Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Swimming With the White Boys

Thor and Knut love to go swimming with us.  They don't really swim, but they wade in and hang out with us.  Smart boys, they know how to cool off while being cool.  Finn, sadly, would rather take off to run wild on the piney ridge to scare up coyotes taking a break under a tree somewhere.  Thor and Knut stick close to me.  They are good friends, and getting on in years.   We got them the spring I moved up here to the farm.  I knew I was moving to coyote central and wanted three dogs - just in case.  It's not fair to expect one dog to fend off a pack of coyotes.  I've never had a coyote attack, that I know of, in the six years I've been here.  I have puppies coming up, but they won't ever replace the White Boys.

No Moon Tonight

In from chores ten of eight.  So much help from Hannah and Luke.  Woe is me when they leave, but I'm lucky to have had them for so long.  Back to climbing ladders with buckets and throwing down bales.  I only have so many square bales left and will have to figure out how to move the round bales.  If I manage to get a second cut they will be in square bales, but I saw the flock up there eating the lovely tender shoots today.  Was hoping to see the lovely full moon tonight but a bank of clouds has rolled in to obscure it and I hear some thunder.  Glad we stood outside to stare at it a while last night.  Would like to camp up at the pond under the full moon but I confess I love to watch the Olympics so much I'll stay in.  Hannah and Luke are not crazy about the O. and I don't really understand why, but they tune back to cartoons or kiddie shows first chance they get.  I give them a little time then switch it back. The Olympics doesn't come every year and I think it's a good lesson in unity and sportsmanship.  Love the personal vignettes. My kids were swimmers and I especially enjoy watching the racers.   Luke took off on his bike for a little while tonight for the first time.  I've been hoping he would take advantage of all this land to roam on but he's been a bit timid.  The sheep don't mind a bit when that mosquito is turned off and parked.  Speaking of sheep, they are growing some nice wool from what I can tell.  Time to schedule a shearing before school starts this year.  Also time to start up the dye pots and get wool going for fall shows.  It's hot work and the flies fall in the pots but it has to be done.  The beautiful colorful runs of blended fibers don't happen by themselves.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


They can look as droopy, drowsy and bored but when I say time for chores they snap to it.  Boots go on and we go to work.  Hannah fills all the water buckets, hanging for the sheep and pans for the dogs and chickens.  She carries water to the White Boys and cats on the porch and milk room steps, filling all the carriers back up before she goes inside.  Luke collects all the eggs in the chicken room and goes on an "eggspedition" to find the free range chicken eggs around the barn.  I mix the kitty stew, with dry kibble, water, eggs and a fishy cat food can all mixed together.  The barn chickens and cats jump up on the plywood table to lick the delicious concoction I'm mixing with my hands.  They drink it so fast I have to add more water.  I'm not putting out much hay now, but with Zack separated and in the back pen with John-John, Monkey's buck from two years ago, we have to get a bale out to them every day.  Luke and Zack are great friends.  Cracked corn helps.

Hannah's Spinning

Hannah is spinning so beautifully I can't believe it. She knows how to draft for different fibers and is spinning sweater yarn already.  I don't want to make too much of it, knowing that might kill the enthusiasm.  I'm gently nudging her to spin more yarn for the scarf she's started knitting.  It's tough for her to put down the Ipod, like most 14 year old kids.  She was spinning happily at the Hamilton farmer's market when the clouds rolled in and opened up.  We had to cover everything quickly and start loading up.  My pop-up only holds off the water for so long.  Hannah quickly improvised a rain cover with my booth tablecloths.  Worked great but not for running back and forth with boxes and spinning wheels.  I hate to complain about the rain as we are just starting to get some of the desperately needed moisture needed for a second cut of hay...but not on market morning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Barn Repairs

Okay so I bought a magnificent old barn that needs a bit of work.  A bit of work is an understatement.  I still gaze in awe when I come over the hill from Brookfield and see my barn nestled in the valley.  Oh, what an amazing machine it must have been with 100 cows being milked twice a day and surrounded by 350 acres.  I'm lucky to own the barn and the few acres that were left by the time I got it.  The barn is the heart of the farm and it's mine.  Keeping it standing is a challenge.  I often say I wish I got it when I was 25 not 55 but here we are.  Boards are popping out and we won't even talk about the windows or the electric.  The enormity of it is daunting.  The three story hay mow upstairs is wonderful, and I imagine how it must have looked with hay stacked to the ceiling.  I always wanted a great, big house having grown up in a tiny 1950's ranch house with three brothers.  I have a giant barn instead.   My barn is an aging beauty, but she's still very classy and the prettiest barn around these parts.  Sometimes I just look away from the flaws, preferring to take in the whole package, kind of like with people.  Not a good idea to look too close. 

