Saturday, March 31, 2012


Up early to get ready to shear.  It takes me an hour to make coffee, Melitta style, lovingly pouring it through the grounds, and feed the cats and dogs.  I'm out of kibble and was feeding them eggs when I found a bin full of sheep livers, hearts and tongues.  Had to cut them up with scissors for the little darlings.  Yuck, yuck, yuck.  Believe it or not I think they prefer the dry kibble, which is ridiculously expensive but oh, so easy to pour out for them - compared to cutting up livers and hearts, that is.  Matt is back from the Hilton in Baltimore.  Gave him a cup of coffee when he walked in the door at six yesterday and he's been flat out on the sofa ever since We have to round up the sheep and get them squeezed together in a small group for shearing which is never an easy task in my barn.  There are spaces for them to escape everywhere - between stanchions, etc.  Luckily Loren is coming to help with sheep wrangling.   My dear friends, the Parkinsons, are on their way from Kingston, Ontario.  There is a sleety snow coming down and I'm so worried about them driving.  Jim Baldwin is coming from Cortland and it's got to be hard going from there, too.  What would I do without these devoted friends?  Got to get the wool and mohair off before it's ruined.  Mia is on her way back from a week of pharmacology seminar in Boston.  Hope she doesn't slip and slide in her tiny little car with bald tires.  More to worry about.  Better get moving...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Damp and Dreary

Oh, how I would love to stay home and spin some wool in front of a smoldering, flickering fire.  It's cold, damp and dreary out there.   Have to get out to morning chores and get out of here.  Little Valentine is still getting a bottle twice a day.  I have one more cup of powder in the milk replacer bag, and I have to decide if I'm going to buy another one.  The white powder might as well be a drug, it's so expensive.  $30 for a small bag.  I weaned Nicholas and Joseph with bottles of warm water.  Valentine is getting grain and second cut hay twice a day.  I'll have to sleep on it.  It's pitiful to hear his cries for his bottle.  I think he's chewed his poor mother's teat to the point she doesn't want him any more.  Who could blame her?  I'll buy another Mega-Millions ticket today.  Bought five the other day, the first lottery ticket purchase in my life.  Fun to think of what I would do with that money.  One thing is for sure, there would still be a flickering fire in the wood stove with a spinning wheel and stool in front of it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Close the Gate

About to shuffle off to bed with my cinnamon tea with honey when I realized I haven't closed the gate.  I had the sheep out to graze after work today and what a pretty picture they make on the hill.  The light is so intense in the spring with the air still so cold, making for an invigorating time outside after being shut in all day.  I made a fire in the wood stove to take the chill out of the house and took a little nap - unusual for me and so delightful.  Chores started late and finished at 9:30.  I like to take my time and enjoy my animals.  Even with the little bit of grazing they did on the hill the sheep were happy to see their bins full of hay when they came in.   I walked the length of the barn before I came in, all 240 ft. of it, to check for anybody in trouble.  Once I found a poor little goat dangling by one leg caught in a fence panel he tried to jump.  It's dark and spooky in the back but when my instincts tell me to check I better listen.  Didn't find anything wrong.  I went out the back of the barn and looked at the giant silo silhouetted against the starry sky.  The waxing crescent moon just lit the sky up enough to give it a glow but still let the stars shine.  So lovely....Better pull my boots on and go shut that gate.  I have to work tomorrow and can't have sheep running around loose.

Cold Again

Wow, what a shock after the balmy temps we've had.  It's COLD out there!  The wind yesterday was ridiculous, and I had a heck of a time getting the stove going, even with the updraft fan.  The water was frozen when I went out to do chores.  Glad the sheep have grown back some wool after being shorn a month ago.  Jim is coming back on Saturday to do the rest, with Kim and Crew coming from Kingston to help out.  Up early this morning to see the Wild Irish Boy off to the Hilton in Baltimore for the Affordable Comfort conference.  This is a biggie in the energy field, and he will rub elbows with the heavy hitters in weatherization.  That's okay - go party - I'll hold down the farm, and the job.  I have to suit up in cold weather gear and get out there for chores.  It was so nice to do morning chores in my nightie...Maybe next week.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wintry Mix

