Saturday, December 31, 2011


Yes, I'm drying wool outside, on December 31.  I'm not saying it got completely dry, but it's halfway there.  The kitties kept trying to bed down on the wool spread out on the drying rack.  Don't blame's very soft.

Still Grazing

My flock is grazing on green grass as late as December 31 in upstate New York.  Who'd a thunk it?  This time last year the hillside was covered in snowy drifts and the sheep were in the barn for the winter.  When I opened the gate today I had to shoo them outside.  Once a few of them saw the gate open, they ran up the hill, doing mule kicks and acting like they had busted out of jail.   Temps are due to dive next week and I don't know how much grazing we'll be doing in January, but for now it's positively wonderful to see the woolies on the hillside.

1946 Ford 8N

My very first tractor arrived on the farm today.  Matt has been working on it for a year or two now in his friend, Ron's, garage in Syracuse.  This tractor will enable us to get those awful thistles mowed as they come up and take better care of our fields.  Long range plans include hay making equipment (yes, you can make hay on a small scale with an 8N) and a generator that can be powered by the tractor.  Matt says if cars were built as well as these little tractors we'd drive them forever. 

Have a Happy

I took the very last, I mean the very last, of the piggies out of the freezer for a New Year's Day pork loin roast.  This roast has travelled a bit.  When the power went out for three days at the end of August, I took what was left of Winkin, Blinkin and Nod over to my school and stashed it in my classroom freezer.  It took three trips from the parking lot in HOT weather but I got it done.  I figured my students would enjoy the bacon, ham and ribs and I would enjoy watching them feast.  Better than tossing bad meat.  I journeyed home to find the power back on.  Oh, well, we did enjoy it, with students cramming half a pound of thick sliced bacon in their mouths at a time, and aromas wafting through the wing driving people crazy with hunger.  The one piece that was left when I prepared to go home for Christmas holiday was this pork roast.  Figured I would share this with my family.  I miss the piggies.  They were the easiest and cheapest animals I have ever raised with the greatest return for my efforts.  It was very gratifying to carry those buckets of slop and see it disappear with grateful grunts and snorts.  I hated to see them go to the abbatoir five months later but they were as big as Volkswagens and going any where they wanted to go on the farm.  I came home to find them roaming the farm, and the Sister's flower beds, one day and stood at the bottom of the driveway with a big stick to keep them from going in the road.  The stick didn't phase them - they could have knocked me right down, but they liked and respected me and stayed put, lying on the grass with Izzy standing guard.  I finally got them back in their pen with a bucket of corn.  No more piggies, and that's okay.  I understand why so many people raise them.  Happy New Year everyone.  I hope your coming year is juicy sweet and delicious.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodbye Bushka

