Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Night

Late after school figuring out what to do with this new class I have to take over starting tomorrow.  Second time in five years I've been yanked to do something else.  One has to be thankful for a job at all.  Trying to keep a positive attitude.  I'll get a handle on this job, get comfortable, and they will yank me again.  Had hoped to be in a good groove by this time in my "career."  Oh well.   In from chores at 8:30.   Very windy with no moon or stars tonight.  Had hoped to see the line-up of the five planets - Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn.  Maybe tomorrow night.  The barn shook and creaked when I was up in the dark, haunted hay mow.  Got my bales and climbed down as fast as I could.  Got chores done in 90 minutes, but missed the Oscar report I was hoping to see.  I had fallen asleep in the middle of it last night.  Love to see the gowns on the glamorous actors.   Glad I put a chicken in the oven before going out to the sheep.  Such a luxury to drag my butt in from chores and smell dinner ready for me.  That hasn't happened since my mother died 14 years ago.  I'm worried about Vicky, Valentine's mother.  She is not drinking her water and looks glassy eyed to me.  She munched a little on her cracked corn and second cut hay.  I put a new water container in the pen just in case it was the bucket she didn't like.  I offered her some cut-up apples slices.  No good.  Lilly smelled the apple and tried to fit her nose into Vicky's pen to get at it.  I got in the pen and made her drink some watered down Nutri-Drench.   While I had a hold on her I gave her a shot of LA-200 in case there is some pathology going on.  Little Valentine looks good, but with mom not drinking any water she won't have much milk for him.  I'll make her drink more water mixed with molasses in the morning.   I need to do more preparation for tomorrow but I'm so tired I might lie down now and set the alarm to get up very early.   

Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Tote

With all the farm goings-on I only got one Bundaflicka tote done.  Here it is, and I think it's pretty cute.  The fabric is Gunlocke Office Furniture fabric.

Flying High

What glorious weather, cold, clear and beautiful blue skies, we are having today.  After storming and blowing all day and into the night we have this lovely gift of bright sunshine.  The kitties and chickens are lying in every sunny barn window they can find.  We hooked up the trailer to pick up hay this morning.  I'm limping through 'til the green grass pokes up through the thatch, and I'm praying we have an early spring this year.  With temps going back up to the '50s tomorrow, that is a possibility.  I'm forking up the hay dropped on the floor of the upper hay mow and throwing it down to the sheep.  Every blade is precious.  We motored south to New Berlin for the Sunday NY Times - all six dollars and fifty cents worth - and a rope tow line.  Poor Matt, while attempting to plow the neighbor's driveway he accidentally drove the little 8N into the culvert.  All efforts to pull him out with the Blazer this morning failed.  The dogs and cats are happy today.  I picked up the six sheep from the Farmer's Place, frozen in neat packages.  The two inches of fat on the hind quarters tells me they ate well over the winter.    I'm tempted to make pate with the gigantic livers.  It is the only way I can stomach liver, with lots of hard boiled eggs and onions mixed in.  We'll see...In the meantime I am enjoying the pictures Eric is sending me of Hannah's flying lessons.  They are having so much fun down there in Texas.  At 13 years old Hannah is quite the adventurer.  She is active in the Civil Air Patrol and will soon be flying her cadet friends around in her Daddy's 1940's era Ercoupe plane.  I'm so proud of her. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Puppy Dreams

What does a puppy dream about on a snowy, blustery morning when her person is home, puttering around and preventing her from getting a good day's sleep?  I would like to attach probes to her skull and find out.  I imagine it has something to do with juicy cat food cans, and kitty ears to bite, along with muddy sheep bones and old goat horns dug up in the field.  Sadie loves to sleep under the covers in my bed at night, but that crowds Izzy's territory.  They have worked out a peaceful co-existence, with Sadie up at my shoulder and Izzy by my feet, or reversed.  I woke up to calm and gray at 6, wondering where the wind and weather is.  I built a fire in the stove, thinking I don't have to worry about back drafting, but then the gust and horizontal snow arrived.  Very little back puffing, fortunately.  Before Matt installed the fan the apartment would fill up with black smoke when the wind came up.  Very annoying, much better now.  We need another section on the chimney outside, but with the high gambrel roof on the barn that would require renting a lift.  It's on the list.  I made a batch of Shepherd's Friend this morning, hoping I could get to the PO to mail it to the lady in Florida who ordered it.  The roads are just too slippery and visibility very poor.   She puts my creme on her black Lab's elbow pads.  I was tickled when she told me that - a new application for my lavender creme.  Good stuff!  I made a point of inhaling the lavender aroma, to sooth my tattered nerves over my new position in school.  My middle-school counterpart joined the Army and lucky me was chosen to take his place in this out-of-control classroom which is right next to the principal's office. No more cool downstairs corner classroom with a full kitchen and kiln room where I could have a spinning wheel behind my desk and play Swedish movies with subtitles and no sound after the kids went home.   The new room is like a fishbowl and everybody will be peaking in to see if the new lion tamer is keeping her sanity.  These students are not GED bound.  They are still on a diploma track and results are expected.  Good luck.  On deck for today...all kinds of fun including barn chores, inside chores, sewing, spinning, etc.  Poor Matt is taking apart the water pump in an effort to fix it and avoid a huge expense to replace it.  I filled up the bath tub and all the animals' water in the barn.  Fingers crossed.  Not a fun way to spend the day but he is willing to try and epoxy the hole again.  I've had to go into the milk room and turn the water on and off all week as needed.  Life in an old barn...I still think I have the coolest "house" around.