Eat It Don't Wear It

I put some goaties on the south side of the barn in an effort to defeat the burdock, nettles and other invasive weeds that run wild on my farm.  I should have done this several weeks ago as the young burrs are serving as ornaments for the goats. They don't seem to mind and munch away on the greens.  I read in the NY Times that young burdock branches are popular in Japanese salads.  Haven't tried it myself.  The burrs are miserable in fiber and must be dealt with before going through a carding machine.  The weather is absolutely lovely today.  Hannah and Luke are so good, and so easy, but I know they are looking forward to being reunited with their parents, as they should be.  I don't hear much from Eric and Annie but the kids are constantly in touch via Ipods, Facetime, etc. and they tell me what's going on.  From what I can tell Eric is running a Cub Scout day camp in his new position at the Pine Tree Council in Portland.  I expect I will be driving the kids to Maine in a week or so.  I'm looking forward to seeing the family's new home in Gorham, and checking out the Portland scene.  I simply must get some salt water in my veins and will somehow get into or onto the ocean while I'm there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Omi's Swedish Pancakes

I grew up eating Swedish pancakes.  My grandfather, born Knut Birger Alexanderson, called Birger (pronounced BEER-yer) Alexander once he came to America, made them for us.    When Luke was on the way to the farm this summer he called me and asked if I would make him some Swedish pancakes upon his arrival. Now we are making them together.  Luke is learning to cook in the Cub Scouts.  Now he can add these scrumptious, buttery pancakes to his repertoire.  Here is the recipe, tweaked over the years since my Opa made them for me.

Omi's Swedish Pancakes

One dozen farm eggs
One stick real butter
One can evaporated milk
Two heaping tablespoons organic flour
One tablespoon cinnamon
One heaping teaspoon nutmeg
One level teaspoon salt
Pinch of black pepper
Genuine New York State Maple Syrup, if available

Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan.  Combine all the rest of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend for a minute.  Pour the melted butter from the pan into the mixture, blend another half-minute.

Melt another tablespoon of butter in the frying pan.  Add pancake batter, maybe two cups at a time.
Flip when the edges start to curl, cook for another half a minute, then roll the pancake up in the pan before lifting out and serving with real maple syrup.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hay Bale Challenge

Could you ask for a more exciting and unique playground?  Little did I know earlier this month that I would be able to provide my grandchildren with such fun in my own barn.  Luke couldn't wait to get Auntie Mia up on those bales.  Mia is very "physical" and Luke knew he would have a good partner to party with.  This morning I found them racing over the bales.  We had a bit of an upset when Luke went head first down in between two bales requiring Mia to haul him up by his feet.  Nobody was hurt and Luke forgot about it when he found a large clutch of eggs on top of another bale.  Hannah appeared and Auntie Mia organized a workout session.  I was assigned 20 leg-ups and 100 sit-ups.  We all did yoga together.  What total and complete fun.


Mia asked me to get her started on a scarf for the fall.  She picked out a skein of lovely teal mohair/Bluefaced Leicester from my hand spun basket.  Last night we got her project cast on and a pretty seed stitch - knit, purl, knit, purl - pattern going.  Mia's been knitting a while but needs a refresher course.  When she was going to UMDNJ in Newark she would go out to her car and knit a couple of rows to steady herself before an exam.  It must have helped because look where she is today - a surgical Nurse Practitioner.  Hannah asked me to teach her to knit tonight.  I'm thrilled to do it.  With a grandmother who owns a sheep farm, I see many hats, scarves and mittens looming in her future.  She's even talking about a knitted mini skirt.  I'm so fulfilled...

Hannah is Spinning!

Whenever she comes she brings sunshine and sweetness.  I never want her to leave.  Mia surprised us at the farmer's market yesterday and spent the night on the farm.  If I could bottle the last 24 hours I would.  We loaded up, left the market for the grocery store and Tractor Supply, then took the kids to the unmentionable place for lunch (first time this summer).  Home to the farm and a hike to the pond to swim.  We may be in the middle of a horrible drought, but that pond is cold and wonderfully refreshing, full to the brim.  Back to the barn where Mia made us the most delicious guacamole I've ever had.  Do you know I've never made it?  I plan to rectify that problem now that I've watched Mia put it together.   It's a meal in itself with corn chips, and there is no cooking!  Hannah continued to work on her spinning.  She spied some purple mohair in the trailer and expressed an interest in spinning.  I hopped on that train real quick.  Luckily this mohair is sooooo easy to spin, drafting so easily and soft as silk.  Last night after dinner I showed her how to ply it with a salmon BFL single I had on a bobbin for some time now.  It was great with the purple mohair.  I'm thrilled to teach Hannah these skills, which will certainly be reinforced by her mother Annie, who is a world class spinner herself.  Hannah wound off her yarn on to a niddy noddy and I taught her how to tie it with figure eights.  She taught me the square knot.  We washed her first yarn together in the bath tub, now it's hanging to dry.  I told her as long as she knows these skills she will always be able to make beautiful things for herself, and some to sell when the going gets tough.  Hannah is happily spinning some teal wool now, with her ear phones on.  Luke is reading and soft classical music is playing.  Mia is on her way home to study and get ready for work tomorrow.   It's ghastly hot and humid out there and I'm thinking another session in the pond tonight is a real good idea.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Rain Dance