Childhood nicknames die hard, especially when we don't want our kids to grow up and we are confronted with the fact that the cuddly little kid he once was is gone forever.  Life goes on.  Chaplain/Father Aaron (AJ) and I saw Mission Impossible yesterday and enjoyed it thoroughly.   I mean, it was great.  I can't find anything wrong with it, aside from the expected gratuitous violence in a spy/action/thriller, and I was on the edge of my seat.  I like TC, always have.    Home to chores after a stop at WM.. What incredible prices on things like cat food, milk and paper towels.  It's the store we love to hate, but I give too much money to the little local markets on a regular basis to feel guilty about abandoning them.   Home to chores and a freaky farm accident.  I was climbing the hay mow ladder with a passle of kitties milling about waiting for the scoop of food I was carrying.  One cat was knocked into the void and came flying down with claws splayed.  One paw caught me in the lower lip and chubby cheek.  The nails were fairly well embedded requiring me to pull them out of my face.  I managed to hold on to the scoop of food and get down the ladder.   Lots of blood and me really pissed off.  AJ says I look like The Joker.  Oh, well, thankfully she didn't get my eyeball.  I'm rubbing lots of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme on the cuts to let the lavender get in there.   Think I'm looking at a scar,  but there's an old Jewish saying - "This should be the worst!"  AJ left for New Jersey this morning after the puppies woke him up at 4 am.  The little poopers are fat and happy.  I'm looking forward to them going to their homes shortly.  They are four weeks and I'm thinking maybe 6-7 weeks and they are out the door.  I'm feeding them the pricey Rachel Ray Nutritious High-Dollar Dog Food blended into mush with warm water.  Reba loves it, too.  She keeps whispering to me that it's time for them to go, but we need a little more time on the teat I tell her.  Reba says what do I know about kids dragging on the teat, but I tell her, oh, yes, I do know about multiples dragging on the teat.  Let's not go there.  I'm enjoying watching the end of the year news wrap-ups on the TV shows.  I have a GIANT fiber run in the works - burnt orange, pumpkin orange, dark purple and brown BFL wool, alpaca, kid mohair maybe with a tinge of teal thrown in.  That's my fiber Modus Operandi - another color that you wouldn't think of putting in there.  God Forbid I make a BORING run of Mother Fiber.  I get so bored spinning with these mono colored runs I see so often.  I'm ditzy with fatigue, having gotten up so early with AJ, and rather dotty with all this picking of fiber.  I'm not even finished with last year's fleeces.   I've got dye pots going, and a long queue of wet fibers in bags waiting for the drying table in the former guest room that was taken over by my business.  I know Father AJ would have been much happier in a room of his own, instead of the living room sofa next to the puppy box with dogs, cats, TV and his mother on the other sofa.  I told him that's what we do in upstate NY in the winter - we sleep around the stove!  Mia says her friends think I have a factory of my own to make all this wonderful stuff.  Little do they know I've driven many away with my creative clutter in this tiny apartment.  We work with what we've got, don't we?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Cold and windy with some icy/rainy snowing.  The puppies are prancing and playing on the floor.  I'm loving this cute stage and thankful I can be home with them for a few days.  AJ called from Atlanta saying he's about to board a flight to Newark.  He'll pick up a rental and drive up from there.  I hope it's a sturdy vehicle but I doubt it.  AJ is a good driver but he also likes to get where he's going.   We're going out to dinner tonight with Beastie Boy.  Very much looking forward to it.  I'll try to get some things done in the Maggie Cave today, but for now I have a lovely black Bluefaced Leicester fleece on the floor, shielding it from the puppies as I pick at it.  There's another cup of foamy cinnamon cappucino in the microwave waiting for me.  I have five big blocks of Patchouli soap to cut up and set out to cure.  It's garbage day so I'll have to suit up and get it down the lane to the dumpster.  The bottles are ready for Joseph and Gabriel.  My four lambs are growing like crazy and eating hay.  I'll have to pull their sweaters off them soon.  I'm sure Sidewinder, my angora goat with a crooked spine is pregnant.  I'll catch her and put her in a pen so I can keep a close eye on her.  With this loooong barn that has no light at the end an animal can give birth and I wouldn't know right away.  With temps diving tonight that could be problematic.  I make sure I walk the entire length of the barn each day.  Thank you Lord for my big barn, but it does present challenges. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


A gentle rain is falling, which is forecast to turn to ice later on tonight and in the early morning.  Thankfully I can stay home.  It's so warm I don't have to wear a jacket in the barn.  I don't think this will last for long.  My friend sent me some kind of weather projection map that says we are in for a major snow event January 4.  We'll see.  I have to figure out where to put Knut and Finn inside the barn.  Once the drifts pile up I won't be able to get to their igloos on the north side of the barn.  The boys love to live in the barn, but Knut is a little high strung and has been known to bark at the sheep.  I'll figure something out, which seems to be my mantra these days - I'll figure it out.  I've been picking fleeces, which is great if you have all the time in the world to pick, pick, pick.  I have two dye pots of pumpkin orange on the stove.  My Wacky Weaver friend, Susan Dunn-Lederhaas, has requested another orange run.  Fine with me as I adore orange.  I've been scrounging around for fleeces in the hay mow grain room and found some lovely, but challenging, BFL fleeces along with some gorgeous brown alpaca and some red llama from my sainted Chris.  The BFl fleeces had felted on the sheep, which often happens when Bluefaced Leicesters are rained on.  BFL felts if you look at it.  You have to be careful washing it as it can felt while you are getting it ready for the dye pot, or rinsing it afterwards.  I gave the puppies a piece of felted wool for their box and they are all trying to lie on it.  So adorable....

Marvelous Mohair

Mohair comes a close second to wool as my favorite fiber.  Mohair, which comes exclusively from angora goats, is very strong and lustrous.  If you are blessed with some softer mohair it is fantastic blended with wool to give it strength and durability.  If you add mohair, especially mohair from a colored angora goat, when spinning yarn for hand knit socks,  you won't wear holes in the heels and toes.   The animals are wonderful, and have lovely horns that are great for catching and holding them for clipping or hoof care.  Ah, yes, the hooves.  Angora goat hooves have to be trimmed much more often than sheep, and the animals require a delousing regularly or the beastly mites will ruin your mohair.  Mia helped me do hooves and give Ivomec to three goats yesterday before she left to go back to New Jersey. Goats need copper in their diet to be healthy and grow good mohair fleeces.  Copper is deadly to sheep in large quantities.  So there are management issues to consider when raising both species.   I'm hoping  Father Aaron will help me do a few more goats when he comes to visit tomorrow.  AJ was always a good goat catcher as it requires a bit of agility and quickness to catch up with these fleet-four-footed wild creatures.

