Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sheep on the Hill

It was wonderful seeing the sheep spread out on the hillside today. I'll let them graze tomorrow but will keep them in until next weekend. The grass needs to grow some more before they can be out daily.

First Green Grass

I let the sheep and lambs out to graze for the first time today. They loved the juicy, sweet grass after eating hay for five months. The weather was lovely with a gentle breeze blowing and warm sunshine. I lay on the grass with Bella and the bottle lambs and enjoyed our first outing of 2011.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Wedding

Coming off Mia's wedding so recently I was really looking forward to the Royal Nuptials. The Brits do it so well and they didn't disappoint. I loved the trees and the hydrangeas with greens on the altar. I adore the way the Royal Family uses the little ones in the bridal party. Kate's gown was perfect for her - so elegant and classy. There will never, ever, be a gown like Diana's but this comes close. It's tough not to compare the two brides. Diana had better make up and looked so beautiful with those heavy bangs and long lashes, but I loved Kate's long dark hair against the gorgeous white lace on her sleeves and bodice. Kate's train was part of the gown and flowed so perfectly, while Diana's train looked more like a banquet tablecloth being pulled behind her. Diana's bouquet was spectacular, but Kate's was mediocre. I see what they were trying to do, keep it natural and understated, but it needed some dangling English Ivy to give it more balance with the long gown. I still hear comments about the wrinkling of Diana's gown when she got out of the coach, but silk behaves that way and I understood it. Kate's satin had wonderful drape. I would love to see it up close as it was hard to see the lace on the skirt on TV. I wasn't crazy about the idea of the sister Pippa wearing that slinky, sexy white dress which fairly upstaged Kate - but then she did such a good job of handling the train and managing the baby bridesmaids I had to forgive her. Who could resist the handsome William and the way he looked at Kate, whispering to her through the ceremony? I confess I bristled when the Wicked Stepmother Camilla come in. She destroyed Diana and Charles marriage and ultimately caused Diana's untimely death. I don't believe I'm alone in that belief. William and Harry may have forgiven her but I can't. Diana, Diana, you were so beautiful and vulnerable. You needed more love than Charles was able or willing to give because it was given to another before you walked into that trap. If only you could have lived to see this day. Your sons look so much like you, tall and handsome. You bred tall genes and good looks into the Windsors, and, hopefully, your kind and generous nature. You loom large today, in everyone's hearts.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


The ground is soft and mushy everywhere I walk on the farm, even high on the hill. Even the ground hog holes are filled with water. I'm in from chores at 9 PM and have to decide how best to use the next three hours, which is about how long I think I can last if I drink a strong cup of tea. I'll probably sew because I can do that sitting down. I have a sick lamb and am very worried about her. I gave her an antibiotic and Nutri-Drench and don't know what else to do right now. She has a fever and I hear some rattling in her lungs. I'm hoping the LA200 helps, if not I'll give her the stronger stuff in the morning. I can't wait until I can get them all out on grass. It will be so good for them, but the grass on the hill is not quite there yet. The moms are very thin and, as usual, the wethers are big and fat. No lambs next year. It takes too much out of the ewes and the shepherd. Renata and Regina are doing fine. Mom has finally decided that both lambs belong to her. I have not seen any head butting of Renata in the last two days, but the clever girl is not taking any chances. She's still going in for the teat through the back door. I'm hoping to get up early enough to catch The Wedding before I leave for work. If I wasn't taking a day next Friday for Maryland Sheep and Wool I would take a day tomorrow just to stay home and watch Kate and Wills parade around in their finery. I hope there's good coverage of the trees and flowers decorating the church. Maybe I can find some British magazines with wedding pics coming up. I love the horses, the pageantry. Oh, would I love to be there watching the procession, but here I am, on the farm, living a different kind of dream, all my own, of my own making.


Rained all night on the farm. Much flooding around here and another storm on the way. Some of our sending districts are closed and others on a delay. The many rivers in Central New York, which feed the Susquehanna and Delaware, can only take so much. I just got through Route 8 to New Berlin before that road was covered. I then turn up in the hills before coming down again into Norwich where I work. Norwich High School is closed also and we have a skeleton student population today. I find driving in snow much scarier. My sheep are dry and cozy in their big strong barn so I'm not worried. My milk room (called that because the bulk tank used to be in it) flooed from the leak in the roof and a hose that decided to pop loose when the washer drained. It is a miserable room and the place where I go in and out of the barn and do my laundry and wool washing/dyeing. Long range plans include fixing it up into a nifty utility room but I have to get the roof fixed first. I was up late sewing and got a good bit done. I tend to leave things like buttons and wood bottom inserts until later and am trying to get each bag fully completed. I got six or seven bags ready to sell and cut/sewed a new one. Much soap wrapping to do but Robin, my trusty and dedicated classroom aide, is taking some home with her this weekend. The sky is blackening outside my classroom window. It would be a great day to stay home on the farm...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Boomer at Midnight