Friday, February 24, 2012


 I've been up since 5 thinking about all this and waiting for the heavy weather forecast.  Nothing going on at 5, then a pretty little snow starting at 6.  Sadie wants me to take her high up on the hill into the darkness where the dogs have run.  No way.  We walked around sniffing old sheep bones and other things a puppy would be interested in, then I brought her back in here.  I'll get out to chores, which always makes me feel better.  Mundane, familiar tasks are always comforting.  I stand there with the hose, filling the containers and listening to the sheep crunch on hay.  Oh, yes, the hay.  Have to call and arrange a pick up, with weather considerations for tomorrow.  Challenges...Home after a day I don't care to recall.  My middle school counterpart is leaving to join the Army, and has decided to depart a month earlier than planned.  I have been assigned his class.  I am not happy about this but have no choice.  Let's leave it at that before I say something I'll regret.  I had some errands to run after school, like Price Chopper where I am trying to buy everything I need to get the gas discount.   Gas is $4 a gallon in New Berlin now.  Commuting in the Blazer will be ridiculously expensive.  I fell asleep on the couch after Chinese dinner then roused myself to get out to do chores.  Everyone was screaming as I was an hour late...even the quacking ducks.  With the storm coming in the changing barometric pressure made my headache worse as I climbed up the hay mow ladder.  While staggering around in the dark groping for bales an explosion rang through the barn.  I thought a gas tank blew up, or lighting struck the barn.  It happened again.  Turned out to be the guys two farms up playing with fireworks.  Very powerful fireworks.  What the heck???  My critters and I were all shook up.  As I was throwing bales down I saw something odd in the back barn hay rack.  My beautiful older black doe was lying dead, her hoof caught in the wire as she attempted to jump into the rack to get at the hay.  This morning I put hay in the forward rack, but did not go all the way to the back of the barn, which I do at night.  I adore my black angora goats, and I have precious few of them now after letting so many go last winter.  Her hoof was so badly twisted in the 4x4 wire it had to be cut out.  How she must have struggled before giving up and dying.  Could this day get any worse....Better go to bed before something else happens. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day Is Done

The barn is 44 F. inside and it doesn't seem too much colder outside.  Freezing rain and snow is forecast for later tonight and tomorrow.  Other than the overcast sky you would not know it.  Just came in from the barn.  Was worried about Valentine's mom, I call her Vicky, as she was staring around with a glaze over her eyes and was not interested in her daily cracked corn snack.  I was about to give her a shot of penicillin, just in case, when I saw her crunching on her hay.  Don't like to doctor an animal unless it's necessary.  I leaned over and grabbed little Valentine by his sweater to look him over.  He's definitely gaining weight and his belly is full and firm.  I noticed he's been nursing from both sides of mom's udder.  One was dead, or so I thought, as a result of past mastitis.  I see the little one nursing from both sides regularly.  I wonder if he got it started up again?  The miracle of motherhood and nature at work.  I want to let Vicky and Valentine out of their little pen to join the others in the maternity area, but the other four lambs are so big and boisterous, with the hungry moms shoving each other, and the children, away from the feed, that I'm afraid little V. will be trampled.  Maybe in a few days.  I know that would perk up mom a bit.  I have to order tags for the gang of five lambs and more vaccinations.   I have more sheep to shear, and many fleeces to sort...the ongoing saga that never ends.   Tonight I think I will spin a bit and watch this terrific PBS show called 400 Years of the Telescope.  I love astronomy and anything to do with the sky. 

Pretty Snow

I woke up to a lovely little snow on the ground, with large flakes falling from the sky.   It won't last for long with these unseasonably warm temps. Fine with me.  I've given up on snow days this year.   I'm rather spoiled and will not be happy when a realistic NY State winter kicks in next year.  I'm hoping for some early green grass for my hungry sheep.  I made some luscious hand creme last night.  Not a big batch, but enough to cover a handful of orders I needed to get out.  Oh, do I love that lavender.  I think inhaling it gave me a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.  I'll down this coffee and get out in the barn for chores before zooming off to work.  We have several weeks to go before spring break.  At least driving this year has not been as awful as it has in years past, when I would stare out the window, incredulous that I had to go out in that stuff. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day Dreaming

It's tough getting back into the grind.  Teaching special needs kids take a lot out of me.  To deal with the stress I sometimes let my mind wander to more pleasant things....right now I'm daydreaming about these delightful and wonderful socks by Sock Lady Spins in Tatla Lake, British Columbia.  Lynne lives in a remote area where she has to look both ways for grizzly bears before going out to her car.  In her spare time she knits the most AMAZING socks.  I have several of her gorgeous one-of-a-kind masterpieces.   The instill my feet with magical powers, and look very artsy with my clogs.  This is the pair I am currently lusting after.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fashion Statement

My twins, AJ and Mia, were so cute as little kids that cars would slow down to admire them as we played in the front yard.  Here we are playing in the snow and skiing down the little slope on our lawn.  They are dressed like models for a ski magazine.  One day at Easter time my mother had AJ and Mia, all dressed up in sailor outfits,  at  the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey.  They were looking in a Ralph Lauren store window when the manager came out and asked if the twins would sit in the Easter window display.   My mother was willing to hand them over, but my twins would have nothing to do with it.   They blew their big chance at fame and fortune!  Not to worry, they are still a very classy duo.

Happy Birthday

There is no birthday like my twin's birthday.  I've always been rather proud of myself - giving birth to a boy and a girl at the same time, just 8 months after the wedding.  They were the cutest babies ever born, each with a very distinct and different personality.  I loved my babies so much.  Together with big brother Eric we had a beautiful little family.    There was nothing as important in my life as my children, and still isn't.  I'm so proud of the responsible adults you have become.   Happy birthday A.J. and Mia.  We are miles apart but I always carry you in my heart.