Fleecy Day

Ahhhh, stuck at home with puppies, lambs and some very needy fleeces.  Sometimes I wonder just how long I can keep this up.  When I don't want to do something it's the Devil's own job to get me going.  I worry that I won't want to pick fleeces any more.  It's a nasty job and people just don't realize, unless you raise sheep yourself, just how much work goes into preparing these fleeces for sale.  Forget about raising the animals first.  I dragged some old (last year's) fleeces into the apartment to work on in front of the TV.  Gosh, I know how to  make a mess, but it has to be done. My Bluefaced Leicester wool is labor intensive in that it is so buttery soft it attracts all kinds of debris that must be picked out, and the teeny tiny crimp must be pulled apart before washing to get the lanolin and dirt out.  The BFL fleeces are not the fluffy, open, large crimped Romney fleeces I used to work with, but there is no wool as creamy and soft as this lovely breed with its amazing elastic quality.  Winter is the perfect time to fire up the dye pots.  I bought an old electric stove for $100 out of the paper five years ago and use it for dyeing fiber.  Two burners, incredibly, are still working.  When I have the giant pots simmering with wool, angora and mohair, they heat up the milk room where all my plumbing is.  The barn kitties actually lean up against the warm pots to thaw themselves out.  We haven't had any real cold yet, but I think January/February will see some good freezes.  In the mean time, some cuties are keeping me company and they think my raw fleece on the floor is just peachy.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Moon

I don't know where the day went.  I decided to make Mia a batch of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme to take back to New Jersey.  Her co-workers are always needing a jar for their chapped nurse's hands.  Mia helped me catch three goats and work on them today.  She doesn't mind holding their horns while I clip mohair and doctor hooves.  We have the nicest conversations about all kinds of things - her patients and their families, co-workers in the hospital, etc.  There is always drama in a hospital setting.  I love hearing her stories.  It's incredible to me that someone loves to hang with me and my animals.  She really gets the farm thing, and shares it with me.   The day flew by as we worked and soon it was time for Mia to pack up and start her 4 hour ride back to New Jersey.  We marveled at how lucky we've been with this mild weather, not having to worry about driving up to the farm and back.  Since Frank's NY Pizzeria was on Mia's way out of town, we decided to have our favorite eggplant parmigian for dinner.  What a lovely time we had, eating the delicious food and chatting with Frank.  Mia took off and I motored back to the farm, somewhat dismayed at the fact that it was me and the critters again.    There was a large, round gray silhouette of a moon in the sky, with a glowing orange crescent new phase rounding one side.  Venus glowed brightly to the west of it.  Living on the farm, in the middle of nowhere, leaves one the opportunity to ponder the celestial bodies and be reminded of our insignificance and short time on earth.  After a very brief time of sitting and staring I set about doing chores and here I am, in for the night at nine o'clock.  I have two very dirty and gnarly baby soft Bluefaced Leicester fleeces to pick apart.  Everybody is good for the night. 

Just Ducky

I'm about to put on a coat and boots to go out and check for eggs.  I want to make Mia some breakfast, maybe more Swedish pancakes.  I still have some more local maple syrup, and Laurie Marks gave me another bottle for Christmas in school.  You just-don't-buy-the-fake-stuff when you live in upstate New York, syrup capital of the nation.  The ducks seem to be acclimated to their pen, and lay eggs in the pans provided.  I feel a pang of guilt when the recent warm weather brings the earth worms up out of their holes on the hillside - a favorite treat of my ducks.  I give them cracked corn, egg layer feed and green hay to eat, but I know that's not nearly as much fun as the wiggly, squishy, juicy fellows in the ground.  I'm not sure how many males vs. females I have or I would toss the boys out to go fend for themselves and leave the girls in the pen to spoil.   Wish I could tell the difference.   So far there have been no eyes gouged out or real feathers pulled.  We'll see how it goes.  Now to go get those big, beautiful eggs.