The White Boys were barking enough to get my attention. Something was going on. I took the inside dogs out for their quick night-night pee and noticed it was starting to drizzle. Back inside just in time for a booming summertime thunderstorm. Those warm currents moving in collided with the cool air and strike up the band. Holly and Tanner are really spooked by thunderstorms. The sheep don't care as they are relaxing in the barn on their hay pack. Holly, big black girl, tries to sit on my lap. I sewed for a while then hit my own hay. I've got several cute bags going - hope the folks like them. Groggy this morning but expected that. Summer clothes today as it's going up to 76, or so they say. Have to put the wool stuff away I guess, leaving out a few sweaters for cold waves. Flies will be out big time real soon and the chickens will go to work on them. Good little chickens - flies are bits of chocolate to them. Fine with me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Here Comes the Sun

At last some sun tomorrow - maybe. Grey and dark today. I managed to get to school early to travel to a meeting in a far away district south of here. The little town reminded me of Brookfield, deep in a rural area with fields and cows everywhere. My students ride their buses for hours. Not a bad day in school. I reported for my blood donor appointment with the Red Cross caravan of vampires that visited our Certified Nurse Assistant program. I gave every six weeks at my old high school in New Jersey. That outfit was called the New York Blood Donor Program and I was in the Gallon Club. The Red Cross operation is slightly different. They take more time with their clients, but then my school is not a 1,500 student high school, and they were happy to get 22 pints of blood donated today. After a stop at the feed store to buy rabbit food and, alas, milk replacer (gone up to $58 a sack!), I made my way home. Fatigue set in and I cut our hike up the hill in half. I mixed a bottle for Renata, the "other lamb" for fear she is not getting enough milk from Artemis. While filling the water buckets I noticed her doing her backwards nursing while Regina nursed the other way around. It's awful to see Mom nuzzling her own twin adoringly, then butting Renata away. Renata doesn't seem to care as long as her belly is full. I picked her up and gave her a taste of the bottle, but she seemed full enough not to want it, or maybe the Pritchard's teat is unappealing compared to the real thing. I had to hide the sight of the bottle from the other lambs that have just been weaned. It's half-past nine now and I'm just getting to the sewing I wanted to do. There will be some late nights for me in the next couple of weeks...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter 2011

After a lovely, sunny morning the sky gave way to grey and clouds. I spent so much time in the barn with the animals which seemed like an natural thing to do on an Easter holiday with no family around. No Easter baskets or dyeing eggs this year as there are no little ones around. I look at pictures like this one, with my Swedish grandfather who came over from Brooklyn to the project on Staten Island every Sunday, and am in awe of my mother. Look how we are all dressed up, with Easter baskets, including hats and ties on the boys, with a toddler in a snow suit (my brother Mark). We lived on the sixth floor of an apartment building and the clotheslines were in a field opposite the housing project. My mother was a Superwoman! I am still holding Artemis while Renata nurses. How can a sheep with two teats not want to share one of them with a hungry lamb? Sheep are just like people - there are giving, caring mothers and selfish, greedy mothers. I wish I had more to show for the day but I did get six Bundaflicka totes cut out and many shaving cups filled with molten soap scraps. I hope they harden quickly. I used more water than I should have to get them melted down, which makes it so much easier than mashing and chopping for several days. I have a nice collection of big soap scrap blocks which are great for the felters to rub their wool with, or to put on the slop sink by the back door, or to rub your shaving brush on. I cooked a fabulous meal of ham from my piggies, a potato/onion/curry casserole and fresh asparagus. Oh, we eat well thanks to those piggies. Matt says no piggies this year. I so want more pigs but their field is where I will separate my rams - in July to make sure there are no surprises come Christmas. After that scrumptious meal I will take the dogs on a climb up the big hill to walk the dinner off. Much to do after chores with putting at least one bag together tonight and wrapping soap, which I really don't mind doing in front of the TV. Up early in the AM to get to school for a meeting. My life is a bit complicated right now. Oh, to lie on the sofa and read a book, or knit a pair of socks, or spin some yarn. One can only dream...

