12 Years of Wooly Bliss

12 years today and we are still slinging bales together. I know women who are lone shepherds but it sure is easier with a Big Daddy to do most of the heavy lifting. The family members in this picture are making their own journeys through life. Let's do an update on them:

Maggie - Shepherd, Goatherd, Crazy Cat Lady, Special Education Teacher, picker, dyer, spinner, sewer, cremer, buttonmaker, anything to hustle a buck to feed the sheep!

Matt - a carpenter who found another career as the Director of Training for a non-profit group that trains weatherization workers and whose predominant mission is to keep low-income people warm and influence public policy on their behalf. Weatherization is the great love of his life but I am a close second and the farm rates somewhere way down low!

Hannah - age 12, my first granddaughter and a tall, beautiful, girl who loves clothes and is a talented artist, just like her Daddy, my son, Eric. Hannah's brother, Luke, was not to come along for another 3 years after this picture was taken.

Annie, 41 - Hannah's mother and Eric's wife, is a grant writer for the Boy Scouts of America, and President of her own consultant company, working out of their big brick house in Flower Mound, Texas, a suburb of Dallas

Mia, 30 - my only daughter, twin A, age 31, who will marry her fiance, Andrew, on February 19, 2011. Mia is a RN BSN at Morristown Memorial Hospital in New Jersey. She is working on a MSN at the Univ. of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, NJ.

AJ, 30 - twin B with Mia. AJ is a seminarian at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary in Yonkers, New York. He is a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army National Guard and will be an Army Chaplain when he is ordained in the spring. Who knows what the Army will do with him then.

Eric, 40 - big man in the Boy Scouts of America, now working at the National Boy Scouts Council in Irving, Texas. Eric was put in charge of the construction of the new permanent Boy Scout Jamboree site and adventure center on the New River in West Virginia. He must raise twenty million dollars to augment the fifty million donated by the Bechtel family.

Sean Redmond, 33, - Matt's son from his passionate but brief marriage as a child. Sean is a California boy, and is the webmaster for a big jewelry company in Oakland.

Brian Redmond, 35ish,- Matt's nephew, talented chef and member of the Big Apple Circus troupe, New York, New York

Michael Redmond, 61 - Matt's older brother, editor of a local newspaper, the Princeton Packet, in Princeton, New Jersey. Married to Loretta Jankowksi, classical pianist, movie music composer and piano teacher in Mountainside, New Jersey.

Life goes on and we are all too far away from each other, something driven home painfully at Christmas time. I love them all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bundles of Joy

I'm preparing goody bags for Matt's weatherization group. We're heading for the Christmas party today. With the current attention being given to the need for saving energy, Matt's non-profit company has grown from 3 people to 18. They are a real nice group of folks who conduct training classes for local agencies who weatherize the homes of the poor and disabled. I actually found a NEW Christmassy dress in my old trailer, hanging up, waiting to be worn to such an event. I lived in that little trailer for a year when I first moved here. I bought the best barn I could find and unfortunately, it did not come with a house. The sheep come first, ofcourse. When I opened the trailer door in the dark last night, I had a flashback of me, lying on the pull-out cot, covered with dogs and two space heaters going full tilt trying to keep that little tin can over 40 degrees. I had a portapotty but they took that away in December when they could no longer empty it without it freezing. I had to dig a trench to the milk room where I had a camp potty and where Matt and I, when he came home from working in NJ on weekends, took our Saturday night baths in a stock tank. Those were the days...

Christmas is Coming

AJ is coming on Wednesday and Mia the day after Christmas. It snuck up on me again this year. To think of how much time I spent preparing for Christmas in years seems like another life. We are going to Matt's company Christmas party in Syracuse today. A few nice folks who work tirelessly to keep poor people warm in New York State and save energy. Still snowing here. I heard the record is broken for December snowfall in Syracuse. Not surprised. It just keeps coming...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I've been sleeping on the couch - which I like to do anyway - and stoking the stove a couple of times during the night. I like wood heat which is penetrating, cozy and wonderful but it is a lot of work. We buy wood even though there are some trees I would love to harvest on the farm. I bought Matt a hefty Husqvarna chain when we moved here but, to my surprise, I never hear it running. I sometimes think of my students who would love to have that chain saw. I'm afraid of it or I would use it myself. In the meantime, the wood has to be stacked when delivered, then carried in and stacked again for use inside the apartment. I miss a fireplace and the lovely music it makes, popping and settling as it burns, but a fireplace is terribly inefficient and frivolous. I still want one. My dogs would lie up against the hearth to bake in the heat. They don't dare get near this big black box. Time to stoke it again and get off to work. I'm living for the weekend these days. Five more days then a week off to work on the farm over Christmas. Still no babies and that's fine with me for now.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fiber Friends

I made another fiber friend at Delaware Riverkeeper. The owner of Felted Dragon Fiberart was there and showed me how much she likes spinning my Mother Fiber on her tiny Golding spindle. She also makes incredible life-like felted animals. Annie and Kimmie Cornerstone are the extreme spindlers in my circle. I confess I'm not adept at it, but still think it's the coolest and most portable way to spin. This lady winds the single off onto pencils for plying - very smart indeed!