Christmas Night

The malls were dark and empty, as they should be on Christmas Night, but the theatre had a healthy queue.  Mia and I had a lovely veggie meal in Mitsuba, the little sushi place next to the Marquee Cinema in New Hartford.  Sure, I would have loved playing games and continuing the Christmas cheer at home, surrounded by friends and family, but I haven't had that option in many years.   I only had the most precious little girl in the whole-wide-world to keep me company, so what to do with ourselves after chores?  We both wanted to see War Horse, the new Steven Spielberg movie, which was, as the NY Times Theater Review confirmed, a very visually beautiful representation of bucolic English countryside.  When the heroic horse, Joey, is sold to the Army to save the farm it kind of went down hill for me.  What else did I expect?  The same thing happened to me years ago when I took my young twins, AJ and Mia to see Empire of the Sun.    After Spielberg's ET I thought surely this next movie of his would be suitable for kids.  After all, Empire was about a kid surviving the war.  It was definitely NOT a movie for kids and War Horse is certainly not.  I bailed when Joey, who the viewers were thoroughly attached to by now, was about to charge the German Gatling guns.  I whispered to poor little Mia that I would meet her in another theater when WH was over.  She later said I did the right thing, as the WWI segments did not get any cheerier.  How could they?  There was a scene with an Army chaplain administering to the soldiers in the trenches that was particularly upsetting for Mia, as her soul-mate and placenta-mate, Father Aaron, would be doing the same thing.  The Army shooting young deserters who escaped on Joey and his friend, the black horse, didn't help.  Anyway, Mia was just as sweet as she could be, even when she couldn't find me since Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was playing in TWO theaters and I didn't see her looking for me at first.  When we did hook up we motored home to the safety and security of my little farm in the valley, where we did more chores until midnight, and where no animals would be shredded by guns and politics.  I fight my own wars here in terms of foot rot and hay bills, but, thank you Lord, no guns.  No Steven Spielberg for me next Christmas.   We drank too much egg nog loaded with Jack Daniels, thank you Mia, chatted about everything under the sun, and played with the puppies until we couldn't stay awake any longer.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Chores

It may be Christmas but the animals still need taking care of.    I couldn't resist asking my very willing farm girl helper to assist me with some hoof care.  While I had Monkey's boy, Jon-Jon, captive I couldn't resist getting some of the thick, lovely mohair off him to feed my dye pots.  I left his chest and neck covered for protection from the cold.  The boys have two shelters to huddle in from the cold - one, a silo room and the other a section of the barn where they can see their girlfriends (but can't have them).  Mia is so much fun to work with. She loves the farm and chores are never work to her, but a way to help her mommy and be with the animals.  We caught several boys for hoof care.  Now that the ground is icy and hard the goat hooves will be better off. 

Country Christmas

Just before dark on Christmas Eve, when we were waiting for Mia to arrive, Mattie and I took the doggies up on the ridge behind the farm to find a Christmas tree.  We couldn't find a complete tree in the dusky light, so Matt cut a lovely branch to tie to a support beam for our Christmas tree.  Mia put the lights on it and suddenly Christmas was upon us. 

Christmas Puppy Love

It's a beautiful thing to see a child of 31 go absolutely ga-ga over a box of puppies on Christmas morning!!

Christmas Angels

My Christmas angels take many forms.  One big Christmas angel is really enjoying four little angels who blessed us with their presence this Christmas.  Who can resist those warm little pink tongues and fluffy fur?  I am so happy Mia was able to make it to the farm for Christmas.  I'm having so much fun I don't know what to do with myself.

The Brookfield Baptist Church

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

The Brookfield Baptist Church, Christmas Eve 2011, with Mia and Mattie.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Puppies

Four weeks old and growing cuter every day!  Two, maybe three are spoken for. Have you ever????

Jersey Boy with the Irish Tattoos

Matt and I went for a bite at Panera in New Hartford before seeing Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at the Marquee Cinema.  Matt was very impressed with the fact that Lisbeth Salander rode around on a 350 Honda, identical to the one my son Eric gave Matt ten years ago.  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, although I thought it could have been cleaned up a bit and still have the same intrigue and impact.  Oh, well.  I'm looking forward to seeing it again when it comes out on cable.  We had a bit of sushi before heading home to the farm.  I thought I would find Matt in the tractor shed stroking the 350, but so far not yet.  I have to figure out how to clean up this place and get a Christmas tree in the next couple of hours.  I used to obsess about Christmas weeks in advance, but now I seem to have gone in the other direction.  With school, sheep, slinging bales, soap, creme and puppies, there is not much left of Maggie to go around.  Let us not lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas - loved ones big and small.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy, Happy

Matt and I are celebrating our 13th anniversary with dinner at Panera and a showing of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.   We spent the day doing thoroughly dirty farm projects like moving the last of my six cords of firewood up the lane and getting it stacked and moving my Marie Antoinette hay cart out of the way of the snow plow.  You'd have to see it to understand what I'm talking about.  Matt put a temporary ball on my new/old Chevy Blazer to also move my cargo trailer full of Mother Fiber away from the garbage dumpster.  It may be rusty and dented but it's the only cargo trailer I plan on having in my career as a wool merchant.  One dirty job leads to another.  I have another pot of mohair simmering on the dye stove in the milk room.  This fiber thing is addictive.  I'm almost ready to send out a HUGE run of purple/turquoise/flaming orange mohair, which will not be next-to-the-skin yarn, but still gorgeous fiber.   I used to poo-poo my colored mohair as too coarse, but lately I think it's the best fiber I have here on the farm.  I'm looking forward to seeing Dragon Tattoo.  It seems I am the only person in my school who knows nothing about the books or movies, Swedish or English.  Everyone has read the trilogy or seen the Swedish version of the movie but me.  I think Matt will like it, too.  Next time we'll see Mission Impossible for him.  Gotta run and do a mass of chores before we can head out.

