Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wild Weather

Drove home in heavy warmish rain yesterday.  Forked down hay from the mow with a wild wind beating the sides of the barn and whistling through the slats.  Very dramatic and I love it.  There is no snow on the farm now, and it seems so weird.  Mud season is back, but not for long with a cold front moving in.  We need snow on the farm.  Snow is the "poor man's fertilizer."  It blankets the ground and helps to melt all the black gold dropped by the sheep over the past spring, summer and fall.  Oh, if only I had managed to get the barn emptied and spread on the fields this fall.  Another thing on the list of things that didn't get done.  Maybe next year.  Around here folks spread whey on their fields from the Chobani yogurt factory down the road.  Whey is a by-product of cheese and yogurt making.  Think I'll give that a try.  Still have to get the poop out of the barn.  The sheep are fat and happy on the hay that I fork down the holes in great big folds off the round bales.  Only have enough to last to the end of March, then I'll have to find some around here.  Better get it in gear and hit the road - day two of tie-dyeing.  What a festival that was yesterday, and what a wonderful mess.  Fawn and I were hopping around like rabbits all day.  We're having a anti-bullying assembly on Friday and the principal wanted our tee-shirts decorated somehow.  We definitely took care of that request in a big way, with other teachers bringing their classes' shirts in to "please dye these," and staff/students stopping in to join the fun.  Smells like team spirit to me.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Feeling very fortunate tonight that my Lilly is not only still with me, but is pushing through the others to get to the hay.  I brought apples out for her mother, who, incredibly, is still able to crunch on them. She's a withered old lady and apples make her light up like a Christmas tree.  Lilly also loves apples and got fat on them two years ago when my hundred year old apple orchard came to life and gave us a boxcar load of them.   Last night Lilly barely rubbed her lips on the apple she dearly loves.  Her eyes were glazed over and bits of foam were around her mouth.  I gave her 8 cc of LA200, a cc of Ivomec, and half a small bottle of Nutri Drench.  Tonight she is pushing through the others to get her apple snack, and is belly up to the hay rack, happily munching away.  As I watched her eat, overwhelmed with gratitude to the Great Shepherd in the sky, I was running numbers through my head.  Six years here, four years in Pennsylvania (may that God forsaken state that Matt Redmond brought me to live in sink into the bowels of the earth I hate it so much and drive through it as quickly as possible on my way to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival), then two years into the four years in western New Jersey where Lilly was born on Easter Sunday, hence the name Lilly, to her mother, Harmony, purchased from Lisa of Summerhill Farm.  Lilly is twelve years old!  I am way too attached to her, as I am/was to my first sheep.  There is safety in numbers to be sure.  Sheep only live 8-10 years, they say, but I've been lucky with many.  Unlucky with some.  The important thing is that Lilly, with her special personality and oh, so affectionate nature, is still with me, and happy, tonight. 

Perking Up

Spent some time in the back of the barn emptying the big water trough I use as a hay feeder.  The goats like to use it for a bed, which beats down the hay.  I fork down fresh hay, which the sheep eat, then the goats get on it and beat more down.  Every couple of days I scoop it out to the bottom and start over.  The sheep anticipate this routine and wait for the all the little leaves and sticks which have been cooked by the sleeping goats.  I mound it in piles around the floor and they gather around them munching away.  Tonight I'll fill the trough again.  I was very worried about my precious Lilly last night.  She's terribly thin and I brought home some apples for her and her very aged mother, who is incredibly spry for her advanced age of 14, or more.   I noticed to my horror that Lilly was coughing a little, and only took a token nip at the apple, letting the stronger sheep push her away.   With being a bit down for the count myself I was getting through chores as quickly as I could to get back in the warmth.  It's important to spend time with my sheep to notice the little things.   I caught her with the leg crook and gave her a shot of LA200 with a good dose of NutriDrench.  I was almost afraid to go out there this morning, but had to check on her.  She was in the way back and made her characteristic dart forward when she saw me coming.  I saw her eating hay - always a good sign - and feel much better.  Will give her another shot tonight.  I bet it was pneumonia, which she had several years ago.  My barn is open and gets enough fresh air, but this severe cold is hard on everyone.  Little Duvall wouldn't take his bottle this morning and has a bit of scours.  Offered it to him a little while ago and he took a few sucks but stopped.  Something is going on with him.  I recently vaccinated and wormed him.  Something is going on.  He's a runty fall born twin to Robert.  I do like the little guy, and his brother is very handsome.  Back out to the barn.  I made a delicious pot of mushroom and beans over rice for a late lunch.  Heated up the apartment nicely.  Tried to run a wash in the milk room but the drain was frozen and it flooded.  Have to remember to check the drain first.  Am very much hoping my  new washer with a better drain will be operational tomorrow.  One can only hope.

Free Time (Not!)