Baby Love

Mia loves babies and her friends are popping out the little ones. Luckily Mia only has a year of school left before she finishes her Masters in Nursing. Missy brought little Hadley to Mia's bridal shower. They had a lot of fun running around the lobby of the Hyatt. Lisa had little Kai at home with her mom while the shower was going on but Mia was sure to spend lots of time with him before they flew back to California. Andrew looks like he could get used to the baby thing without too much convincing too!


The sari booth was a big hit at the Delaware Riverkeeper craft show this past weekend. The artist was willing to barter for soap and Mia took home two saris, one short and one long. They are lovely, with several layers of silk in different patterns and colors. The saris can be worn in many ways and a how-to video is available. It helps to have a tiny waist, which Mia does. With sandals and a tee shirt the sari makes a lovely summer dressy outfit.

Mia's Dishes

When Mia and I saw this set of old fine china at the Bargain Box we just looked at each other in awe. Here was 17 place settings of lovely china, placed in laundry baskets, with soup bowls, platters, salad dishes and a gravy boat. The neutral color with tiny red flowers will go with any linens. Mia registered for a china pattern at Bloomies but decided to buy this set and cancel the other. She bought the whole set for less than one plate of the Rosenthal "Marco Polo" china. Mia is very thrifty and frugal and knows a good deal when she sees one.

The Bargain Box

The Bargain Box is the "thrift boutique" operated by the Women's Association of Morristown Memorial Hospital. I confess I never frequented it years ago when I lived about a mile away from it. I went to the Junior League thrift shop which is no longer in business, I believe. What is it about the lure of the gently used clothing shop that I find appealing? Is it the fact that these items have a history I always wonder about? Who wore this classy garment and why in the world would they surrender such a fabulous item when it's still good? Are they so well off they just buy new things whenever they wish? Did someone die and the family cleaned out the closet? There's a sense of mystery to a thrift shop. The ladies do a nice job of running this boutique. Nothing smells like cigarettes and most of the clothes have designer labels. I've been there twice in a month and am thrilled with both stops. I am wearing the never-used Dansko clogs I bought there yesterday for $15. They are patent leather black and will serve as my Christmas party shoes. There was another pair I picked up for Mia, size 38, dull black and perfect for nursing duty. I'm a little shy about buying gifts for others from a thrift shop, but Mia is totally on board with bargain shopping. I am set for the winter with long coats, jackets and slacks for a pittance. Thank you, Bargain Box ladies.

Puppy Love

Lilly is a Shiba Inu belonging to Amish, Andrew's friend in Manhattan. Lilly spent the weekend with Mia in Morristown while the guys went skiing in Vermont. We decided to take Lilly to the Delaware Riverkeeper craft show rather than leave her in the crate at home. Tim White gave us permission to bring Lilly inside and she was a bit hit. I had never heard of a Shiba Inu dog before. They are an old breed from Japan and Lilly is quite friendly. She looks right at the camera, something my dogs do not like to do, and is quite sparky and confident. I think she was great for business. When I got home to the farm my dogs had their noses all over me. They know what Mia's Finn smells like, but what was this? Another strange dog scent? I had some explaining to do.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

