Thursday, February 28, 2013


Have been picking, washing, cooking, washing again and setting out to dry fleece after fleece of my lovely Bluefaced Leicester wool.   I've just about gotten through all the white fleeces.  Ran out of Jacquard dyes tonight.  They are very expensive and take a week to get them from Dharma in California.  I think I can finish the three - four runs I have planned with some Rit purple.   It's not Jacquard but it's local.   Have to get the wool out to the mill next week in order to get it back for Maryland Sheep and Wool.   Haven't even started my farm taxes due March 17.  I need to clone myself.  Stayed out in the barn until 10:30 pulling bags of fleeces out of the piles.  Have to get an Amish carpenter in here to build some shelves with doors for my wool.  I loose some every year due to not being stored properly.   Spouse is a carpenter who does not want to carpent any longer.  Says he is interested in other things.  Just my luck.   Note to self - don't feed spouse his fabulous evening meal until chores are done.   I was up in the mow trying to roll a round bale over to the hole and could not budge it.  Called him on the phone but he didn't pick up.  Probably didn't hear it due to the fact that he was snoring loudly on the sofa.  A weird scenario went through my mind.  I fall down the hay hole and am lying on my back, stunned.  I reach for my cell in the Cradle of Civilization and call inside.  No answer.  He's holding down the couch.   When I realize I can't move my legs I call 911.  The local rescue people find me in the barn, and spouse comes staggering out, yawning and stretching.   OH, well.  Treated myself to Cheerios and milk, with a banana even.  The sheep didn't get enough hay tonight due to the fact that I couldn't get the bale rolled and tipped, which makes unraveling so much easier.  Will have to wait until morning.  I have three more weeks worth.  I have to call Julia and make sure she knows we want her cutting and baling services this spring.  It's right around the corner.   I noticed someone picking up the wet, moldy bales across the road.  Can't believe what some people feed their cows around here.  If you saw the hay the poor animals are forced to eat you wouldn't drink the milk.  It's a sad life for cows and as long as people like me enjoy milk so much it will continue.  We drank a whole gallon this past weekend - two people.  Ghastly.  Wish I could quit that habit but soy just doesn't make it.  Was hoping I would be drinking goat milk but Fancy and Matilda didn't like my angora goat bucks.  Will have to find a Nubian boy friend for them.  Enough prattling I have to bed down.  Sure hope my aide comes back to school tomorrow.  I was hopping around like a jack rabbit  today.  Took me almost an hour to wash all the brushes, scrape the paint back into the bottles and scrub the tables.  A colleague was 50 years old today, and my student shared the birthday as well.  Made them a big carrot cake with cream cheese icing.  They were both thrilled and loved the soap I gave them.  My student was so proud of the two bars wrapped in red ribbon and couldn't wait to show his mother.  Gave me warm fuzzies.  Much Special Ed. paperwork to do.   I'm like butter spread too thin over toast.  

Young Teacher

I came across these old pictures today, taken in 1993 when I was teaching knitting and quilting in summer school for the Morris School District.  Even though I started teaching late, I think I was more of a kid then than some of my students.   I wonder where they are now.  Some must have kids of their own.  Some might have died tragically.  I probably will never know having moved out of the area.  Maybe that's a blessing because I can ignore the fact that if they are grown up then I must be pretty old.   Fortunately my art classes are letting me have some fun again.  If I'm having fun the kids feel more like having fun.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Am I hoping for an early spring?  I seem to be dyeing a LOT of green wool.  The greens will be blended with other colors as yet to be determined.  The Fiber Factory is in full swing, with Maggie spending most nights picking apart the luscious locks so the soap and water, then dyes, will do their work.   Annie gave me a wonderful LL Bean hammock which I spread the wet wool out on to dry.  It's tied up nice and high making it easy for me to work on the wool and out of the reach of the kitties.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fiber Kitties

When I spread my luscious Bluefaced Leicester wool, or exquisitely luxurious angora rabbit fiber, out to dry the temptation for the kitties to lie down in it is too much for them to resist.  They look so beautiful in the magenta and deep salmon fiber it's hard for me to shoo them away.  Maybe their body heat will help dry the wetness.  The fiber I dry in the apartment dries much more quickly due to the intense dry heat of the wood stove.  I have to pack it all up when I go to work in the morning and put it out again when I get home. I can't risk the dogs or cat jumping up and kicking it on the floor.  Every hair is precious and vital to the well-being of my farm.  I have several black fleeces I will take to see in Maryland in May.  All the black fleeces I took to Rhinebeck sold there.  I have enough carded fiber to last another ten years.  You never know when you might need hats, mittens, scarves, sweaters or socks.  Never enough socks...

Kiddie Art

We made Bartholomew Cubbins hats in art today.  Fawn and I are working with several elementary and middle school classes in addition to our normal load.  I can tell you this is a big challenge and I am sorely pressed to come up with artsy things that little kids with short attention spans like to do.  Luckily they have aides who come with them and are very, very helpful.  Dr. Seuss's birthday is coming up soon.  Annie T. sent me the idea of reading The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and attached a site to learn how to make these nifty hats out of newspaper.  I drove to Hamilton yesterday, 17 miles each way, to pick up the only copy available at the Colgate Univ. Bookstore.   That's okay, as I also picked up the Sunday Times and some Indian take out from my favorite restaurant in Hamilton.  On the way home I stopped to play with Barb Taylor's horses.  What a nice break from picking and washing wool and worrying about my art curriculum.  Our budget is tight and old newspapers are plentiful.  We have lots of paint left over from last year and students love to paint.  I stalked a couple of roosters in the barn this morning and obtained enough tail feathers for the plumes.  There are two very perturbed birds on my farm right now.  I figure it's payback for all the stress they've given me and my cats, not to mention the poor hens. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Drying Debacle