A Little Snow

Had a nice surprise this morning...a surprise dusting of snow.  This warming trend continues with more rain than snow.   It's miserable as far as muddy conditions go.  I feel so sorry for the animals stuck in the muddy fields with that soaking iciness coming down on them.  A hard freeze with a lovely snow pack to walk on is much easier on them.  If I could I would bring them all in my wonderful, old, classy dairy barn.  It's cold as heck but the animals are dry and out of the wind, on a hay pack that soaks up the pee.  Sure I would love a new modern barn with hay feeders and freeze-proof watering facilities, but this is what I have, and a new barn would not be nearly as beautiful when coming over the hill from Brookfield.   I got the dogs out and puppies fed, a messy process as I am grinding up kibble in the blender and spoon feeding them mush.  They are a bit too little to put the bowl in the box with them.  As it is much of it ends up on me, with Reba sitting next to me licking it off the baby's faces as I wiggle little spoonfuls into their wrinkly jowls.  I'm anxious to get them on dry food so Reba can dry up and the little ones can go to their new homes.  I'm a bit overwhelmed with yet one more animal chore.  My day will be spent trying to clear the decks here and get ready for Christmas, as humble as it will be here on the farm.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


The puppies are growing like crazy.  I am feeding them puppy chow moistened with warm water and ground in the blender once a day.  Reba is still feeding them but not as much.  We are almost four weeks old.  The puppies are showing personality traits and are playing with each other.  Three are spoken for, with two going to Long Island and one possibly going home with Mia and Andrew in New Jersey.   If they are anything like their mother, Reba, the puppies will be terrific companions and house dogs.  I'll miss the puppies, but I'll still have Reba McIntyre, who found  herself lost in a field next to my farm, for who knows how many days and nights, but is now fat and happy snuggled up to me on the sofa every night. 


Gifts come in many packages.  I received some lovely Christmas gifts in school today and I am very, very grateful to my friends at work for being so kind and generous.  I came home to find gifts of another kind in the hay rack Darryl Parkinson built for me - a nest of chicken eggs.  Several of the free range birds think this rack is rather cozy as I've had some in here before.  Works just fine as long as I don't toss a heavy bale of hay on top of the eggs.  I've been taking eggs to school every morning to make scrambles for Mr. Potter and the students.  My duck eggs are great for that purpose, as they travel well with the hard shells and I get a LOT of food in one egg.  Sometimes I have TWO giant yolks in one duck egg. I've provided the ducks with bins to sit in which they utilize for almost every egg laying.   I get a thrill with each laying of a duck egg after a year of having them hidden from me all over the farm, but I still appreciate the little chicken eggs in the hay rack.

Bubble, Bubble

I have a pile of wool and mohair fleeces on the floor of the milk room, waiting to be picked, washed and boiled in the dye pots.  There are times when I go dotty picking fleeces, I mean, it really drives me nuts to the point of lunacy.  Other times I find it extremely absorbing and relaxing.  Tonight was one of those times.  In the middle of chores, I grabbed a bag of mohair and stood in front of the stove, dropping the locks into some lovely turquoise dye.  When that pot was full I picked another fleece and washed it in hot soapy water, my usual procedure.  I like to fire up the dye pots in the winter when the heat of the giant pot helps keep the plumbing, and my cats, warm.  By the time I'm done with chores, the pot has reached near-boiling and I can turn it down to simmer.  It will cool over night and I can dump it into the washing machine to rinse the dye out. The cats often sit on the stove top next to the pot.  Somehow their feet don't burn and they love the warmth.  It hasn't been that cold yet, but we all know it's coming.

Chow Time

The sheep are in the barn eating enormous amounts of hay.  I sling bales morning and night. When the sheep are not eating they are lying about, growing beautiful wool fleeces on their backs.