So wonderful to be feeling better and back to normal.  I woke up at 4 to stoke the stove and knitted for a while.  I have a hat going for Hannah and am happy to be knitting again.  It is so wonderfully absorbing and restorative.  When the doggies kept sleeping I thought I would get some more shut eye myself and woke up at 8:30 - positively scandalous for me.  Off to the Louis Gale Feed Mill for my weekly haul and visited with Theresa, the office manager for a while.  It's still cold, but sunny and bright.  A woman ran off the snowy Beaver Creek Road and ended up on her side in a deep culvert.   Matt and another man pulled her up out of her car.  When I went by they were waiting for a tow.  Second time Matt pulled an old lady out of her turned over car in a year.  He's trying to fix my kitchen faucet right now, plugged up by debris when the pipes froze. If only I had thought of turning on my dye oven in the milk room before I went to work on the coldest day last week.   I'm doing dishes in the little bathroom sink again.  I shudder to think what I would have to pay a plumber, in addition to all the cleaning I would have to do before I could let any repair man in here.  With all the livestock and wool washing I do, water is a very valuable commodity around here.  I am blessed with springs and ponds all over my land, but getting it to work inside the barn where everybody needs it is problematic.  I am so far behind on my wool prep for Maryland Sheep and Wool I can hardly think about it.  It will be shearing time in a few weeks - you won't fine ME shearing in frigid cold, thank you very much - and I will hardly have touched last year's.  I better get my mojo back pretty quick or I will be in deep doo-doo, or even deeper doo-doo than I usually am.  NY State requires me to make at least $10,000 to be a farm.  New Jersey only requires $500.  Go figure!  I have to hustle to do it.  I have a turquoise Merino run ready to be sent to the carding mill to be made into a felting batt.  I have a vision of peacock feathers on turquoise....For now it's raking and tending to critters in the barn, which seriously cuts into creative time, but sheep is what it's all about.  My cattle panel hay feeders are falling apart and must be taken down.  They are more of a liability now than an asset and can seriously injure my animals. Loren was a no-show this morning.  Hope he didn't fall through the ice when he was fishing on Hunt's Pond.  I'll be splitting, toting and stacking firewood myself if he did.  Luckily my sprained ankle is healed enough to get my foot into my rubber boot.  Couldn't manage it until yesterday.  It's the little things...

Friday, January 25, 2013


I don't often get to knit with people as I am very busy raising my own yarn.  I was delighted to see a sofa full of knitters at the Mid Winter Party we attended in Pompey last weekend.  Dale and Stephanie Sherman-Cross invited us to their annual feast with musicians and bonfire.  The city knitters reacted a bit strangely when I told them I had a sheep farm and they really couldn't imagine raising their own fiber bearing animals.  I would bet money their yarn was acrylic and they think fleece is something that comes from LL Bean and has a zipper.   That's okay - I'm well aware of how unusual and wonderful what I do is.  they were very nice people and we had a lovely evening.  The second woman on the left of the lower picture is the Madison County Medical Examiner.  If you meet with sudden death you will likely be examined by this lovely lady.
Perish the thought...

A Care Package

A surprise package arrived at the post office the other day.  Kimmie Cornerstone packed up this box of goodies for me.  It arrived just in time when cold viruses were doing their damage and the pipes were freezing.   The hand spun, hand knitted bunny wool hats will be forwarded to the kiddies in Maine, but the fabulous Multatelli coffee and chocolates will stay on the farm.

A Valentine

I love Valentine's Day and the heart motif.  We've been doing some lovely things in art class in honor of the day that's all about love.

Nice Surprises

I love watching my students paint and draw.  I try to inspire them with images and ideas, but once in a while one of them pops up with something so lovely, and totally unsolicited by me.   The young man who created this chalk drawing calls it "The Sweetheart Tree."  He is not my student, but he is sweet on a little girl in one of my classes.


Matt is fixing the plumbing on my new work room.  I'll have a sink for soapmaking and a washing machine that I won't have to share with my grease fleeces.  Not that washing wool in the same machine as my clothes was a problem.  I never could see that my clothes were harmed in any way, or that I smelled like sheep when I went to work.  Not that anyone would notice, or mind, as they've accepted me the way I am (or I like to think) which is kind of "out there."

Valentine Graffiti

With Valentine's Day approaching I asked my students to paint their feelings about love on a giant piece of cardboard.  I love the way it turned out.  This Valentine graffiti will be mounted in the hallway of our wing as a testament to love.

Blowing Off Steam

What do weary weatherization workers do to de-stress?   They play African drums with musician friends at winter parties.  We gathered at Dale and Stephanie Sherman-Cross's home last weekend to feast, knit and play music.  It was great fun and just what we needed in this very cold month of January.

Paper Quilt

My art classes have been working on a collaborative project - a paper quilt.  It was a great success, with guest artists like counselors and teacher aides along with students who are not in my program stopping in to draw and color a block.

Still Cold

I don't know what else I expected when I opened the door to let the dogs out.  Yep, it's still real cold out there.  The birds knocked down my thermometer, but I think it's a little warmer than yesterday.  More like five below instead of fifteen.  Yikes, if anyone had told me I would be living in a place as cold as this I would have laughed in their faces.  The coldest I consciously remember it getting in New Jersey is 4 F, when Mia and AJ were babies.  I kept them home from Temple B'Nai Or Nursery School that day.  Now they are big and strong and skiiing in temps colder than that.  Their birthday is coming up soon.  Have to think of some special gifts.  I know - I'll knit them ear flapper hats like Luke's.  That ought to keep their blonde heads and chubby cheeks nice and warm.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Illness on the part of a farmer is not a good thing.  So many lives depending on the health of the caregiver.  It's an awesome responsibility.   Now my Junk Yard Dog is down for the count.  When a heavy smoker gets a bad cold it's double trouble.  He was in worse shape than me last night so I left him on the sofa and went out to do chores.  Every foot step was heavy.  I did alright it just took me longer.  It's very, very cold here.  Minus 15 last night.  The upper hay mow is the coldest.  Funny to see the kitties romp and play on the big round bales while I fork down the hay.  Cold makes the sheep hungrier and they need more hay.  I comply with their appetitites.  Hay combusts inside them and helps keep them warm - more so than grain.  The water situation is the most difficult.  I know the sheep are eating snow because when I put the fresh water out they don't run over to it.  The goats need fresh water but I'm not seeing them drink much either.  They must be eating snow, too - unusual for goats - but it's too cold to snow much.  I would love to have a water tank with a floater but keeping it clean is almost impossible with chickens roosting on top of it and ducks jumping in it.   This arctic blast is supposed to subside tomorrow night.  We'll see.  We've survived worse.  Thank the stars I didn't shear my goats, and I'm not having lambs.  Goats - well, I'm not sure.  I did have a little buck escape from the back pen.  Pray nothing is happening soon.  It would surely freeze.  I sneak a handful of udder every chance I get to check for swelling.  School was okay this week.  I was blessed with a good project for the reduced classes due to Regents testing.  We're making a paper quilt with squares to be glued to a giant piece of cardboard.  The students draw curves with a protractor and draw lively colored designs.  Sharon, our Special Ed. Secretary and Captain of the Mother Ship, surprised us with a shopping bag FULL of beautiful rubber stamps and stamp pads.  We've been having a ball with them all week, dressing up our quilt squares.  There's something about rubber stamps that kids and grown ups love.  These stamps were designed for greeting cards and there are many cutesy messages and sayings.  I was going to call in sick today, a rarity for me, but the internet was down in Brookfield due to the cold, and I couldn't log on to sub-finder.  So I bundled up and fired up the little Saturn who whined and groaned for mercy in the bitter cold.  Glad I went in anyway as there was a question about the grades I put in.  It seems the grades I gave my new art students are much higher than the previous teacher.  Not surprised.  They are doing good things for me.   Luke received the orange ear flapper hat I knitted for him.  I found a partially started knitted hand bag and changed it into a hat with generous cheek flaps to keep his face warm.  He has a big Swedish head, just like his Omi.  It even turns corners at the top like mine.  What a cutie.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Drip is Good But Not From My Nose

