Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Magical Night

I can't recall a more magically beautiful night.  The full moon was shining through the slats of the barn while I was forking down hay to the animals.  Through one broken slat I could see the snow covered fields under the piney ridge to the east end of the barn.  It took me a while to get everybody taken care of, but that's okay.  Chores are a blessing, a special time with my animals.  No matter how tired and strung out I am from school, my chores straighten me out and put me in a better place.  I spent about two hours in the barn, then I had to get up on the hill to take in that moonlight.  I took the dogs with me,  and climbed half way up.  It was enough to take in the broad vista of valley and piney ridge.  The sky was bright with the full moon, but stars were still twinkling brightly and the funny little orange planet was glowing just over the tree tops.  The snow covered fields and hillside shimmered in the moonlight.   The barn down below where I was standing with the dogs looked so beautiful, like she must have been when she was in her prime, with a hundred cows inside, bedding down for the night in their spaces.  Wish I could have experienced this magnificent farm back in the day, when all three hundred acres were used to support the dairy operation.  I can't imagine a more diverse and gorgeous collection of hills and fields.  I'm so glad I have a part of it.  I am beginning to think of what will happen to it when I'm gone.  As much as I hate to think about it, as much as it hurts, I can't imagine anyone in my family doing what I do with the sheep.  Mia is firmly entrenched in her medical career in New Jersey.  Father Aaron, even if he moved back East which he wants to do, is an urban animal and has no interest in the farm.  Eric is the same way.  Matt would be here as long as it takes to get the sheep on a truck.  That leaves Hannah and Luke, and I know their parents have big ideas for them as far as college and careers are concerned.  I imagine an Amish family would do quite nicely here.  They are moving into this area all the time.  I like watching them work.  When I'm in the barn doing chores I know they are too.  We think alike, only they have many more skills.  I like the idea of keeping the farm in the family in case someone is down on their luck and needs a safe place to land for a while, or do some homesteading, or grow vegetables.  For now, I am going full steam ahead, and will continue to have fun, and I will pretend that day will never come.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Still So Cool

Easter egg dyeing went well today.  The two classes of little high functioning special needs kids are fantastic. They come with several aides who pitch in and help them with the activities.  Art teaching is wonderful, but requires a lot of forethought and preparation.  Fawn and I had each table set for two students with eggs, white crayon to color designs ( I taught them about "resist") five color tablets and five Chobani containers,  an egg dipper, stickers and paper towels.   One kid kept asking if I had any raw eggs for him to blow the insides out of.  I said sure why not, then every kid had to try it over the sink after I made the up and down holes in them.  These extra classes come on top of the high school kids I already have, so there are some big kids in the back of them room painting, or beading, or taking advantage and slacking off.  One kid started painting a scene from Monet's Giverny, and loosened the top of a bottle of white paint.   It exploded all over him.  Seems it had fermented quite a bit and just had to blow.  The kid took it well and I found a tee shirt from our tie-dyeing class for him to put on while I ran to the laundry room to put his jet black hoodie and shirt in the wash.  Luckily the white paint came out.    I knew some of my paint was getting stinky but I had no idea...The day went on and on.  Seems like there is something in the air.  The naughty room was full and I had kids balking at this and that.  The student who set the Vietnam War type booby trap for me has not come back to school since.   I'm keeping my box of pins under close scrutiny.  Long day then a stop at the local shipping store Hayes to get that box shipped that the Staples people screwed up.  I emailed John at the mill to tell him one more box was coming.  Home after two stops at PO and market.  Must keep Lilly in her apples.  Had a lovely chat with Father Aaron in Las Vegas who is enjoy the Holy Week activities.  He asked, like a good priest son would, if I went to church on Palm Sunday.  I told him I went to the Church of the Universal Shepherd, located here on the farm.  He laughed.   I got home and promptly fell asleep in the driveway, holding on to the steering wheel.  Woke up with a start and got myself and packages in side.  The dogs always go crazy when I get home.  Feel sorry for them so got my boots on to take them up the hill.  Was glad I did - so refreshing to be out in the cold and snow.  Perked me up quite a bit, enough to make dinner, then chores, now here I am.  I caught little Guy by his sweater and gave him a nice snuggle and smooching.  Oh, he's so cuddly and sweet.  Angora goat kids like to be held, unlike lambs who would really rather you not.  I've got my blue mohair spread out in front of the fire.  It's been taking forever to get it dry.  I tried putting it outside on the wire rack yesterday in the cold and sun, but an avalanche of ice coming down from the metal roof set me back a bit.  I'm blending this deep blue mohair with some dark purple Bluefaced Leicester wool.  Have to get it out to the mill or they won't do it in time for Maryland.  Since they don't go to Maryland any longer they will send it back postage free.  The dogs are all asleep around me.  I'm wondering if I should skip their nightly walk, but I might be sorry if I do that.  Sure would like to stretch out and go night-night.  Tomorrow will come way too soon.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hello Weekend