Very very dry.  My hillside is barren half way up, except for the thistles, which will be mowed down this weekend thanks to the generosity of Julia Burger, who loaned us a brush hog.  It was left at her farm long ago and she offered it to us.  The goats will miss the thistles, but they didn't do a good enough job of eating them while they had the chance.  The back field is lush and green with lots of little trees and bushes that the goats love.  We've had a couple of sprinkles from passing storm clouds, but they kept on going without really helping.  I'm confident we'll get a few days of rain in August when the hurricanes come up the coast, but getting cut hay dry closer to the fall is tough.  I got a package of Maggie's Farm goodies off to a customer in Queensland, Australia, today.   It was high, but not as high as I expected using a flat rate box.  Hope it gets there safely and quickly.  Hannah and I made polymer clay buttons for totes today.  I got three cut out and would like to get one done tonight.  I'm on "vacation" if you could call it that, but I do something every day besides take care of animals, do laundry, tidy up and prepare meals.  I have a skein of very lovely celery colored mohair yarn hanging to dry in the bathroom.  I like to have something new in the hand spun basket every Saturday.  The weather looks good.  I'd rather have it rain, but don't think so.  I got a box in the mail with some very pretty fabric from Carol Crayonbox.  It begs for snap frame totes - the big, poofy kind with the expandable bars that hold it open or shut.  Will have to order them.  I'm not crazy about the frames as I have had customers tell me they wear out after a lot of wear.  I've never had a structural failure of a bag, and I don't consider the snap frames part of my sewing, but customers bring them to me anyway.  I thought briefly about using zippers, but I hate sewing them in and I believe they can be problematic also.  It's time to call Big Jim Baldwin to come and shear.  I have two Rambos who are wool blind, a ewe lamb who needs to lose her fleece, a couple of goats to shear, and a very dirty Dolly who is begging for fly strike. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Deck

I think I'll spin a bit before the day gets going.  I'm still spinning the celery/sky/blue/salmon mohair and think I will ply it back on itself this time.  I was plying it to the pink BFL but the pretty green was swallowed by the pink.  I have a habit of filling the large Robin wheel bobbin to the brim with rather fine spinning.  It takes hours to ply and people have no idea of the time it takes to make this lovely yarn.  The hours simply cannot be calculated.  I see fiber artists offering one strand yarn for sale, which is fine, but it simply cannot be compared to two ply yarn which has to be spun THREE times.  Two bobbins must be spun, then spun again on to a third bobbin in the other direction.  That's okay, I don't care if it never sells - it's just so precious, and I love the do it.  It's the process, not the product. sometimes.  We have to do a Louis Gale Feed Mill run, then we'll probably swim again.   Luke is so cute - he told me again yesterday how much he loves the pond.  He caught the frog he's been stalking for a few days, and asked me to "feel the belly!"   I bravely complied, then found myself underwater, raft overturned, when the slimy beast was tossed at me by my playful grandson.   The doggies love the pond, too.  The White Boys don't swim, but they wade in to cool off and hang with us in the water.  That pond was a life-saver yesterday when the temps hit 100 F. in Syracuse, a record setting day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Okay It's Hot

I did some things in the barn and pulled some weeds before it gets even hotter.  Records are expected to be broken today.  I confess I don't do well in the heat but I like to do a little something every day.  A former student just stopped by to ask for work.  Wish I could hire him full time here - he's such a good kid.  His job at Chobani didn't work out.  I hear conflicting stories about Chobani.  Some people around here have worked there for years, back when Chobani was the Kraft cheese plant, and like it just fine.  Others complain of ridiculous working conditions and problems with their pay checks.  Chobani gets a LOT of tax breaks and I here locals complaining about it.  They are draining surrounding wells and putting up power lines.  The factory is growing and growing. It's only four miles away and I'm glad I'm not any closer.   The glare of all those lights would block out the stars for sure.  My  nightscape is already diminished since I first moved here when the Milky Way was a defined white streak across the sky.  Now I have to strain to see it.  I like the fact that they take milk from local farmers.  Sewing for me today, once I set up the fan.  Hannah and Luke are prone on the sofa with their little machines and movie channels.  I'll let them veg until late afternoon when we'll swim before chores.  A break is coming in the weather tomorrow.  A fifteen degree difference in temp is enormous.  We seem to live in the land of extremes - 100 in the summer and 20 below in the winter.  I'm happy with somewhere in between.

Still Have Grass

My lower field is stripped except for the thistles but the middle hill and back field still has a bit of grass.  The sheep are working their way up.  The goat kids are roaming around exploring their fields, with the moms keeping a close eye on them.  They consider me a threat and call them away when I approach.  With the top field mowed I will get some lovely second growth grass - if we get some rain.  We had a tease the other night with about a half hour of rain.  Temps are soaring today and might bring a thunderstorm later on.  One can only hope.  The country is in the grips of an awful drought.  Feed prices will soar with corn crops ruined.  Luckily I always have water, with the cistern in back of the barn and pond up top.  Sewing on deck for me today.  I can put the box fan on me and be comfortable.  The kids will lie low on the sofas and watch TV.  I try to get them off the farm every other day.  Hannah won't swim in the pond but Luke is always eager to go.  We lie on rafts with Izzy and float around watching the frogs pop their heads up to watch us.  I love every minute.