It's that time again - picking, washing, dyeing, washing again and drying all the beautiful fleeces my animals have gifted me with.  I firmly believe I could do a much better job of moving my wool, if I could only stay home and do it, and if I had a partner to help out.  I know, I know, everyone listens to me whine this time of year when I'm gearing up for the new season of sheep shows and farmer's market.   To think I actually had a chance to scoop up Vanessa of Nessland, when she approached me at Rhinebeck two years ago.  What a dynamic fiber artist.  She is now living happily in Colorado, designing and spinning.  I wish her well.  I'm not really set up for a live in apprentice but I do have Hannah's little trailer out there....Anyway, I am hanging up the fabulous LL Bean string hammock Annie presented me with when she picked up the kids.  It will make a great drying rack if I can keep the cats off it.  My drying table in the tiny "guest" room is piled high with a mountain of fabric Matt made me move off the kitchen table when Eric and Annie were coming.  I look at that pile as a beautiful representation of all the hay and fencing I will be able to buy when I turn it into Bundaflicka Knitting Totes and Yarn Pockets, but spouse can't make that stretch.  The kitchen table is now being used for cutting out totes while the wool is on the table I was supposed use for cutting out in my work room in progress.  This shifting around of materials is very frustrating.   With all the moves I've made in the search for peace in my life, and the limited space I have available for me to "create," it's amazing I'm able to do as much as I can.  Flash back to the sewing machine in the middle of the dark hay mow....I brought home  my beautiful little old Singer which had the table ripped off when a student decided to sit on it.  It is now in the middle of my little apartment, plugged in and working without a table to rest the fabric on while I sew.  I'm not willing to share her any longer.  The search continues for more donation machines to use with students, but they always come with "issues" which is why the people gave them away in the first place.   On deck for me today:  get the hammock hanging so I can rinse and spread out the fiber I picked and cooked yesterday which will free up the machine and stove to wash and dye the fleece I picked last night.  I have to figure out how to pull off the lesson I have in mind for the new class of cute little kids that are coming in to my art room first thing in the morning.  I want to make hats while reading Dr. Seuss's 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, but don't have the book and can't figure out how to search the school library on line.  I'm hoping my talented art aide, Fawn, is rolling some ideas around in her head right now.  That girl is so clever and much more tekkie than I am.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The News

I like the news.  Kate shows her bump, if you could call that a bump.  I loved my bumps, especially when my bump turned into a double bump.  Women didn't show their bumps 30 years ago, and nobody was interested in taking a picture of my bump.  A bump story....when father of double bump and I went to a  Jewish hotel in the Catskills for a Hadassah Convention, a photographer was taking pictures of couples walking in to the dining room.  We paused and he snapped.  Later on the photos were waiting at a table in the lobby for people to purchase.  I said, let's buy our picture.  He said, and I'm serious, why would you want a picture of yourself when you're pregnant?  I guess that's why I don't have any pictures of my beautiful naked belly full of twins.   And I also guess that's one of the many reasons why I am no longer in that partnership.  There we are.  For the here and now.  Oh, the news.  The Oscar and Reeva tragedy is taking a good deal of air time up on the telly.  Fascinating - love, sex and violence.  How sad.  That lovely, intelligent girl is gunned down by her IDIOT boyfriend.  I almost hope he was drunk, because that might account for him being such a stupid jerk.  Shooting at a noise through the door when you haven't even checked where the other person in the apartment is.  I hope she wasn't sitting on the throne.  I don't think he murdered her - I think he was too dumb to check where the person was before he opened up on a perceived threat.  Joe Biden tells the American public they don't need AR-15 assault rifles.  He says they need double barrel shot guns.  Okay, Joe.  Our President calls up Tiger Woods for a golf date.  Sorry - I think that's a bad move.  Why BHO wants to hob-nob with a philandering, lying  as*&^%le is unbecoming a Commander-In-Chief.  Not a good move.  The sequestration threatens to cut jobs and day care, and he's playing golf with Tiger Woods.  A poor girl gets thrown into a water tower on top of a hotel in San Francisco.  Now that's a good topic for a murder mystery.  Life on the farm is much more predictable.  I have my own problems to solve, like how I'm going to get all this wool picked, washed and dyed, and DRIED, so I can get it out to the mill.  John, my personal carder for years, read me the riot act last year and told me he had to have all my wool at least three weeks before Maryland Sheep and Wool or he would not do it.  No more last minute rush orders.  Gee, John, I thought I was your best customer.  Anyway, I'll do what I can.  Every lock from a mountain of fleeces must be pulled apart, allowing every bit of hay, burdock and manure to fall out.  I like to do it in front of the TV but that is a signal for new dog, Cooper, to sneak bit of wool away to chew on when I'm not looking.  He will learn what the other dogs know, that the wool keeps our farm going and Mommy must do her work.  I love when the big balls of beautiful and colorful soft wool comes home from the mill.  All the wool I don't sell at Maryland will come to the Bouckville show in June and the Hamilton Farmer's Market over the summer.  I have a pinkish red "Lipstick" run going, and a turquoise/salmon/brown/gold run.  I never know exactly how it's going to come out, but John works his magic with my fiber and it's always wonderful.  Better get to doing chores and picking more wool.  Day's a wasting.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Back To School

I was very disappointed at having to go back to school on Thursday and Friday of what should have been our vacation week.  Hannah and Luke would have been able to stay all week if I didn't have work.  I was somewhat perked up by the beautiful art we are doing in my classes.  We did an elephant tutorial on-line, which works very well with our students.  Look what one of our young ladies did with watercolors.  We are creating a "Water for Elephants" mural in the hall, with a herd of elephants drinking out of a pond.  It's coming along very nicely. 

Where Are the Kids?

The dogs miss Hannah and Luke.  It's kind of boring around the farm with just us to play with.  I tell them the kids will be back but I don't know when.  The doggies just look at me, then look out the window some more, then go to sleep.