Sunset Walk With Sadie

We dropped everything and took the doggies up to the top of the farm at sunset last night.  It was just the right thing to do and took the edge off the "farm concerns."  The dogs are so much fun.  Sadie pulls straight up, nose to the ground, following the other dogs.  I'm going to make a habit of hiking up the hill every day after school.  With this mild winter we are having it is entirely possible to do that.  In years past high drifts blocked the way.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Water Worries

It's the yin and the yang that gives life it's meaning.  Would this sunny, glorious day with not a cloud in the sky be so beautiful were it not for the grey, icy dampness of the last couple of days?  Would I appreciate the water coming out of my faucet if it was not turned off all night in the hopes that the epoxy on the tank rupture would hold?  Well, it did not hold and we had to turn the water back on to fill the sheep containers - and chickens, and rabbits, and dogs and cats and ducks.  Water on a farm is of paramount importance.  We can get by on a couple of gallons for coffee and teethbrushing, but livestock lives on water.  If I could let them all go and wander they would find water in a couple of ponds and the many underground streams here on the farm.  I am reminded of the first year I lived here, in the little 14 foot RV, when the water pipes froze and I was sneaking sink baths in the bathrooms at school.  The principal found out (why do they always find me out?) and offered me the shower in cosmetology.  Now I have my classy, giant, claw foot tub and I do a ceremonial water-worshipping soak in remembrance of those times.  Matt is working on the tank, not the way he wanted to spend his long weekend.  He bought more epoxy and thinks he can stop the leak.  Chris Kupris told us he put that pressure tank in back in the 1960's, so it's lasted 50 years.  If I had $2,000 burning a hole in my pocket I would buy a new one, but I am hay poor and that can't happen right now.  Speaking of hay poor, I sent six souls to heaven today.  I am out of hay and paying a ludicrous $4.00 a bale for decent hay and am lucky to have found it.  I took six sheep to the Farmer's Place today - four fat wethers, bullies who push the smaller ones away from the hay and don't have a lot of wool, and two crippled old ewes.  I hated to do it but see no way out of it.  The lady who helped me - I don't know her name - is so friendly and nice and made a very unpleasant trip and little less stressful.  Matt was pushing for me to call a truck to pick them up but there ain't no way.   I won't doom my sheep to a terrifying ride to a horrible fate, in a dog food factory, or a crate going overseas to be sacrificed in a violent Islamic ritual (yes, exposed in a NY Times article a year or so ago) - not after I have cared for them so lovingly all these years.  Nor will I give them away any more.  I worry about them constantly and have no way of knowing how they are being cared for.   Loren came and we loaded them into the back of my mini-van for the four mile down the road where they will only be alive a few minutes.  I'll get the meat back along with tongues, livers and hearts for the dogs.  I have to pay for this service, but it is so worth it to me, and I have good quality dog food for weeks.  I'll send six more when I pick up this load.  I just can't do it any other way.  I'll get the flock down to a manageable number and take even better care of them.  My heart aches but that's just the way things are.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kitties on the Porch

The porch makes a great vantage point for the kitties to watch who is coming and going.   After a lovely snow last night the sun came out and gave us a picture perfect winter wonderland.  The day was going so nicely until the circa 1960's water pressure tank decided to spring a leak - again.  There is always something that needs attention on an old farm, with some situations more dire than others.  We are attempting to, once again, stop the leak with some JB weld.  Fingers crossed...

Romantic Tote

Today's tote is more romantic and lighter (in weight)  than yesterday's earthy, rugged Bundaflicka bag.  I like the matching goat horn toggle closure.  I'm taking a break from sewing to do chores early.     I have a conference call with the committee of the Bouckville fiber art show at 7, then Downton Abbey comes on at nine.  I want to have dinner done somewhere in-between.  This short "vacation" is flying by.  There is no vacation on a farm, but the fact that I don't have to rush around in the morning and hit the road is such a pleasure.  I'm trying to get product made and spend some time with my animals.  Temps are more seasonal and yesterday's snow is still on the ground. 

Love a Duck

My chickens are hardly earning their keep.  I get maybe 3-4 eggs a day in the chicken room, and a couple in the hay racks.  My ducks, however, are giving me 4 - 6 jumbo eggs every day.   They are marvelous eggs with giant golden yolks and a thick, gooey egg white.  I bring them in to make scrambled eggs for my colleagues and students.  The kids were suspicious of the duck eggs at first, as kids often are when offered  something new but  they got over it pretty quick.  I thoroughly enjoy the duckies, some Pekins and some Swedish Blues.  I'm not sure what to do when spring comes.  I like having them captured in the barn so I can be sure and get the eggs.  I do love, however, looking out the window and seeing a white line of quackers marching up the hillside.  I give them cracked corn and 18% egg layer feed twice a day.  The sheep are very envious.  I had one energetic yearling ewe jumping into the duck pen to steal their feed.  I put her in with the lambs and moms to keep her away from the ducks.  I can't, however, keep the marauding roosters and chickens away from the duck feed.  I won't deny the free range hens, even though they are hiding their eggs somewhere in an undisclosed location around the farm.   Whenever I can manage it, and it is not easy,  I grab a rooster and throw him in the chicken room to wait for execution.  Darryl Parkinson comes to visit once in a while and kills some for me.   As much fun as the duckies are, they are the messiest animals I have ever owned.  I keep their water up high in a hanging container but they still manage to change it to mud every day.  I change the hay in their pans as the girls love to feather their nests and cover the eggs with a layer of grass.  I'm going to have to change the pen location to a cleaner space pretty soon.  I made Swedish pancakes with duck eggs this morning, with lots of nutmeg and cinnamon. Hmmmmm good, especially with the local NY State maple syrup.  Life is good.