I woke up to the wind making music around the barn.  Winter is back.  I have not turned the heat on all winter and don't want to start now.  Soon as I made coffee and fed the kitties/doggies I got a blazing fire going in the wood stove.  It will make the place a little warmer before I leave for work.  Have no idea where my fleece pants are for morning chores.  I wormed my five lambs and gave them a vaccination booster last night.  All are doing well except for cute little Robin, who keeps getting pushed away from the grain by the bullies.  She's fine just noticeably smaller.  Valentine is adorable and still on the bottle.  I let him and Vicky out of their own pen and into the kindergarten with the other lambs and moms.  Vicky is very nervous and flighty.  I saw her eyeing the panel that separates them from the rest of the barn.  Hope she doesn't decide to jump it.  There is more food where she is now.  Giving Valentine his bottle is tricky as Joseph and Nicholas know what goodness comes out of that cylinder and try to knock him out of the way.  Time to start weaning I think.   I got 100 pounds of lovely dyed wool and mohair out to the mill in Michigan yesterday.  Pray they work their magic on it and make me gasp when I see it come off the trailer in Maryland.  I have a giant teal green run to ship, and still plan on a bright red "Lipstick" run if I can manage to buy the dyes I need in time.  Still have to get on board with soap.  I will have to switch mind-sets from fiber to soap pretty soon, with tote bags in between.  Getting ready for a big show can be stressful when your booth does not ship in on a UPS truck.  I like making everything myself but sometimes...   My Mia is in Boston at the Sheraton doing a college semester of pharmacology in one week.  What a girl.  I hope she gets some good sleep at night.  With her usual positive attitude she quipped, "I'm going to feel so smart!"  Love that girl...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gotta Love a Sunday

My internal alarm clock wakes me up at five every day, but that makes lying back down even better.  Can't stay down for long with so much to do and enjoy.  The house was coolish this morning with more seasonable temps returning.  I had a bucket of bark next to the wood stove so I could get a fire going quickly.  I sat in front of the hearth and sorted through some teal mohair.  Oh, I love the stuff.  I found a bag of handspun I forgot about yesterday.  What a treat.  I just don't get the same thrill from mill spun or commercial yarn.  It just feels "empty," or vacant somehow.  Hand spun has a special feel to it, like it has substance...and you just can't get the unique designs when you send your fiber out for mill spinning.  So I'll stick to having my Mother Fiber carded into roving.  The wet felters like it that way and I adore spinning it.  I don't know how I could explain it to Kimmie Cornerstone if I didn't make roving any more.  She loves spinning and comes up with fabulous yarn with my fiber.  I'm shearing again next weekend and will have more to play with and dye.  I want to make another pure black mohair run.  I had some carded last year, with no colors or wool carded in, and it was just heavenly.  I had a nice conversation with Chaplain AJ yesterday.  He sounds so happy.  The Army really agrees with him.  If only he could be stationed closer to home...Mia is on her way to Boston to spend a week at a hotel studying pharmacology.  It's the last step in obtaining her Nurse Practitioner's license after passing the rigorous board exam.  Luckily she will be staying with Erika, her room mate from UVM, who lives in B'town.  Eric and Hannah are flying around Texas in his little plane.  Hannah can fly it herself now.  I expect them to drop out of the sky and land here on the farm someday soon.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ready to Ship

I'm getting my roving runs organized for shipping out to the carding mill.  I think I have almost 200 pounds of wool and mohair bagged and ready.  There is always some fiber loss when carding but I think I will have enough to make a good showing at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  I still have my "Lipstick" run to do when I get the dyes ordered from Dharma.  Wish I had time to sort through each and every bag to get any remaining schmutz out of there, but it ain't gonna happen unless I clone myself.  So much more to do with soap, shaving cups, Bundaflicka totes, etc.  I am a one-woman-band.  I like what I make and consider myself lucky to have all this wonderfully tactile and colorful stuff to play with.  I work hard to make my fiber pay for itself.  I just heard something sad today from the local hay broker.  Several alpaca farms around here have recently gone out of business and the animals showed up at the livestock auction a couple of miles from here.  How sad.  I bet they counted mostly on alpaca sales that didn't happen.  If they dyed the fiber and took it to shows I know they would make some money.  Many alpaca people don't even spin. 

Ahhhh, Green Grass!

I love to watch the sheep when they hit the pasture for the first time in the spring.  Not that they have a tough time of it in the barn, with all the food, water and room to lounge they could possibly need, but there is nothing like a green hillside.  They run out of the Poor White Gate and up the hill, doing mule kicks and leaps, like they've been released from jail.  The recent spring-like weather jump started my grass. It won't keep growing with temps diving again next week.  I will continue to feed hay, but after the green grass the sheep will turn their noses up at it.  Here's hoping Spring will come back again real soon.