Perdita came to visit the farm.  She is Eric and Annie's 16 year old Chihuahua, rescued from the streets of Louisville, Kentucky when the family lived there many years ago.  Perdita is quite the feisty girl and didn't mind being put into the wild pack of Maggie's Farm dogs overnight.  Nobody messes with Perdita.  Every time I see her I'm afraid it will be the last but I'm always pleasantly surprised with another meeting.

Luke and the Sheep

Luke loves the farm and working with the animals.  He was such good company in the barn.  Poor Hannah was plagued with allergies, probably to the hay, and stayed inside to spin wool while we were doing chores.  Luke gave the old girls their nightly apple slices. 


Eric asked if I still had his VMI uniform  jacket and yes, I was able to produce it, unharmed by all the years of moving and storage.  I even had the shako top hat to go with it.  Eric was curious if it still fit.  He almost got it closed....When Eric went to VMI in Lexington, Virginia, he was a slim young man.   Hannah is thinking about applying to VMI.  Eric says she can wear his jacket if she decides to join the Corps of Cadets.  I personally think Hannah will chose somewhere else.  Time will tell.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wool is Good

The kiddies are gone, packed up and on the road by ten.  I made them a big dinner last night, which I know Annie appreciated having been on the road from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, pulling a sailboat, all day long.  We bedded down after chores and popcorn.  Up early to a blustery and very cold day.  Picked up all the cute little hand knit socks from under the sofa cushions and gathered all the toys.  Annie got a supply of Shepherd's Friend after donating her jar to her mom in Maryland.  Hannah took three pounds of Mother Fiber roving with her to spin at home in Maine.  I told her to spin as much as she can to put out in my booth at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  She's a dynamite spinner and makes beautiful finger weight yarn.  I hate seeing them go.  I know Maine is closer than Dallas, but it's still seven hours away, a day's drive. If it was up to me we would all live on the same block.    I am diving into my wool, as it is amazingly restorative and grounding.  My wool gives me industry and purpose, and surrounds me when I'm lonely and out of sorts.  Bluefaced Leicester fleeces are full of character, with long curly tendrils which are often black due to the large amounts of lanolin in them.   Some sheep fleeces are prettier in the bag, like Romney, which is so attractive with the lock structure, shine and uniform length, coming off the sheep in one piece.  However, they may not be as nice after washing.  Bluefaced Leicester looks like chaos when it comes off the sheep, falling off like so many squiggly worms...but when it is washed, BFL is pure heaven, with lightness and crimp unlike any other wool.  I sit on the sofa, surrounded by my doggies, and pick through the fleeces, taking out any burdock or tags.  Short belly wool or gnarly neck bits go in the boxes of wool for the kitties to nestle in to get out of the cold. They will need it today as the cold wind is shaking the barn.  I'm thankful Sisters Bernadette and Grace did a good job nailing on the metal sheets when they were young girls, before they were recruited by the visiting Franciscans nuns who came to their Sunday School.   I sure will miss my little helpers in the barn tonight.    So glad we got in one more sledding down the hill, and one more snowball fight last night before their mom came to claim them.  Back to my wool.  Wool is good.

The Wool to Live

I pulled two lovely BFL fleeces out of the pile last night for me to dive into when Annie pulls away with Hannah and Luke.  Sheep are a great way to absorb any time and energy that might be spent feeling sorry for one's self.  I would have Hannah and Luke here for the rest of the week if my school district had not decided to cut our vacation in half and make us return tomorrow.  Curses.  We have not had a single day of school cancelled due to snow.  One would think they could give us a break.  No deal.  The Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival site is up, which is a signal to get it in high gear.  This is my chance to move my wool.  It moves better when it is dyed and carded so here we go.  Places to dry wet wool in the winter time are hard to come by.  I use a table in the "spare" room where I can close the door and turn on the baseboard heater.  Right now this little room is piled high with fabric and carded fiber already.  There is only so much space in a 1,200 square foot apartment.  I have other things to worry about like getting taxes together, shoot me now, and the bureaucratic demands of a teaching job that have nothing to do with teaching.  Let's not go there.   Okay?   I still have a few hours of vacation left.  I'm going to finish the last few pages of Sheepish today, which is getting better and better with each chapter.  Have to find Catherine Friend's previous book, Hit By A Farm, which i should have read first.  She started Sheepish being wary of fanatical fiber freaks and evelved into quite the fiber artist herself and a crusader for wool.   I was hoping to get another snow ball fight and sledding runs in before Hannah and Luke leave but maybe not.  Eric is very much missing his little family and needs them home.  Hannah is having a rough time with hay allergies and is piling up the tissues.   Luke is such good company in the barn with his gung-ho let's get to work attitude.  What a sweetie.  I know he will be back, but Hannah is a young lady now and will be working at the Boy Scout Camp Hinds in Maine this summer.  Where did the years go?  I'll snuggle with Izzy, who likes to keep me company when I sew, and play with wool.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I'm reading two books simultaneously, both are about sheep farming and both are fantastic.  One is so beautifully written and makes me cry about every other page, it's so poignant and personal to me at this stage of my life.  Ann Mohin wrote The Farm She Was, while living on her own sheep farm not far from here.  She has since sold her farm for a lot of money and moved away, but stays in local Hamilton during the summer.   The other  is funny and entertaining - Sheepish by Catherine Friend.  Sheepish was preceeded by Hit By A Farm, which I have not read but plan to now that I know who well the author writes about sheep farming.   I don't have a lot of time to read, and tend to devour books quickly so I can get back to work.  I shy away from books about farming ordinarily, as they are often written by people with deep pockets and I become envious of their fine tractors, adequate fencing and nifty farm equipment.  Or they have husbands who love to build hay feeders in their spare time, or fix the chicken room door so the birds are contained where they are supposed to be.   I prefer books about farmers who are scraping by and suffering along, experiencing one tragedy after another, avoidable or otherwise.  I wonder why I prefer those books?   Sheepish is okay.   Her focus is on raising sheep for meat, which I do not do,  and halfway through the book she has not mentioned what kind of sheep she raises.  Not once.  Funny how, to some people, wool is wool and there is only one kind of sheep - a wooly one.  Our local feed store is selling local yarn without naming the breed of sheep the wool comes from.  Feels like a meat breed wool, and that might account for the lack of labelling.   That is ridiculously foreign to me, a spinner, and I mentioned to the proprietor of the feed store that the yarn should be labeled as various sheep produce wool with different qualities that are unique to the finished product.  She stared back and listened politely but did not relate.  I could see it in her eyes.  I'm only half way through Sheepish.  Maybe Ms. Friend will surprise me.  I have another sheep book or two waiting for me.  I pretty much dwell in sheep isolation for much of the year, certainly at work - sometimes I think I'm back in New Jersey as far as that's concerned - so I thought I would make contact through some books.  With Maryland Sheep and Wool looming large - the pinnacle of the sheep year - my life will be crazy for the next eight weeks.  So be it.  A page or two every now and then will be a real treat.  I'll finish Sheepish tonight and tomorrow as it's back to work on Thursday.  Don't ask - not a single snow day this year and we have to report for duty the end of this week.  Figures.