Happy Easter

I love the Passover/Easter season and celebrate both in my own silly ways. Robin, my trusty classroom aide, brought me two boxes of matzoh bread. What a treat. I forgot how much I love it, as a snack or crushed and scrambled with eggs the way my Southern Baptist mother made it. Her Jewish friend, Miriam Einstein, taught her how to make it. If I was in Morristown I would be in church with Mia and Andrew, enjoying the fabulous choir and walking the main street lined with flowering hybrid pear trees. But I am in upstate New York, on the farm, with not a flowering hybrid anything within miles of here. My church is in the barn, with my sheep and goats, and one old crippled llama. I am in a very biblical profession, and, besides, my son the priest prays enough for both of us. The magic of spring has not really hit us here. The fields are greening up but one rainstorm after another is rolling through and it's still cold. I can open the barn windows without a single fly coming in and I need a coat on to walk the hills. On deck for today - cook a pork roast from our stock in the freezer. I used to make a very big deal out of Easter, as my mother did years ago. I continued her tradition of giant Easter baskets and Easter egg hunts. I was happy to see a picture of Hannah and Luke dyeing Easter eggs in Texas. Izzy is telling me that rain is coming. That's okay. The sheep are safe in the barn. Happy Easter everyone.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I'm making LOTS of soap. I could wash an army or a small country clean with all this soap. Soap is a good thing. It's the gift that keeps on giving. It never goes bad, as a matter of fact, the older soap is the better it is. Old soap, due to the fact that all the water has evaporated, lathers better and doesn't melt as fast. The scent may dissipate, but not the quality of the soap. I make it the same way I've been making it for 15 years, pouring the molten liquid into wax paper milk cartons and cutting it by hand after it's set. Sure I've lusted after fancy molds and pot-tippers, but they haven't happened yet and now I'm set in my ways. My soap is full of wonderful things that feed your skin - shea butter, honey, oatmeal, goat milk, olive oil and lovely essential herbal oils. I sometimes use "fragrance oils" if a particular scent appeals to me, but I prefer real oils that have a purpose in addition to smell. Yes, I like soap. My bath tub is full of it, as a bar from every batch is tested on the family - no animal testing here! My soap is people tested!

Two Moms

Renata is Moira's lamb, but Moira has no milk. I mistakenly thought she and Regina were twins born to Artemis since they were both black, Artemis is black, and I found one of them with her and the other one wandering. Moira is too old to lamb, or so I thought. Both lambs are nursing from Artemis with Moira (white ewe) is staying close where she can see her lamb. Artemis is not happy about a second lamb so I get in the pen and hold her while Renata nurses. When I let her go, Artemis gives Renata a knock upside the head. Renata is learning how to sneak a drink from behind so Artemis doesn't know if it is Regina, her lamb, or the interloper. In the sheep world, lambs who learn how to come in from behind are called "s--theads." Smart lambs! Works for me as I stopped bottle feeding yesterday and hope I won't have to buy more milk replacer.

Goatie Love

I have the cutest little goat kids. Lambs are wonderful, but they are not as cuddly as goat kids. Lambs have long, dangly legs and long hard-bodies, even when just a couple of days old. Angora goat kids are soft and squishy with marvelous silky curls and they LOVE to be held, even with mom doing a dance and complaining nearby.

Cozy and Dry

Got my morning walk on the hill done just in time. It's raining hard now, dark and cold. Perfect morning to be inside working with hot coffee and an endless stream of music and movies. The Fabulous Postma Brothers brought me a load of sweet, soft grass hay yesterday (gosh, I love those guys!) so I gave the flock a couple of extra bales. They are lying around the barn in little groups, up against each other, chewing their cud and dreaming sheepy dreams. I love to tiptoe around and watch them. The goats have very strong family ties and you can see three generations relaxing with their mother. The tiny newborn doe - Petra - is doing nicely. I have another doe ready to give birth, udder swollen and belly tight, in her own pen already so I don't have to worry about another birth in a dark, far away corner. I almost have another big, colorful roving run ready to ship to the mill. I am devilish in that way. I got 115 pounds to John at Frankenmuth but will get one more to him with a plea to do it last minute and bring it to Maryland. I do it every year and most years he complies. Other mills would say forget about it! Still more soap to cut up with so much to wrap it boggles my mind. Three bags on the machine now and will cut out more tonight. I'll try to sweet-talk Beastie Boy into going to the feed mill for me this morning so I can work. This rain isn't letting up. Thank goodness for my dry, cozy barn. The barn is 240 long with a vast metal roof but the only part that is leaking is over the milk room where I spend a great deal of time. That's where the laundry and dye stove is, and where barn kitties winter-over. I forgot to position my leak pots last night but they are making music now.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day Debacle