Room to Roam

Watching Luke race across my fields on his motorbike really gave me a thrill.  How many kids have grandmothers who offer them this kind of space to roam?   The dogs chased him until they gave out in the heat and we all cooled off in the pond.  I took Hannah and Luke to see Madagascar 3 at the cinema.  I needed thread for sewing and a couple of things in the market.  We turned in a few bags of soda cans to help pay for the tickets.  Mean, evil, Omi made them muck out some wet hay in the barn before setting out.  I told them we have to work before we play.  Luke dove right in but Hannah retreated to her trailer to sort through outfits.  We got her out and set her to watering everybody.   The heat is awful, and worse today, with some relief beginning tomorrow.  I figured a movie in the air conditioned theater would help kill a couple of hours.  Watching both kids giggle and laugh at the movie was wonderful.  I enjoyed the movie, too.  It was adorable and very entertaining. Home to the field and the pond. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday Morning Musings

While I am still riding high on Round Bale Euphoria I am looking out the window praying for rain.  The sky is gray and cloudy and we had a light sprinkling but it was only a tease.  Upstate New York is drying up and if I'm going to get any second cut, the most nutritious hay, at all it will have to rain, and rain a lot.  Doesn't look good.  My neighbor's corn is hardly growing at all, and he has a big herd of cows to feed.  I buy cracked corn and egg layer every week for my goats and chickens.  Luckily, Bluefaced Leicester, my hardy British breed, doesn't need grain at all, except for lactating moms, maybe.  Luke is still in a state of euphoria over the round bales.  In years past he would play on the mound of square bales, but a barn full of 50 round bales presents a whole new challenge of games for a ten year old. They are packed well enough - thank you, Matt Redmond - so they can't roll on him, but are just enough apart so they shake a little and make running over them an obstacle course.  Luke has Izzy and Sadie trained to climb up a board to the top of the bales with him.  Another added bonus of having the upper field cut is that Luke can take his little motorbike up there and ride to his heart's content over the mowed land.  Matt has him at the Madison County Fair tractor pull this morning while Hannah and I hold down the fort here on the farm.  We toasted French baguettes for breakfast and are enjoying girl time.  If only the Irish faeries would come and clean up the place so I can sew and Hannah can spin.  Yes, I said spin.  Hannah spied some purple roving while we were loading the trailer at the farmer's market yesterday and expressed a desire to spin it.  I'm thrilled to help her with that.  The market was slow and HOT yesterday, but we did have a nice time.  A couple from South Carolina came panting into my booth saying how thrilled they were that I am still there as they wanted a big block of soap.  Another young woman told me she was "saving up" for a skein of yarn, as she petted and stroked it while cooing sweet nothings.  Stuff like that keeps me spinning and cooking soap.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bales and Bales!

Why I was at the Hamilton market with Hannah and Luke, Julia Burger and her crew were filling up my barn with wonderfully dry and fragrant round bales.  They are gorgeous for first cut bales.  I'm doing a rain dance now so we can get a second cut growing.  No major rain is forecast in the near future.  Luckily, my pond is still cold and wonderful.  It surely saved me after the heat of the day and all the toting and loading we did in Hamilton.  It was nothing compared to what Matt, Julia and company accomplished.  Luke is very happy and immediately began playing the Round Bale Games.

My Model

Hannah and Luke helped me at the Hamilton Farmer's Market today.  They were real troopers, watching the booth for me, and loading up at the end.  My beautiful Hannah modeled some new totes for me.  She made them look even better.  I stayed up late with Lukie last night to get it ready for the market.  People admired the goat horn toggle and the unusual Gunlocke lining..

Friday, July 13, 2012

Round Bales

We arrived home from the movies to find Julia's son baling our hay.   He got 50 bales off the upper fields for me.  Now we are hoping for rain to get a second cut going.  Second cut hay is more nutritious as it does not have the winter chaff in it.  It's all delicious green grass and the sheep love it.  Rain is forecast for Sunday, but will it be enough.  We'll have to wait and see.  My pond could use a good flushing out.  In the meantime these lovely round bales have to be dealt with.  I'm hoping to roll some of them in the barn but there is a haystack in the way.  Hannah, Luke and I will see what we can do.  I might finally get them in the pond after today's work.  My pond is not quite as appealing as the pool they left in Dallas, with frogs and the occasional leech, but today might be different.  It's hot and steamy out there already.  We figure the 50 first cut round bales might last three months.  A second cut sure would be nice...

Flying By

I am amazed at how quickly the summer days are rolling by.  Wish I could slow them down and preserve all the precious moments.  Sitting between my kidlets at the movies yesterday was one of them.  It was my turn to pick the movie and I chose Moonrise Kingdom with too many big stars to mention.  It was a beautiful, thoughtful movie and I loved it.  The kids were not so crazy about it and I think I know why.  Firstly, it was the opposite of the action movies they love, although it did have a lot of action, but it touched on some tender themes.  There were families dealing with many issues including young love, marital discord, loneliness and alienation.  These are all themes one might avoid when taking grandchildren who are moving from one section of the country to another, and missing their parents, to the movies.  I saw Boy Scouts, teenagers, camping and flying on the trailer and thought it would be okay.  It was okay, after dinner at Panera and coming home to find a hillside covered with round bales to engage us.  When it was late and dark we started missing Mommy and Daddy and I totally understand.  Today will be very busy despite the oppressive heat.  We have to move a hay stack in order to roll 50 round bales into the barn tonight.  They are beautiful bales and I don't want them to get rained on if I can help it.  Julia's son will move them down to the barn one at a time and drop them but it's up to us to roll them to the back of the barn.  Hot work that will take all of us, if it can be done at all.  I have this giant barn and would like to take advantage of it.  We'll see how it goes.  Have to move the hay stack first.  Lukie has this wonderful "can do" attitude.  He's a one man Army, if only the flesh could follow the heart!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Today's Tote