Except for the fact that my kids were the best they could be you can keep yesterday.  My $600 Chevy Blazer, now up to a $3,000 Chevy Blazer, is broken down in the shop with a ridiculously high bill.  I mean like a whole pay period bill.   Spouse has never met a Lost Cause Used Car he didn't like.   In order for spouse to get to work and me to school we had to leave the house at 6 am to drive to the boss's house in Utica, a half hour plus in the wrong direction, with a hefty load of ice and snow on the roads.   That fiasco required rising at 4 something to get farm and myself ready to leave.   Thankfully I had my brand new-to-me heavy wool trousers, purchased over the weekend at the fabulous Key in Cazenovia - the Episcopal Church sponsored thrift shop that has replaced the Bargain Box in Morristown which I love so dearly and never have a chance to go to.  It's only four hours away, so what's the big deal?  I love a pair of wool trousers - lined - in the intense cold.  Combined with turtleneck, Md. Sheep and Wool fleece vest, wool blazer and wool duffle coat, along with SockLadySpins hand knit socks, Kimmi Cornerstone knitted cap (everything is personal with me) I was ready to face the dark, cold and ice, then later, students and administration.  After driving almost two hours I reached school.  Scratchy throat is evolving into head cold.  I knew all those kids spewing mucous all over my room for a week would surely result in something ugly and it did.  I feel awful, but let's go back.  I worried all day about the farm, the electric - as we were pulling away I yelled the barn lights are on! but spouse wouldn't turn back - and the water.  Ran out of school to get to the PO, the gas station, and Dollar General to get the cheapest Friskies Mariner's Pate in the area.  My fears were well-founded.  Ten more miles and I'm at the farm.  After greeting doggies the first thing I do is build the fire.   As I turned on the faucet to make coffee I got a tiny drip.  Oh, NOOOOO - frozen pipes.  Dirty water came out.  What could that be?  Went out to the milk room where all the plumbing starts - frozen up like an ice cube.  I turned on my dye oven - the only heater I have out there and a good one.   Put what little unfrozen water I had in the tubs in the big dye pots and turn them on high to boil.  Anything to get heat in the room and start the pipes thawing.  Our water runs from the milk room through wrapped pecks tube through the barn into the apartment.  The kitties like to scratch off the insulation (!!) to make a cozy spot to perch.  Perhaps that was it.  All I could do was tell the sheep I would have some water for them soon - I hope.  There is some snow on the ground, and sheep do eat snow, but my sheep are used to water and plenty of it.  I retreated inside to lie down and keep a paper towel under my runny nose.   Matt came home, changed clothes and ate his hearty meal of yellow rice, beans, cheddar cheese, pears and spring greens washed down with hot cappucino.  Belly full he ventured out with tools and melting devices to get my water back.  I swallowed some Ibuprofen for my pounding head and went out to chores.   Will buy some cold pills on the way to work.  Grades are due, progress reports are due, I have to go to work.  Besides, I'm saving my days for sick sheep and snow.  I might have to give in if this cold gets worse, but, for now, it's into the breach!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Baby Shower

Another reason why I love the people I work with...  I've been to two baby showers in the last month - both for guys on our staff who had and are having babies.   I'm blessed with gifts ready to go in the form of soap and hand creme.  For TJ Potter I wanted to make something special.  TJ and I have been through many trials by fire, in Special Ed. GED, and, more recently, the four months with some very challenging middle school students in a self-contained classroom last spring.  I fondly refer to TJ as "my muscle," but he is more like a priest with the patience of a saint.  I set to work on a fabulous baby Bundaflicka tote Thursday night, only to find my favorite machine, my big old Singer, is not feeling well.  She is skipping stitches and behaving in an unruly manner.  Lots of oil and TLC, but still not working right.  What to do with the shower the next day.  I had hauled two machines into school for my studio art students.  I only had one old White in the corner of the apartment, piled high with boxes, bags and piles of "stuff."  After chores I unearthed the old White and fired her up.  Lucky for me she was able to sew through the many layers of chenille lining and tapestry chenille outer fabric to get the baby bag done.  With Matt calling across the apartment GO TO BED!! every five minutes, I stopped at 11 PM and got up at 5 to finish the tote.  Even so I had to do more in school.  Luckily I had the perfect button in my stash box - a lovely reddish pink heart for the expected baby girl.  I was very proud to place the beautiful bag on the gift table when we gathered for the shower.  TJ waited to open it last, then was able to put many of the gifts inside the tote to carry them home. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Snow Again