Not a sound but for the roaring of the wood stove, my little old calico kitty with the bad lungs breathing heavily, and the tapping of the keys on this tiny little machine that won't even download pictures.  No morning news show on TV, no sound of my clogs rushing around the apartment getting ready for work - after morning chores that is.  I love vacation.  We can almost never leave the farm to travel so vacation means not going to our jobs off the farm.  There are benefits to a working job, but right now I'm basking in the benefits of staying home with my grandchildren on a winter's day.   It's not as cold today but Luke and I built the wood stove up anyway.  It just seems like the right thing to do, to make the heart of the apartment start beating again.   I've experimented with putting pots of simmering pot pourri on top of the stove in years past, but with my fire breathing dragon of a stove the pots boil down quickly and I'm left with a crusty pot that takes years of soaking to clean.  Hannah and Luke are on the sofas reading from their little machines.  Baby Boomer that I am, all these machines are a drag on my techno-phobic brain and I lump them into one category - machines.  You would think that as a teacher I would be able to call them all by their proper names but I spend most of my time snarling "put that thing AWAY" and don't learn what brand they are.   Luke and Hannah are trying to teach me how to use my smart phone but it's not going well.  I only use it at sheep shows anyway.  Last night we watched a lot of TV, with my Downton Abbey - sob - then Bones, then Red Riding Hood, then the Smurf movie.  It was midnight before we turned off the box and all the lights and shut it down.  I attempted to sleep in the marital bed with spouse and various dogs, but the desperate growling and snarling next to me (snoring from human, not dogs)  was a little unsettling.  Reba, who had turned in earlier with Matt, was catty-cornered over my side and would not be moved.  When did she get so heavy?  When she moved in with us!  I lifted Izzy up onto the high colonial bed, which requires a ladder for me to get in it, and we both teetered a bit before I found a spot to park him in.  Izzy is suffering from arthritis and I forgot to give him his aspirin yesterday.  That error, combined with an afternoon hike to the pond in the severe cold along with chasing sleds, combined to give him fits of pain.  Poor Izzy.  He's my only purebred dog and he seems to be aging fast beyond his seven years.  After getting Izzy situated I attempted to find a spot for myself but only could claim about ten inches on the extreme edge of the mattress which required holding on to the night stand.  My legs could not stretch out and lying them on top of Reba was not comfy for her or me.  Izzy was wincing and making little yelps in his sleep whenever he moved.  I would have managed some sleep if not for the growling and snarling in my ear.  I felt around and sure enough Matt's bulk was planted smack in the middle of the bed.  No wonder I was bereft of space.  If only the loud snoring was rhythmically timed I would have embraced it, but, no, it would hesitate then come back with a vengeance as if he was fighting some perceived enemy in his sleep.  Funny thing about snoring.  My mother snored like a bear, even more than Matt.  I wonder if it's a smoker's thing?  She did shift work at the hospital, and I was always confused about when my mother would be home at night.  I hated when she had to work nights.  When I heard the snoring I knew my mommy was home and I was safe.  After a half hour or so I gave up on the marital bed and retreated to the living room where a lovely pad from Hannah's trailer was propped up against the sofa.  I placed it on the floor and  made a nice bed for myself in front of the wood stove.  I think I got four hours or so, but I don't have to face colleagues and students today - thank you God - so I'll be fine. Annie is coming to collect the kiddies tonight and they'll be on their way tomorrow.  That's when I'm so thankful for all the dogs, cats, sheep and critters that surround me and make me feel so needed and loved and I'm reminded why I have them in the first place.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happiness Is...