100 Pound Sacks

If I buy my egg layer and cracked corn from the Louis Gale Feed Mill in Waterville it is almost half the price of the local feed stores.  Guess where Maggie goes to buy her feed.  The hundred pound sacks are not easy to handle.  Luckily Matt is here to help me.  It had been taking me quite a while to do end over end up the steps and lifting them up on pallets where I open them and scoop out what I need.   I try to calculate how much I can give to make one trip last two weeks, but sometimes I don't make it.  I am the Italian/Jewish mother of the animal world, so everybody is fat and happy.  I ran out Thursday night and had to be clever about feeding everyone on Friday to hold them over to today's trip.  My chickens, finally, are laying eggs like they should.  This early spring-like weather triggered the laying mechanism in my hens.  I have been feeding them like queens all along with only two or three eggs a day.  Yesterday I got two dozen.  I made pancakes for my students and aides yesterday to celebrate.  Not wanting to disrupt this sudden spike in production, and being out of feed, I had to figure out what to do.  I had put a quarter of sheep high on a piece of furniture for the tractor shed kitties to munch on at their leisure.  The high heat last week hatched some flies, and they laid some eggs in the mutton.   Not a pretty sight, and the kitties were not amused.  I pulled down the leg and a few wiggly maggots fell on the ground.  Some free range chickens gobbled up the creepy crawlies like they were candy.  I decided to drag the leg and rib section up to the barn and into the chicken room.  I was followed by the chickens who were very enthused by the surprise meal.  I plopped the grizzly carcass in a feed pan and the hens were instantly attracted to their substitute meal.    Hurray!   I was reminded of the nasty scene from one of my favorite novels, Cold Mountain, where Hinman chased the Yankee marauders who stole the pig and chickens from a poor widow and her baby.  He shot the thieves and the chickens started feeding on the corpses.  I thought, well, if chickens relish eating corpses why not a maggoty sheep quarter?  Life on the farm goes on...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wind in the Willows

This lovely old willow tree is at the end of my little lane.  I've only been here five years, but never has it sprouted leaves so early.  The sheep are enjoying some early grazing, and I am getting a truck load of fiber dyed outside.  More seasonal weather is coming back this weekend, with temps diving to the fifties and rain.  Great weather for staying inside and cooking up some SOAP.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

With this gloriously warm weather this week I am trying to keep my drying rack full during the daylight hours when I'm at work.  This requires very diligent preparation of fiber every night, after chores, no matter how tired I am.  I pick as much hay, burdock, tags, etc., out of the wool, pull apart the locks, and soak it in hot water while I mix the Jacquard powder dye in the big pots.  Tonight I picked Teal, one of my favorite colors in the whole wide world.  I'm going to have a Teal run, maybe streaked with a little purple and Aztec Gold, another of my Jacquard favorites.  I don't know yet.  I simmered two pots of teal Bluefaced Leicester wool while finished up chores.  I don't mind puttering around the barn, tending to every living critter in the place.  I have them all so spoiled - this one gets an apple, this one extra cracked corn, this one a scratch on the chin, etc.  I pulled up some wiggly earthworms outside in the rain last night and brought them in to the ducks.  What fun, watching them suck up those creepy crawlies.  The ducks fairly smacked their bills in delight.  After the wool simmers for an hour or so, with stirring the fiber every ten minutes or so, I turn off the burners and let it cool down overnight.  In the morning, after chores and before getting dressed for school, of course, I empty the pots of wool into the washing machine, spin out the dye, then fill up the tub with water to rinse the dye residue out.  Then I can spread it out on the drying rack and pull the protective wire cover over it.  If I don't a gust of wind could scatter all my hard work to the four winds.  I have a mountain of fiber to ship to the mill in Michigan.  Big expense to ship, but they will bring it to me at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  It's always fun to see it come off the trailer.  I don't know who is more excited to see the finished product, me or Kimmie Cornerstone.  I dragged my sorry butt in from the barn at 10 pm tonight and ate Cheerios for dinner.  Matt is flat out on the sofa and hasn't moved since he got home from work.  He is having major trouble with his ankle.  Thirty years ago he fell off the top of an Exxon tanker truck and nearly ripped his foot off.  They told him the screws might fail in the future and his ankle would fuse.  He's in a world of pain and fears that time has come.  The orthopedic people in Syracuse will check it out tomorrow. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Doggie in a Box

I put boxes around the barn for the kitties to keep warm in the winter.  They haven't needed them too much with this mild weather, but I put them out anyway.  When I pick and sort a fleece I put the discarded fibers in these boxes for the kitties to nestle in.  Finn decided he would claim this box to himself, much to the chagrin of this kitty who would like to jump in herself.  There just isn't room for one more.

