Thursday, September 27, 2012

Up on the Hill

I'm glad I took some time to take it all in after work today.  I love the views from up on the hill.   I love Hollow Road, the winding gravel trail that takes me up where the views are spectacular.  I live in paradise.

New Tote

Yes I am still sewing.  I would like to have a few more bags ready for Rhinebeck next month.  With all this fabulous cloth I am getting from my personal fabric shopper, Carol Crayonbox, I will have some very pretty totes to display.  I happened to have the perfect button for this very bright and lively Bundaflicka tote ready to go.  I love when that happens.

Simply Gorgeous

With the rat race going full tilt it's easy to forget that I live in paradise.  This area of New York is absolutely stunningly beautiful, especially this time of year.  I had to make a few stops on the way home, including gas (ouch), milk replacer for little Rudolpho who cries for his bottle every night, and two bales of hay from Homestead Feed for $5.50 a bale (until I can find some local square bales) for the "boys in the back."   Still haven't figured out how to feed my fifty round bales.  School is "challenging" with some very tough kids.  My colleagues are out-of-this-world wonderful and they keep me going.  Thank God.  I was rushing home to meet Andrew, a former student, who is a terrific farm helper.  He stacked four cords of wood very nicely and will come back with more help to shear on October 8.  I am hoping to bring some fresh raw fleeces to Rhinebeck.  Before I pulled in I drove up the hill to check on the sheep and decided to pause and ponder the beauty of the hills.  Next week is peak color here...a very nice gift for me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Farm Report

Leaves are falling and although it's warmish outside we in the Great North Land know it's time to get ready for the inevitable icy cold blast.  I find myself grabbing my Carhartt jacket on the way out to chores at night.  I talked to a dairy man in Waterville who has alfafa square bales for $200 a ton and will deliver.  He says he's had a great year for hay, unlike what I hear locally in Brookfield.  I would like to have a few alfafa bales for new mothers (not planning on any but one happens now and then) or sick sheep.  Alfafa is very rich - it's like feeding them chocolate candy bars.  I have a couple of numbers to call for square bales.  Still have to figure out how to feed the 50 first cut round bales stored in the upper mow.  So far I considering pushing them out a hole cut in the wall to a feeder waiting below.  Might be tricky if the cascading bale decides to bounce out of the feeder (which I have not built yet) and careens through the flock.  I think they are too heavy to bounce but I've learned to hope for the best, expect the worst.  Still looking for somebody to scrape out the bottom of the barn and spread it on the fields.  I have to get a shearing going, but haven't heard back from Jim Baldwin.  All this to do while making lots of lovely things to sell at Rhinebeck and keep on top of this very challenging teaching job.  If I think of everything at once the enormity of the whole is daunting, so I don't.  I will sit down and spin some tonight and make a plan.  Yes, it's good to have a plan.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

We've Got Wood

Rosanna's husband dropped off enough wood to get us through the winter.  Now to get it stacked and ready for the many trips out to the wood pile.  The work required to heat with wood is daunting, but nothing is more penetrating in times of intense cold and damp.  My chimney must be cleaned out with a wire brush prior to the first fire.  I got through the winter without turning on the thermostat but I doubt if I'll be so lucky this time.  Keeping the house warm with wood requires stoking the stove at midnight, then 3 am, then again at 6.  By four in the afternoon when I try to be home the doggies are piled on top of each other to keep warm. 

Soup's On!

Every once in a while I go on a soup jag.  I start chopping and steaming and opening cans.  I must be missing some vitamins and minerals (although I'm being good about taking supplements for the first time in my life) because I've been craving certain things like kidney beans and spinach.  I'm the only one in the house who likes my home made soup, besides the dogs and chickens, but that's okay.  I was raised on big pots of hearty soups my mother would throw together.  Last night I made black bean with cauliflower and onion/spinach/celery/corn and tomato soup with lots of lemon curry, veggie pepper and a spice blend including all kinds of wonderful things.    Got it simmering then went out to chores for almost two hours.  The aroma when I came back in was wonderful.  I got much of it frozen for winter.  The squirrels are busy putting away their stores and so am I.