Surprise early morning snow.  I didn't realize how much until I got out to the road and saw it covered.  Stayed covered and icy until I reached Norwich.  Was very careful, going slow around all the twist and turns of Kings Settlement Road where one good skid can send you down into a ravine in a dead cell zone.  No sliding for me until I tried to turn into the school parking lot and slid right past it.  Three districts were closed so fewer students and many grumpy teachers mumbling we should have had the day off.  Agreed.  Still snowing on the way home.  The farm looks like a winter wonderland again.  I made a trip - three miles past the farm - to pick up the mail.  I bought a couple of books written by female shepherds about farming. Thought it might boost my enthusiasm to hear another person's struggles.  It works some times but back fires other times when I read how much smarter and successful somebody else it.   Oh, well, it will be good to read a book - a real book with real paper - a few pages a night.  I usually put reading material in the throne room where I steal a few minutes to myself now and then.  One book, The Farm I Was, by local shepherd Ann Mohin, is the one I will start with. Ann and her husband, Bill, sold their farm in McDonough six years ago.  I looked at it - gorgeous place - but it was way too pricey and the house was nicer than the barn.  I was more interested in the barn as the sheep came first.  They still do but I'm beginning to think more of my own comfort lately.  Too late!   We made dog and cat toys for the Norwich SPCA in class today. The kids were pretty good about it.  Many wanted to make toys for their own animals.  I explained to them that the homeless animals needed the toys, and how community service is very important.  They think community service is something you do when you are being punished by the court, as that's been their experience.  Tonight I spent an hour digging out the large metal water tank which I am using as a hay feeder at the far end of the barn.  I knew this would happen, but no big whoop.  I fork it out into a pile and the critters chow down on the mashed partially fermented haylage.   Yummy in the tummy.  Too bad I couldn't find my head light and worked largely in the dark with critters all around me.  Worked up a nice sweat and now I'm back inside with my herb tea and Black Watch LL Bean granny gown ready for night-night.  The flock looks good for the middle of January.  Like my friend Mr. Baldwin said it's not how good your sheep look in the fall but how they look come April that's tricky.  Or something like that.  Wanted to do other things tonight but I'm nodding already.  Five AM comes very soon.  Matt bought me a used gas range to install in the work room adjacent to the apartment.  It will be a great source of heat in the very cold weather and serve as a soap making/dyeing stove for me. I will have to spend the next two months sorting, washing, dyeing and washing again the mountain of wool I have to prepare for the upcoming show season.  There is also soap and creme making to consider and the forty or so Bundaflicka totes I need to take to Maryland.  There won't be too many more nights snuggling with Izzy on the sofa at nine thirty at night.  No that will never do.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Warm is Good

The snow is gone and soon the mud will be too.  It's always too hot in my school.  The thermostats in the classrooms are invariably turned up to maximum heat.  I am the sneaky culprit lurking about turning them down.  I can do it with a flick of a finger without being noticed.  When colleagues come into my room, rubbing their arms and whining about it not being steamy hot, I give them a stock comment like, don't you know there are polar bears drowning in the arctic?... or that's why God gave us wool.  I rarely see anyone wearing wool around here, maybe some farm people, but they mostly wear fleece vests under Carhartts, that sort of thing.  That's okay, I remain a wool snob.  Wool is the Mother of All Fibers.  It's light and airy, it breathes, it's flame retardant, water retardant, and insulates beautifully.  It doesn't cook you like alpaca and is cheap and plentiful.  It's a wool night here on the farm.  I am the first one home which means I have to greet the crazy psycho dogs hell-bent on getting outside after being locked in all day, navigate through yowling cats determined to trip me as I haul in my packages,  light the fire - or turn on the electric baseboard heating (refer to aforesaid comment about polar bears) - clean up the doggies messes,  check Facebook (not allowed in school), get the dogs back inside, figure out what to make for dinner, get coffee going, etc.  I often wait before going out into the barn to the sheep.  There is a whole different set of greetings and demands aimed at me in that direction.  The weather is changing from the unseasonably warmish days we've had back to more cold again.  I won't have mud splashings on my trousers now.   I confess I would much rather drive the 50 miles back and forth from school in this weather instead of crawling through blizzards and white outs.  With all the sick days I've saved up I might stay home with my sheep when that happens.  Home is the best place - and home on the farm is even better.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Green Grass in January

This is very unusual for upstate New York, or Central New York as we call it here.  Upstate New York is farther north, as in Potsdam.  Where I come from, New Jersey, this is upstate New York.  Nevertheless, we don't usually have sheep out grazing in January.  This is the second year in a row that my hillside has revealed itself in the middle of the winter.  The sheep don't mind a bit.  They were thrilled to get up on their hill. I still have the fall lambs, Margot, Margareta, Robert and Duvall, in the maternity pen where I can give them extra grain and hay undisturbed by the other sheep and goats.  We got them vaccinated and wormed today but did not let them out.    Robert and Duvall are still not weaned from their bottles and I might not be able to get to them if mixed in with the flock.  Yes, it is time to wean them.  Soon...