Fabric Doggie

Reba, Sadie's mother, taught her some bad habits - like lying on top of the kitchen table where I cut out my Bundaflicka totes.  I think Reba must have had a dog house to sit on top of, as she likes to be up high where she can see out the window.  Like mother like daughter.  It took a while for Sadie to get big enough to get up there, but now she loves it.  Mommie is anxiously looking forward to the time when the extra room is done with a closet to protect her fabric, instead of a table cloth. 

Be Picky and Dye

I spent a great deal of time picking wool over the weekend.  It works both ways - by saving me from a psychotic episode due to job stress, but driving me to distraction from all the bits of hay, manure (tags in sheep lingo) and burdock.  Lots of burdock.  (In New Jersey it was simply burrs - in upstate NY it's burdock).  My washer and dye stove have been working over time.  I did surrender it last evening so we could have clean clothes to go to work.  Oh, yes, work.  It's that thing that some of us don't want to think about, or talk about, but covers all that hay the aforesaid sheep like to eat.  And oh, can they eat.  Now it is time to make the sheep pay for their fat bellies by giving up their wool.  I need to get Jim Baldwin back one more time to do the sheep and goats he didn't get last time.  Warm weather plus hairy, sweaty sheep equals felt!  Better come quick, Jim!  I've been dyeing my black fleeces purple.  I adore natural colors but the customers want color, and I want the customers to stop in their tracks when they glance into my booth.  I do that with color.  The black fleeces take purple dye so nicely, with the lighter tips coming up violet and blue. I will blend this Bluefaced Leicester wool with some solid purple dyed mohair, and more mohair dyed teal and blood orange.  I'll call this run Pacifica Revisited, after the very successful Pacifica run of two years ago.  I've often thought of getting more yarn made with my fiber, but the roving is just so beautiful and can be used for spinning and felting.  People find place online to buy cheap yarn, but beautiful roving, with various colors and fibers, each with their own unique properties, keeps the fiber in a more fluid form, and is harder to find.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Now That's A Pair of Monstersockens!

Guess what I'm going to treat myself to after Maryland Sheep and Wool this year???  Yep, some more "Sock Lady Spins" socks.  I've been wearing mine for several years now and you just can kill them.  No holes in the heels, even with my crusty, gnarly floor.  I love crossing my legs and flashing these babies for all the world to see.  I can't imagine knitting so intricate,  and doing it on socks is incredible.  Lynne lives alone in the mountains in a place called Tatlayoko Lake, in the western Canadian wilderness.  She has to look both ways when she opens her front door to go to her car, so she's not ambushed by the grizzly bears who regularly pass through her yard.  No wonder she gets so many socks knitted...

Boiling Over

Saturday means a trip to the Louis Gale Feed Mill for weekly feed pick up.  We decided to drive by the saw mill operated by the new owners of the farm on King's Settlement Road.  I pass them twice a day but don't know much about wood so was glad to have Matt take a look.  The Amish family who bought the place is very prolific and industrious.  Much newly cut wood piled high and lots of cute little kids running around.  Matt thought the wood was a bit rough for the kitchen project we are doing.  I told him I heard there was another mill in Edmeston by the Unadilla River so we motored over there.  We stopped to check out places to launch a canoe or kayak and there were several.  Funny how I live one mile from the perfect place to do something so much fun and never checked it out.    We followed the sign for cedar furniture and passed through the tiny town of West Edmeston, which is officially my address.  Sadly the little post office will be closed due to budget issues.  Too bad.  It is so cute, with flowers in the window boxes, etc.  Will have to go in for stamps before they shut it down.  I go into Brookfield to get my mail from the rented box once a week.  Seems so silly now when West Edmeston has rural delivery....but not for long.  We motored along the opposite shore of the river and passed several Amish farms.  The land is terrific for planting along the river, unlike my rocky, but dramatic, hillside.  Found the furniture farm and the crafter came out to greet us.  Lovely, sturdy pieces that Matt is very impressed with.  Something to think about.  Matt hates my Queen Anne set with the triple dresser and high boy, always has.  He wants the Amish cedar furniture and I'm not arguing, thinking I can give the beautiful Queen Anne set to Mia or Hannah someday.  I have the tractor shed to save it in.  This furniture purchase will not happen any time soon.   I noticed the Amish man had terrific stools the perfect height for spinning at a ridiculous good price.  Thought I might take one to Maryland to see if it sells.  Home to work on the farm.  I spent many hours picking burdock, hay and manure out of wool and mohair fleeces then put them in to soak and wash while I got the dye pots ready.    Very satisfying to take those nasty bags of old dirty fleeces and turn them into lovely, glossy, purple, teal or orange candy for fiber people to play with.  I am mulling over and over in my mind how I want to combine the fibers and colors.  I like to blend some mohair with my very, very soft Bluefaced Leicester to give it some strength.  Customers know they rarely get a single fiber, and never a single color, with my roving (carded fiber in a long tube rolled in a ball).  I know how much I have to sell to cover last year's hay bill and with luck I might get there.  One can only live and hope.  Inside to make a hot meal for Matt, who had spent the afternoon pulling out old fence posts and rolling up barbed wire.  He tidied up the north side of the barnyard very nicely.  Have to get Loren in to pull out some old metal junk which he will turn into cash.  My view out the window will be much nicer now.  The grass is greening up quickly.  I'm keeping the sheep in for a while to give it a chance to grow.  Sheep don't strip the ground of roots  the way other animals do but I still want to get some up off the ground.   Out to finish chores after dinner and finished at 10:30.  I hope the weather is as beautiful tomorrow as my drying rack will be chock full of purple wool and mohair.  Think I will streak it with some teal, and maybe some blood orange, for a run I will call "Pacifica Revisited."  It sold very well last time.   Chamomile tea time for me then I might check out SNL, which I am rarely awake for.  Matt said he was chilled so I built a fire.  Toasty warm in here.  Summer jammies tonight.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On the Brink of Spring