Sadie is growing so fast.  She weighs 11  pounds now and is very happy and healthy.  The puppy teeth are not quite as sharp but the urge to chew is just as strong.  Sadie loves to play with her mom, Reba. They run circles around the apartment, knocking over my spinning wheel and tearing out electric outlets.  I have to keep Sadie on a leash outside as she will follow the other dogs up the hill out of sight.  I took her up there yesterday before the snow came and she pulled me all the way.  Sadie is a true hound dog, nose down, on the trail of whatever she picks up.   Reba is content to relax with her favorite person in the world - Matt Redmond.  I think her owner was a man.  Reba lives for Matt to come on weekends and goes crazy when she sees him.  I wonder if we'll ever know where Reba came from.  The vet's office says pregnant dogs are often abandoned around here.  How sad, what a pity - all that love thrown away....and how tragic that someone might feel that desperate that he has to abandon a loyal companion.


We had a pretty little snowfall yesterday, the kind that keeps you looking out the window at the pristine beauty of it.  I have one big, beautiful "Rockefeller Center" pine tree out my living room window.   It had boughs all the way to the ground when I first moved in here, but the sheep, goats and llamas all trimmed it up a bit.  I wish I had a few scattered around the pasture for shade, but this is it.  There are several mashed up against the little farmhouse next door, dwarfing it and threatening to flatten it at any moment.  I marvel at people's shortsightedness when they do that, but here we are.  I'm so glad I have mine.  Matt got out his little Ford 8N and plowed the driveways.  His new toy started right up and is working well for light plowing.  We are hoping to get a mower for it so I can knick all those annoying  thistles before they come up in the spring, and keep the fields tidy.  Sheep and goats wander around eating what they like best and leaving weeds and sticks standing.  An occasional mowing picks up where they leave off, or, I should say, knocks down where they leave up.

My Little Valentine

Valentine is doing nicely, still in his little jug (sheep lingo for the pen where a lamb spends his first few days with his mother).  He does little happy dances and leaps between naps and nursing.    I'll keep them in this pen for a while longer, as mom loves eating her grain treats without competing with the other sheep in the maternity area.  No other sheep get grain in the barn.  This maternal group is a privileged few.  My four Christmas-time lambs are doing great and growing big and fat.   I need to ear tag them, something I hate to do as they can tear off leaving the ear a bloody mess.  If I don't I might not be able to tell who they are a year from now.  I had a few lovely white sheep last year, along with some very nice black sheep.  I've given up on names except for a few.  I can't remember them anyway, and it adds a whole new dimension of sadness when I have to let them go.   There was a time when everyone had names, and I had so many hopes and dreams about my farm, but that seems so long ago and a very big reality bite away.  I truly believe it is better to have farmed and lost than to never have farmed at all.  At least I'm not lying on the sofa, watching a big screen TV and counting out my anti-depressants and the other meds I need to put one foot in front of the other.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

New Totes

My lost camera has been found - under the sofa.  Sweeping and mopping not only makes my local pine floor look so pretty - it also brings hidden treasures out from hiding.  I've been sewing lately and new Bundaflicka totes are hanging from the rafters once again.  I took a cue from the talented and creative Kimmie Cornerstone and made some goat horn buttons.  I think they compliment this bag nicely.    It feels good to be sewing again.  It really grounds me, kind of like barn chores.  I cut out several bags yesterday and look forward to putting them together.  Tomorrow I have to, I mean I really have to, start making some soap.  Way behind on it.  A place for it to cure is a problem, as the curing rack is covered with sewing paraphernalia.   Challenges, challenges.  I just can't seem to make enough working space for what I need to do.  Mia said, Mommy, my friends think you have a factory!  Dream on...

Friday, February 17, 2012


Home today for the start of the President's Day break.  Don't have to go back until Wednesday.  I love that part of the education field.  Just when you think the thread you are hanging by is going to pop you get a few days off.  People think we are so pampered, but I'd like those critics to try doing what I do for a day or two.  They would be jumping out the windows.  I'm still in my jammies and it's almost nine o'clock - how decadent.  Ofcourse my jammies are not the suburban housewife jammies I used to wear.  The flannels I have on now have to double as outdoor clothes, or something I could wear while herding animals out of a burning barn.  I have a lot on deck for today, too much to fathom really, but I'm going to take it one step at a time.  Kitchen will be first, then Kitty City - the room adjacent to the apartment, then some clothing organization.  I have one closet rack now, no wise-cracks here, but it's not enough to hold the mountains of clothes I rescued from the opportunistic possums in the tractor shed.  We are having a very mild winter but I'm trying to wear all my beautiful sweaters before putting them away for the anticipated early spring.  I may have a 20,000 square foot barn, but there is not much storage space protected from animals.  Everything has to be put in protective tubs or I will have another possum debacle.  I have fiber to pick, sort, wash and dye.  I have several batches of soap on deck.  I have a beautiful Bundaflicka tote on the machine right now that I will finish before I attack any of the above.  Gosh, this bag is gorgeous.  I ordered the fabric cheap online and took a chance.  It may look good on the thumbnail but you never really know how it's going to feel or behave on the machine.  I happened to have the perfect lining fabric, too.  I'd love to attach the picture of this lovely tote but my camera is lost somewhere in the Bermuda triangle that is this apartment.  I hope when I start cleaning that it will surface.  One can only live and hope.  In the meantime I might have another cup of French Roast, and make myself some more toast.  I had a plate of delicious whole wheat with raspberry jam (from the famous Sauquoit berries sold at the Hamilton market) behind me on the sewing machine.  I turned to type something and when I turned back Miss Sneaky Sadie had climbed up on the sofa and made hasty work of my toast.  I call her Crouching Tiger Hidden Sadie now.  I should call her Wormy Sadie as she is full of worms.  I stopped at New Berlin Veterinary on the way home from work yesterday to pick up some Advantage Pour-On for the dogs and asked about worming.  They told me the correct dose for Ivomec in dogs - one tenth CC for every ten pounds sub-C.  I have to figure out a way to weigh Sadie and find a new needle.  No creepy critters living inside my Sadie, thank you very much!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Good Morning