The snow day we had on Tuesday did nothing to make this week easier.  The only promise we have, no matter how tough the week is, is that Friday will roll around at some point.  We finished our Monet's Garden Giverny paintings today, then began a Jackson Pollock themed abstract painting with marbles in boxes.  It was my aide, Fawn's, idea, with the paper placed inside a box with dabs of paint and marbles that the student rolls around making designs.  Pretty cool and a lot of fun.  We spend a lot of time exhibiting our art in the halls.  It's good for the students to see their work displayed and lets everyone know that we are producing art, not just playing music and fooling around.  I was pretty knackered when the day was done, and finally gathered up my goods to make my way home.  I always stop to pick up the NY Times at Stewarts, then Dollar General to pick up cans of fishy Friskies which are a great deal cheaper.  Trouble is I spend too much money on other  cheap goods there.  If I was still in school I bet I could get a good paper out of the ubiquitous dollar store.  There is an interesting slice of local life there, from people in their pajama pants to the middle class working folks.  The other day the principal of the high school was behind me.  To get this stuff so cheap we would have to drive 30 miles in one direction or 20 in the other.  Gas is $4 a gallon - ouch.  Today I picked up the Easter egg dyes and goods I need for Monday's classes with the little ones.  Hope that goes well....I have to haul a ton of stuff into school for that activity.  Oh, the joy of being an art teacher.  Arrived home finally and faced the wild doggies.  Heard a truck pull in and was curious about why UPS was here.  I wasn't expecting anything.  He hands me a package that looked familiar - it's one of the two boxes I shipped at Staples in New Hartford last Sunday!  It's supposed to be at the mill in Michigan! That set off an hour or so of phone calls, to Staples where I got in an argument with the supervisor of the copy center where I mailed the package, then on to the UPS claims people.  I got so sweaty and shaky when one agent told me my big box of several dyed fleeces was lost that I tried to slip off my jacket and disconnected her.  Had to start all over with another agent who told me it got to the carding mill and was signed for by John, my personal carder, himself.   It seems the shipping label fell off the other one somewhere in Ohio.   I wonder how they even got it back to me?   I could never begin to recoup all the hours I spent picking, washing, dyeing and drying that fiber, forget about the year I put into raising that wool myself.  Will definitely insure the next shipment for what it would bring if I sold the fiber.  The evening didn't get much better with Matt coming home totally fried and frayed from his job at the non-profit.  He says he can't take the pace of the job and the farm, too.  Yep,  Figures.  Might have to replace him with two 25 year olds. That might actually be interesting....Anyhoo....I'm spending the weekend tending to critters, sewing - it's a great stress reliever - and working with more fiber.  I've got a navy blue - purple - orchid mohair run going.  Love the stuff.  I need to ask Matt to hold the horns of a couple of goats so I can shear them but I'm afraid to rock the boat.   Cooper slipped his choke chain yesterday and killed a couple of chickens.  I saved one he was about to crunch and put her in the milk room.  I think I need one of those shock collars where I can zap him when he goes for a bird.  Took hours to get him in.  Can't wait to get my Amish neighbors over here to put up a dog run when the ground thaws.  Better get busy.  Keeps me from worrying.   I love walking up the hill in the snow with the doggies.  I love the cold weather, but I need that grass.  Grass is life.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Knew it would be cold but minus 8 F.?  Good thing I had that pot of mohair on the milk room stove last night.  Not even bubbling but was warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing last night.  Good thing - my morning bath is near and dear to my heart.  It warms up all these achy bones and gets me in the right frame of mind for the day.  The day was going fine, and I was really feeling good about it, with a reluctant student agreeing to do some sewing on the Eco-shopping totes we are making for an art supply fund raiser.   Had a nice lunch with some students, including one who would be implicated in a prank that could have gone badly.   We were painting a scene from Monet's Giverny garden, and the kids left the room for their next class.  I sat on the edge of the sewing machine chair thinking I would work on the totes, when I felt something sharp.  I put my hand behind my behind and felt pins in the chair!  Someone had inserted six long dressmaker pins from the side of the chair with the sharp points slanted up.  My heavy wool trousers protected me but I surely would have taken the brunt of it if I sat down hard on the full seat.  An administrator was in the hall and I called her in.  She took the chair for evidence and began gathering the usual suspects.  I work with some troubled kids.   It goes with the territory.  I'm relieved that by sitting on the edge of the chair I only got a tiny prick and did not give them the thrill of a full-fledged scream, the little buggers.  They are all blaming each other now, and administration is taking it very seriously.  I will certainly look where I am sitting from now on.    Studio Art is going well and I have a lovely exhibit in the hall with various student interpretations of Van Gogh's Starry Night.  Another one is going up with Monet's Impressionist paintings.  I love painting, and  do it a lot with my students.  It's relaxing, absorbing, and a very cost effective activity, and brings out the artist within.  I will definitely look before I lower the tush from now on.    I took the doggies up the big hill in the snow when I got home.  OH, it's so beautiful out there now, with the bright spring light reflecting off the snow and lovely cloudscapes every where I turn.  Izzy got his feet frozen and I turned around to see him way behind, painfully trying to step in my foot prints.  I scooped him up and carried him down on my shoulder, with him giving me little wet kisses all the way down, between snarles and growles at the big dogs down below.  I love my little Izzy - he's all spirit and sweetness.  On deck for tonight - finish this delicious dinner I've made for myself (spouse is working late) - angel hair pasta with raw baby spinach, spicy blueberry vinegar and parmesan cheese with a liberal sprinkling of veggie pepper.  Hmmmm, good.  I'll take care of the critters in the barn, the cast of hundreds, and wash that mohair I cooked last night.  I might need another pot on the stove tonight. Have to check the weather forecast.  The wood stove is humming and this apartment will be an oven when I get back inside.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mo' Mohair