Hannah and Luke are so good about my sewing.  As long as they have full bellies, the internet, cats and dogs, and full-service satellite TV they are happy.  I was happy to find enough of the indestructible Gunlocke fabric to sew two of these totes, one for a Virginia woman who admired it in Maryland only to find it was sold when she checked back with me.  I was able to make one for her and a smaller one pictured here.  I hope to make a trip out to Western New York and the Gunlocke Furniture Company fabric store, which Carol Crayonbox turned me on to.  I will spend the night with her and get a look at her fabulous STUDIO in a separate building.  Fantasies are free, right?  In the meantime she and her side kick, John E. Smith, pick up Gunlocke remnants and offer them to me at very reasonable prices.  This tote is available at www.bundaflicka.etsy.com.

Patchouli Hand Creme

I think I will make some Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme of the patchouli variety this morning.  I have about a third of a bottle of the costly patchouli essential oil and want to put it to good use.  Heaven forbid I might drop it while dabbing the oil behind my ears to make me happy and keep the bugs away.  I have a bit of lavender Shepherd's Friend, and, although patchouli lovers are few and far between, every once in a while one comes along and is blown away by my patchouli creme.  Lukie is happily sleeping with a kitty on his shoulder and Izzy up against his belly.  The Today Show is on and I'm about to start my second mug of coffee.  Have to call Susanne Farrington ,my felter/potter friend in Hamilton, about buying or trading wool for more mugs.  Whenever I make soap I fish around for another Susanne cup to fill with the pot scrapings.  I made Anise soap yesterday and, having no more Susanne mugs, I filled a couple of her wonderful little bowls with soap.  Somebody will want them.  Her pottery is amazing.  There is something about her clay or how she fires it that makes her pottery incredibly sturdy.  My pricey and lovely Jenny-the-Potter mug is filled with cracks.  My drying rack won't take more than three big batches of soap.  I'm anxiously waiting for my new room,with a wall full of cabinets, to be finished.  Yes, good things come to those who wait.  The trick is living that long.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Friends Reunited

Luke and his friend, Shepherd Mary, had a fabulous time at the waterfall today.  They had not been together since Luke's arrival here, but they made up for lost time.  The scenic cove was lovely despite a serious lack of rain lately.   Robert, Hunter and Zella all joined in for swimming, diving, and playing on the rocks.  We climbed up the steep side of the gorge to get back to the field and made a date to do it again soon.

High Ground

Sitting next to my soap rack which is currently filled with almond bars makes me think I have some marzipan pastries in the house.  Wouldn't that be nice.  If I'm lucky I will find a couple of inches of stale French baguette to resurrect in the toaster.   Food always makes me feel better but will make me feel so much better that it will put me in an early grave - but I will die happy.  I cooked a big meal last night but it was not appreciated by spouse, who fell on the sofa after a rough day of proposal writing at the office, and only roused himself long enough to get into bed.   Hannah and Luke asked for more meatballs on baguette - they are so easy.  We still have a tub of treats and goodies, left here by Annie after she cleaned out the cabinets in the Dallas Palace.  As long as I have a fridge full of ice cold Coke and plenty of milk for corn flakes and eggs and bread for French toast,  we are good to go. Feeding the animals is much more tricky and I don't dare run out of chicken feed, dog and cat food, goat feed for Fancy and Matilda, cracked corn for the angora goats and, as always HAY.  Yes,even in the summer, hay is the stuff of life.  A barn without hay is very sad.  We are going in to another drought.  I remember what Lisa Merian told me when I was watching my hillside dry up the first summer I lived here.  She said, just wait, the hurricanes will start coming up the east coast in August and bring us plenty of rain.  She was right, as she always is, and we got rain in August.  Have to get that second cut to grow.  Last year we got way too much rain, with three days of no power and water coming in the barn all along the ridge pole.  I had musical pots going in the apartment, but was unscathed compared to so many others.  I'm up on concrete blocks and on high, rocky ground.  The sheep don't ever have to get their feet wet if they don't want to.  It's still all about the sheep.  Farmers will always worry.  That's what farmers do best.  So much responsibility and a stiff price to pay if things don't go right.  Some farmers are praying for rain for their corn right now.  Some, like me, are praying for no rain until the hay gets in.  My Georgia grandmother used to say farmers are the biggest gamblers in the world.  So true.  It's a crap shoot.