Rain forecast for today and tonight.  This balmy winter continues.  Little Valentine is doing well and I look forward to picking him up and doing some lamb snuggling over the weekend.   I have to give him a selenium shot and put the band on his scrotum.  This area is seriously selenium deficient and supplements are required.  Just my luck.  I noticed that the fleeces I brought up here with me were better quality and couldn't figure out why as I've always fed my sheep well and given vaccinations,etc.  It's the lack of selenium that does it.  Speaking of fleeces, young Knut got ahold of a new fleece in the barn and scattered it.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, it's a Bluefaced Leicester fleece and only weighed about two pounds.  I just got finished dyeing Zack's fleece, a hefty, luscious beautiful mound of wool that took two giant pots to dye.  What a joy to have so much wool come from one sheep.  He's my purebred Border Leicester ram.  I understand why Libby Llop immediately started breeding more wool into the BFL ewes she got from me.  She was amazed at the light fleeces and even suspected I was damaging the hair folicles in the womb with poor nutrition.  Au contraire - that's Bluefaced Leicester.  If you are wealthy enough to feed sheep who don't put out a lot of wool, they are fabulous sheep as the wool is exquisite...but there is not much of it to be had.  I hope to be playing with wool this weekend, in addition to soap making, sewing, tidying up the apartment, and washing the kitchen floor.  It might take some heavy equipment to scrape off the crap I track in from the barn.  Life on the farm...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mars in Opposition

I saw it two nights ago in the eastern sky - Mars the red planet.  Found out today it will be very red and visible tonight as it is opposite the sun now - in opposition as the astronomers say.  I think a cloud cover will obscure it tonight, unfortunately.   What a mixed bag today.  Mr. Potter was absent - he's my only aide as they took my beloved Robin away due to my low number of students, and it was touch and go all day.  The poor substitute did his best, but with my kids it's tough.  We managed to get some work done then watched Pit Boss with Shorty Rossi.  I forgot how many valuable lessons that show teaches - kindness to animals, social responsibility, tolerance of people of different ethnic backgrounds and races, and sensitivity to the handicapped.  I went to my blood donation appointment, which had to be at the end of the day as they were solidly booked by the time I called.  That's great I thought until I found out that most of the donors either didn't show up or were disqualified to donate blood.  I thought they would DQ me as my BP is up again, but they took it anyway.  It went splendidly as the technician found my one and only pipe, but at the end the hub broke and the blood covered the shoes of two women and almost got my Icelandic cardigan on the floor under the stretcher.  They apologized profusely but I was okay with it because the pint was not contaminated.  If they had to throw it away I would have been upset.  One more day and I have a nice vacation - five days off to do some work around here.  Home to some very happy dogs.  Haven't been out to the barn yet.  Might have to lie down a few minutes as I'm a little tired.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Good Boy

I hated to leave for work today and worried about little Valentine all day.  I was in a tizzy getting out of the house, combined with the fact that I didn't have time to fix the tricky driver's side door on the Blazer.  It would not close and I drove the 25 miles on curvy roads with the door swinging open.  I was able to fix it, as Matt showed me how, before I drove home.  Work was fine with many staff members wearing red but not me, which is unusual.  I'm all into red and have lots of red clothes, but today was tan cordorouy with a tan quilted LL Bean vest.  I run into the house from chores and grab whatever is on the top of the pile and clean.  Oh, well.  I rushed home to find little Valentine doing just fine.  I scooped him up and checked his belly - firm and full - and his mouth - warm and moist.  Very good signs that he is nursing and mom has milk in her one working udder.  I gave him back quickly as mom was complaining loudly that I had her baby.  Back inside to get coffee made and the fire going to take the chill out of the apartment.  There's a little rain/snow thing going on but temps are not too bad.  Very little snow this winter which has me concerned about water availability in the summer.  The massive snow melt fills the underground springs, ponds and streams.  There won't be much snow melt this year.  Garbage night tonight.  Fried duck eggs and toast for dinner I think, with Cheerios and bananas for night-night snack.  What a relief not to have to worry about babies coming in the cold night any more.  We are finished.   Five lambs this year - a nice round number.  Four white, one black.  Four rams/wethers and one cute little ewe lamb - Robin.  I'm keeping them all unless someone makes me a fantastic offer I can't refuse.  We'll see...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Baby Valentine