Back inside after an hour or so of climbing up the hill, sledding down with wild dogs giving chase and screaming laughter, climbing up and sledding down again.   The sun is shining and the reflection off the snow is blinding.  We were blessed with another snowfall, just a few inches, and the ridiculous wind was kind enough to leave a dusting so we could slide down.  Not even the stumps from the burdock Matt cut down could stop Luke's giant ironclad LL Bean tube.  Eric brought the kids Saturday night, had dinner and left yesterday morning to get back to Maine.  He hit a snowstorm but made it home safely.  Luke made the request so I took the kids to see The Hobbit yesterday which we all enjoyed.  I was afraid I missed it as we stood in line over Christmas vacation and watched as the showing sold out.  Hannah was ready to be disappointed as she "is not a Lord of the Rings fan," but I could see out of the corner of my eye that she was as riveted as Luke and I.  I loved every minute of the almost three hour film and can't wait to see part 2.  Mia was in the play in Middle School where she played one of the heroic dwarves.  Sigh, sniff!  We made our way to Panera where we picked up Hannah's baguettes and Luke's blueberry muffins.   Home for an evening of Killing Lincoln - interesting but rather sobering after a stirring Hobbit performance - and spinning with Hannah on our tandem Robin Wheels.  Woke up to zero temps and  cold stove despite getting up to stoke the stove twice.  I tried sleeping in the same bed with Matt Redmond last night but was scolded all night long for stealing his covers.  So much for late stage romance.   The dogs who couldn't make the jump into the high colonial bed were not happy either.  They whined and cried for me to get up and lift them with Izzy, who I tucked in with me early on, growling and snarling at them from under the covers.  I tried lifting Bertha up on to the bed but couldn't do it.  I found the little stair case and put it beside the bed and told her to figure it out, which she did, making the bed even more crowded and problematic.  I think she was the one stealing the covers.  It was so cold I got up to bring in a couple of front stoop kitties from the boxes of wool I put out for them.  When I got back into bed I thought, oh, no, did Reba slip out the door when I opened it to get the cats?  Another reason to loose sleep.  She was actually in the bed on Matt's side unbeknownst to me.  I think I'll take a little nap after our journey to Frank's Pizza in New Berlin.  If I could freeze this day I would, metaphorically not literally as it is already freezing.  Everybody in the barn seems okay.   Hannah and Luke are so sweet and unspoiled, so easy and undemanding.  They have their little machines to entertain themselves and are never bored.  They do whatever I ask them to do in the barn.  Luke is checking the tops of the round bales for frozen eggs, which we thaw out and eat ourselves.  I figure they've been in the freezer so what's the danger?  I have enough hay to last through March.  Annie will come and pick up the kids on her way back to Maine after visiting her folks in Maryland.  She will be pulling a sailbot with her Pathfinder.  They will put the boat to good use and the Boy Scout Camp in Eric's Pine Tree Council.  Mia is skiiing in Utah with her new beau, a Physician's Assistant at the Jersey City Medical Center.  I'm sure they have a lot to talk about.  Father Aaron will join them for a day or two before he has to  get back to his Army Chaplain duties in Nevada.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

I was about to get in the bath tub when you-know-who came back inside with a present and a little bundle of flowers from Wegman's.  He wrote out a pretty card while I opened the gift.  I love presents.  Who doesn't?  A small card was under the top of the box, which was quite frozen and covered with frost.  I opened the card which read "To Robyn on Valentine's Day - I'll be home soon and I miss you very much."  Something like that.  I said what???  Apparently, my busy spouse had taken advantage of his secretary's large number of gifts and procured one for me from her.  He didn't realize there was a card tucked inside.  Ron is away in North Dakota drilling for natural gas and living in his truck.  Ron is very homesick and sent quite a few tokens of his love home to Robyn.  Okay, whatever, the intentions were good.  I'll enjoy the chocolate covered strawberries when they thaw out, and the card and frozen flowers will look cute on my desk at school.  He climbed ladders and dragged the hose around for me this morning, and that's a big deal.  I might actually get to work on time today - an amazing coup indeed.  Happy Lover's Day everyone.  Remember - Love is patient, love is kind, love is never far behind. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentines Galore

Love is in the air and in my art classes.  We are making Valentines in various forms.  Popsicle sticks and tongue depressors donated by our nurse make lovely Valentine plaques.  Fawn and I are raiding our art closets for every form of craft supply to make Valentines for the little students in our wing.  They invited us to a combination Valentine/100th Day of School party tomorrow.  Fun times!


I hate pills.  I mean, I really hate pills.  My hatred of pills has served me well over the years.  I try to stay healthy so I don't have to take pills.  Lately, due to scolding from Nurse Tanya, my NP, and my daughter, Mia, another NP, I take vitamin pills, calcium pills (I am shrinking) and an aspirin to keep my blood slipping freely through the valves.  I brew a big cup of strong coffee mixed with hot foamy milk, just like Annie taught me to do it.  Homemade cappucino,  Hmmmmm, good, and it sends those nasty pills right where they are supposed to go.  There is one pill I will never take, and that is a happy pill.  They don't work anyway.  I have a few dozen happy pills out in the barn.  I'm headed out to take care of them right now.   It's dark, cold and clammy out there, but there are many smiles for me waiting in the barn.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Late Night

Donated blood at work today.  I used to do it all the time in New Jersey, and was glad to see the Red Cross coming to our school at regular intervals.  I'm thrilled they want my old lady blood.  They kept asking for my birth date and every time I said it I thought they would say no thanks.  Maybe they will find it deficient and kindly discard it later when I don't know about it.  If it was up to me donating blood would be mandatory for all who are qualified.  It's just the right thing to do.  Felt a little woozy afterwards even with tanking up with lots of water.  It's a volume thing, not a sugar thing, even though they offer you all kinds of cookies afterwards.  The technician was fabulous - young bald guy who was so deft and quick I hardly felt a thing.  He found my one good pipe with no problem.  I wanted to tell him some of my phlebotomy technician stories from 35 years ago at Morristown Memorial Hospital, but he was too busy hopping from table to table.  Matt called to say he finally was seen at the urgent care center in Syracuse, after more than three hours waiting.  The nurse took my band aids off and sniffed the mushy finger tips and pronounced no infection.  Gee, I could have done that and saved him all that time.  They did not even bandage the wounds but gave him two plastic devices to protect them from bumping.  He bought his own bandages on the way home.  No visible bloody stumps.  After sitting in the waiting room chairs his back was so tense the old muscle spasms came back and he was a mess.  After dinner he collapsed on the sofa apologizing about not being able to help with chores,  and I fell asleep during the news.   It was tough to get up again but Father Aaron called from Nevada and we chatted a while.  He scolded me about the fact that I was so hard on Matt injuring himself.  Any loss of helping hands on a farm is a big deal.  Didn't make it out to chores until after 8, which put me inside at 10:25.  I love the late night when everyone is taken care of and I'm resigned to the fact that I'm not going to get any more done.  My time is truly my own.  I kick back on the sofa with the doggies, my tea, maybe my spinning wheel, and my movie channels.   The two hour Downton Abbey last night was magnificent.  My favorite episode yet.  I can't say enough good things about that show.  It has so many redeeming qualities.  I love the way everything works out, and when it doesn't, the family makes it work out.  They make good come out of death, destitution and misery.  If only real life was so simple.   I loved giving the old girls their apples tonight. There are five or six old girls who line up for the quarter slices, leaning over the fence as far as they can, flapping their lips with glistening noses and sparkly eyes.  It's wonderful to see them so lively.  I hate when the bag runs out.  At $5 for a 3 pound bag I can only give them one bag a night.  They would eat and eat and eat those apples.   Now that I've gotten them started on this nightly treat I had better not come home without apples.  I have to get another round bale tipped over in the morning, and will need Matt's help.  Much easier to fork the folds off the giant ball if it's not sitting on them.  You'd have to be there to understand.  It's a farm thing.