Don't Worry Be Happy

I woke up at 4 this morning and looked over at Lukie sleeping soundly on the other sofa.  Sometimes I just stand over him and watch him sleep.  I'm too keenly aware of how soon his little-boy-hood will be over.  He's ten years old and on the brink of puberty, with body hair, surging hormones and emerging awareness.  I wish I could freeze him right now, but I've said that every year he's visited me since diapers.  Luke has the capacity for extreme loyalty and deep affection.  He's smart and snappy and very shrewd.   I see those eyes narrowing as he examines a situation in his mind, figuring things out and deciding what to do.  Luke is such good company, and so is Hannah.  She is still enigmatic, mysterious and beautiful.  I'm glad she is more relaxed and contented this year.  They've both moved around a lot with the Boy Scouts, always to a better situation, but still a move that requires recalculating.  I don't see any real apprehension about moving to Maine.  They were not crazy about Texas, even with the fancy house and pool.  I don't hear any regrets about leaving.  Today I'll try to find Mary, who is busy with her farm, garden and job.  Luke and Mary were great friends before Robert entered the picture.  I'm waiting on Julia to bale my hay.  Thought she would have come back to tether the grass in preparation for baling but not yet.  I'm too familiar with this waiting game, but I have more faith in Julia than I've had with others in the past.  I have two bags on the machine with one already paid for.  Would like to get that in the mail today.  I have more soap to cook and creme to process.  I get myself so busy with this stuff to avoid worrying about all the other things, like the kids leaving, getting hay baled, what job they will give me in the fall, that sometimes I don't take the time to enjoy every precious moment of the summer.   Will have to work on that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Luke made us a lovely fire last night.  He uses the tent method, which I suspect he learned in Cub Scouts.  I always preferred the box method, with four logs forming a receptacle for kindling and sticks.  Luke does it just fine.  No more old furniture to cut up and burn.  Mia and Luke took care of the last rattan Pier One kitchen chair in the pile.  We went to a showing of Brave in the afternoon, which I was trying to keep an open mind about, knowing nothing about it.  Brave was absolutely delightful and I loved every minute of it.  Some kiddie movies are truly for all ages.   The Scottish castles, kilts and magic were wonderful.  We motored over to Panera to get French baguettes for Hannah and Luke who both love them, along with Luke's favorite blueberry muffins.  After a quick stop at B&N where I was thrilled to find the July British Country Living (missed May and June!!)  we drove home happy and content.  I melted aged local Gouda with butter on the baguettes for dinner and we went about chores.  The evening was cool and the sunset spectacular.  I poured myself some Harvey's over ice and enjoyed a hot mushy marshmallow cooked just the way I like it by Luke.  When the stars came out we ventured back inside and I topped off the evening with my British Country Living and the day's NY Times.  Lukie was on the other side of the sofa with his little hand-held gaming device going full tilt while watching Cars II on TV.  Hannah was on the other sofa, also on her little machine.   We remained like that into the wee hours, without a care in the world.  Life is good.

Monday, July 09, 2012

We Have Water

We are looking at another drought but we always have some water on the farm.  We are blessed with many underground streams here on the farm.  If I owned a back hoe I would dig a few ponds.  They are wonderful for wild life, sheep and the dogs who love to take a dip on a hot day.  We have one pond for swimming and another pond, which is more like a puddle, tucked under the piney ridge.  Lindsay Parkinson was thrilled with the tadpoles and frogs who we decided to disturb with our rubber boots.  I plan on building a little guest cabin or two in this lovely spot, next to the apple orchard and shaded by the ridge that lines my farm.  I would like to rehabilitate this puddle into a deeper pond someday.  There is a fine science to building ponds and you have to get someone in who knows what he is doing.  In the meantime Knut doesn't mind.  This pond is just right for him.


Serious lack of rain here.  The hillside is dry as a bone but the thistles are lush, prickly and green.  I'm hoping to buy some fencing and enclose the flock in thistle land for a few days to eat it down.  Trouble is with the ground so dry on the rocky hillside I would have a heck of a time pounding in stakes.  The fiberglass push-in stakes would never penetrate the cement.  Will likely have to bush hog them down.  All that goat food gone to waste!  The mommies are loose with their kids.  Luke and I have been whacking down thistles and carrying them in for them to munch on.  I can hardly carry the bushes with thick leather gloves without the thorns going through but the goats and sheep munch on thistles like chocolate.  Amazing.  The weather is cool and lovely.  I have a bag on machine and am still spinning the celery colored mohair.  If I keep some bags cut out I can sit down at night and do a little sewing before I go to sleep.  Half a bag at night and finish in the morning works out nicely.  Mia brought one back to a nurse friend in New Jersey.  Nice thing about my bag customers - they so often purchase them for friends.  There's a big batch of Almond soap waiting to be cut up and cured.  Will take Hannah and Luke to the movies in New Hartford and stop at Lowe's to pick up more lye.  Very pricey - everything about soap making is pricey - but no lye, no soap.  Still cheaper than getting it shipped in.  The logistics of making multiple products is daunting.  I always need something I don't have, and then, where to put it.  Challenges, challenges.  As long as the hay is being cut and baled for winter - I'm okay.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Hay There

Kim and Crew arrived late Friday night, too late to sit out by the fire but that's okay.  We made up for it the next night.  Saturday morning we all went to the market and were met by the lovely Mia.   We had a bit of rain but still had some traffic.  The kids were great, pairing off Hannah/Jared and Lindsay/Luke to go around the market to check out the craft and food scene.  Home again to go swimming in the POND, which is as mystical and magical as ever.  I didn't want to get out, but we had a barbecue planned so we said goodbye to the bull frogs and ventured back down the hill.  We played badminton after eating, then sat on the hillside to watch a surprise fireworks display put on by some neighbors down the road.  Everyone pitched in to do chores.  Many hands make for light work.   After French toast this morning Mia headed back to NJ then Kim and Darryl helped us give the goat kids and nannies their shots, worming and hoof trimming.   Zack, John-John and Billy Goat are now separated from the flock and will live in the back pen.  I think this year we may have removed the males on time.  No mating behavior detected yet.  Lilly was bred in July last year.  Fingers crossed nothing has happened.   True to her word Julia Burger and her son, Matt, got my upper fields mowed.  We walked up there tonight looking over the thick rows of first cut hay and imagining all the round bales we'll get for winter feeding.  Julia says we'll get a second cut and I believe her. Very happy about that.  I'm hoping to get my back field fenced off to keep the sheep and goats there while the second cut grows in up the hill.  There is lots to each back there, with short scrubby trees that goats LOVE to eat.  They can get shade in the big hawthorn grove and drink water from the concrete cistern the Kupris family put in years ago.  That field is impossible to hay as the dips and gulleys would wreak havoc with a tractor.    I'm a little tired tonight.  Hannah and Luke are watching America's Got Talent and I'm getting a kick out of their laughing and giggling over the acts.  I'm going to sew a bit and hit the hay myself, dreaming of all that hay.  It's a farm thing... 