There it was, hanging on the pipe in the milk room just under the other pipe where the &^%$ roosters like to spend the night.  I vowed I would break away from my fiber jag and start sewing my Bundaflicka Knitting Totes for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival which is a mere six weeks away.  I have a pile of totes cut out, ready to sew.  I was hanging up the hose after chores and spied the bag of mohair, which had been bombed several times by the accursed roosters.   I grabbed a big old bird by the legs, being careful to place my fingers around the spurs, not on them, and tossed him out the door to roost with the hens who like to overnight on the milk room steps.  Matt puts corn out for them every day.  He'll be fine until I can get the nerve up to chop his head off.  I went back to the bag and decided such a glorious, glossy red mohair fleece deserved better than to be shat upon by an old rooster.   There - I had it in my hand and I was done for.  The next hour was spent standing over the wool washer in the milk room, picking apart locks and dropping them into hot, soapy water.  I prepared a dye pot and let the dirty water spin out.  I'm thinking about a navy blue/orchid run of mohair.  It's not Bluefaced Leicester, but I adore the stuff.  Adult mohair wears like iron and is great for socks, sweaters over a turtleneck, or woven garments.  The milk room kitties loved having me keep them company for a while tonight.  I will keep the dye pot simmering gently all night as the temps are diving again, perhaps 15 F. before morning.  The kitties, and the pipes, will appreciate the help.  The sheep were still munching on hay when I passed them on my way to the apartment.  Little Markey-Mark is still a runt considering his Rambouillet mom and Border Leicester dad are gigantic.   Little Guy, my only winter baby, a tiny red goat kid, is coming along nicely.  He hops around and tries to jump up on his mother's back.  He's not afraid of the great big sheep who launch themselves over the panels of the maternity pen to get goat mommy's corn and hay.  I grab him and love on him a few minutes every night.  Sure wish he was a girl, but here we are.  Thought I might have another goat baby or two, but nothing yet.  I wish the buck who fathered Guy had impreggered had also done my Nubian girls, Fancy and Matilda.  Had hoped to be milking them by now.  Might have to buy them a Nubian boyfriend.  Better go check on that dye pot in the milk room, turn it down low, listen for "sounds" for a minute, then put myself to bed.  Morning comes way too soon around here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tippy Top