Sometimes I wonder why I am so diligent about my journal.  I rarely miss more than a few days.  Some thoughts on why I have kept it up for almost 4,000 entries...

When I talk about the farm at work people's eyes quickly glaze over and dart around, as if they are thinking I really don't have time for this. So I don't try any more. I think what I'm doing on the farm is really cool and different, but not everyone thinks so.  I completely understand why they think that way.   If I post my farm activites there have got to be shepherds or wanna- be shepherds who think it's cool like I do.  Somebody is always listening, and their eyes are not glazing over.

I have no family around here and I like my kids to know what's going on here on the farm.  It's like saying hey - your Mom is doing fine.  I'm still here and this is what I'm up to.  Come and visit!

I love social history.  In school I was always more interested in what people do when they throw their legs over the side of the bed than politics and warfare.   I have relatives who did amazing things but there is no record of their thoughts and feelings, that I know of.

I love the elements, as wild and treacherous as they can be.  Tending to the animals in all kinds of weather brings me outside more than I would ordinarily go.  I adore the wide open spaces.

Some time ago I decided to press that strange button labeled "Stats."  It tells me that quite a few people, from all over the world, log on to my journal on a daily basis.  What a miracle modern technology is.  Annie says they are not people, but robots looking to infect my computer with viruses and such.  Okay, maybe.  Once in a while I get a legitimate email from someone who thanks me for sharing my life with them.  One than one person told me she logs on each night before she goes to sleep, just to check what's going on, here on Maggie's Farm.  I feel so good when I hear comments like that.  One old and dear friend from New Jersey told me she checks random entries, from any of the five years I've been doing this.  That's very cool, and keeps me writing.

So I thank you friends, for your support and encouragement.  You are very inspiring to me....and the people who read out of morbid curiousity with negative vibes - in my blessed mother's words - you are just jealous.  My journey has been fraught with challenges and heartbreak, but it's a worthwhile one.     Some people chose easier lives,  but they can't be nearly as exciting and "wild" as mine.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fur Ball 2013

I did chores early, and even got the garbage down to the dumpster. I found the box in the barn containing my Bergdorf Goodman black shearling full length coat, which I have virtually no occasion to wear around here.  Low and behold, it was okay.  No mold, bugs or other critters got to it while packed away.  Finding something suitable to wear, that fits, was another matter.  Put an outfit together and off we went, arriving at the Canasawacta Country Club fashionably late.  The Valentine Fur Ball was in full swing, with red satin cocktail dresses, even a tiger print mini dress, crowding the bar.  We hung up our coats and greeted Peggy Finnegan, a SPCA board member and Colorscape director.  We thought we would find a table in the banquet room where the band, The Roadhouse Roosters, was in full swing.  I came face to face with Dr. Cindy, my faithful customer and friend from the Hamilton Farmer's Market.  She suggested we join her party and introduced us to her friends.  I was anxious to look over the Silent Auction  table and spied my ample Maggie's Farm basket on the Live Auction table.  Yes, they were really going to offer it up for live bidding.  What if nobody bid on it?  I looked around and saw very few people I know.  Maybe I could remain anonymous.  After a few plates of the tiny shrimp that require peeling, guacamole, and baked brie with walnuts, the Live Auction commenced.  The SU basketball tickets went, then the Adirondack Getaway, then the Pompous Ass Winery Weekend, and I thought oh, my hand creme and soap basket is not going to get any bidders from this classy crowd.  The auctioneer really didn't say much about the basket other than "handmade goods."  I was hoping he would say something about "local sheep farm," or   "you need hand creme in the winter," or whatever.  I thought now is the time to slink under the table.  Then I heard $75, then $85, and several bidders drove the price up to $180.  Phew!  I was very relieved and gratified.  If sold retail the goods added up to $200, and that did not include the lovely vintage large willow basket I found in Cazenovia, and the mound of carded wool I put in the bottom to hold everything up.   $180 will feed a few homeless doggies and kitties for a little while.  I did my bit.  After attempting to dance Matt gave up.  His fingers were pounding from the wounds he received the day before when he stuck them in the running tractor motor.  The nails are cut through and rather gruesome.  I had step by step instructions from Surgical Nurse Practitioner on how to peel bloody bandages off the goo.  Nasty business!  Can you imagine a certified OSHA instructor doing that?  He admits he screwed up big time.  We left early while my table mates were winding around the dance floor with maracas and tambourines.     We drove home in minus 2 temps but no precipitation.    My own shelter doggies and kitties were very happy to see us.  I'm already looking forward to next year's Fur Ball and will have another fabulous mega-basket  ready for donation.  Here's hoping for no injuries to dim the excitement next time.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Maggie's Farm

Local photographer, Wells Horton, recently took this shot of my farm from across the valley the other day.  I really like it.   Wells is amazingly talented and dedicated to capturing the beauty of our area.  I love the way my barn is nestled under the piney ridge, with the creek down below.  Stunning...