Monday, September 24, 2012


 I'm fine once I get to work and my friend Robin gives me her beautiful smile, but the effort this morning is huge.  Some days I just want to stay on the farm.  It's not like I don't have a job here...

Miss Mamie is coming around.  Everything I did to her on Saturday to treat her for fly strike took a toll on her - clipping, worming, spraying, etc.  She's a fragile old lady.  The antibiotic shot in her thigh left her lame for a day.  She took the lambs out in the middle of the field and stayed there for most of Sunday.  I carried a bucket of corn out to her but had to cup it to her mouth for her to eat.  I confess I was a bit concerned.  I busied myself most of the day with sewing and soap making, then was greatly relieved to see her coming down the hill with the boys at dusk, not limping much at all.  Aged ewes and lambing is a tricky business, then with the fly strike - yikes.  Don't know how long I'll have Miss Mamie but she gave me Rudolpho and Marcello to enjoy for years to come.

Carol Crayonbox is sending me some gorgeous fabric for Bundaflicka Totes.  Lovely bright red geometric patterns, soft aqua blue paisleys, and others.  Really got my sewing mojo working.  I dream of a time when I can sew and spin wool for a living.  For now...I better get out to the barn, take care of things out there, then take care of getting myself off to work.  So many people are sick there - kids and teachers.  Mucous and bacteria flying through the air in great waves of contagion.  I'm praying I don't get the dreaded fall cold, which cripples me for the big Rhinebeck push.   I'll keep taking vitamins and boiling spinach.  Don't know what else I can do but making sure I get rest at night. Six hours seems to be the norm on school nights. 

Fall is coming on fast.  No apples this year.  Weather conditions not right.  Too bad, I got a banner crop of delicious apples last year, proving that with time and effort I could get my orchard going again.  May try trimming back a couple of trees drastically to see what happens.

Cold out there - will have a killing frost any time.  There is still a good amount of grazing out there, nice for the sheep and me.  I'll be calling around for hay this week.  I have a good stock of round bales but I need square bales too.  So many round bales lying on the ground across the road, rotting in the rain, with sections never mowed. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fly Strike!

I can't think of a worse death for a sheep, and if you don't catch fly strike in time that will surely be the result.  Flies lay eggs in the wool, usually poopy wool around the tail, and the maggots hatch and burrow in.  Miss Mamie has been looking thin and a little nervous.  I thought it might be more than her lambs dragging her down and I was right.  Fortunately I had Catron, the super-duper maggot killer from the veterinary.  I trimmed all around Miss Mamie's tail and hind quarters then sprayed the nasty buggers.  They started dropping off immediately.  I gave her Safe Guard, Ivomec, LA200, and Nutri-Drench.  Sure hope she perks up.  I love that old girl, and would hate to lose her when she has Rudolpho and Marcello to take care of.  I would pen her in the barn to baby with corn but the green pasture is better for her.  She loves to sleep outside under the stars with her lambs. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Death and Rain

Oh, what a day.  As I was running for the truck my ancient wether Rambo teetered and fell over dead.  I had been watching him weaken over a period of days, but having to go to work every day and no one to help me catch him and doctor him, I let it go.  I figured nature was getting the best of him.  Poor guy.  His owner had sold her farm and taken off in a Winnebago, leaving her flock of Rambos with a foster shepherd in Fort Plain.  They got tired of them and the farmer wanted to put pigs in their pen.  I took half of them, as they are magnificent sheep, and dearly loved my ram Horatio, who passed a couple of years ago.  Miss Mamie is now the last of the Rambos, with her twin boys Rudolpho and Marcello.  Thankfully it was not she who fell over dead.  I think the boys would be okay now but having a mom to look after twin lambs is always preferable.  R. is so attached to me that he leaps for joy when he hears my voice and downs his night-night bottle all at once, with mom waiting patiently for him to return to his side.  I'm going out now to try and get the wool off the dead Rambo as I can't stand to let it go.  I would like to practice shearing him as I have a pair of Andies shears, never used, in the box, but don't know how to insert the comb and cutter in the device.  Libby Llop says to pull the wool out.  I'll see how that goes first.  Maybe some whiskey in my gut would help me along.  It was the kind of day in school to send me to the bottle.  My art activity of the day was stained glass windows with construction paper and colored tissue paper.  The first class was so wild they....well, it's not professional to report exactly what goes on in school but suffice it to say it was almost more than I can or want to take.  It's not only throwing my art supplies across the room but the anger and profanity that goes with it.  Somehow we managed to get the windows on the window, with the help of two wonderful aides who are very brave and supportive to me.  The market weather forecast for tomorrow is 80% chance of rain with blustery breezes and thunderstorms.  Sounds like a good day to fall back and regroup...and to hug a lamb. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hand Spun Art Yarn