Took the dogs out then saw how gorgeously beautiful it is out there I had to keep going, all the way to the tippy top of my land.  What a gorgeous view.  I still gasp when I see it.  I live in one of the most beautiful little valleys in the world.   It's warmish even with the snow still coming down.  I had a light sweater on and that was almost too much.  Took my knitted cap off and let my hair get wet to cool off.  It was wonderful.  The pond ice is melting so I didn't dare take a step over it.   I know I could get myself out but it would really be a cold walk back down to the barn.  I plan on spending the rest of the day at the spinning wheel or sewing machine so I thought I should get the blood pounding for a few minutes first.  While going out to water the flock I spied a sweet little lamb fleece that was begging to be played with.  Even though I've shipped ninety pounds of lovely dyed fiber to the carding mill I figured one more wouldn't hurt.  The wood stove is roaring and it's a shame not to have some wool drying with that lovely heat.  I did say I wanted 100 pounds done this spring anyway.    I just love the feel of the stuff between my fingers.   Matt got the tractor going but lost the fan belt early on.  He drove to Sangerfield - 15 miles - to get another one.  Drove home and went to put it on to find it's the wrong size.  Back to Sangerfield, another 30 miles round trip.  Ouch.  At four dollars a gallon in a gas-guzzling Chevy Blazer it's an expensive trip.  Matt attempted to go to work in Syracuse today, but gave up and turned around.  He heard in the parts store that Morrisville Hill was closed after at four car pile up, so we wouldn't have been able to get there anyway.  He said he had a sexy woman at home and that's where he wanted to be, but with the tractor belt racing back and forth to Sangerfield I'm wondering...Watching the Weather Channel.  Eric, Annie and kids are getting pounded in Portland Maine.  They've had ninety inches of snow and are looking toward 100 before the season is over.  Welcome to Maine.  Actually, I think they are perfectly suited to the region as they love pitting themselves against the elements and heating with wood.  Speaking of heating with wood, we are almost out.  Same for hay.  Gee, we almost made it.

Snow Day

Snow days are near and dear to a teacher's heart.   I know, I know, it's very selfish to hope for bad weather when so many others are put in danger and very inconvenienced by it, but I can't help it.  We joked about it in school yesterday, but didn't dare to hope as we have been disappointed so often.  There was not a single snow day last year.  People joke about how easy teachers have it, but it's not so easy to be locked in with kids all day, where you can't blow your nose without scrutiny, and going to the bathroom requires back up.  It works for me because I like kids, although I'm a bit crankier and less indulgent of their electronics and language these days.  The schedule is great for farming.  Seven more work days and I have a week off to work on the farm.  Two and a half months after that I have two months off.  A heavy wet snow is falling now and the wood stoving is roaring.  I don't know what to do first.  Spin a little bit?  Sew?  Drink more coffee?  Page through the newspapers I purchased but don't have time to read?  I brought home a Martha Stewart Living from the school library yesterday.  Oh, I'm so jealous of her chicken yard and four coops that resemble little houses.  Martha's chicken lay eggs all year long with their sumptuous diet of endless scraps from test kitchens.  She admits to eating her chickens when they no longer lay eggs.  I doubt if Martha herself does the dastardly deed.  I had a nice conversation with Julia Berger last night, and thanked her again for the fantastic job she did on my hay.  We were blessed with three days of hot dry weather and her team got 50 round bales to the barn door, all dry and sweet smelling.  With nary a leak from my roof they stayed dry and lovely all winter.  I'm on her list for this year.  Hoping for two cuts and at least 70 round bales instead of the fifty I got this year.  What a difference it made not to have to hook up the landscape trailer and go pick up hay.  Matt would have to climb up the shaky hay elevator, knocking off ice on the way up, open the door next to the roof, and climb down.  Then we would keep our fingers crossed when we flipped the switch.   This is much better.  He is on the way to Syracuse, driving in wet heavy snow in the little old Saturn.  Will probably take him an hour and a half.  The Feds are coming from  Washington to talk about energy so he had to go in.  I need to get out in the barn and check the flock.  Last night I went to the way back to look at the snow coming down out the east end door, where the piney ridge provides a lovely vista.  No moon and stars last night, just snow.  I could see where a few sheep had ventured out to lick the snow.  Sheep love snow.  No bodies, no babies.  With such a gigantic barn I can't tell what's happening everywhere in it without a search.  I think I might have a goat baby or two coming, but not sure with such heavy coats of mohair on them.  The goats are very quick and hard to catch for me to check for swelling udders.  Little Guy is so sweet and cute.  He is nibbling on hay and bouncing around the pen.  I'm worried about the big fat sheep crushing him when they launch themselves over the sides of the maternity pen to get the goat mom's food.  So far he's gotten out of the way before they land.   Time for more coffee and staring out the window at the snow.   The new Pope is starting his job today.  Rome is so beautiful and I would love to go someday, but I can't imagine  having the freedom to travel with the farm, but it's nice to dream.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Clear and Cold