Lilly Loves Apples

My old apple orchard woke up this fall and produced a huge crop of delicious apples.  I heard that apples were abundant all over Central New York.  My sheep gained a nice amount of weight going into the winter from all those apples.  Nobody loves apples as much as Lilly.  I bought a bag for her and took one out to chores with me tonight.  Guess who smelled the apple in my pocket and came running over to eat it.  Lilly has quite a set of teeth, as she is one of the oldest sheep I have ("long in the tooth").   I have to be careful how I hold the apple or risk losing a bit of finger or two.  I hope we have another good apple crop next year.  Lilly would be sooo happy.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

In for the Night

Everybody's fed and watered,  quite the accomplishment considering there are about a dozen different feeding stations that must be attended to every day, some of them twice.  The four Christmas lambs are doing well after their banding today.  Joseph and Gabriel came running over for their bottles as usual.  I hate this job, but tails that are left undocked are a fly strike hazard (flies lay eggs in the manure that cakes on the long tail) and rams that are left uncastrated are a management problem.  Both areas should be taken care of when the lambs are very young, and the areas that are to be banded are very small.   I had an awful time getting Gabriel done, as his testicles were rather high up.  Luckily Matt was able to hold him so that gravity assisted in the job.   I had to hold the elastrator open while fishing for the marbles with my fingers and holding them down while letting the band close around the pouch, on top of the little nuggets.   It's very easy to leave one testicle up, leaving the ram lamb intact and able to do "damage."  I want these boys wethered so they won't give me more lambs and their wool will be nicer.  Lambing takes a lot out of a ewe's fleece, understandably.  Wethers do nothing but act like bullies and produce wool.  I got Christmas lights up around the front door.  I'm not an "around the door" type of decorator, but it looks rather nice I have to admit.  My beautiful star is still up on the silo but the light strands don't work.  Maybe Mia and Andrew will help me take it down and fix the lights.  They are not coming until Christmas Day, but who cares?   It will still be beautiful.  Growing up in Somerset County, New Jersey, just 35 miles west of Manhattan, at a time when, yes, there were dairy farms everywhere, kind of like where I live now, farmers often had Christmas stars on top of their silos.  I never got mine that high, but on the side of the silo is nice, too.   I have a lot to do tonight but the body is telling me to lie down.  I want to make Patchouli creme and put together gifts for school.  We'll see how it goes.   Somehow the day ran away with me and I never got my Sunday NY Times.  Maybe Mia got it and can bring it to me after everyone in her house reads it.  Good TV on tonight - Dexter and the season finale of Homeland. 

Happy Birthday Opa

December is a very tender month for me.  So many memories, among which is my Opa's birthday.  He was born in rural central Sweden, the tenth of ten children and his mother died shortly after.  I don't know too much about my grandfather's life in Sweden.  His brothers and sisters drifted off to America and he followed.  Most of them stayed in Brooklyn, where my Opa learned to be a cabinet maker and builder of pianos.  Before he settled down, however, he traveled the American West, working the harvests in the Dakotas.  He would tell us just where to place your back pack while jumping on a train going 40 mph.  When he needed money he would put down a hat and find somebody to bare-knuckle-box with.  Opa was a big, strapping, strong Swedish farm boy.  He married another Swedish girl and set about having a life in America.  My Opa, called Opa because my parents lived in Germany after the liberation in WWII and my brothers learned German as a first language, was very proud of being American.  I only heard Swedish being spoken quietly in the kitchen.  English was their language now and they would use it.  I crossed the Verrazano Bridge countless times while growing up, attending family parties in Brooklyn.  I can sing Happy Birthday in Swedish perfectly, but the language was never mine, and with almost all the Swedes gone, I won't be learning any more.  Opa would like the fact that his descendants are so very Americanized.  He would never understand the farm thing.  Life on the farm in Sweden must have been very difficult.  They were so poor and their little farm could never have been divided up for ten children.  Opa chose to live and work in the city.  He was so proud when my father became a Civil Servant - a NYPD rookie.  That's okay.  The farm thing is mine, all mine.  Not too many understand my dream.  I know Mia does.  She loves the farm.  The Swedes are still in my range of vision, like so many clouds hovering above me.  I know I have their sturdiness and industriousness...but they would never approve of my housekeeping.

Fat and Happy Puppies

The puppies continue to eat, sleep and grow.  They are starting to have play time with each other, making little barks and yips, but they mainly eat and sleep.  I think they are too rolly-polly to do much walking and running yet, but it will happen soon.  Matt replace the baseboard heat in the "work room" where I plan on keeping the puppies when they need room to run around.  With temps diving - 2 F. this morning - heat is good.  Matt alsoconnected the electric to the front porch so I can have a stoop light and Christmas lights.  I better do it now, while the sun is shining on the porch for warmth and my hands won't freeze.  We also got shots and tail/scrotum banding done on TJ, Robin, Joseph and Gabriel.  Not a pleasant job but it had to be done.  All the lambs are sturdy and strong.  My Patchouli soap is setting in the molds, and should be divine.  I love the stuff so much I put the soap pot in my bath water so the little bit lining it would not be lost.  I have to bring wood in for the night, continue the emptying of the van, and make a batch of Patchouli creme for some orders I have received.  No problem there, as I would love some myself.  I'll try to get chores done before dark, which is shortly after four, so I can get in for the night and get things done in here.  Christmas is here, as simple and homey as can be on the farm.  I like to think how the baby Jesus, when he opened his eyes for the first time, looked into the faces of sheep and goats.  Lovely faces they are.  This Christmas we are blessed with PUPPIES to play with, along with my beautiful lambs.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Reba's puppies are opening their eyes, but I'm not sure how much they are focusing on.  I will be taking them out of the big plastic tub soon so they can look at things around them.  I have the perfect room for them to "grow up" in before they go to their new homes.  So far two, maybe three, are spoken for.  Mia and Andrew are coming over Christmas to possibly pick out a friend for Finn.  These puppies will be sturdy farm dogs and do well in any environment.  I keep thinking the dad must have been a Rottweiler, but who knows?  They are making little barks and whines - so cute.  Reba is spending less time in the box with them, making me think I might need to offer them food sometime soon.  Have to check with the vet about puppy feeding and shots.  Reba is a wonderful dog who follows me all around when I do chores.  I forget about her and turn around and there she is.  How delightful to have a dog who is such a loyal companion when I'm here alone so much. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