Wells Horton, local Columbus based photographer, came back to get another view of my farm.  He captured the beauty of the valley perfectly.  Soon these hills will be green, not brown, and dotted with sheep and cows.  I love my hillside.  I bought the best barn available in the half-dozen days I had to get up here and look around.  There was no house to go with it, as the farmer kept the roof over his head.  Oh, well, I said, the sheep come first anyway.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Libby Llop on Fly

This is my friend Libby on her Arab mare, Fly So Free.  I want to be Libby when I grow up.  Libby and I met at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival a few years back.  She came here to buy some Bluefaced Leicester ewes and we bonded over wool, of course.  When Libby told me she did competitive endurance riding I kind of didn't believe her - it was just so fantastic and adventurous and Libby is very quiet and unassuming.  I googled her and all kinds of fabulous titles and winnings came up.  Libby is nationally ranked in the 100 mile race.  Can you imagine getting on a horse and riding a hundred miles straight?  To get her horses ready for the ride she puts them on a treadmill on her farm.  Libby has 500 acres in Western New York and is married to a vet.  I know, it's just too much but there's more.  Libby has three hunky sons who help her on the farm.  They keep her six tractors running and bring in enough hay to keep her 30 horses, hundreds of sheep and angora goats fat and happy.  I'm the one who got Libby started in angora goats and she's crazy about them.  Libby knits like a pro and is proficient on an antique sock machine.  In her spare time she rides to hounds.  I wish I lived closer to Libby.  She's promised to teach me to shear one of these days.  I better hurry up and take her up on her offer before she rides off into the sunset.

The Kids Are Alright

My kids are doing great...and that makes Maggie very happy.  Just this day Mia passed her Nurse Practitioner board exam.  She's been studying hard for months, cancelling her Facebook account and giving up many activities that she loves.  Mia's hard work paid off - the four hour exam is conquered  and now she can accept that surprise job offer she was recently given by a prestigious Morristown surgical practice.   One week later this month will be spent at a pharmacology course in Boston, then hospital privileges will be applied for, and she can go to work for the surgeons.  I never thought she wouldn't pass, but I confess I am greatly relieved it's over.
 AJ is doing fine at his Army Chaplain post in Nevada.  He likes being driven around by his "Chaplain Assistant" who, were they in a combat setting, would protect him from the enemy.  Chaplains are "non-combatants" and don't carry a weapon.  AJ recently spent time in the desert playing war games, riding around in a convoy of Bradley fighting vehicles.  He loves Army life, especially helping his troops and their families deal with the stresses of the military and multiple deployments.  We won't even talk about the "notification" visits to loved ones.  So sad...
Eric is climbing up and up the ranks of the Boy Scouts of America.  He is head of Project Arrow, the building of the permanent Jamboree sight in West Virginia - the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve.   Eric and his family are enjoying Texas life, where Hannah and Luke are learning to fly their Daddy's plane.  When they decide they want to go skiing, they just fly to a ski area.  Hannah is active in the Texas Civil Air Patrol, where I know she enjoys flying to encampments in her own plane.  Annie is very active in Boy Scouts and is Pack Leader of Luke's troop.  She works as a consultant for the BSA, and is a very successful grant writer  for the organization.
When the kids are alright, Maggie is alright.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Advice from My Son, the Priest