Doggies Sleeping In

It's a good morning for the dogs to sleep in.  Cooper and Bertha are good friends, but Cooper is a bit rough with her.  Bertha is a sweet little girl, and Cooper is a wild boy.  Lots of work to be done with him.  He still fairly rips my arm off when walking, but he's stopped leaping up and knocking my glasses off my face.  Cooper is a long term project with much damage and neglect to undo.  He's a sweet lovable boy who is not yet one year old so I think we have time.


With much sensationalist hype about the Blizzard of the Century we find ourselves enjoying a rather normal snowfall here in the Middle of New York.  I say middle because if you put your finger in the exact middle of the State of New York there I am.  We waited all day in school for the Big Storm to hit.  Several of our sending districts cancelled school but we did have some students.  Not one flake came down all day.  I thought I would have some time to do things after school, like make the pay-day trip to the Price Chopper across town in the wrong direction.  I don't often go there as I'm always trying to get home to the farm as fast as I can.  They have some amazing deals and give a gasoline discount for shopping at Price Chopper.   I managed to hit:

Hayes Office Supply to ship 8 pounds of turquoise Merino to the mill for a felting batt
The Pink Door thrift shop next to Hayes where I scored a Harris Tweed sports jacket that fits me perfectly (I love men's clothes), a perfect vintage 100% cashmere v-neck pullover camel colored sweater and a pair of navy blue Ralph Lauren corduoroy pants all for $9.50 cents!!
Post office to ship Donna Dundon's package of soap and creme - she traded for some fabulous Jabo organic  block printed hoodies and tee shirts.  Donna and I worked at Voorhees High School together, now she lives and teaches in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Price Chopper where I splurged on things like Greek pasta salad from the deli and Danish Blue Cheese.
Tractor Supply where I stocked up on Penicillin and syringes.
Sunoco gas where I spent my Price Chopper gas discount.

While I was supporting the local Norwich economy the storm hit.  I crept home on roads getting covered very quickly.  Windshield wipers don't really help in heavy snow fall.  Thankfully there were enough reflector posts on tight turns and front porch lights here and there on King's Settlement Road to keep me from driving down into the ravines.  I confess it was comforting to see some locals still had their Christmas lights on way out in the fields.  I made it to New Berlin going 25 mph tops.  Ten more miles to go.  Went in and got my NY Times.and had a lively conversation with Linda Foote who teaches crafts locally and at an art college in Utica.  It took the edge off of my scary commute in the storm.  Got back in the truck and limped along to Brookfield, followed by a giant tractor trailer truck no doubt from the Chobani factory four miles from my farm.  Too bad - he had to ride my bumper for at least eight miles.   Doggies and kitties happy to see me after a day with Grumpy who didn't give them any treats I'm sure.   I made wraps with provolone and cole slaw for a quick dinner then out to chores.  I'm giving Lilly and the old ladies apples every night.   The cost of apples is ridiculous - $5 for a three pound bag, even at PC - but I cut them in quarters and hand them out, very carefully, to the old girls who are lined up waiting.  It gives me enormous pleasure to see them so frisky. Was putting some lovely soft BFL in the washer when Matt came running in the milk room holding his fingers and yelling come with me!  He nearly cut off the tips of two fingers while fiddling with the tractor in the dark. He thought he sliced off more and was afraid to look at the damage.  We ran to the sink and took a look.  Deep cuts through the fingernails, lots of blood.  I didn't think it could be stitched and made a judgment call not to take him to Cooperstown, 24 miles away.  Hamilton is 17 miles but the last time I took him there they transferred him to Cooperstown.  Cute little hospital but is there mainly for the orthopedic needs of the Colgate students.  I poured peroxide over his mangled fingers and bandaged them up.  He was in a world of pain.  I hate to injure my finger tips.  Kind of took the fun out of a Friday night snow storm.  I gave him something to help him sleep and sleep he did.  Still throbbing this morning and my lane is not plowed.  I think we got about 8 inches, no big deal.  Fun to watch the storm reports on CNN.  Eric/Annie and kids are snowed in big time.  What a change from Dallas, huh?  They love it.  So happy for Luke who has been hoping for this deluge of snow for some time.  Big party for us tonight - the Fur Ball at the Canasawacta Country Club in Norwich.  This fabulous party is my favorite big event of the year.  Great bands and lots of food.  The local business people come out to get smashed, eat, dance, and open their wallets for the Chenango County SPCA animal shelter.  Curious to see how my big Maggie's Farm basket does in the auction.  Now to figure out what to wear, that is, if we can plow out and Matt can manage with his cut fingers.  Don't see him flailing about on the dance floor.  That's okay...The back puffing from the stove is making my eyes burn.  Big gusts of wind and still blowing snow out there.  

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Next Project

After a week of paper mache African masks in honor of Black History Month we decided to do something little, cute and not-so-messy.  We found this popsicle stick Valentine on line.  Fawn made one up to show the kids.  Looking forward to an easy clean-up.  Maybe the custodians will take down the dart board with my picture on it.

Making a Mess

Yes, we like to make a mess.  Luckily, when we make a mess it usually results in some neat art.  Our African mask project is coming along nicely.  We are starting to display our masks on top of the cabinets in the classroom.  Today was the last day to paper mache.  We are hoping the masks will all be dry and paint ready for tomorrow...that is, if we have school.  An "Historic Blizzard" is forecast and we might get to stay home.  One can only live and hope...