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Early Morning Musings

The much anticipated visit from the Parkinsons is happening this weekend.  They pulled in last night late.  Hannah and Luke are beyond excited to see their "cousins" from Kingston.  Mom, Dad and kids are all camped in the barnyard with the White Boys.  The dogs have been very considerate and hardly barked all night.  Hannah and Jared are both 14.  Lindsay and Luke are 10.  It was so cute watching them get re-acquainted last night.  Wish I could have been a fly on the wall in Hannah's trailer when they finally bedded down.  We are all going to the Hamilton Farmer's Market this morning, where we will await the arrival of Auntie Mia.  A swim in the pond is planned for the afternoon along with a campfire tonight.  It's been blistering hot but temps are forecast to come down with lower humidity.  I don't want them to come down too much with haying beginning tomorrow. Very excited about that.  Had a call from my very-best-sheep friends, Lisa and Marie Merian,  who cautioned me about angora goats and baleage.  There is a high risk of listeria, which I've already experienced and don't want again.   Julia will be doing round bales for me instead, with second cut square bales later in the summer.   I'm trying to figure out where to put the round bales.  Matt will buy a spear for his little tractor to move them around and give out to the sheep/goats.  Pray the little 1946 8N can carry them.  With a farm there is always something to worry about, always some obstacle to overcome, and always something to sink too much money in to.  I try not to think of enormity of it all.  I won't live long enough to do everything I want to do, but it's the quest that counts, isn't it?   Like I've said many times before, I wish I started this grand adventure when I was 25 and not 55 but here we are.  We are swimming upstream but still afloat. 

Summer Heat

With this glorious intense heat and no fiber in the dye pots to dry I decided to wash my lamb sweaters and put them away until who-knows-when.  Each one was knitted with love in every stitch.  Friends knitted many of them for me including Kimmie Cornerstone, Carol Crayonbox and Shelly, Robin's sister, from school.  Some have been gently washed so many times they are felted down to ferret size.  These sweaters have saved many lives.  When the little wet ones slip out of the womb into the subzero temps a fluffy wool/angora sweater makes the difference between warm and happy bundle and frozen lambsickle.  I don't intend to do any serious lambing or kidding and might donate these to other shepherds along the way.  It's surprising how many who raise sheep or goats don't knit.  I put the instructions online to help those who want to learn. They are surprisingly easy and look real cute knitted in stripes of left over yarn. 

Friday, July 06, 2012

Dear Diary...

The day is flying by.  I don't know when the Parkinsons or Mia are getting here but I will be ready with food and drink.  I emptied the back of the dark refrigerator (it was rescued from a job site in NJ and has no light) and got half a dozen big jars of pickles, relish, etc.  Sister Grace and Sister Bernadette will be happy to get their jars back.  I'm hoping they are so relieved to get them they will reward me with another jar of Bread and Butter pickles or sweet relish.  Those ladies make the best pickles on the East Coast.  Yummy.  I was trying to make room and can finally fit a large box of Coca Cola cans for my granddaughter Hannah, which she lives on.  There is no greater love, let me tell you.  My kitchen is a mess but my chickens will be very happy tonight.  I made a big pasta salad with penne, sweet relish, canned tuna, veggie pepper, sea salt, olive oil, dill (always) and my new secret ingredient, Blueberry Sweet and Spicy Vinegar from Hill and Hollow Farm in Pavilion, NY.  Wish I found that stuff years ago.  It goes with anything, even tomato sauce, and is incredibly delicious.  I doubt if any child will touch the fishy pasta salad but I'm hoping the grown ups will.   After some seat time with the kiddies - they are watching Moonraker with Simon Templar as 007,  I will wash the dishes.  How can four people make so many dishes?  I suspect it is because we eat all the time.  God Bless America.  I have to go out to Hannah's Celebrity trailer to wrestle a young ground hog away from Finn.  Hannah let him loose to untangle his rope and he dashed away up the field.  Maybe he knew the ground hogs were moving in and wanted to take care of business.   Finn has the beast under the trailer in the cool dirt with him and I'm not liking the idea of crawling under there to sweet talk him away from his treat.  If I don't I suspect Hannah will have a lovely aroma filtering up into her sleeping area sometime tomorrow.  Life on the farm...