So Fortunate

The Delaware Riverkeeper show in New Hope was, for me, incredibly successful and validating. Let's see, where to begin? I left school on Friday and began my journey to New Jersey to spend the night with Mia. Driving was awful as the snow wouldn't let up and the roads were slick. I hate driving in the dark in bad weather. Finally made it to Morristown and Mia's beautiful little apartment, upstairs in the Brady's historic Victorian house. I got a boisterous greeting from Young Finn and settled down to wait for Mia. She came home from duty at the hospital with a roast chicken and made us a lovely dinner. Andrew was off for a bachelor party ski weekend in Vermont so I had my daughter all to myself. Nurse Kim traded days with Mia so she could accompany me to New Hope to the show. It was so helpful to have her help setting up. She brought little Lilly, the Shemu Emu (sp?) puppy belonging to Aneesh, Andrew's friend and ski partner, who instantly became a big hit at the show. Nothing like an unusual adorable puppy to help make new friends. Lilly lives in Manhattan with her banker owner and has a professional walker who comes to the condo to take care of her during the day. Soap and creme sales were steady through the weekend. I feel very fortunate to have had so many friends come and visit me, including my ever faithful supporters Rebecca and Mark Dioda, Mia's bridesmaid Kim and her family, and my dear Suzy Fatzinger. I sold one bag, a few Mother Fiber packs, a pound or two of roving, some note cards, and lots of soap and creme. Many repeat customers which is very encouraging. I love trading with other crafters and managed to score some pottery, a silk sari-skirt for Mia, some wooden spoons and knives, and a Christmas tree for my classroom at school! Who'd a thunk it? Saturday night Mia made soup from the chicken we had the night before and I watched TV and made fiber packs while Mia studied. We had some very meaningful girl-time together and fell asleep as Paul McCartney came on to Saturday Night Live. Never got to see him sing as I was a goner...Sunday AM and we were up at 5. Mia went to work and I went back to the show, 40 miles away. Pouring, torrential rain made driving a bit tricky. Glad it wasn't snow! The attendance was down today but I, lucky girl that I am, had steady soap and creme sales. Thank you Lord people like my stuff. I had so much fun talking to people all day and explaining for the hundredth time just where my farm is in Upstate New York. Two hours to pack the van, and fit the tables inside as I lost a strap so sorry Matt, and back to Mia's feeling rather frayed but happy. Mia should be home any time from the hospital with take-out California rolls from my old favorite sushi joint Nagano, and I'll tell her all about my day and she'll tell me about her patients. She always has interesting stories to tell about this one who fell off a horse and has a brain-bleed, or stroke, etc., etc. Home tomorrow for me, into a storm unfortunately, but at least I will be driving in day light. Couldn't make it tonight if I wanted to. Matt called to say he's out of cat food and dog food and he didn't get anything done today. I was afraid of that but I'm too tired to be mad and it will get done when I'm home to help him. I told him to defrost chicken soup for the cats and dogs and I will bring everybody what they need...that is after I stop at my favorite hospital fund-raising thrift boutique, the Bargain Box, to check out the treasures. I will definitely fill up with gas before leaving the state because....Jersey girls don't pump!!

Friday, December 10, 2010


I adore craft shows, I really do, but I am so gosh darn tired. Up last night until after 1 making LOTS of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme for the Delaware Riverkeeper show this weekend and for orders that are coming in. I'm still reflecting on last weekend's Plowshares Peace Council show that was just soooo much fun. Happy, talented people all working for peace. After the labels were pressed onto the creme jars, I finished three bags that were in the works while doing chores on and off. I cook dinner for Matt every single night - it's in the contract - so there is always washing up to do...and when I need the sink for making creme it's tough to ignore the dirty dishes. It's so awful cold in the barn now. I need to run electic warmers to the chicken and duck water but the old funky electric service in the barn can't take any more usage. With the apartment and the hot water heater I'm really pushing it. I adore my classy old barn but, as I often say, it does present challenges. Right now if I can manage to get all the holes plugged up to prevent cold wind from coming in I will be pleased. I checked the thermometer on the sheltered milk room steps in the wee hours this morning and it was EIGHT BELOW! No wonder my hose froze in the barn when I went inside to check on dinner earlier. A frozen hose is a problem, as it has to be brought back into the warm to dry. With my dye stove shorted out I lost my heat source in the milk room. Like I said, I'm dealing with some challenges. I might get a new/old dye stove from Mike's used appliances in Syracuse if he has one for under $100. Two burners are shorted out from dye splashing over the pot and roosting chickens have covered the top with their "gifts." If only I could catch those boogers but they see me coming and jump waaay up high where I can't reach them. Life on the farm...

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Keeping the Delaware River

I am off this weekend to participate in the Delaware Riverkeeper Holiday Craft Show in the Eagle Ballroom on Sugan Road in New Hope, Pennsylvania. These hard working people are on a constant vigil, protecting the Delaware River from illegal dumping and encroachment by builders. The proceeds from this high-end crafts show go to keep the Riverkeeper programs going and continue their important work. I'm looking forward to spending time with my Darling Daughter, who switched a day of nursing with her good friend, Kim, to help me at the show. Come out and support the River People!