I've been anticipating the last birth for several days now.  When I got home from work today, after making a few inevitable stops, I got the dogs out right away.  They ran around enjoying this lovely weather, then I heard the maaaaahhh, maaaaahhh sound that cuts right through every shepherd.  Lamb - a live lamb!!  I ran Sadie Puppy back into the house and dashed into the barn to see what was going on.  There he was - skinny little lamb, only one, looking a little lost in the kindergarten pen.  Mom was attentive, but the several other sheep and four big lambs were distracting her.  As soon as everybody sees me they start to mill around and beg for food.  I went back inside for my kit which includes the iodine and scissors for the clip and dip of the lamb's cord, then the syringe barrel and jar for the stripping of the teat.  I did the ram lamb - Valentine, ofcourse - then got his sweater on.  Who knows how long he was milling around the pen I can only imagine.  He was nicely dried off and mom was "talking" to him.  Looking good, I thought.  Now to catch Mom and make sure her teat was open and the milk was flowing.  Mom had mastitis in the past and I feared there was no milk in there.  I was nervous about what to do if there was nothing to give the baby.  I had to catch her first - no easy task.  Mom saw the halter and bolted.  We went round and round, which is definitely NOT a good thing to do with a new mother, and the other moms and lambs were thoroughly spooked.  I had everyone all upset and little Valentine was run over at least once.  I climbed back out and got another halter I could fashion into a lasso. A cowboy I am not, but after several attempts I managed to get the halter around the mother's middle section, holding her behind the front legs.  I was trying for the neck but she stepped through it before I could tighten it.  The middle was good enough and I pulled her to the wall and tied her.  I leaned her against the stone wall and held her with my chest and head while I held the jar under a teat.  One teat was totally obstructed by the old mastitis, but the other one was soft and full of fluid.  I made a sigh of relief into her belly and started to nurse out the liquid gold - thick, gooey colostrum that contains the important antibodies the lamb will take into his system through receptors that line his belly.  The sooner after birth the lamb gets the vital juice the better as the receptors act with decreasing efficiency over 24 hours.  I was squeezing blind but knew I was getting something.  When I looked I was very pleased.  I had enough for him and some left over.  I let mom go, but still kept her tied, then took the baby on my lap with my legs crossed.  I squirted the milk into the side of his mouth with the 3 cc syringe barrel.   3 cc's is the perfect amount for a lamb to swallow.  I got a good amount into his belly then watched while he went a little shaky, like he was drunk, then went right to sleep.  The colostrum always has the same effect.  Some shepherds think it's silly to go this extra length to give the lamb it's first meal, but I've found it's cheap insurance against losing your lamb.  I have to nurse the teat out anyway to clear the plug - I just take it one step further.  In the wild a lamb that could not get up and nurse out that plug itself would die, ensuring that only the strongest lambs survived.  I want them all to survive.  While Valentine slept I went about the barn looking for panels to use for a jug.  An hour later I had a nifty pen built and tied firm with baling twine.  I gave mom a bucket of warm water and molasses, with a flake of second cut hay and a little mouthful of grain.  She was famished.  I'm proud of this old girl and was glad to give her some special treatment.  Back to my other chores and got inside around 8.  I was going to save the piece of salmon I bought at the market today but cooked it to celebrate the birth of little Valentine.  A cup of tea, another barn check or two, and I am down for the count. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Today's Tote

I love the look and feel of this fabric, and it was a great online deal,  but it is quite thick and tough for my little old Singer to poke through.  You might not see very many of these bags because of it.  When it's a battle to sew a Bundaflicka tote, sometimes I'm too weak to fight.

Sunday Afternoon

Feels like winter with the cold air, gray sky and snow flurries.  When the sheep water freezes in the barn and my hands hurt without my mittens I find myself longing for spring.  We brought home two weeks worth of hay today.  The landscape trailer is coming in handy once again.  It used to have walls on three sides which made me call it the Marie Antoinette cart, reminiscent of the cart used to take French Revolution prisoners to the guillotine.  The walls started to collapse so Matt took them off.  Luckily not a single pricey, precious bale bailed on the way home with the hay.  With the cost of fuel predicted to go up even higher farming is more and more becoming a hobby for the wealthy, or subsistence for the very poor.  I have to make some hard decisions shortly.  In the meantime I am making the most of my Sunday afternoon with tending critters, that's a given, sewing and cooking.  I just finished a tote with some new fabric.  Lovely stuff, very sturdy, which sometimes means hard to sew on like this fabric.  I might make just a few big totes with the ten yards I have rather than many little ones.  Sometimes the fabric tells me what I'm going to do with it.  I cooked some frozen shrimp I had in the freezer and got a little adventurous, unlike me when it comes to cooking.  I made a sauce with evaporated milk, lemon curry, allspice, tomatoes and veggie pepper then added the shrimp.  I'll put the sauce over rice and see how Matt likes it.  I'm out to chores now, and should come in and scrub the kitchen floor, but I might just cut out another tote out of the other Fabric Guru cloth I recently received.  This tapestry chenille should be a little easier on my little-old-lady machine.  She and I are the same age but I am proving to be able to take a beating better than my little Singer, who is rattling and clanking a bit.  A two hour treat is in store for me on PBS tonight - two hours of Downton Abbey!!  I am hooked on it and want the decks cleared before nine.

Stealth Bomber

I had a lot of fun taking pictures at the Valentine Fur Ball.  I like snapping shots on the dark dance floor while people shake their booties.   It's always a surprise to see how they come out.  Matt made me stop because he thought the people were getting mad, but I don't think they minded.  They probably thought I was papparazzi trying to catch a visiting celebrity.

Be a Giver

I felt great being listed as a donor to the Chenango SPCA Fur Ball.  I wish I had started doing it sooner.  My beloved Holly came from that shelter.  Next year I will add a Bundaflicka Tote to the silent auction table.  Donations included some terrific items and services such as Zumba lessons, yoga and massage sessions, paintings, newspaper subscriptions, a Chobani gift basket, crocheted afghans, doggie baskets and a signed copy of Shorty the Pit Bull rescuer's recent book.   Patrons could bid on a chartered fishing trip to the St. Lawrence Seaway,  beautiful jewelry from local stores, and tickets to SU basketball games.   It was very exciting to watch the competitive bidding at the live auction, too.

