Monday, October 31, 2011

It's All About Attitude

Monkey has it all figured out. She doesn't let anything bother her. Monkey spends her days lying in the sun on the compost heap, soaking up all that heat from above and below. After the kind of day I had today I wish I could lie on the compost heap with her and contemplate the clouds passing overhead. How did life become so complicated?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Manna from Heaven

I sew, I cook soap, I roll clay, I teach school, but when all is said and done, I play with fiber. I'm sorting and picking black, adult mohair fleeces lately, and really liking what I have. I used to eschew this sturdy fiber in favor of my ultra-soft Bluefaced Leicester, but now I realize how valuable this mohair is. It's extremely strong and won't break up in the carding machine. I can ply it with angora for sock yarn or back on itself for rug yarn. The

natural silvery black is so lovely. I'm finding bags of colored mohair here and there around the farm, and there is always more growing on the goaties, ready to be harvested.

On The Machine

I'm putting together some lovely Bundaflicka totes. This gorgeous fabric came off the bolt at Joann's last weekend. It's a dream to sew and goes nicely with some chenille lining I had already.

Sunday Morning Walk With Izzy

Izzy and I took a walk to the Tippy Top this morning. The dusting of snow yesterday left an icy crust on the round bales. Izzy did his best to warm them up.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Up Early

I love the early morning hours. Sure I could linger in bed a while but I love the quiet time when the dogs are still sleepy and the barn is quiet. I thought I would make it to Hamilton for the market but it's pretty cold out there and a snow storm is coming fast. The veggie customers will pop in for their produce but I can't imagine very many tourists coming out with this ominous forecast. I have bags cut out to finish and can be productive at home. I really need to get some wood up the lane and into the barn. Steve had to dump it down there after getting stuck in the mud while attempting to get the wood closer. I had a nice fire going last night and the apartment is still comfy and warm. I try to only use the electric baseboard in the bathroom. My electric bills are ridiculous from December through April. I'm spinning some absolutely luscious natural black mohair. I might ply it with the one last ball of purple Pacifica I found in the trailer to make it last. Should be very pretty and different. I have a wheel behind my desk at school. If the kids are particularly trying, and yesterday was one of "those days," I spin a bit to get myself readjusted. Time to get the doggies out into the cold and darkness and get this day going.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Winter Wonderland

I woke up to a winter scene on the farm this morning. I've never lived in a place as enormously beautiful as Brookfield in the winter. There is one lovely, white, icy vista everywhere I turn. The snow and ice melted off when the sun came out today, but more will come. New Jersey will enjoy quite a nice storm this weekend.


Okay, so I'm very fortunate to have my job, but there are some days...well, suffice it to say it's not easy to work with this student population. I'll be happy to be home with my sheep, who present their own set of problems. (They just eat me out of house and home and get me in trouble with the neighbors.) I'm very grateful for the weekend. It might be a bit cold for the farmer's market tomorrow. The Earlville Opera House called me and asked if I would participate in their holiday show. I had not done so for a couple of years but told them fine with me, I'll do it. I like to support local arts, and it gives me a chance to show off what I can do. The Opera House puts on a lovely show with incredibly beautiful handcrafted things all made by locals. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network is not holding their fundraising craft show this year so I am down one show. I'll really miss Tim and his staff and, having lived near or on the Delaware for so long, I liked supporting their work. I still have the Plowshares Craftsfair and Peace Festival on December 3-4 in Syracuse. I adore that happy, hippie festival, and the crafters are sooo talented. I have to get working on bags, as I've spent a LOT of time playing with my fibers, my first love. That's why I have my babies who take up so much time, money and care. In winter, when the sheep and goats are sticking to the barn, I am able to rub noses with them more easily. What sweeties they are and sooo beautiful with those great big pretty eyes...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yes, It's Snowing