Woke up to a giant crash and scatter sound.  I knew it must be a cat fight.  I forgot to put Lizzie and Portia out of the apartment before I fell asleep.  I gave Izzy the order "get the cat."  Izzy loves to break up cat fights.  He is the policeman of the farm, always jumping in to animal disagreements, not necessarily to fight but to say What's going on here?  He gets all puffed up and prances around between the combatants.  Sadly, Izzy could not save my very favorite blue bowl, purchased from a potter at the farmer's market in Burlington, Vermont, when Mia was attending UVM.  I took a chance bringing it up from the tractor shed and setting it out on the counter here in this crazy little apartment.  I just wanted to see it again as it reminds me of the delightful times we spent in Burlington visiting Mia, when she was still a little girl.  Not a good decision as the two feet of counter space I have in here won't accomodate the basic necessities one needs in a kitchen, much less big classy bowls.  I had it on the kitchen/dining room table but the dogs sent it over the edge while I was at work.  It was cracked but this very thick, beautiful, intense blue bowl survived the fall.   I was using it for fruit and potatoes and had it on top of the microwave (not installed on a wall or cabinet - that status is reserved for real kitchens) and thought it was safe.  Enter Lizzie and Portia.  Portia is a very big and strikingly gorgeous white cat with green eyes.  Lizzie is equally beautiful and is a tortoise shell girl with lovely gold eyes.  They hate each others guts.   I don't know who attacked who but Lizzie remained on the high breakfast bar, or whatever it is, that separates the little galley kitchen from the rest of the apartment.  My favorite bowl was in a dozen pieces.  I'm mulling over piecing it together.  I had an insane Art History professor who took our class to the Metropolitan Museum of Art years ago. We were seated around a table in the cafeteria, me next to him.  All of a sudden he took his coffee cup and smashed it on the floor.  The sound reverberated around the cavernous room which was suddenly silent.  I thought, oh, please, let me out of here.  The professor bent over and picked up the several pieces and started fitting them back together.  I knew there must be a lesson coming and there was.  He told us the cup was still a cup but the character was different.  Maybe I'll do this with my precious bowl.  My area is replete with talented potters and I know I could find another bowl, but this bowl was special.  I often tell myself, now what would I say to the kids if this happened?  I would say material things are not important and don't let it ruin your beautiful day with family and friends on the way.  That sort of thing is what I telling myself right now.  Hope it works...

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Some Excitement

Some excitement on the farm today...Lukie found a cute little snake in the hay mow when he was searching for the lost LL Bean wind-up flashlight.   On inspection it turned out to be a baby garter snake.  Wonder why it was in the bales which are very dry and not likely to sustain a baby anything for very long.  Sssshhhh!  Don't tell Mia!  Snakes don't last very long around here as chickens love to eat the hatchlings.  Nature is a cruel mistress.   I decided to take a ride down the road a bit and visit a woman who I was told might bale my upper field.  I've been buying fabulous hay from the Postma family but I'd like to get some hay from my own land. Lucky for me this wonderful lady, Julia Burger, will cut, round bale and wrap my hay.  Baleage happens when damp hay is wrapped in plastic and ferments.   Fermented hay  is more nutritious for the sheep.  An added benefit is that the grass does not need to be dry when baled.  Julia showed me some bales she and her sons make. They are gorgeous - big and tight.  Julia mows and bales for a lot of people around here, and does large fields of hay like nothing at all.  She gets it done.  Nothing is worse than having someone cut your hay and they don't come back.   I'm so happy she would take me on.  The sooner I get this first cut off, the sooner I get some sweet, green delicious second cut growing. 

Hang On

The weather is blissfully delightfully breezy and cool, a lovely respite from yesterday's melting humidity and heat.  I want to get so much done but am running in circles already.   Luke dropped his LL Bean wind-up flashlight while standing on top of the mound of bales in the hay mow.  We were having so much fun peeking around in the mound looking for hens laying eggs, cats hiding, etc. when the light was dropped.  I was up there filming him jumping off the platform onto an old mattress when my battery ran out.  Darned if I can find the cord.  There is a serious lack of cabinets and drawers to store things in the apartment.  Spouse likes the "minimalist" look, but then he's never lived anywhere for any length of time and never had much "stuff" to organize anyway.  Au contraire with moi.  I have too much stuff.  Some of my beautiful breakfront armoires are in the tractor shed, waiting to be moved into a living area that I fear will never accomodate them.  A low barn ceiling is a convenient excuse.  When rummaging around jars, boxes and piles I found the long lost cord to the camp light, but no cam corder cord.  One can only live and hope.  I will put together the three little orders I received recently from farm supporters (that's how I see them), go to town with Luke to mail them, and continue the search later this afternoon.  I hope to make Almond soap today, then sew some more.  We can restack the hay bales and find the camera, but some of the bales are loosely tied and will surely fall apart.  My hay mow floor is already layered with good hay that could have been used for the animals had I raked it all up when it spilled all over.  Like I said, one can only live and hope for more time and energy that is needed to do everything I should be doing around here.  In the meantime, I'm heading for the trailer to dig out the soap and creme I should have taken from the tubs yesterday when they were all laid out open on tables in Hamilton.  Woulda-shoulda-coulda.

Lukie's Socks

I can't get over the socks Annie knits for Luke.  I've never known a child who exclusively wore hand knit socks lovingly created by his mother.   What a beautiful expression of love...and the coolest part is where she does her knitting...in the side car of her husband's Ural motorcycle while flying over rural Maine roads!