Wear Red

Next year I will definitely find a red dress to wear to the Valentine Fur Ball.  I felt great in the beautiful ensemble Mia bought for me to wear to her wedding reception last year.  I loved dancing in the swirly gown.  There aren't too many affairs around here where you can wear a long dress.  I had so much fun...

Fur Ball Silent Auction

A highlight of the Chenango SPCA Fur Ball is the Silent Auction.  There was a plethora of artsy and interesting donations to the local shelter.  I put together a Maggie's Farm basket with photo cards, Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme, Goat Milk Soap, handspun yarn, Mei-Mei knitting needles and carded fiber.  I was thrilled to see the bidding go up and up in small increments through the night.  A man's name, unknown to me, was last on the list and took away the basket.  I hope he, or a she in his life, is a knitter or spinner.  It was very exciting and I look forward to donating a basket to the Fur Ball next year.

Coughing Up the Fur Ball

We drove to the Fur Ball in driving snow, just like two years ago.  The joint was jumping by the time we arrived fashionably late and we greeted by the Incredibly Competent and Vivacious Peggy Finnegan.  Peggy is on the board of the Chenango SPCA and is Madame Director of Colorscape Chenango which I have the honor of participating in every year.   We had a fabulous time dancing to Splash, Mia's wedding band, and mingling with the Beautiful Classy People of Norwich and surrounding environs.   My Maggie's Farm basket did very well at the Silent Auction to benefit the homeless critters, even outbidding an autographed book by Shorty, the Pit Bull guy.  Matt managed to shake loose some of the stress built up from saving energy by going nuclear on the dance floor.  I wanted to close the party but the snow was coming down along with temps and I wanted to get back and check on my pregnant mama.  It's cold and grey the morning after and I have animal concerns, as always, but a good time the night before helps ease the burden.  We are hooking up the old landscape trailer to the Blazer to pick up more hay this morning.  Luckily it's only four miles away as taking the rickety rig on route 8 would be asking for trouble. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fur Ball Tonight

The Fur Ball at the Canasawacta Country Club benefits the Chenango County Human Society.  It's the biggest, glitziest affair around these parts and I am holding two very hot tickets.  "Splash" will provide the music and the dance floor will be jumping through the night. I donated a Maggie's Farm basket of goodies to the Silent Auction, the proceeds of which will benefit the homeless dogs and cats of the area.   I'm planning on wearing the same dress I wore to Mia's wedding reception.  I'm hoping to avoid the same wardrobe malfunction, as in shoes, when I had to run up to my room and exchange my fancy heels for my trusty clogs.   This morning I'll be travelling to the wilds of North Brookfield to search for better hay for my sheep.  The farmer down the road gave me a lead on some hay available on Gorton Lake Road.  My goat friend Susie Miele told me about some good hay in Sherburne.  I meant to avoid all this again this year, but here we are.  Gotta deal.  I'm looking forward to a five day break at the end of next week, when I'll be able to spend some time with my sheep and do some work around here.  Between chores and school I don't get a whole heck of a lot done.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


What a lovely Snow Moon or Wolf Moon this month.  I love to come out in the early morning and see the moon up on the other side of my little valley, with the pink glow of dawn coming up over the piney ridge.  I had some sheep positioning to deal with last night and this morning.  TJ and Robin were left outside the kindergarten/maternity pen after shearing.  Everyone went home before I realized I needed some extra hands to get them back in.  I feed 18% feed to the lambs and the remaining pregnant ewe in the pen, but how to get the little family back in without scattering the ones inside.  I tried to catch Mama using the lead as a lasso but she spooked and I didn't get her.  A skilled shepherd would do this with ease, but not me.  Then there was the issue of opening the maternity pen while pulling her inside.  I decided to catch the lambs and put them over the fence so they could eat, as they had been without grain for several days.  It's bad enough this hay I'm giving them is so lousy.  At least they could have their bellies full of feed.  There was much complaining by Mama that her lambs were in sight but not near enough to nurse from her.  I fed them again this morning, then lifted the lambs back over the fence to a very grateful Mama whose bag was quite swollen and ready to be drained.  I'll have to get somebody over to help me get the three of them back in the kindergarten.  Pregnant mom does not want to be in there alone.  I have Lilly, Joseph and the recovering Gabriel in there with her now.  A very wooly and energetic yearling wether likes to jump the four foot fence to get the grain for the lambs.   On deck for today - a hike up the little mountain behind the school.  Mr. Potter and I have decided the skralings have been much too cheeky and need a forced march to take the piss and vinegar out of them.  The weather is lovely with a high in the 40's forecast.  We'll see how it goes...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


The full moon, or "Wolf Moon," is so incredibly beautiful on my farm tonight.  It's nine at night but bright as day outside.  I love to walk around the farm on a night like this.  I can't believe how a place can be so breathtaking in beauty and solitude.   I  have to find some better hay.  This recent load of first cut hay is all sticks and my sheep are miserable.  I can't believe Loren even brought it home.  That's the last time I have someone else pick up hay for me.  My new hay feeders are filled with garbage.  Good thing the sheep have such a good fat layer on them or I'd worry about them dropping dead.  I won't have an easy time of it.  This is the time of year when most people have run out or are trying to eek by until spring.  I'll figure out something.  One more walk in the moonlight and I'll lock the dogs in with the sheep then come in and sew.  Funny, sewing is the most comforting activity I do.  It's my favorite power tool.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Home Again