A familiar scenario unfolded today...watching the snow come down as I'm in a meeting of teachers and wondering if I'll get home without incident. My old purple mini-van happens to be great in the snow, with a wide wheel stance and front wheel drive, but you never know. I pumped my own gas in the snow (thank you, New York State) and got home without incident, running the list through my mind - hay, chicken feed, cat food, dog food and yes - people food like milk, coffee, cheese, crackers and a little something for dinner. I pulled over at the end of my lane and threw some trash from the car into the dumpster and found myself wandering into the tractor shed. It was a good impulse as I pulled some lovely mohair fleeces out from under a pile of debris that was my former life. I appreciate the fiber more and more. My mohair happens to be the best fiber I raise, I've decided. It's very strong and doesn't break in the carding mill machines like my BFL and angora. Mohair takes dyes beautifully and is terrific for weaving rugs, or plied with wool for a garment. Have to place a dye order with Dharma and get the pots boiling. The kitties won't mind that, as they stick close to the dye stove when the weather gets cold, as it will tonight. I washed my favorite pair of wool pants in the machine, as I HATE dry cleaning and needed them to shrink anyway. They came out great, even fulled a little bit, and I wore them to work today with the new socks I traded hand creme for with Red Maple Designs at Rhinebeck. Toasty warm was I and glad I had an extra angora/wool sweater in the van. I'm already thinking about sliding off the road into a ravine and having to wait hours for someone to realize Maggie didn't make it home. The most treacherous part of my drive is a 15 mile stretch in a cell phone dead zone. Oh, well, I haven't slid off in five years of commuting and don't intend to now. There's a lovely little lacy snow coming down now, not the driving big wet flakes of an hour ago. I think I'll get chores started early then come in and play with my mohair.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Snow Coming

New England will have a significant snowfall Thursday night, the weather people are saying. I'm not ready. I have to cover some barn windows with plastic and get my wood pile moved into the barn. Just those two jobs will take the better part of a weekend. I'm getting some terrific wood from Rosanna's husband. They live just across the creek. It's cured nicely and burns great. I have to find a brush to clean out the chimney pipe. Better get some good walks to the tippy top in. I won't be able to get up there for a few months once the snowing starts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gimme Shelter

Beastie Boy got the roof on the front porch. He did a fabulous job. We calculated the little sidewalk, porch and roof took approximately 50 hours of labor and $2,500 in materials. Can you imagine? Fortunately, he didn't charge me for the labor. My kitties are very grateful, and so am I. The light will be connected soon, and I'll be able to put up my Christmas lights. Now the snow and rains can come and the steps will stay dry. A sheet of plywood yet to be nailed up will provide more protection. In our neck of the woods, it's all about shelter from the elements.

Sweet Reba

The Drop Off Doggie likes it just fine on my farm. What's not to like? "Reba" is just about the sweetest, calmest dog I've ever known. Is that a bloodhound trait? She's housebroken and doesn't chew on anything while I'm at work. I still hope to find her owner. I hope it's not someone who will tie her to a tree outside in the winter. Reba just loves my sofa.

Where Have You Gone Joe Saladino?

A school friend of mine has gone to greener pastures. Joe Saladino moved up here to the wilds of upstate New York after he retired from Riker's Island prison. Joe has worked at my school for several years now and we often ate lunch together. There are not many people I can talk to about farming, even here in God's country. Their eyes will glaze over and dart around while I prattle on about sheep and farm life. Joe loved to talk about farming. He is very handy and creative and would build all kinds of nifty feeders and things. Joe told me about how he got his chicken room all tricked up and even figured out a way to suspend a head of cauliflower from the ceiling for his beloved birds to peck at. I almost got Joe started with pigs - almost. Joe decided to take a job at the string factory a mile away from his farm. We'll all miss him and I'll miss our farmy chats.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning

Here it is. Another five day work week. Very cold out there. Definitely wool weather this morning. Got my cargo trailer cleaned out yesterday. I found several pounds of fiber I am keeping for myself, including the lovely Pacifica which sold out last year. There are just some color runs that are so pretty and I know I can't repeat them. My van is almost empty. Should help the gas mileage without carrying my booth around with me. I had a visit from an irate, bow-hunting, Downstate, absentee-land-owner who is very unhappy about my sheep going on his land. I know it's the goats. They love to roam. Guess who is in lock-down now - bad girls. The whole flock will stay in the barnyard until I come home from work and watch them graze. I have plenty of grass and brush for them to eat but the grass is always greener. He told me about a dog who spent the night in his field and we went to take a look. Very sweet female - a bloodhound/beagle mix I think. She winced and rolled over when I tried to stroke her back. A drop off maybe. He was going back to the city and did not seem willing to take responsibility for her. She's not interested in going anywhere and only wants to lie on the sofa. Matt took a picture to print out at work and hang around locally. No collar or ID of any kind. She's nice to the cats and doesn't snarl back at Tanner who is NOT being very nice to the poor, lost doggie. Hope I can find where she comes from - the Inn is full here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Morning Musings