I was very inspired and validated with many purchases of Kim's and my handspun yarn at the Fingerlakes Festival.  It proves to us that our hard work and dedication to our belief in raising and spinning our own yarn is valid and appreciated.  Commercial yarns are plentiful, but they are mostly from dead sheep and the fiber feels like it.  I believe in supporting small shepherds who offer their own fiber for sale.  We are a rare and vanishing entity in a world of commercialism and quick fixes.  Besides, artsy, funky hand spun yarn can never be found in a yarn shop and can never be duplicated....reason enough to snatch it up!


Kimmie Cornerstone has a fantastic way of combining my luscious, soft Lipstick Mother Fiber Bluefaced Leicester/Angora roving with her lovely worsted hand spun yarn.  She enhances her mitten with thrums!  Thrums are little tufts of fiber that are pulled through the knitting leaving fuzzy ends inside.  With wear your warm, moist hands actually felt down the bushy tufts and construct a flat felted lining inside the mitten.  As it is the warmth and softness is intoxicating.  So far Kim has only constructed one of these Lipstick thrum mittens.  I sure hope she finishes the second mitten as I might make her an offer she can't refuse.

Crayonbox Mitts

With the temps going steadily down, and almost hitting the frostline last night, I might be needing some of these fabulous mittens soon.  Carol of Crayonbox Designs writes the intricate patterns and creates these babies out of colorful Maggie's Farm Mother Fiber wool/mohair/angora blends.  They have a felt lining inside to keep you extra warm and toasty.  I don't think I would feel that frozen steering wheel at all.

Duck Eggs!

Andrew Cleveland, a former student who helps me on the farm, pointed out a duck egg nest in back of the barn next to the chicken coop.  I hired Andrew to clean out my chicken room and he went about the mucking and toting of poop.  Andrew heard hissing from the protective mother duck, warning him to stay away and he realized she was sitting on a nest.  I can't wait for the ducklings to hatch.  I am very worried that with the cold weather coming Mom will not be able to keep them warm.  I'm obsessing about whether I should put an igloo covering over the nest, but am concerned about it spooking her.  I rushed home from work yesterday and found her off the nest, with the other ducks eating one of the eggs.  I was horror stricken and thought about bringing them inside, but decided against it when Mom got back on the eggs and hissed at me.  I hope she gives the other ducks a nice pecking if they bother her eggs again.

Duck Tape Wallets

With a week of cave art under our belts I decided to give the kids a drawing and painting break and play with some Duck Tape.  Luckily our new local Dollar General had some nifty colors and patterns for me to chose from.  The kids tell me there are dozens of patterns and colors available.  Oh, how under-exposed I am up on the farm in Brookfield.  Lukie has a Duck Tape wallet he made in Cub Scouts and it looks pretty sturdy.  My students took to the task very well, and even came up with some other things to make, like purses and back packs.  We had some funny moments with lengths of tape sticking to kids, to tables, to the wrong pieces of tape, etc., but we managed to come up with some neat things.  They are proudly displayed for parents to enjoy in the art room.

Cave Art

I am an art teacher half-time this year.  It's a challenge to think of art activities that students want to do, or will participate in at all.  With the anniversary of the discovery of the Chauvet cave art in France in 1941, we decided to have the kids draw and paint their own version of these fascinating images.  It gave me an opportunity to teach some history, too.  Thanks to Google Images and my Smart Board we found some stunning pictures to inspire them.  The panels our five classes painted are hanging in the halls for Family Night tonight.  Very cool indeed.