Still High

Oh, I had such a nice time last night.  I'm still high on it, which is a good thing because I'm not getting as much done today as I would like.  Kathy Herold's artsy house has inspired me to do some redecorating here.  The spousal unit has some carpentry work to do on my new work room which will allow some expansion into extra space and solve some organizational problems.  Giving him a new Kindle Fire is not helping with those plans.  Football games are not helping, either.  I remain patient and hopeful.  In the meantime I have images of the party still rolling around in my mind.  I also have left over tamales heating on the stove.  Luckily, my stove lights with a match because the electricity which we thought was fixed with some troubleshooting today remains sadly, very sadly,  not fixed.  Thank goodness for headlights, batteries, firewood and propane. 

Artsy Folksies

I was thrilled to see Candace Cain, High Priestess of the Clan of Candace, come to the Tamale Party at Kathy's last night.  She had all the news for me from the Roc Day celebration in Ithaca, that mythical land west of here I have heard of but never been to.  Roc Day is the day that Christmas celebrations are over and the spinners go back to work.  Or something like that.  I do not participate, as I pretty much stay close to the farm in the winter.  Commuting back and forth to work in Norwich is quite enough of a dangerous adventure, thank you very much.  I had thought of trying to make it to Roc Day in Ithaca this year, but the chills and fever of the night before - not the flu, thank you Lord - took it out of me, along with the desire to get chores done in time to make it to Kathy's party.  Farmer's are not allowed to be sick but once in a while something has to give.  Candace gave me the poop about how Lisa Merian - Queen of the Sheep and Fiber Art Kingdom of Central New York who lured me north to Nirvana  and my farm - had been delayed by the fog and was bumped out of her vendor spot at the Roc Day celebration.  The evil powers that be - who shall remain nameless because I have my own opinions about them as I was once a booth-neighbor at Fingerlakes and succeeded in having my space moved away from them - told her she could not set up.  They underestimated the power of the shepherd who is drive to create in order to keep her sheep alive.  The intrepid Lisa set up her booth in the parking lot and did a booming business.  There was a giant sucking sound of the carded wool leaving her booth with happy patrons.  Wish I had been there to see it.  You go, Girlie!  I satisfied myself with sinking into Kathy's cushy sofa with other artsy glitterati, a margarita in my hand and listening to the stories of the fibery day where my friends Carol Crayonbox, Libby Llop, John E. Davis and Candace herself partied down. 

Kathy's Studio

Kathy Herold is the founder of the Hamilton Center for the Arts and the head of the Broad Street Gallery in Hamilton.  She is an ardent supporter of the arts in our area and runs programs in her center from ballet to belly dancing to painting to fiber arts.  I wish I had more time to bask in her aura.  With the teaching job, and the farm, and my own artsy world, well, here we are.   I was lucky to take a peek at Kathy's private studio at the Tamale Party she hosted last night.  The color is very inspiring - even more so in the middle of an upstate New York winter.  The paints on Kathy's shelf were manufactured locally in New Berlin at Golden Artist Colors.  I still intend to paint roosters someday when I can get around to it.  So many ideas, so little time.

Arty Tamale Party

We drove to the far side of Hamilton in fog so thick we could hardly go faster than 10-20 mph, slowing to an almost stop when the yellow line faded in places.  It was well worth the trip.  Kathy Herold's classic Victorian house was a colorful oasis in the bleakness.   The table was bowing under the weight of several varieties of tamales along with dips, chips and fresh fruit.  I adore Kathy's house.  It's filled with antiques, cushy sofas covered with pillows, and lovely plants including blooming amarylis and Ficus Benjamina trees.  The walls are covered with every variety of paintings, fiber art and photography.  It was wonderful to be reunited with Hamilton Farmer's Market friends and the High Priestess of the Clan of Candace herself.  I met a musician, Raina, of the group Cove Creek, who I've heard sing at the market many times but rarely spoke to personally.  She happens to run the greenhouse at Colgate University.  I got some good info about how to arrange artsy trips for my students.  There is so much at Colgate I can take advantage of.  We spent the evening gorging on delicious healthy food while chatting and playing pool.  I befriended Steve Nyland, an artist from Syracuse whose paintings I want to introduce my students to.  Kathy's dogs, Joe and Max, two brown Labs, ran races around the living room in front of me for a good part of the night.  I got a complete dog fix from those boys.  I was reminded of my beautiful center hall colonial in New Jersey with the 12 x 24 living room, and the parties I had ions ago, before my lifestyle became so "alternative" and rather primitive.  I vowed to get a party room built in the hay mow so I can host my own artsy parties in the future.  Yes, fantasies are free, aren't they?  Today Matt is in the right frame of mind to work on the electric service here.  I'm so relieved.  I'm tired of sleeping with my underwear on and shoes/clothes next to me in case I have to get the animals out real fast.  I keep the barn doors open all the time, but who knows if the darlings would have enough sense to run out in the event of fire?  Enough of the reality check - my mind is still back at the lovely party last night.  I didn't want to leave.  Friends drifted out and the young beautiful ones retreated upstairs to their private parties in the many rooms available to them.  Some of the old crusty hippies, including us, played  pool in Kathy's garage turned Bohemian/Mexican game room. Candace Cain dominated the green and put the boys in their places.   When the game was over I gave in and we journeyed home in more pea soup fog.  Familiar twists and turns helped us navigate past Colgate, then this farm, that farm, route 12, Crumb Road, Endless Trails, Barb Taylor's Tack and Field, Giles Road, then Stanbro Road where I drove off the road into a culvert in the same kind of fog, then Academy Road, past the cows and 40 year old mare and her daughter, then my hillside and my farm.  The doggies were ecstatic to see us as we seldom go out at night.  There is something very comforting about a mid-winter party in a house with riotus happy color at every turn, a cushy rocking chair, a fluffy margarita and good friends.  I came home wanting to paint with my students and take them on stimulating educational trips.  Have to call Raina at Colgate tomorrow.  So many ideas, so little time.