And I say unto thee:      Nolite Illegitimos Conterere Vos!     Thank you, Father Aaron!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Now I've Arrived

I was visited by a local photographer, Wells Horton.  Wells engaged in a project where he would publish a photograph taken in Central New York every day for a year.  He had so much fun doing it in 2011 that he decided to do it again in 2012.  Guess who is the lucky subject for March 12, 2012?   Here is my farm, taken from a unique view I have never photographed myself, across Beaver Creek.  I love the piney ridge rising up in the back, and the meandering creek in front.  Thank you, Wells, for such a stunning depiction of my farm.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Force Was With Me

The disruption in the Force which made my day so miserable yesterday was significantly healed with the return of one of the big, burly, male classroom aides I am blessed with, and the fact that only one of my four students came to school today.  Suspension played a role with that, in addition to some sort of infectious rash along with "I was so bad yesterday I better stay away today."  Yes, I only have four students but they might as well be forty.  Tonight will not be another  "Death by Chocolate" night.  I was able to stop at Stewart's today, grab a NY Times (one left!!)and a hot sandwich for dinner (one perk of living alone - I can abuse myself with bad food once in a while) and walk right past the ice cream bin.  I was so worn out by the events of the day last night that I hunkered down after chores and watched one of the Dragon Tattoo movies I like so much.  I was feeling a little bit Lisbeth Salanderish, angry at the world and willing to withdraw from it completely.  I didn't see much of it, drifting in and out of sleep.  At some point in time I took the doggies into the bedroom and turned in.  The weather is so lovely today that I almost didn't start the fire, but lit it anyway.  There is something very soothing about mundane tasks, and there will be a chill later tonight.  I wonder what I will do with all my free time when I don't have to tote so much firewood.  Still haven't turned the heat on this winter.  Good girl.  I'm still fighting this cold, and still feel tired.  Is this what old age feels like?  Tired all the time?  Old age is not for cissys. 

Monday, March 05, 2012

Keep Watching the Sky

If I did not have those sheep out back to water, I might never had noticed Mars, the Red Planet, at it's brightest tonight.  Yes, this is the night when Mars is glowing orange in the eastern sky, more visible than it's been in two years.  I sure didn't feel much like doing chores tonight with this head cold, but once I get out there and start climbing ladders, slinging bales and dragging the hose around, I get into it.  The White Boys get dog food, the girls get apples, the moms get a little grain, the goats get corn, the rabbits get broccoli rabe and carrots, the chickens get egg layer and everybody gets hay.   What do I get?  Enormous satisfaction at living a lifestyle that is healthy and outdoors - one that forces me off the sofa and out into the fresh air.  And I get to look at the stars and planets!   Mars won't be back this bright for another two years.  Who knows what will happen between now and then?  I just heard a big asteroid is approaching...

Cold and Getting...

Better get more wood in.  I have the stove full right now.  It's below 20 now at 6 pm and will get colder tonight.  I haven't turned the heat on yet this winter, but then, it has not been a typical NY State winter.  I build it up as soon as I get up, fill up the stove when I leave, then build it up again as soon as I get home.  I was gone this morning at 7 and arrived home at 5.  Trying to get a handle on this new job.  I worry all day about the poor doggies who are listening to every road noise and overturned pebble in the driveway that might be their people coming home.  Sadie, just three months, is not in a crate.  I am gone too long and can't do that to her.  So far she's been real good about going on the newspapers on the floor.  I still hate to leave her so long, but, that's just the way things are.  I felt better about things today, not physically as I caught the cold one student had last week, and so did Mr. Potter.  Matt Redmond got it from me and now is about to lay down and die.  Two out of four kids were absent today, and what a difference two students make.  Two are a hand full but four is a killer.  You'd just have to know these kids....I think I will do chores, tote in a bunch of firewood for the night, spin a little, maybe sew a little on the bag already on the machine, then drink some herb tea and call it a day.  It is a three dog night, and my doggies are always ready to dive under the covers and share their body heat with a human.  Good doggies, good doggies...If only I could have a kitty on the top of my head, but Sadie would chew her legs off.  Oh, well.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Growing Up

Sadie, now three months old, is growing up.  I love Sadie's furrowed brow and soft coat.  She's a happy, fun-loving puppy who loves to play with her mother.  Sadly, Izzy and Tanner are too grouchy to play with a young puppy, but Reba indulges her.  We go outside and find lots of "toys" to bring inside for her to amuse herself, like old sheep bones.  We have bones in all shapes and sizes, some of them with meat still on them.  When all is said and done, Sadie's favorite toy is Mommy's pin cushion, which she will sneak off the machine when nobody is looking.  Very, very dangerous!   We've had some serious talks about that pin cushion to no avail.  Mommy has to put it way up high when she's typing or talking on the phone.