As a farmer I celebrate Earth Day every day. I walk my land, sit on it, lie down on it, hug it, love it. Without my land I couldn't have my sheep. The land is a spiritual entity that is to be respected and cared for. Earth Day falls on Good Friday this year, presenting ethical and religious issues to be questioned. The Christian Bible says that God gave the Earth to man - to use it for his purposes, and, sadly, use it up. I remember as a young child, fishing on the dock on Lake Sinclair with my Uncle Fred, during summer vacation. He attached a little frog to the hook, which horrified me. I protested and he quoted the New Testament verse about God giving the earth and all it's resources to humankind. It didn't seem right to me at the time, and still doesn't. I drive by local fields where plastic from wrapped bales is torn and strewn all over the place, and where farmers have dammed up streams so they can conveniently cross over. Fortunately I don't see many chemicals being spread because our area is so poor and manure is the black gold I use myself. That's not the case in other areas where chemicals are spread liberally to discourage weeds, bugs, etc. And then there's the injection of chemicals to find natural gas. I live in fear of the absentee owner of the top of my hill deciding to drill for gas and polluting the springs that I and my sheep drink from. And big companies are owning water sources now? How can fresh water be privatized? Greed is what drives humans to ruin the earth. God just might decide to take it back.

New Lambs

I opened the door to the barn when I got home from work and did what I usually do, scanned my eyes over everybody to check things out before I went inside. Looked okay. After changing clothes and hiking across the land with the doggies, our daily aerobics, I checked out the sheep again. I spied a little black lamb and thought, that's a very small lamb. Wait a minute - this lamb had a long tail with no band on it. Uh-oh. A newborn? I climbed over the wall and looked around. Sure enough there was a mom standing over another black newborn. Twins! I gathered up the two hefty ewe lambs and got them a pen with mom. What's this? The mother was butting one away. I know some ewes prefer one twin to another, but my ewes have never really rejected or done harm to lambs the way I've heard some other sheep do. What's going on? It wasn't long before I found out. Moira, my very aged white ewe, was roaming around the barn, calling and calling. Her belly was sunken in and her old udder was swollen. It seems one of the black ewe lambs belongs to Moira, but Moira can't feed her due to a bout with mastitis in the past. I feel bad for Moira, but have to keep her baby with this mom who can feed her. I've vowed not to buy another $55 bag of milk replacer and to get the bottle brigade weaned. But this mom is not happy about nursing this interloper. I gave both lambs some colostrum last night, and got more involved this morning. I was hoping she would accept both lambs equally over night but no deal. I got in the pen and tied mom to a post and held her still. This ewe surely weighs more than I do and she has four legs to my two, but with her head tied and me doing my "sheep yoga," leaning on her with arms around her butt and shoulders, she couldn't move. Sure enough, Moira's lamb jumped up and nursed vigorously for five minutes or so. I will have to do this several times a day until Mom (Artemis is her name) accepts them both. I have lots more I should be doing but it's all about the sheep and every lamb is a blessing...especially Easter lambs! Any ideas on names for two black ewe lambs practically born on Good Friday?

Ups and Downs

Still cold, grey and damp. Was hoping to dry some fiber outside but won't happen. Better to do it on tables in my "spare" room, close the door, and turn the ceiling fan and baseboard heater on. Still hoping to get one more run done before Maryland, but have to force myself to divert to other things. Been working too hard on picking fiber and have gone a bit dotty over it. Feeling rather distracted and scattered. I have big plans for the next three days but tend to "over plan" and berate myself for not getting enough done. I cooked a turkey for a student's birthday yesterday. That was his request, as he adores turkey sandwiches, and was starting his GED tests, and I wanted to reward him. I made stuffing and gravy for him but he put his sliced turkey breast on bread with lots of ranch dressing (the kids are crazy about it - makes me gag) and chowed down. I also made a giant sheet cake, which we share with other students who stick their heads in the door, following the aroma, and left a big chunk for our custodian. I have the turkey carcass boiling now. I had to reclaim my soap scrap melting pot, which took a bit of soaking, but I'm good to go. I found some twigs outside and decided to burn my one remaining log to get me in the mood to stay inside and sew. Between the fire and the turkey soup I'm good to go. Now to start sewing the three bags I cut out this morning before chores, and after picking a zillion burdocks out of a batch of chartreuse mohair. I reclaimed an old but fantastic black Bluefaced Leicester fleece. I'll have one run of pure mohair this year, but ordinarily I like to blend everything with wool. Wool is the miracle fiber - the Mother of All Fibers - but human nature is such that we take it for granted. Not around here. With all the work, blood, sweat and tears it takes to raise the wool I appreciate every crimpy lock.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Yet Friday