They are So Busted

The ducks are in lock down.  I feel bad they are not outside enjoying this lovely warm weather, but I had Kim and Darryl here willing to help me round up the three groups of ducks roaming the farm and I took advantage of the opportunity.  I'm spoiling the ducks with corn and egg layer feed along with fresh green hay.  They like to sit in the containers I provide.  So far they are getting along fine, with no feathers being pulled out or eyes pecked at.  I like having the eggs where I can collect them easily and not hidden all over the farm.  Ducks tend to bury their eggs in the hay, making them even harder to find the lovely, big, delicious gifts.  Now they are all mine. 

Lined Up for a Drink

I moved the water jugs closer to the milk room door so I could reach them easier with the hose.  I hate dragging the long black hose around.  It gets dirty in the muck and kinks like crazy.  Nothing like dragging it into the chicken room, turning it on and a trickle comes out because it's kinked far away.  I had to go with the hanging water containers to keep the ducks out of the sheep water.  The ducks loved to turn the water black.  Now the ducks are in lock down and the sheep can drink in peace.

Tucked In

Mom has TJ and Robin tucked in for the night in a corner of the kindergarten pen.  I'm about to tuck myself in for the night after my Cheerios and milk.  Temps are still warm for this time of year and rain is expected tonight.  Everyone dry and warm in the big  barn.

Duck Eggs for Dinner

 I had four duck eggs again today, and think I will scramble some for dinner.   The lovely warm weather continues and I don't have the problem of every drop of water in the barn freezing, along with pipes.  Rain is coming tonight along with the accompanying dreariness.  The lambs - TJ, Robin, Joseph and Gabriel are doing fine.  I wish I had time to knit four bright red sweaters for them and make a Christmas card out of it, but don't think it's going to happen.  I have some gift basket orders to get out in the next day or two, and with doing chores morning and night, and working at school, along with keeping other animals happy,  there's just no time to sit and knit before Christmas.  Christmas will be quiet this year, as it usually is, with Mia and Andrew coming Christmas Day and AJ coming in on the 28th.  I looked at the ten day weather forecast and, incredibly, I don't think we will have a white Christmas, even way up here in upstate New York.  This time last year we had four feet of snow already.  You know what?  I can deal with it.  The snow will come soon enough.  I should hike up on the ridge and look for a little pine seedling to use for a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  I treated myself to a Christmas present - five used Hildegarde von Bingen CD's.  She was a 10th century Abbess, herbalist, mystic and composer.  Her music is magical to me.  I play it in the barn while I'm doing chores and I'm happy. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Beastie Boy Makes Good

Matt, AKA Beastie Boy, is in New Orleans at the Department of Energy Annual Conference.  He is representing NY State Weatherization along with a contingent from Matt's NYSWDA Training Center in Syracuse.  The group flew to New Orleans to spend a week learning from and teaching energy people from all over the US.  Matt is presenting his famous "OSHA 101" show to the assembly twice over the week and participating in panel discussions as a Building Specialist and Subject Matter Expert.  In March the Obama stimulus money runs out and the wild rush to initiate programs to save energy and keep the masses of New York State warm will end.  For now, the dedicated and hard working people of Matt's agency will push the envelope on behalf of the aged, handicapped and underprivileged of our state who struggle to keep warm over the harsh winters of Northern Appalachia.  Matt and his trainers have provided many young people with the skills to find jobs in the energy field and have saved millions of gallons of precious oil by showing people how to weatherize their homes.  We're very proud of Mattie - our Beastie Boy.

Pile Up

Lilly and her pen-mate, Magnolia, are doing some job sharing.  They are guarding their lambs who are piled up against the cold.  The sliding door where Thor sleeps is just on the other side of their pen.  They are making sure Thor doesn't eat their babies.  Little do they know that Thor will keep coyotes from coming into the barn and eating the lambs!