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

In From Chores

Life is a series of contrasts.  A little while ago I was in a freezing cold dark hay mow forking down big chunks of hay to the sheep and goats.  Now I'm in a little apartment, brightly lit and sizzling hot from an oversized wood stove.  Took me 90 minutes tonight - that's about normal.  Everybody fed and happy.  Well,  I'm sure they'd like more but that's normal, too.  It's very cold tonight, but once I get going I often have to take my hat and jacket off.  I like a wool sweater and vest better.  Wonderful how wool insulates you yet let's you breathe.  I fixed a pot of boiled chicken and potatoes on the stove before I went out.  Smart move. It was fantastic when I finally got to it.  I shared it with the doggies and poured the soup over their dry kibble.  My friend at work, Sharon, gives me left over food for my chickens.  This week she gave me a sack of potatoes.  Never got to the chickens as I've been eating it all week.  I know she wouldn't mind.  I'm used to working with the round bales now.  I was worried at first but like them now.  Once tipped over on the side I can pull big layers of hay off them and flip it down the hole to the bins.  The goaties like to get up in the hay feeders and the hay falls on top of them.  I wince thinking about all  I'll have to pull out of the mohair but I understand why they do it.  They can't wiggle in between the big, fat sheep so they get on top.  Smart goaties.   I like chores.  Sure they cut a big dent into my day, but in a good way.  I never have time to sit around and pout.   All the forking and toting of water and feed is good exercise.  I see what has happened to some of the women my age at work and I think YUCK, not me.   Makes me want to go out and climb more ladders.  I found out today that my shepherd friend, Kathy, in Pa., fell out of the hay mow, broke her leg and tore some tendons recently.  Very scary.  I would be in deep doo-doo.   I go slow and hold on tight going up and down.  The toes that Lilly crushed are going to need surgery.  They are slowly curling under and giving me fits.  I'm too proud to ask for time off for surgery during the school year.  We are terribly short staffed as it is.  Besides, I have to stoke the wood stove and get ready for the sheep shows.  Will have to wait for summer.  Maybe Lukie will come and help me on the farm when I do get them fixed.  He wants to come on February break for sledding.  With the storm forecast for this weekend, we just might have enough snow.  The doggies are telling me it's time for their night-night walk.  Walking Cooper is a Herculean task.  He is largely untrained and I can only imagine the time he must have spent alone in a crate in an empty room. Breaks my heart.  I'm thankful they brought him back to me, but annoyed he was allowed to get this way.  Cooper is a wild child that will take ions of patience to socialize.  He's very strong and requires both hands to hold on to with a choke chain on.  He pulled me up a bank after I got home from work, and wouldn't you now it, I stepped in a fence post hole and fell flat on my face.  Luckily I still had the leash.  Cooper is very affectionate, but will knock my glasses off while jumping up and giving me a big wet kiss.  He and Bertha play constantly, but I think Bertha gets tired of Cooper's constant harrassment.  He will grab her by her big jowls and drag her around.  Bertha is too sweet to reallly give him a dressing down, but Reba will.  One loud snarl and slap of the paw and Cooper is on his back.  

Found the Light

One headlight was lost - that's bad enough - but when the second head light went missing last night I was in big trouble.  Sure there are a few lights in the massive barn, but not enough to see what you are doing in the hay mow.  Climbing a ladder into blackness is not fun.  Big relief when one of the lights was found.  I finally got some dyeing of wool going last night.  Good thing Matt got the new to me washer installed as the old one will not agitate.  That's okay for wool, though, as I do not want the wool to felt.  The perpetually frozen drain was a problem as the milk room would flood.  The Milk Room Kitties don't like that.  Matt is gone off to weatherization field training and he's the only one who knows how to de-ice the outside drain.  I better learn how to do it myself.  I suspect it involves taking a spike out there somewhere and chipping away.  Life in an old barn...In the meantime I got two giant pots of Bluefaced Leicester wool dyed Jacquard Deep Magenta....hmmmm, what a lovely color.  If I don't keep this dye train going and get it to the mill I won't have enough for Maryland.   There is a big storm forecast for this Northeast.  Don't know...I'll believe it when it starts falling from the sky.  Supposed to start Friday night so I won't have to commute in it.  Works for me!  Stay home with the animals, dye wool and sew.  I have one working machine at home, and it's not my best one.  I'm waiting to see if the new guy in Norwich does a decent job on the old Kenmore I brought him.  He was trained by the old guy.  You drop machines off at Sew Nice and he picks them up.  This is a machine a student talked me into buying from him.  He fancies himself a Picker and I don't want to diminish his entrepreneurial spirit.  When he brought me the third machine I said no more, please.  He only wants $10-$20 for them but they cost big bucks to get cleaned and fixed.  So he started bringing slide projectors and typewriters to school.  This kid is going to go places! More paper machiete African masks in school today.  I sure hope yesterday's work is dry so we can start painting and embellishing them.  Some kids are surprising me with their creativity.  Others are completely freaked out about touching flour mixed with water.  I'm learning more about special needs teenagers every day.  More coffee, stoke the fire, get the lamb bottles made, suit up and get out there.  I love to waste time in the morning but one can only go so fast on snow covered roads where there is no cell phone reception and no traffic to see that you are down in a ditch.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

African Masks

In honor of Black History Month we are making African Tribal Masks out of paper mache.  The students were a bit wary of the tub of flour and water at first but are slowing getting into it.  When the paper mache dries we'll paint our masks and statuettes and adorn them with feathers, sea shells and deer antlers.   I promised my aide, Fawn, that we will go back to painting and drawing after the mask project.  With tie dyeing last week, and the masks the week after, we are exhausted from setting up and cleaning up.  I am sure the custodians have a picture of my face on the dart board in their office.

Fur Ball

I prepared a basket of Maggie's Farm products for the Annual Fur Ball to benefit the Chenango County SPCA.  I filled it with jars of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme, 24 bars of Goat Milk Soap by Maggie's Farm, two skeins of my wool, a shaving kit, a Needle Felting Fiber Pack, a bed made of a carded batt, all inside a vintage woven willow basket.  Someone will snatch it up.  I'll drop the basket off at the shelter today.  Last year my basket had a lot of bids in the Silent Auction.  This basket has more goodies.  I have to find something swishy to wear to this gala semi-formal event at the Canasawackta Country Club in Norwich.  The local glitterati comes out en masse for the critters.  The Fur Ball is so much fun, with fantastic food and terrific music.  All proceeds go to the homeless doggies and kitties in the shelter.