No school tomorrow so today is Friday. Thank you, Lord Jesus, and I mean really because Good Friday is the reason we have no school. It's snowing hard and sticking in Brookfield. I managed to button the size 8 Talbot's lined wool slacks I've been dying to wear. Can't breathe real well but OH, are they gorgeous. Still wool weather here, which is fine with me except that I have to buy more hay. Winter is going on forever. I sure hope Stan and Son can get some hay off my top field for me this summer. Have to give them a call...But for now duty calls and it's off to school which is already on the down-hill slide to summer vacation. Cold weather continues through the weekend but summer is right around the corner.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blustery Weather

Very windy with mighty gusts bending the trees and shaking the barn. Giant black cloud systems blowing through, then sun and white clouds, then more black and wind. That is so Brookfield. My little valley seems to attract dramatic weather which I adore. The systems come off Lake Ontario and blow due east to my area. It's still quite cold and the grass that is peeking up through the thatch is not very anxious to come up much higher. It can't come too fast for me and the sheep. I'm still picking mohair. I've really got to break away and work on other things - but the pull of the fiber is great. I'd like to get one more run of roving done. I have so much fiber but not enough time to work with it. Sure wish I had another pair of hands around here. If I can manage I will skirt some fleeces and bring them to Maryland to sell as raw wool. I haven't done that yet but I'd like to see how it goes. I have more soap to cut up, labels to make, fabric to cut, then the wrapping. I'll try to get some bags done this weekend. The new baby doe is coming along nicely. She is just too cute and sweet. Have to get some rest tonight. I think I sucked up some dye fumes tonight as I'm feeling kinda woozy - very unusual for me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Summer Haircut

Monkey is not crazy about her summer haircut, but Spikey, her buck kid, doesn't mind. He is still on the teat and the absence of fleece makes the source easier to find.

Should We Go Out?

The door is open but the weather outside is cold and wet - not very inviting. Soon it will be summer and they will have a gorgeous hillside to run up and down. Can't come soon enough.

Time to Go Home

Sometimes it takes so much effort to get up from my desk and get my stuff together that I think maybe I will just stay at work for a while. No can do. I have many little creature entities waiting for me. Thankfully I can warm last night's dinner for dinner tonight. I still have a good amount of sausage in the freezer and cooked up some of it to eat with penne pasta. Cheers all around. I'm anxious to check on the new baby doe. A close inspection told me there is one more goat to kid, although I didn't expect this one. There may be more surprises. Please no more boys as I have enough of them. The livestock world is just like the human situation - you only need one good male around. More than one gets complicated and problematic! Rain and cold out there again today. My windshield wiper motor has gone crazy and I can't turn off the wipers. The rubbing and chirping makes for a very tedious commute. I'm sure people who pass me, and there are not too many in upstate NY, wonder why that woman has her wipers on. Have got to get that taken care of along with everything else. I have more soap to cut up, which means clearing off the soap rack by piling stuff in boxes. Too much stuff! The house does smell good I have to say. I'm hoping to do some sewing tonight. I'll save creme making for the three day weekend as it is a big production to get set up and I have to stand on my feet for hours. I have lots more fiber to wash and dye, which I would like to get done so I can drop it off to the mill people at the festival, saving a lot of money on shipping. Time to get up and go before I get any more tired thinking of everything I have to do tonight. Miles to go before I sleep but won't it feel good to go horizontal at the end.

Boxed Up

Almost 115 pounds of wool, mohair and angora went out to the carding mill yesterday. I hated to have to buy boxes from the shipping people, but I was really in a bind to get it to John at Frankenmuth before the Friday deadline. I just sheared two weeks ago so it is a miracle I was able to sort, pick, wash, dye and wash again, all this fiber. John will card it just the way I like it, and hopefully my faithful customers will like it, and bring it to me in Maryland. Hayes Office Supply in Norwich has a little room in the back of the store where I can tape together boxes and pack them up. Passersby are curious but polite. If they asked me what I was doing I might ask them to lend a hand but I didn't get lucky. There are three runs, mostly purple-red-gold-chartreuse this year. I'll do some blues for the fall shows. One run is 100% mohair and should be spectacular. I'm hoping to spin some sock yarn for myself as adult mohair is stronger than steel and holes won't appear in the heels. Bluefaced Leicester is too soft for socks.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Precious Find