My internal alarm clock woke me early as usual. I sometimes attempt to go back to sleep but it rarely works. I'm so used to making myself get up to either take care of baby twins (as in the human kind) or check the barn for the other kind of babies, or to go to work as in my job. The human kids are old enough to take care of themselves now, and, I'm hoping for zero lambs or kids this year. I think I might have a kid or lamb or two as a couple of girls are looking very hefty. There's a lot of grass out there, still, so maybe it's just grass and apples making them look so fat. We'll see. I won't mind a little one or two, but not like last year. I have three bags on the machine, with some incredibly beautiful fabric I bought with some of my Rhinebeck earnings. Joann's in New Hartford had some cloth I had to have, greatly reduced and then half of that. I've decided I'm only going to sew with fabric that thrills me and produces bags that fly off the rack. If I wait for coupons from Joann's and use my teacher discount card (15%!)I can have that gorgeous fabric that I love to sew on. Heck, some of it cost me only $4 a yard with their Red Tag/Moonlight Madness sale. Some other cloth I lusted after was more like $20 reduced from $55, but the $4 stuff balances that out. Work continues in the barn. Beastie Boy has the roof on my little porch. I'm thrilled with it. Gone are the days when I have to walk through the gnarly, nasty milk room and haul my groceries and book bags through four doors to get to the apartment, getting the sheep all riled up because they think I'm carrying food for them. I even have a basket of dried Sweet Annie on my "front door" with a cute foot mat. Can't wait to put up wind chimes and Christmas lights. It's the little things... Lasagna for dinner, brought home from school when the students wouldn't eat the green peppers I put in the sauce. What is it about kids and green peppers? Fine with me, then I can work on the goats and sew some more. I'm spinning the black mohair roving I got back from the carder at Rhinebeck. Oh, this stuff is divine. Love the mohair - love it, love it. Naturally colored and it slips through my fingers and drafts so nicely. Thank you, goaties.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Autumn

We have a day care center in our school and they create the loveliest bulletin boards. This colorful tree can't help but brighten one's day.

What's On the Wheel?

I've been having a lot of fun spinning the most recent run of Mother Fiber (because Wool is the Mother of All Fibers!)I picked up from the carding mill when I was at Rhinebeck. It came as a surprise as I dropped it off to Frankenmuth last May at Maryland Sheep and Wool and promptly forgot about it. It's spinning so nicely and I love it. The chartreuse color is toned down a bit once spun, and the brown and orange fibers come out. I think I might ply it with some turquoise mohair or some fuschia BFL. Wouldn't that make a fabulous yarn...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Room O' Plenty

One of our favorite Special Ed. aides is leaving us for another job. My students made a lasagna dinner for him, complete with homemade garlic bread and salad. We made the wing smell soooo good and surprised our dear friend with a white tablecloth, flowers and nice dishes. He was overwhelmed and we had a great time. Our Social Worker and Phys. Ed. teacher joined us. I love to cook with my kids. It's a great bonding activity and I have an opportunity to teach them how to read a recipe, fractions, the importance of clean working practices, etc. The kids are always hungry, and have pleasant associations of full tummies, good smells, etc. After dinner we made popcorn in a big pot I brought in. A student had the idea, which I think is terrific. No expensive microwave bags needed - just oil, pop corn and a glass top so we can watch the show. What fun.

Post Rhinebeck Slump?

I find myself dealing with a post Rhinebeck malaise this week. Much personal drama combined with a big push to get ready for NY State Sheep and Wool has left me wasted. I'm going through the motions, but feeling kind of down. It's times like this that I turn to my animals, to my spinning wheel and my sewing machine. I sheared an adorable little kid goat last night, and have a hefty plastic grocery bag full of lovely mohair. After chores I pulled a bag of black adult mohair, Monkey's I think, into the apartment and pulled locks apart while sitting on the sofa. My black mohair is the best fiber on the farm. It is healthier and glossier than my white mohair. Something in my pasture grass and water agrees with the black goats. I want a black mohair vest and will start one soon. Playing with my animals and their fiber reminds me of why I have the farm. It rained hard this morning but the weekend weather report is better. I'll go to the farmer's market as we only have another week or two in the season. It certainly won't be the heady experience Rhinebeck is, but I have a few bags left over and some soap - but no Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme!! I'll have to remedy that situation pretty quick. Keeping busy is the best medicine for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Julianne's Scarf

Julianne, Rebecca's friend from New Jersey, visited me at Rhinebeck and stocked up on Mother Fiber. Julianne is a talented felter and created this stunning needle-felted scarf from my fiber. It's absolutely gorgeous. I want to do some experimenting with needle-felting myself and teach my students how to make scarves for themselves. I certainly have enough wool - I just need to practice the technique of felting wool on to silk.