Sunday Morning Musings

A dichotomy...CNN shows a picture of a marvelous miracle - a ten foot squid - discovered two thousand feet down off the coast of Japan - something rarely seen if ever.  They cut to a fishing boat off the coast of California, where fisherman are capitalizing on a run of squid in a krill-rich environment.  They are yanking them out of the sea, with the squid squirting ink and fighting to protect themselves from the predator.  No wonder the sight of a ten foot long squid is so rare.  Humankind is so ridiculously selfish and ignorant.   I remember sitting on the dock at my mother's family cabin on Lake Sinclair in central Georgia.  Uncle Fred was piercing the foot of a live frog with a fishing hook to use it for bait.  I asked him why he was doing that.  He replied that God gave men the earth to use for their own satisfaction.  I could never quite reconcile this.  I prefer the Native American philosophy of coexistence, of the Earth as a Mother, nurturing the resources instead of depleting them.  That theme is echoed in Judaism and other religions.  How did Christians get it wrong?    On deck for around the farm.  So much gets away from me during the week.  It seems like getting myself to school, coming back, getting dinner together, then getting dinner for countless animals, then making sure I get myself to bed in time to read to get enough rest, is quite enough for one day.  I have to step it up real soon and do more at night.  Shearing time will be here soon and I still haven't sorted the pile from last shearing.  The list goes on and on and it's all up to me.  Nobody is telling me what I have to do or how to do it.  It's all up to me.  I spoke with Mia yesterday.  She sounded happy and that means a lot to me.  Father Aaron is working with his soldiers at Fort Irwin in the California desert.  Eric should be back from a convention in Las Vegas, where he spent some time with his brother the priest.  Yes, God is even in Las Vegas, where He is very much needed.  The sun is coming out on this ridiculously warm day.  The snow is melting and the mud is back.  Oh, God, what is happening to our Earth?  Have we done so much wrong to it that we have ruined everything for ourselves?  Will you forgive us?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Hello there...

This little hen thinks Zack's hay feeder is a nice place to lay an egg.  She won't like it when a big bunch of hay is shoved in there.  Zack is amused.  He lives in the back pen with Jon-Jon, my angora buck and another wether.  The silo room is a cozy dry place where the boys can get out of the wind and weather.  The window into the barn makes a convenient place to pass hay through to them.  Zack is a purebred Border Leicester ram who came home with me from Maryland Sheep and Wool two years ago.  Sadly, he is not getting too much of a work out as I am not breeding this year.  I have five  fall lambs from Zack and that will be plenty.  Zack has the best disposition of any sheep I've ever had.  He's more like a dog than a sheep. Zack has a very thick, dense fleece and a large boxy frame.  I think he's very handsome.

Fork It Over

The big metal dairy water tank given to me by my neighbor and dragged through the snow drifts is now in daily use.  The sheep love it.  I love being able to fork large amounts of hay down from the mow without having to climb down the ladder and mash it down, repeating the process a few times.  It has some drawbacks, like the enterprising goats and small sheep who get on top and munch from above the frey.  I found goats sleeping in the tank this morning.  At least I know they won't get their feet caught in the cattle panel hay feeders.  That horrific scene has met me twice and it's one you won't forget.  I dream about the Premier custom feeders that are V shaped with a table underneath to catch the droppings.  They require the purchase of materials and a talented handyperson to put them together.  Maybe someday....but in the meantime here we are.  Some of the round bales fall apart so nicely.  Others require much work with pulling and tearing.  The sheep are fat and happy and that is very, very nice.

Weather the Party

Last night we celebrated Twelfth Night with the annual NY State Weatherization Directors Assn. Holiday Party.  The company was good and the artichoke/spinach dip was fabulous.  The cocktail hour in the bar was filled with good conversation and I reconnected with a couple of spouses I had not seen since the previous year.  By the time we were called into the tables my head was swimming with White Russians (why did I have two?) and a tummy full of artichokes and garlic.  I could have used a sofa to lie down on.  I don't do well at banquets where I am trapped in one seat for hours.  I much prefer parties in people's houses where I can wander around, check out what is on their book shelves, find the corner of a sofa and take out my knitting.  Yes, I am not the life of the party type.  Too many years with only sheep and dogs for company I guess.  The chatty charmer seated next to me kept me entertained for a while with talk of his former profession of dairy equipment sales but even he ran out of steam after time.  I shouldn't tell people that I am a special education teacher because they invariably have a child with special needs and are having a tough time with their district getting the kid what he needs.  Happened again at our table last night.  Finally the meal came and perked me up a bit.  After plates were being taken away and little packages returned to be brought home, I motioned to Matt please let's go home and get the chores done.  He shook his head no as the Boss had not yet delivered his holiday presentation of a long poem about the workers and their accomplishments.  I confess it was pretty entertaining.   Secret Santa gifts were exchanged - the worker who was to bring Matt's forgot his, but I brought his wife a big bag of soap and creme as she just had another baby and I like her a lot.  I wanted to bring soap to the secretary but Matt told me not to as she complained to him that her boyfriend got my soap in his eyes and it stung so badly he wouldn't touch it again.  Excuse me, doesn't all soap sting when you get it in your eyes?  Whatever....I apologized to her about the soap, thinking there has to be more about it than what Matt reported, and she said "it must have been the lye."  I thought I might explain to her that ALL soap is made with lye, as the chemical change from oils to soap cannot happen without lye, and that the lye is gone after a period of three days, etc., but then I thought why bother?   She seemed happy with the hand creme.  Home to the farm, cool fresh air, and my own sofa and dogs.  What a relief.  Still woozy today with much ankle pain.  I wonder if that ER doctor in Hamilton read the ex-ray correctly.  Sure feels broken, or maybe I'm doing too much on a sprained ankle.  Tell that to the sheep.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A Wintery Saturday on the Farm