I was determined to make the little buggers pay for the horrible day we had on Friday, but Friday was a million miles away and I have this amazing ability to block out trauma.   Then a step-dad dropped off three pizzas and an X-Box game system so the kids could celebrate the Giant's Super Bowl victory.  I had to go along with it.  We had a lot of fun in the gym on the rock wall.  One of my kids got to the top and rang the bell - a big deal.  I'm determined to get up to the ceiling - 30 feet - and ring the bell before the year is out.  I'll have to get someone to take a picture.   I'll ask Mr. Potter to belay me, he's the only one I trust, and he's definitely big enough to counter my weight if I fall off the wall.  It looks like so much fun.  Worried about my little lamb Gabriel.  He's off his feed after the shearing.  Matt put the four lambs in the milk room while the shearing was going on and it was very traumatic for them.  Joseph and Gabriel, Lilly's lambs, are still on bottles and Gabriel won't take his bottle.  I am pushing Sheep Nutri Drench and making him swallow his milk replacer with a big syringe so he doesn't go completely down on me.  Something else to worry about that I don't need.  The sunshine is so lovely and brilliant today, making me hope for an early spring.  Wouldn't it be nice.  One can only live and hope...I got a good sleep last night.  Little Sadie is the cutest bed partner.  She curls up on my shoulder like a cat, with Izzy up against my belly and Reba on my feet - a perfect three dog night.  Cold temps at night this week.  I thought I would come home to find the sheep sitting out in the sun but they are staying in the barn.  I have to have another shearing but it might wait a few weeks until I can get the gang together again.  I know the sheep don't mind keeping their wool for now...I've got the fire going and will think about getting chores done early so I can work inside.  Fur Ball this weekend.  I dropped off my Maggie's Farm gift box at the Chenango SPCA and said hello to Peggy Finnegan, Colorscape Coordinator, who is also on the board of the shelter.  She and Sue, fundraising chair, seemed pleased with the basket which will be put out on the silent auction table at the Fur Ball.  Hope to see some tickets in the can.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Angora Half Mitts

Kimmie Cornerstone spun and knit these beautiful 100% angora hand warmers for me.  They got me through shearing in a cold barn yesterday, keeping my hands from cramping while leaving my fingers able to clip 120 or hooves.  I just wore them while climbing the hill to the top of my land with my dogs in this brilliant sunshine and didn't mind the cold a bit.  Sadie, just 10 weeks old or so, pulled on the leash the entire way.  She's so little I could hold it with my pinky, but she kept it taut all the way up and down.  Not surprisingly Sadie is taking a nap right now.  I'm trying to decide if I should run up to JoAnn's fabrics in New Hartford to take advantage of the 50% off thread sale.  I use tons of thread and it can get pricey.  I could stop at Bridgewater on the way and have a good chance of finding a Sunday NY Times - hard to get around these parts.  After the forced march up the hill behind the school with my students on Friday, then shearing yesterday, I'm a bit wasted.   Fortunately sewing is a sitting-down activity and so is reading the paper.  If I could only find that half-price coupon in this chaos called my purse...

Many Hands...

My shearing day went much more smoothly with a five person team, the minimum number for a successful job. Loren and Matt caught the sheep and gave them to Jim, Darryl took the sheep off the platform while Kim quickly scooped up the fleece, shaking it and letting any second cuts and debris fall to the floor and sweeping off the platform with a broom.  Darryl held the sheep while I trimmed the hooves and gave vaccinations and did the worming.  With 42 sheep that equals 120 plus hooves done while bending over and holding up an often uncooperative animals leg.  No wonder I am a bit sore today.    If sheep and goat hooves are not trimmed they fold over underneath the foot and harbor bacteria which can cause problems as in the dreaded "foot rot."  I am very grateful for all the help I received yesterday and know better than to attempt a shearing without adequate help.  Matt and I have done it ourselves many times but this way is much more gratifying for all concerned.

Lilly Loves her Boys, and So Do I

Lilly stuck very close to her boys, Joseph and Gabriel, after the rigors of shearing day.  My sheep truly enjoy the "Life of Riley" (old TV show, now that really dates me) but I raise them for wool and once or twice a year they have to donate their produce to the Farm cause.  Everybody gets wormed and vaccinated.  The USDA gentleman who stopped by here a couple of weeks ago told me to worm my sheep at least twice a year.  When my shearer, Big Jim Baldwin, saw how fat my sheep are (on hay only, no grain) he scolded me, again, for worming them at all.  I just can't help but worm them once a year.  I know of people who worm their sheep several times a year, once a month even, which is just plain crazy,  Parasites become resistant to the wormer and then you are spending your hard-earned money for nothing.  My sheep don't get the dreaded meningeal worm, which is so prevalent and deadly around here, and are fat and happy. 

Moonrise Grazing

My flock, some shorn and some unshorn, enjoyed grazing on the hillside at sunset with the lovely moon rising yesterday.  TJ and Robin went outside with their mom for the first time, sticking very closely by her side.  Can you imagine the enormity of the hillside after spending their entire lives in the shelter of the barn?   After worming and vaccinations the lambs are relaxing back inside today.  Maggie is also relaxing a bit this morning with a duck egg/spinach omelette and numerous cups of Canadian Multatelli Organic French Roast coffee, a gift from my dear friends Kim and Darryl.  I am humbled and grateful for their loyalty and devotion to me and my farm.  I met Kim when she bought her very first angora bunny, Murphy, from me many years ago at NY State Sheep and Wool.