I was poking around the barn before going to bed, looking for duck eggs. I had recently let the ducks loose in the barn - nice for them but harder to find their lovely big round eggs. Thank you Lord I ventured kind of far back (my barn is 240 feet long!) and thought I heard a "muttering" in the dark, unlit extension of the East End. I had no head light but followed the sound into the darkest, coldest corner of the way back end and sure enough a tiny bleat of a baby pierced the blackness. I felt around with my hands and found a tiny, wet angora goat kid in the dirt! I instinctively felt the belly for a scrotum - it's a girl!! With the cold and dampness tonight she surely would have froze by morning, if I found her then. I tried to get mom to follow me into the lighter, warmer part of the barn but she was reluctant to come along. I put the baby in the dry hay next to Chris the llama and went to get Matt to help. When I came back with a sweater and my gear to get them situated mom had lured the baby back into the darkness. This is a mature doe, and, sadly, NOT one of the goats Jim sheared the other day. Mom is a mass of felted curls and had to be clipped or the baby would never find the teat. Took a bit of doing but we got Mom and baby girl in their jug with nice fresh hay and water, and a full belly of Nutri Drench and colostrum for Baby. She has a sweater on and should be fine until morning when I can make sure she's nursing. Angora goat kids are pretty quick to figure out where the teat is. This doe kid is a deep, rich brown and just gorgeous. Thank goodness for those duck eggs.

Roz Savage (That's Me Not Roz)

Roz Savage, British ocean rower, is five days into her voyage across the Indian Ocean. I follow her daily adventures on Today Roz found herself in the same spot she was on Day 3, but Roz is undaunted. I find her posts very inspiring and encouraging. Roz is 43 years old, single, and dedicated to bringing attention to the problem of plastic garbage harming our oceans. I can't imagine what it must be like to be buffeted about in a little tube of a boat in the middle of the ocean, risking ramming by ships, kidnapping by Somali pirates or being chewed on by sharks. Roz writes about being slapped in the face by flying squids, open sores on her buttocks, and what it is like to fix meals while sitting on a bucking bronco. Roz had a successful office type career when she decided that she had to do something more meaningful with her life and follow a dream - a decision I can relate to. I can't row across the Indian Ocean, but I can sit on the sofa in my jammies and have a cuppa tea, and dream dreams while I watch my sheep graze on the hill.

Back to School

Spring break is over. I got a LOT done, but never enough. I'm hauling about a hundred pounds of my dyed fiber, three runs, to be shipped after school. Lots of soap to cut up, let cure, and wrap over the next few weeks. So much to be done and I don't have everything I need. Oh, well. First show of the season is tough. Gotta deal. I'm proud of my fiber and the soap is coming out absolutely divine. I'm buying some intense sodium hydroxide from Lowe's home store of all places. Very expensive, but good stuff. Better get out and water the sheep, feed the cats and get myself ready. Gotta deal. I'd love to stay home on the farm but I'm not smart enough to get myself on disability or qualify for heating assistance. My Protestant Work Ethic would never allow it. Better get out there and do chores then hit the road. My van is full of very colorful bags of fluff.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

More Fiber Excitement

I just got back from a planning meeting of the organizers of the CNY Fiber Producers Annual Showcase on June 11 and 12. Our new fiber festival grew out of the small group who participated in the Focus on Fiber at the Madison County Fair. Pam Haendle, cashmere goatherd from Brookfield, decided our group of local fiber artists needed a larger, more dedicated venue and her dream is a reality. The site is perfect, nestled in the little town of Bouckville, of summer antique show fame. Situated on route 20, it is easy to get to from all over New York and New Jersey. After walking the grounds with the owners of the Butternut Hill Campground, we adjourned to Quacks Diner to have a bite and continue our meeting. There are many things to consider with planning a large fiber event, from advertising to Boy Scouts to supervise parking to food for thousands of people to eat. We have giant tents coming and port-o-potties. Sponsors and benefactors are rolling in. This is all very exciting and I'm thrilled to be on the founding committee. Check out for details on the vendors and activities. I am doing ongoing fleece skirting demonstrations along with spinning yarn right from the grease fleece without any preparation. We'll have wagon rides and live music along with felting and rug braiding workshops, and more.