My Own Crayonbox Tote

I have been lusting after this tote for a very long time.  Carol Crayonbox from Freevile trades fabric with me for my Mother Fiber and spins it into yarn for her bags.  The process is long and labor intensive.  After spinning Carol knits long strips of geometric designs, sometimes triangles or squares of many colors and shades.  She then sews the strips together with thread into a bag.  Carol felts the bag by hand by washing and rubbing it in the sink.  This is a tricky process as the different fibers (especially with my wool-angora-mohair blends) felt at different stages.  When Carol is satisfied with the felting she constructs a lining with intricate pieced designs and sews it to the inside of the knitted bag.  Leather handles and a snap frame is then added for easy access to your goods.   I have taken Carol's bags to shows to sell for her, often thinking how I would love to bring one home for myself.  Customers always take them instead.  With my milestone birthday coming up, I decided this one is finally for me.  Carol has evolved past this type of bag, opting for a different felting process with machine quilting on top.  I got my bag in the nick of time I think.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I am still making Bundaflicka buttons to go with my totes.  I bring the box with me to shows in case someone wants to change the button on a tote.  I am happy to oblige.  I was not the only one with fabulous buttons at the Fingerlakes show.  Kimmie Cornerstone brought a big box of her all-natural horn buttons with her.  These amazing buttons are made from goat, sheep and cow horns that people donate to her.  Don't ask me how she does it, but they are absolutely incredibly beautiful, with all the natural striations and calcifications.  No two are alike.  Kim chuckled when one customer asked her to make four more "just like this one." 

Bag Ladies

My faithful bag lady friends came out en masse at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival.  Most of the time I am too excited to remember to ask them for a picture, but I did get one or two this year.  One customer bought two, and sent her friends over to take a peak which resulted in more sales.  My Bundaflicka totes are helping to carry the burden of more busy lives.    I love my bag ladies.

She's a Winner!

Kimmie Cornerstone never ceases to amaze me.  Her skills continue to grow and grow.  Kim brought home an arm full of ribbons from Fingerlakes.  She is an accomplished drop spindler and teacher.  Eight new victims, er, students signed up to learn from the master at the Hemlock show last weekend.  I would have been a bit nervous when confronted with all those hands attempting to spin wool on those pesky disks that love to fly out of your hands and make music on the floor.  Kim didn't break a sweat.   She also won prizes for her knitted hat and "Blue Theme" skein.  I know Kim's family across the border up in Kingston, Ontario,is very proud.  I know I am.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fabulous Fingerlakes

The 18th Annual Fingerlakes Fiber Festival was a fantastic success.  Many friends from previous years came to visit me in my booth.  The weather was terrific and the booth was busy.  I am very grateful for all those loyal supporters who keep my farm going with their purchases.  Everything I make was validated and I am so fulfilled.  I am inspired to remain true to my mission - to spin yarn from my own fibers, from my own animals, resisting any commercial imports.  I only support small shepherds, like myself, where I know the sheep/goats/bunnies/llamas are well-cared for and not shipped off to an unknown fate via cruel auctions.  These shepherds are very hard to find, so I spin my own wool and mohair.  My products are very basic and functional and are designed to make life easier and more beautiful.  My soap cleans, my creme moisturizes, my wool insulates and my totes carry the burden of busy lives.  Thank you all, for your continued support and encouragement.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Fabric

I love when a surprise package is waiting for me when I get home from work.  Sure I ordered it, but after a hectic day I forget when it's coming.  I've had this fabric on my Fabric wish list for a while.  It's a lovely neutral color and I'll put a bright lining in it.  Don't know if I'll get it done for Fingerlakes, but we'll see.  I've been known to crank out a last-minute tote in the wee hours before a show.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


A sure sign of winter occurred this morning - frost on the window of the truck.  My wood supply has been ordered, now to clean out the stove pipe.  I was able to get through last winter pretty much on wood alone without touching the thermostat.  If I stoked the stove before I went to bed, then once in the middle of the night, and again before going to work I was okay.  The place would be cold when I got home from work, but the dogs could huddle together on the sofa to keep warm, the little couch potatoes.  Cooking casseroles in my gas oven heats up the apartment very nicely.  I love cold weather as it reminds me why I raise wool, that miracle fiber that breathes, insulates us, feels so good, and is so beautiful to look at. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Close Shave

My goat milk soap shaving mugs are a slow and steady seller.  I've offered them long enough to have quantitive reports back on how long they last.  Two men said three years, shaving every day.  What a good deal.  No container to throw away, no accelerant being pumped into the air, non-skid bottom mug skillfully crafted by local potter Susanne Farrington (for which she is happy to receive wool for felting in return), and a lovely natural fiber brush.  Customers can purchase a refill of goat milk clove soap at the same time, or later.  It can be softened in the microwave and pressed into the mug to harden.  I love the look of this cup and the funky big blocks of soap.