Awake at 4:30 so I wrapped soap for a while and got the bottles ready for Joseph and Gabriel, Lilly's Christmas lambs.  I'm not fond of the idea of making bottles, like the marathon bottle season I had last year, but I'm confident my numbers will be small this year and more manageable.  Joseph, the monster of the twins, at 10 pounds plus, is showing signs of being a "Sh*thead," which is a lamb that figures out he can sneak milk from another mom by going in for the teat from behind.  If mom can't see that it's not her lamb, then he can get a drink before she notices and butts him away - just what I'm hoping will happen with the other nursing ewe in with Lilly and her lambs.  I didn't come up with that name, and don't know who did, but it's appropriate.  A similar sheep term, "jug," means the little pen a lamb and mother are confined in so junior can get at the milk source easily.   And so it goes.  It's 10 F. outside and 34 in the barn.  No frozen water.  I left the big pot of almost simmering water on the dye stove in the milk room to prevent freezing in there and found a kitty snuggled up against it on top of the range.  Joseph and Gabriel took their bottles well, a relief as I didn't get out there for a 2 am feeding as I planned.  They are strong lambs and should do fine going from 11 to 5 without bottles.   What I'll do from 8 to 4 when I'm at work is beyond me.  Haven't figured that out yet.  For now I'll enjoy sitting on the hay with a lamb in my lap, nuzzling his wooly head while he sucks on the Pritchard's Teat, taking in that lovely lamb aroma and forgetting my worries.  I found 4 duck eggs in the pen and will make myself some scrambled eggs, loaded with dill.  Yum.  It occurred to me that if I could figure out who is male I could let them go to fend for themselves around the barn and leave the females in  to pamper them and take their eggs.  The Pekins are so similar in size, and all white, that it's hard to tell.  I think my Swedish Blues are female and I know the single Rouen is a male.  Something else I'll figure out in time when I don't have a thousand other things to worry about.  I counted six roosters that escaped the Great Rooster Slaying of last weekend.  I could easily have grabbed two of them and wrung their necks this morning, but I just didn't have it in me.  Maybe tomorrow.   Life goes on for now.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mucking Out

There is just no end to it.   Where there are animals living in the barn there will be hay and poop to shovel out.  My grandson Luke was great at helping me muck out the barn.  With no machine to help with the job the only way to attack it is with a scraper, shovel and fork.  Kim and Jared Parkinson helped me get the walkway to the milk room cleared - one of the few areas I like to keep concrete visible.  With big snows coming soon we were lucky to get several wheel barrels out to the dumping area before it's blocked by drifts.  Many hands make for light work and good company is always welcome.

Power Couple

Yesterday I was blessed with a visit from my sheep friends across the border, Darryl and Kim, with their fantastic kids, Jared and Lindsay.  Kim and I did the Plowshares Craftsfair together last weekend and she told me the whole family would be back to help me cull some of the annoying roosters - weather permitting.  My rooster population has been out of control for some time now.  Darryl grew up on a chicken farm and is well acquainted with the bully-birds who terrorize the hens and steal the barn cat food.  With snow about to hit any time, I tried not to get too excited.  The weather held and my friends appeared, tool bags and Multatelli Coffee in hand.  Darryl got to work in the barn and the first thing he did was pull an old broken hay rack out of the dirt.  He used an amazing tool called a Sawz-All to cut it up and build a new hay feeder.  I was mesmerized with his industry and craftiness in making this simple device I have been wanting for years.  Throwing hay bales on the floor of the barn is like throwing money away, with the sheep stepping on and peeing on the costly food.   Darryl did not stop there.  Without saying a word he went around the barn, covering broken windows and holes with sheets of plastic, pieces of plywood, or inserting old windows.   Whenever he saw the opportunity he grabbed a rooster and gave it a swift and humane neck twist.   At the end of the day twenty roosters lay dead in the feed sacks I had saved.   Darryl and Kim helped me round up my 13 ducks which had been laying their eggs all over the farm, mostly in places where I had no access.  It took a bit of doing but at the end of the day all 13 were residing in a neat pen next to the chicken room where I can feed them properly and collect the valuable eggs.  There were four this morning!  Duck eggs are highly prized, with large golden yolks and thick whites.  Between repair chores and rooster slaying, Kim and I mucked out the milk room walk way and hand-sheared Monkey and Sidewinder.  Now I have even more lovely mohair to play with when the winter storms blow in.  With Lilly about to give birth any second, and one mom with twins in a small jug, I asked my friends to help me make a kindergarten where moms and lambs could be safe and separate from the rest of the flock.  Good thing we got that done, as early this morning Lilly had a pair of great big ram lambs!!  Talk about perfect timing...