Mad Dash South

I had to do it - too much work and no play makes Maggie a very dull girl. I decided to make a quick trip to Morristown to bring Mia the video camera charger I forgot to give them when they were here helping with the shearing. I was hoping we could watch a bit of the wedding together but there was no time before they had to go back to New Jersey. After a week of working hard on wool and soap I needed a bit of a get-a-way and took off. Mia was surprised to say the least when a volunteer called up to her floor at the hospital to say "your mother is here!" I was able to go up to the floor and see Mia sorting drugs with her meds cart while a very desperately ill patient waited. We decided I would wait for her in the coffee shop while she finished up with that patient and found another nurse to cover for her so we could spend a few minutes together. It was SO good to have a bit of time to chat and catch up on this and that. Mia just finished up a semester at UMDNJ and has two weeks before another one starts. Another year and she will have her MSN and be a nurse practitioner. Many opportunities will be available to her. We had a lot to talk about, with her twin brother AJ's ordination and graduation from seminary coming up. He will be an Army Chaplain and belong to the military from then on. His first assignment is to report to Fort Irwin in Nevada for duty, then to Las Vegas to assume the role of assistant priest at a church there. AJ will be doing double duty as an Army chaplain and a local priest for a while. Mom is relieved and pleased that he is not going to Afghanistan anytime soon. Whew!! On deck for today - cut up a LOT of soap and get one more dye pot going. I have a BIG shipment going out to the mill tomorrow after school, or else I won't get it back at Maryland. The next three weeks will be very, very busy for me. Maryland Sheep and Wool only comes once a year and I have to give it my best effort.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day's A Wastin'

Ten o'clock already and the show is on the road. The thought of not having to go into town and deal with stuff is having an euphoric and energizing effect on me. So far today...

Finished picking a partially felted and very dirty fleece I started last night during Jay Leno. Bella slept on it, very happily, then I tackled it over coffee this morning.

Fed kitties, bottle lambs and made a duck egg omelette for myself. Just gotta make use of all these fabulous eggs that I find everywhere. The last couple of days I made a giant pan of scrambled eggs for the barn kitties. They were wary at first then chowed down.

Washed the nasty fleece and got it simmering in Jacquard Cherry Red with a touch of Russett for depth of color. Thankfully I had some vinegar left. Jacquard doesn't need it but red is tricky. That's why you don't see a whole lot of bright red roving around. It likes to wash right off the fiber.

Rinsed my only angora, dyed purple, to put in the red run. It came out just stunningly with many hues of purple. Had to pull most of it apart. I think I let the water run on it when rinsing, not good.

Got some essential oils and fragrance oils organized and made decisions about blends. My dear friend Laticia Mullin gifted me with her stash of oils when she retired from the soap business. I appreciate every drop of oil as it is so expensive to buy. I know I have a following who like unscented soap, but with most customers the bar goes right up smack against the nose.

Did my 75 leg ups and ballet stretches. My back is in the best shape in years and I want to keep it that way. The shoulder is also improving greatly with the yoga/ballet or whatever I do. I just make it up as I go.

On deck for today...more soap. I never get over the miracle of it. It' still a thrill when I uncover yesterday's batch and find that it set up just right and is still "cooking." I'll sell soap at the Hamilton Farmer's market all summer. Sometimes I think of the Fabulous Beekman Boys, right up the road, and their grand, glorious enterprise which you can watch on TV...but they have DEEP pockets and can afford to hire people to do EVERYTHING. Not nearly as admirable as people who do it themselves, on a meager budget, using imagination instead of credit to get the job done. It's still a funny show and I watch it because I like Farmer John, the guy who takes care of the goats.

Speaking of getting the job done, I guess that's me. Ciao for now.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bureaucratic Nightmare

There are three things I am very proud of:

My three kids
My two grand kids
My sterling driving record.