Black Beauty

Carolyn D'Agostino, my fiber artist/lawyer friend from Albany, found this beauty and offered it to me for wool.  I said sure, as I am sewing on another old Singer that I absolutely adore.  She brought it to me at NY State Sheep and Wool, in a little rusty Radio Flyer wagon.  Matt just got the new cord it needed for me and we fired her up.  The sewing machine repair guy in Syracuse says the 201K is the best machine Singer ever made, with all stainless steel parts.  He said it will go through anything I can fit under the presser foot.  I have a bag somewhere that I couldn't finish because my machine wouldn't go through the thick tapestry.  I will be able to finish it now.   Isn't it nice that this lovely machine was made in Great Britain, and not in the other hemisphere?  The Singer guy also said that whenever he gets one of these machines they sell immediately.  I'm not surprised - it is one heavy duty machine, and didn't cost me a thousand or so dollars.   I'll keep my "other Singer" up with white thread to sew my Bundaflicka Designs labels on.  I'm sure this beauty and I will live happily ever after.

Art Deco Tote

I finished today's Bundaflicka tote early.  This lovely art deco style fabric is really office furniture cloth from the Gunlocke factory in western New York.  It will wear like iron.  I combined a romantic flowery pattern for some of the inside pockets, totaling nine to hold all kinds of craft and personal stuff.  The straps are extra long - a common complaint of many customers who say they can't get most tote straps over their heavy coats.  The bag is as light as a feather - also a request from those of us who might be a little weary of carrying heavy things. Don't you love the way the hand-rolled button came out?   I feel good about the number of totes I'm getting up on the barn rafters - away from dogs, cats and any other visiting varmints.


Today I am going to do all the things that make me happy, in no particular order:

Sew beautiful tote bags that make people ooh and ahhh and tell me how amazingly talented I am.
Watch TV shows about ancient history, geography and the environment while sewing those gorgeous bags.
Spin some wool from my sheep.
Make a batch of Rosemary soap, then cut up pretty fabric to wrap it in.
Walk up the hill and admire my views and classy old barn.
Peruse the Sunday NY Times, which I will not have time to read because I'm having so much fun doing other things, but I'll check out the Styles section to see what the NY people are wearing and doing.
Groom my German Angora rabbit and imagine what color I'm going to dye her lovely fiber.
Chat with Matt about his exciting, rewarding and interesting job, and the upcoming trips he's going to take to teach weatherization and saving energy.  Baltimore and Santa Fe are coming up soon.  Jealous.
There are other things I need to do today, which I don't want to do but have to, like making a long-overdue appointment with my accountant.  I have to figure out how much money I spent on this farm versus how much I made.  Not always a positive relationship.
Get some clean clothes together for the work week.  March is a tough month for teachers.  There are no days off, and we are weary from the struggle.  Spring break will come in April, a joyous week off where we attempt to fortify ourselves for the long stretch to June.
I want to partition off an area in the barn for my goats.  The sheep are always pushing them away from the food.  My poor goats wait while the sheep, who outweigh them by a hundred pounds sometime, and eat what's left over.  I like to give the skinny goats some cracked corn which the big, fat sheep don't need.
I'd like to get a picture holding my little black lamb, Valentine, before he gets too big to hold.  He's such a feisty little guy we couldn't get a good picture yesterday.   Vicky, his aged ewe mom, is doing well with some high protein feed supplement to the second cut hay, and apples.  Sheep loooooove apples.
All this is making me tired just thinking about it.  Maybe I should go back to bed for a few minutes.  My internal alarm clock wakes me up at 5 on every day of the week.  Every minute that  I have to myself here on the farm, and not at work, is precious.  I've been out on the hillside with the dogs already, watching the sun come up over the ridge.  Lovely.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Lovely, Blustery Day

The weather today was sunny, windy and warm enough to take a walk with the doggies up to the tippy top of the hill.  The wide open space, sunshine and cool breeze was a joyous relief after being stuck in one room the day before.  No further comment on that situation at this time.   I let Sadie off the leash and she ran, jumped and played with Reba for a while before I hooked her up again.  I don't want her disappearing over the piney ridge.  Back to the barn for chores and Chinese left-overs for dinner.  I finished the two totes I had started and put two different buttons on them.  They are a bit smaller, which some people ask for.  Not me - I need a big tote.  When life gives you a heavy load, sew big totes to carry it in.