Birthday Party

I am the unofficial birthday fairy in school. I have a stove in my room and a perfect heart shaped pan that takes two boxes of mix. The lovely smell of cake baking wafts through the corridor of our wing and everybody knows it must be somebody's birthday. Some kids inform me ahead of time that their birthday is coming and please don't forget my cake. It's a pain in the neck for the teachers who are trying to get a lesson done, but they indulge me. The kids love it. I bring in a gallon of milk to wash it down and everybody eats cake. Leftover cake is put out for the faithful custodian, Sean, who keeps our wing so sparkling clean for us.

More Snow

It just keeps coming and coming, courtesy of that lovely Canadian wind that blows over the warmer water of Lake Ontario and turns it into a giant snow making machine. I slept right through my 3 am stove-stoking assignment and woke up to a cold apartment. Then the recalcitrant hot-water-heater decided not to click on last night. Cool bath for me. Good thing it's not wash hair day. This is why I keep my long braid. It can stay in for days if necessary without betraying my shampoo challenged lifestyle. My goats can't jump up and pull my hair when I'm feeding them and I can tuck it into my Carhartt jacket. This is the fourth or fifth day of snow, with a big storm forecast for this weekend. I have to get to school early for a parent meeting, and I have to stop at the market on the way as I forgot to get the writing gel for a student's birthday cake today. I made the cake, but this young lady specifically asked for her cake to say "Happy B-day Brittany, 18 years old." I am the unofficial birthday cake fairy in my section of the school. Many of our students wouldn't get any kind of birthday recognition at home, let alone a cake. Better get moving. I have the F150 back today, which Matt was driving yesterday to bring my trailer home from Syracuse. That big engine sure puts out the heat. Won't that feel good...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Running the Machine

I'm on a bag jag. G-d gave me two hands and 24 hours in a day and I'm going to use them. My kitties keep me company and the dogs go to sleep. They know that when I'm sewing their chances of going out to play are minimal. I'm extremely fortunate that people like my Bundaflicka Bags. I certainly enjoy sewing them. I made Mia a Bride's Bag and an extra one to put out for sale.


I wish I had more time to felt wool. I have all the fabulous dyed and naturally colored fibers to make some incredibly beautiful pieces, but it's not that easy. Felting requires a lot of physical stamina. No wonder it's done with all the women in the village helping. You can really work up a sweat, rolling and working a piece of felt. It must be rolled in a rubber mat and squeezed to make the wet fibers shrink and stick to each other. Then it's unrolled, turned, and rolled up again to repeat the process until you have a hard fabric. It helps to have an eye for color and design. If you are lucky you end up with an artsy beautiful piece of wool cloth that can be used for a variety of things. I really like what Candace is doing with wool. I like her circles and use of novelty yarn in her felted pieces.

Kimmie Cornerstone

Here she is, doing what she does best - chatting up the customers and turning them on to the fiber arts. I'm very fortunate to have Kim in my foxhole. She's a tireless worker and very talented fiber artist. Between Robin at school and Kim in my booth I know I'm gonna be OKAY!!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Good Morning

I had some good news this morning. My good friend, Henya, has cleared the bureaucratic hurdles necessary to make Aliyah - to move to Israel. Aliyah means "to go up" in Hebrew, to return to ancestral homeland of the Jews. Henya has a fiber business she runs out of her home in Brooklyn - where she makes lovely and unique stitch markers and sells patterns for her own knitting designs. I only see her twice a year at the big shows. Now I fear I won't see her for many years. Email is nice, but I won't hear her cute Russian accent anymore. I'm very happy for her, as Israel is the best place to be Jewish. Now her seven children will grow up in an environment where non-Jews are in the minority, not majority. On the home front, it continues to be cold and snowy here. Matt thinks I will be able to get out of the driveway. Hope so. I have two bags on the machine, and orders to get out - thank you ALL for supporting my farm! I have to buy jars and ingredients for hand creme, as the orders are pouring in. I remember the night that Matt said I can hardly go to sleep my hands hurt so bad. When he was in construction his hands would crack open and make him miserable. I thought to myself, surely I can come up with something. I make soap why can't I make hand creme? Then Shepherd's Friend was born. There's a jar in some stage of consumption everywhere you turn in this home. And the soap...I still like to make soap. I was reminded how wonderful handmade soap is when I was in the hotel with Kim last weekend. I used the little commercial bar and it's lackluster lather. My face and hands were so TIGHT afterward. Yuck! Better get ready to hit the road, as I will be creeping along again today. The forecast is good for traveling to New Hope, Pa., this weekend. More good news - Mia is switching days at work so she can help me at the show on Saturday! Her energy and beautiful smile will get me through the weekend and undoubtedly help with sales, too!