Colorscape 2012

After a very disappointing day of extreme weather conditions the 2012 Colorscape Arts Festival resumed with happy, enthusiastic patrons and exhibitors.  My booth was rarely empty and was often "standing room only."  What a difference a day makes.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Rainy Day Blues

Doesn't look good for Colorscape.   There is a wall of green headed for us on the radar with reports of "severe" weather for today,  60-70 mph winds, possibly hail and tornadoes.  I'm really disappointed but will set up early tomorrow to salvage the weekend.   My soap and wool does not do well in the rain and my pop-up will not keep out the water long.  What a bummer.   Up very late working on product.  I'll work around the farm today and sew another Bundaflicka tote to make myself feel better.  I'm in the very sturdy ag building at Fingerlakes next weekend in the little town of Hemlock, an hour south of Rochester.  Oh, Colorscape!  All the wonderful bands playing continuous music!   The happy customers!   Can't do much about the weather besides hunker down, fall back and regroup. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

First Week Down

The first week of school is under my belt.  It's always an adjustment, even though I've only been with the kids for three days.  The Friday Euphoria is setting in.  The kids are getting used to me and vice versa.  I am reunited with my dear friend -  The Amazing Robin - for morning GED classes, and a new aide named Fawn for my afternoon art classes.  Robin works so hard to make me look good and keep me out of trouble.  I ask her to do something and it's already done!  Robin does things to  help me that I don't even know about.   Fawn is very organized and helpful, too..  Luckily, Robin is experienced with the daunting bureaucracy of GED (General Equivalency Diploma).  I'm feeling good about school and I think it will be a rewarding year.  Now if the weather gods are kind and let me get back and forth to work safely.  You never know what storms will blow off Lake Ontario and make my commute a nightmare.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Lipstick Mittens

My friend and faithful follower, Suzy Fatzinger, recently taught herself how to knit mittens.  She graciously sent me a picture of a mitten knitted with my Lipstick roving.  I'm thrilled for Suzy and happy my Mother Fiber served her well.  The angora rabbit fiber carded in with the Bluefaced Leicester wool will definitely keep Suzy's hands warm this winter.  Good job!

Gotta Deal

Lots of speakers in a hot, airless gym yesterday.  Hazardous waste training, bullying prevention training, teacher union meetings, and checking out classrooms.  Many hugs with friends I haven't seen since June.  The LPN teacher had all the stuff that was in her new classroom dumped on the floor of my GED room.  I sure hope the nice custodians moved it overnight.  It's first day for kids and I'm picking up donuts on the way in.  I have my old room back for mornings and will do art upstairs in the afternoon.  It will take a few days to get all the kinks worked out.  Too sleepy last night to stay awake for the First Lady's speech.  Hope I can make it 'til Bubba's performance tonight.  I relate so well to the Dems and their message. I sure will miss my free time, but I have to support my farm, and I carry the bennies.   Better get it in gear and hit the road.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Hiding Place

Monkey found a hiding place in the barn, back and between some round bales.  I think it's a lovely place to rest and ponder, free from the chaos going on outside and down the ladder.  Wish I could hide there myself, but duty calls and I have to bomb out of here tomorrow, and every working day thereafter, until June rolls around again and I am free to stay on the farm with my friends.


It's easy to take these wide open fields for granted, but they were once covered with trees.  To say the Burdicks, the original farm owners, had their work cut out for them when they first settled here 200 years ago is an understatement.  Every rock in this old crumbling wall was pulled from the ground with much sweat and toil.  I have it easy compared to those folks.