Long Range Plans

I want to weave. I mean, I really want to weave. I spent a week at the Vastuga - Swedish Weaving Camp - in the Berkshires the summer before I moved to the farm. I own a couple of looms, the pieces scattered in the tractor shed. My dream to to have a dedicated weaving room where I can weave rugs from my coarse adult mohair. There is so much to do first - but fantasies are free, right?

Eye Candy

There were beautiful handcrafted wooly creations everywhere I turned at Rhinebeck. So much to take in during the few times I left my booth. I hated to miss the people who stopped by when I was not "on duty" but I loved wandering around with Mia and taking it all in.

Holidays Coming

I'm always looking for crafty things to do with my students. I like this wooly Christmas tree, displayed at Rhinebeck this year. I think I will do something like this with my class.


I always look for new ideas at the wool festivals, and found many at Rhinebeck this year. Such creative, productive people - and almost everything the make involves wool! Wool is the Mother of All Fibers!

The Other Jim in My Life

Jim Shelley and I struck up a conversation when we were both sitting on the grass eating our lunch at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival many years ago. Jim had taken a bus to the festival with knitters from Greenwich Village. Now he lives and works in Philly and is an accomplished knitter and designer. Jim visits me every year and always brings me the fabric wrappings of soaps he purchased previously. I should make a Jim quilt, for they are a lovely representative of our enduring friendship.

The Ravelry Knitters

Ravelry knitters were roaming the barns and buildings at NY State Sheep and Wool last weekend. They were all wearing their ID buttons and lovely knitted creations. I had definite knitting envy. Funny, now that I have my own sheep I have almost no time to knit. I used to sit and knit my handspun for hours at night and on weekends. That won't happen now unless - heaven forbid - I break another leg. That broken leg was the result of a collision with a dog, not a sheep. No major sheep injuries - yet.

Another Surprise Visit

My long-time shearer, Jim Baldwin, surprised me with a visit to my booth in Rhinebeck last weekend. Big Jim brought his wife, Betty, to see the sights at NY State Sheep and Wool. They raise Merinos in Freeville, near Ithaca. It was a lovely to see Jim in this alternative setting. I was happy that he could see what I do with the fruits of his labors.

Star Power

I was blessed with a visit from Herself, Carolyn D'Agostino, Esq., attorney for the downtrodden and disenfranchised, Master Quilter, Designer, Spinner, Knitter and Chef Extraordinaire. Carolyn collects old sewing machines (we know they are the best) and refurbishes them - herself! Carolyn graciously offered me a machine in exchange for some Mother Fiber roving (Pacifica, specifically). She delivered this sturdy machine with the lovely cabinet to the NY State Sheep and Wool Festival. I am very grateful for my new/old machine as I run my little vintage Singer - made in Great Britain - like a rented mule. I need a second working heavy duty machine standing by, just in case. Until a Juki falls out of the sky, these vintage heavy duty machines will have to do. Carolyn and her daughter, Julia, pulled the machine to my building at Rhinebeck in a vintage Radio Flyer wagon. Sadly, I could not fit the wagon in the Bucket O' Bolts mini-van, and was forced to leave it behind. I hope some lucky vendor with a big truck picked it up and took it back to their farm.


A roof for my front porch is in progress. It's very nice and I'm excited about having my new steps protected from the avalanche of snow sliding off the slanted metal roof of the barn. The landing will be closed in with sheets of plywood over the winter months. I know the kitties will be grateful for yet another place to get out of the wind.

Back to School

Going back to school/work after a big sheep show/fiber art weekend is a surreal experience. I have fibery visions dancing in my head along with a good amount of fatigue. We eased into the work week with some oil pastels after our morning lessons.

Rhinebeck Babies

I love the little ones who visit my booth at Rhinebeck. Babies were in abundance at NY State Sheep and Wool last weekend. They are often wearing lovely little handknitted outfits.