Okay, I did get two tickets in my lifetime. One for doing 35 in a 25 when I was young and foolish, then, 30 years later, a ticket for overdue inspection. The car needed a zillion dollars worth of work and I was putting it off - but that wasn't a moving violation! So it's almost sterling...When I misplaced my driver's license I was very, very uncomfortable about driving without it. I was sure something terrible would happen and the long arm of the law would get me by the neck. So there I was, standing in the Motor Vehicle Agency line in Norwich, hoping to get a replacement. There was no form in the big wall mounted form cubbies so I had to get in line and wait to get a form. Two ladies, working very hard, with one MAN sitting at a desk in an adjacent office, doing nothing that I could see. Grrrrrrr! I thought I was back in New Jersey, with people sighing, rolling their eyes and shifting back and forth. There was even an immigrant in front of me with a daunting pile of papers that had to be sorted through, explained to him, and, to my horror (and his, I'm sure) faxed to Albany for them to sort through. I started to feel faint, as it was cold and raining and I had too many clothes on. I kept thinking about the soap I need to cut up, the one-more-fleece I need to pick and dye to make my Lipstick run, the bags I should be sewing, the house I need to tidy up, etc., etc. Finally I got to the window and she said no problem, fill this out and pay $17.50 and your all set. Me, Idiot Herself, stepped away from the window to fill out the form rather than make people wait. Big mistake. Once filled out I had to get in the back of the line and watch while others stayed at the window filling out their forms. They are a lot smarter than me. It was an eternity before I got back to the window, and, once finished, the poor clerk whispered that she had not had her lunch (it was after 2) and she would have to close the window. That left one clerk for a looooong line of customers. That episode, combined with bad news from the accountant (yes, I should have had more money taken out of my paycheck through the last year) and the rain, conspired to take the wind out of my sails. I got home, got the doggies up the hill and around the pond in the rain, came back in and had to lie down. Here it is 5 and I am too tired to make soap. I think I'll get a dirty fleece to pick while I'm sitting down and wait for some energy to come back. I can only do so much. It is me, only me, with waaaay too much to do, and it's been waaay too long since I had a vacation. I can't remember one, except for a honeymoon cruise 12 years ago and a visit to Eric's for Christmas with the grand kids two years ago. Okay, that's all the whining I'm going to do now. Ten minute nap, some Chai tea, and I should be straightened out.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Not Enough Time

I may be home from school this week but there just doesn't seem to be enough time to do everything I want to do. No sewing yet...but I'm hopeful. The wool and soap takes a lot of time. With rain coming tomorrow I won't be drying wool outside in the sun.

Sweet Smells

I have lavender and lemongrass on the drying rack, making the house smell pretty good I have to admit. Black raspberry is in the mold now with Expresso on deck for tomorrow. I've been soaking ground beans with Everclear for the last six months to put in the soap. I haven't made Expresso for a few years and thought it was time for a coffee lover's soap.

Fiber Kitties

I sort and pick at night in front of the TV, then wash and dye it. With the nice weather the last couple of days I was able to put it out on the drying rack with the sun and breeze helping it to dry. Strawberry kept me company, along with several of his friends who think I put the wool there for them to nap on.

Lots to Do

On deck for today - cook up some soap, sort and pick more wool, and get a bag sewn. The wool picking takes an incredible amount of time, pulling the locks apart and removing every burdock and bit of hay, one at a time. I don't mind doing it in front of the TV at night, but I don't have much time to get it out to the carding mill so he can get it back to me in Maryland. I have to shear earlier next year. As it is I only have half the animals shorn now and don't know when I can get Jim back here along with enough help, etc. Have to do it in June before the wool felts on the animals from heat and rain. Worries, worries. I'm "off" this week and have so much to get done it scares me to think about I'll just keep up the pace and see what happens. Maybe I'll surprise myself and show up in Maryland with a train load of soap, wool and bags.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Alyssa's Bag.

Mia took this Bundaflicka Bag to her clinical supervisor, Alyssa, for her birthday. I know a bag is okay when Mia takes it! Alyssa is a nurse practitioner with a thriving practice in Hunterdon County, NJ. Mia is getting a lot of valuable experience and learning a great deal from Alyssa, who has been in practice for many years. Mia will graduate from UMDNJ in May with an MSN and be a nurse practitioner herself. I'm looking forward to another classy graduation at NJPAC, where Mia received her BSN.

More Shearing Day

John-John, Monkey's buck from two years ago, is very handsome. He has Monkey's unique and lovely horn set. John-John has a very dense mohair fleece, but it's a tad coarse. It would be terrific rug wool. I'm hoping to get my Swedish Glimakra floor loom set up someday and weave rugs out of my mohair.

Bella Keeps Warm

Bella crawled into a fleece I was skirting to keep warm and cozy. I'm hoping the warmer weather will help her crooked bones straighten out. Bella is such good company at night when I'm working on wool. She stays in the barn all day with her lamb friends but I bring her inside after chores.

Mia Loves the Farm

Mia loves coming to the farm. She adores the sheep and loves to take the dogs up the hill. She's happiest when outside on the hillside or relaxing by a camp fire. I love when she comes to visit. I'm lucky she was able to get up here to help shear as she has final exams this week along with work in the hospital and her clinical assignment. Her schedule is daunting but she still finds time to help her Mommy.