Thursday, March 01, 2012


Very cloudy and misty outside.  Perhaps the warming temps on the cold snow is causing the fog.  Very spooky.  Matt plowed the driveway so I'm ready to go tomorrow.  He said the snow was very wet and heavy.  Don't know if I could have driven the Saturn over it, so I 'm grateful he got it done.   Didn't get too much done today besides washing a lot of dishes, taking care of critters and making dinner.  Oh, yes, there was the nap around noon.  So delightful to lie down in the middle of the day.  I could get used to that...There was a fight between Reba and Tanner today, probably over the sheep leg I gave them to chew on.  Might have to take it away.  I was picking up an armful of wood when I heard crash, boom, bang and lots of snarling.  They stopped when I burst in the door.  Reba has a fang hole in her chest.  She let me treat it with antibiotic goop.  It is so unlike Tanner do be that feisty.  She rarely gets off her own little sofa.  I don't know who started it, and the dogs are not telling, not even little Sadie who witnessed the tussle.  Speaking of Sadie, she has every variety of bone and toys she could want, but still steals my pin cushion off the sewing machine table whenever I turn to look at the computer screen.  I sure don't need a trip to the vet with pins in the throat.  Having Sadie is like having a 2 year old toddler in the house.  Danger at every corner.  I always breathe a sigh of relief when I come in the door from work and everybody is safe and sound. 


The little farmhouse next door is surrounded by a fairytale grove of snow covered trees this morning.   The snow keeps coming down.  Glad I didn't dig out and get on the road.  They are covered, too, reports tell me.   A fifty mile round trip commute would not have been pleasant in the little Saturn.  Matt is coming out from Syracuse tonight to plow for me with the Ford 8N.  It's sixty years old and running fine.  We need chains for it, and a front loader.  Just those two items would run into thousands.  It never ends.  A farm is a giant hole to pour your money into until the day you die.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying the views, and this gift of free time.

Still Snowing

It's mid-morning and still snowing in Brookfield.  I call this "Jan's pole" because it was installed in order for Jan to have electricity across the road at her place.  It does tend to mar the view out my window.  This heavy snow was not forecast, but was a nice surprise.  I'm trying to figure out what to do first with this gift of time...sewing?  Spinning? Soaping?  Digging out receipts for the accountant?  Should I go out in the barn and get my one remaining German Angora and give her a much-needed grooming?  All these things, and more, are being seriously considered.  I think I should clean up the kitchen first.  The wood stove is going, and one of my favorite movies is on, Nicholas Nickleby, is on the telly.  I just can't stop looking out the window at this winter wonderland that is my farm.

Dog in Motion...

Reba is having a great time in the snow.  Her puppy, Sadie, is learning to enjoy it.  It will take time.  Sadie finally figured out that she has to keep running through the drifts, and not stop in the deep snow.

My Farm in Snow

I always wanted a big house.  Now I have a very big house, like a 20,000 square foot house.  I think I have the coolest house around.  Sure, it's a big "rough" in places, but it's just so artsy and "different."   A diamond in the rough I call it, with so many possibilities.  I think my farm is especially beautiful in the snow.  We do have school today, but the roads are terrible and I'm staying home with my critters.  When I went down to the road to check the conditions, I took some snow pictures. I love the way my barn looks in the snow, and it's the perfect place to ramble around on a dark, snowy day.

Snow Day

Well, it's not quite a snow day, but I'm making it one.  My school takes students from seven surrounding districts and they all have to close in order for us to have a snow day.  All but ONE district shut down today.  None of my students are there.  I was all set to go anyway and do some prep work and organizing, which could be fun on a day like this.  I did the barn chores, washed up and got dressed, all the time hoping to hear the news that every teacher lives for, but no luck.  I even called the school to make sure.  Okay, I'm going I thought, UNTIL I walked down to the road.  Brookfield School is closed so the plow hasn't come by.  I only have the Saturn to drive, which is about two inches off the road, with no Maggie is staying put.  The doggies have already gone into hibernation, but they'll wake up as I get busy around here.  I had fun with Sadie this morning.  She kept putting her little paws on the rim of the big claw foot bath tub as I was bathing.   After many big wet kisses, I decided to pull her into the tub with me.  I think it might have been a little warm for her, but she didn't complain as I gave her a thorough washing with Patchouli soap.  What fun...