Friday night is the best for me.  A long week is finished and I have the whole weekend to look forward to.   There is no Saturday farmer's market for me now as I opted out of the indoor winter opportunities.  I have a long commute in bad weather to school and didn't want to worry about driving on the weekend pulling a trailer....not to mention loading up on a Friday night, sliding around on the ice.  No thanks.  I spend the winter months taking care of my animals, spinning wool, knitting, sorting and dyeing fleeces and catching a bit of TV.  Winter chores are always more challenging, with icy hoses, moving bales and forking out hay.   We heat primarily with wood which takes a massive amount of time and energy splitting, toting, stacking and stoking the Beast who is never satisfied.   Luckily Loren was available today to help unload the 100 pound sacks of cracked corn and egg layer.  He's helping me get wood out from under the drifts and bringing it inside to stack under the bunny cages in the barn.  Loren helped me roll a round bale out from the row so I can fork hay down the hole to the new water tank/feeder.  As expected, the little goatlings are jumping in the tank and pooping in the hay.  They can't help themselves. If they are inside the tank the big sheep can't push them away from the food.  Smart little goaties!  I will have to to tip the tank once in a while to get the muck out.  Don't get me wrong, this is a good life.  It keeps you moving and outside in the fresh air.  There is only so much time to sit on your sofa.  I feel much better than I did when I was younger, despite fractures, sprains and pulls.   I never feel caught up and I'm frankly overwhelmed at times with hooves, shots, shearing and fleece sorting, but the animals are so darling and my barn is so beautiful.  I still gasp when I drive over the hill from the village and behold the magnificence of it, nestled under the long piney ridge at the bottom of the sloping hillside.  I drove 15 or 20 miles to the feed mill, through Brookfield and the state forest, to the feed mill in Waterville this morning.  What a beautiful winter wonderland - rolling white fields and towering pines with boughs heavy with snow.  I only passed one car coming the other way going, and no cars at all coming back.   That's life in Upstate New York.

Thursday, January 03, 2013


The new principal has decided I should be a full time art teacher.  He saw me teaching a ninth grade boy how to sew a Christmas stocking on a sewing machine and was very impressed.  I turned around to see that he had brought the director to see what we were doing.  That combined with the holiday murals and art I've been pasting all over the walls was what pushed him, or me, over the edge.  I have mixed feelings because I was teaching kids how to pass the GED exam downstairs in the AM and teaching art in the PM.  I'm so attached to Robin, my AM aide, and will not be working with her at all now.  Teaching art is a joyful experience where GED can be heartbreaking when a student of mine does not pass the state exam despite both our efforts.  I'm worried about an art budget as money is real tight in schools right now.  I tend to spend my own money on fabric, thread, etc., and will do it even more so now that I can bring all my crap in without worrying about the nerdy morning teacher going balistic.  Now I can bring in a loom, a spinning wheel, and go crazy.  A little story about years ago when I was teaching knitting and quilting in an upscale summer school in Morristown, New Jersey.  I had a dozen or so incredibly talented and industrious kids.  Most of them were Asians who are hell-bent on working like demons on whatever I told them to do.  It was a fantastic experience.   We had a double classroom and it was wild with fabric everywhere in piles on tables and the floor.  Sometime the girls would lie down on the quilts they made and take a rest, or giggle, or each snacks.   The place was bedlam.  One day I turned around to see the Superintendent of the school district with the principal of the summer school standing in the door with guests they were taking around the place.  Their mouths were open in slack jawed amazement.  I was horrified.  They moved on to the next room.    Very soon after there were more guests in the door of my room.  I realized that my busy, chaotic art room was the picture of industry and creativity, unlike the quiet and calm rooms where they were teaching chess, foreign languages or reading novels.   The powers that be gave me an unlimited budget for fabric and yarn.  Those were Red Dot yarn days, pre-sheep.  The new principal wants me to take my art classes to the farm for a sheep experience.  I will be happy to comply.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Home Again

Back from first day at work in the New Year of 2013.  I confess it was good to see some of the wild bunch in GED class and there were hugs all around.     Must be the fried egg sandwiches I make them every day.   I really like my co-workers.  Poor little Fawn, my studio art aide, is out with the flu.   I have a dynamite substitute, Kathy Reediger, who is also an exercise guru who teaches classes for office workers at the city building in Norwich.  We are trying to get her to lead a class for us after school a couple of days a week.  Robin, my GED aide, is as bouncy and tough as ever.  Her husband has worked at the same factory where Chobani now makes yogurt for 25 years.  Chobani took them to London for the Olympics and treated them to a trip to Paris.   I have some very challenging students, then I have others I just want to bring home with me.  It all balances out.  The toughest part is leaving the farm then coming home on 25 miles of snow covered icy roads in driving snow.   15 of those miles is through twist and turns with  deep ravines on either side in a cell phone dead zone.  I have extra heavy coats, Kimmie Cornerstone's fluffy thrums mittens and Diet Pepsi, just in case.  I picked up lots of Friskies Salmon Kitty Pate at the Dollar General where the cans are almost half the price of other places, along with some smoked kipper snacks for myself.  My father used to give me kipper snacks when I was growing up.  It's a Scandi thing.   Oh, those dogs and cats were happy to see me tonight.  Only damage I could find was a torn up oatmeal container.  I'm suiting up to go out to the barn now.  I hate it when it's soooo cold out there.  Going down below zero tonight I think.   Will put on two big pots of wool to simmer all night in the milk room so the water pipes don't freeze.   Toasty warm in here but frigid out there.  Lots of hay for the sheep and goats which makes them warmer.  Hay combusts inside them creating more warmth than feed does.   Found  pot of chili in the freezer for dinner.  Love chili this time of year.    Will cook up a big pot of sticky rice, which I will feed to the dogs and cats later mixed with eggs and milk.   Having electrical problems in the barn.  Circuit breakers popping all the time.  Matt Redmond needs to change the electric service before something terrible happens.  All it takes is lots of money and lots of time  - two things that are hard to come by.  What we have are lots of happy critters, a big strong funky barn, and beautiful land, here in Paradise, Great North Land, New York State, USA.