First Time Out

Mama and boys are out on the hillside now.  It's a big scary place for a mother and babies.  Evening is coming on in this picture and Miss Mamie is looking around for anything dangerous that might threaten her lambs.  She doesn't take them too far up where the good grazing is, and prefers to stay close to the barnyard, just in case.  Rudolfo and Marcello are both wethers now - neither here nor there.  I love these sweet boys.  Rudolfo still gets a bottle once a day, but doesn't take much.  When he hears my voice he leaps and dances over to me, which always gives me a thrill.  I guess that's why I keep giving him a bottle he doesn't really need.

Market Friend

I have a little friend at the Hamilton Farmer's Market.  Her name is Cayna and she raises mushrooms with her brother. She explained how they drill holes in logs to grow them.   Cayna is an enterprising entrepreneur.  She makes beaded bracelets and necklaces and takes them around to vendors to sell.  Cayna is going into second grade and is already writing stories that she prints, folds and staples to sell.  I always purchase Cayna's wares as she is so friendly and sweet.  I want to encourage her business acumen.  After I paid $3.00 for her latest novella, Cayna returned with her box of beads to make me a custom bracelet to thank me.  This girl is going to go places.


There is something about a little tote...I'm trying to make some smaller totes, as my artistic adviser, Mia, suggested.   The baby is 13 by 16, enough to carry a small knitting project, an Ipad, and a book.    I love this fabric, off the bolt at Joann's, because the dark brown is so earthy and basic and the flowers look like they are hand painted.  The lining is that durable office upholstery fabric and, as always, the signature Bundaflicka 8 pocket structure keeps everything organized.  I like easy access bags where you can see everything inside.  Some bags are so dark it's tough to see what you've got in there.  I might give myself a back-to-school tote this year and this Monet Tote might be the one.  I can't believe I still love sewing so much.  When I get tired of something it doesn't get done.   I loved working at home over the summer, cutting out bags on whim and sewing to my hearts delight, with Luke and Hannah to keep me company.  Would I appreciate it so much if I could do it all year long?  Yes, I think I would.


Yes, my head is spinning.  How to do as much as I possibly can today before I surrender my freedom to do whatever I want - which is always some kind of work - to do what is expected of me at school.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for my job, but I love staying home on the farm.  I have another run of Mother Fiber ready to go out to the mill.  I never know when I start what I'll end up with.  It depends on what fibers I have ready to work with, what dyes I currently have, the alignment of the planets, my current mood, etc.  I love strong, vibrant colors, or dark, natural colors.  Pastels leave me limp.  I found a pale blue sweater in the tractor shed that I started years ago before yet another move threw my world into a tailspin.  Didn't do anything for me and I know it won't get finished.  This latest run will be bright salmon, chartreuse and purple.  I'm spinning some corn yellow from years ago and hoping I can find some fawn angora somewhere to ply it with.  Angora/wool blends never stay long in the hand spun basket.  Think I'll spin a bit before I get to work in the barn.  My hand spun basket is looking healthy at the end of the summer.  I need to make up some simple knitting patterns for people to make hats, scarves, socks, etc. because people always say what can I make with this?  Truth be told, I like the way the hand spun looks in the basket with the pretty little skeins keeping each other warm.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Hamilton Market Day

I was proud of the crop of Bundaflicka knitting totes I put on at the market yesterday.  I was hanging the totes on colorful bungy cords but now I have too many for that.  I put up my old bag rack, which holds quite a few and allows people to look at the bags easier.  I could sew all the time, but I have to work on fiber,creme and soap, and then there are the animals to look after.  Oh, and the humans who need food and clean clothing too.  And then there is the job that keeps this machine running.  I have one more day of freedom, that is, freedom to stay home and work on the farm.  I've been spending a lot of time picking through fleeces from last spring and fall.  There are some gorgeous fleeces, then the challenging ones who either stayed on the animal too long, or contain so much "chaff" that I have to literally pull every lock apart and "debride" the fiber.  The effort is worth it when the big boxes come back from the mill and soft colorful balls ready for spinning or felting appear.  I could get lost for days and weeks in my beautiful fibers, with the lovely sheep and their big, glistening eyes watching me, but duty calls and I'll be bombing out of here every morning to return in the evening.  As long as I have my job nobody can tell me I can't have my sheep.