Reality Check

I hear the moans and groans of teachers and students all over the country this morning.  I have to stop and pick up bread and milk for my kids.  Very, very cold and dark here making my departure from the farm even more difficult.  It feels like I'm leaving a giant day care center unattended.    The sheep have lots of hay, especially now that my wonderful neighbor Christopher Kupris has gifted me with a ten foot long large metal watering tank that I filled with hay last night.  It took quite the Herculean effort to drag/push it through high snow drifts and hoist it over two fences.  The behemoth is now placed in the east end of the barn under a hole in the wall of the hay mow.  I can stand upstairs and fork hay into the tank from there.  You should have seen the sheep standing in a row watching this happening for the first time.  They quickly bought into it and started munching.  We calculated the hay will last to the end of March.  Ten more weeks of hay must be found to make it through.  My Brookfield friend Sandy McGuire turned me on to a couple of local hay sources.  Have to call them now or they might be out by end of March.  Yes, I'll say it again.  Hay is life.  And so is work.  And I better hit the tub then say good bye to my little friends and tell them I'm doing this for them.  They will nod their heads back and forth and wag their tails.  I hope they understand.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Corn Fritters

Spent some time forking loose hay that fell off the round bales in the upper mow.  So much fun to throw it down to the sheep and hear them munching.  The gang loves this hay.  Feeding them made me wonder what I would feed the spousal unit for lunch.   He doesn't like breakfast but with nothing in his belly all morning lunch becomes an urgent matter.  With all the snow and not commuting to town for work over the last week I have not done any food shopping.  The larder is empty except for a few cans of corn and black beans.  I thought I would try some corn fritters with a little creativity.    I threw this and that in the bowl, fried up the fritters, put the plate in front of him and waited.  Not a sound, not a hmmmmm or a grunt.  I finally had to ask.  He says they are pretty good.   I think they are pretty good too.  Here is what I did:

Two cans of sweet kernel corn.
Half cup of flour'
Half cup of Italian bread crumbs
Large tablespoon of mayonaisse
Two large brown eggs
A dribble of honey
Teaspoon of salt
Teaspoon of veggie pepper
Tablespoon of All-Purpose Seasoning (from Enchanted Pantry spices)
Pinch of lemon curry
One medium onion
Tablespoon of butter

Dice the onion and saute in butter, pour into bowl.  Mix all ingredients together.  Melt more butter in the non-stick pan and drop fritters in using a serving spoon.   Fry under golden brown, flip and do the same.  Serve with maple syrup if desired.  

Day One

Lingering in the morning is oh, so nice.  I \woke up with very cold feet, the covers likely pulled off by a dog, Reba I think.  Getting out of bed means disturbing at least a couple of creatures,  meaning Izzy and Reba for sure.  I am the one responsible for keeping the fire going.  Matt pays for the wood but I do the rest.  It's a big job, especially with my stove that burns wood so fast it needs a continuous feed.  Letting it go out means newspaper, kindling and some kind of fire starter.  I'm always relieved when I find warm coals under the ashes which makes it much easier.  First fire, then coffee, then the bathroom kitties, then the doggies out.  I kept Tanner on the leash this morning so she doesn't take off with Bertha, my great big puppy who resembles a mini Saint Bernard.  I looked up the hill and saw Bertha bounding through the snow, following Finn.  Such a cute scene.  She loves Finn, but everyone does.  Knut gives Bertha a nip to remind her of her lowliness on the doggie pecking order ladder.  Thor tolerates her barely.  Finn loves every animal on the farm, even still when he walks through the barn the sheep stampede away on either side of him.  Walking in the snow kills my ankle.  A farmer with a bum ankle, or leg, or knee...well you might as well shoot me.  I just can't be still for long.  I put the cast back on to help.  I'm climbing ladders now, trying to use my toes on the rungs.  I love being up in the mow with my Hay Mow Kitty friends and the big round bales under the massive cathedral ceiling.   Matt mentioned something about building hay feeders with the Premier plans that will be put in the far end of the barn so I can throw hay out the back into the extension on the east end.  I've been waiting for over ten years for him to build hay feeders so I will reserve comment.  I finally hired Loren to build the ones I'm using now, but they are breaking down with wear.  Matt is hooking up my washer and installing the new slop sink so I can get to washing wool.  There is a massive amount to send to the carder.  Two pots simmering on the dye stove in the milk room keep my water pipes from freezing in there, so it behooves me to get started on the wool.  Temps are diving below zero this week.  If I'm lucky he'll get my new Bosch dishwasher connected today too.  Good way to start off the new year.  I use way too much hot water washing dishes by hand.  Funny, with such a mild fall it seems like winter will be shorter this year.  When April first rolls around I feel like we are out of the woods, even though the grass won't be ready for grazing until the end of May.  That's when we party.  We also go to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in May.  I'm hoping that Annie and Hannah come to Maryland too.  Hannah loves the fiber art scene, lucky for me.  She's as talented as her mommie and with time and practice she'll have her own booth at the sheep shows.