Time for nighty night.  Clear and cold outside with a lovely waxing crescent moon nestled in between two bright stars.    I confess I'm liking this cold weather that keeps fleas and flies at bay.  I like turtlenecks and sweaters and a glowing wood fire.  Not for long, but that's okay too.  I need the green grass for my  sheep.   Speaking of sheep, I shipped their gifts to the carding mill today.  Another 35 pounds of "Pacifica' in lovely shades of sky blue, turquoise, apple green, moss green and purple.  Very soft Bluefaced Leicester, Merino and kid mohair.  Should spin like buttah.  This run makes 90 pounds of dyed fiber done for spring shows.  I'm going to leave it at that for now.  There is something very special about working with fiber you raise yourself.  I tell people it can be compared to a potter scraping her clay from the banks of a stream running through her land instead of buying it from an art supply house.  You are taking your craft to the base level.  My sheep are not raised for meat and will never know the terror of an auction.  There is something special about that, too. I'd like to spin and felt some of last years wool, and then there's the totes to sew.  I have about a dozen Bundaflicka totes cut out and ready to sew.  I like to have a few ready to go for nights after chores.  I can be very productive at night when the animals are quiet and I still have a little left in me.  Nine more days and I'll have some time off for Easter break.  Oh, what a joy.  The wonderful thing about the teaching profession is that whenever you are hanging by a thread and feel like letting go you have a break to fall back and regroup.  It's very late and I better nod off.  Morning will come too soon.  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pacifica Revisited

Every year or so I do a Pacifica run of my Mother Fiber roving.  Why Mother Fiber?  Because Wool is the Mother of All Fibers!  This version of Pacifica will be mostly greens and blues, with a hint of dark purple for the depths of the ocean.  I've had quite a time getting all my wool and mohair dry this winter.  My large over-kill wood stove is helping.  With temps quite cold this weekend and the stove roaring I should be able to get the last turquoise wool dry.  This run will consist of Bluefaced Leicester, Merino and kid mohair.  The Merino is courtesy of my good friend and shearer for years and years, Big Jim Baldwin.  The BFL and kid mohair is my own.  Should be wonderfully soft and lovely.

Out of Sorts

Left early yesterday morning to drive almost 50 miles to a staff development meeting at our sister BOCES vo-tech school in Walton, the hamlet in the Catskills where NYC gets that delicious mountain water.  I always make it by the skin of my teeth (I swear I need a 12 step program on lateness) and the speaker was about to be introduced when I, and a few others, came huffing and puffing in the room.  My phys. ed. teacher friend Chad motioned for a seat by the projector and spared me the honor of parading around a crowded room looking for a chair and accentuating my tardiness.   I was accompanied by Aimee, our new librarian and preacher's wife, who was relieved to see me behind her at the traffic light in Sidney, as she didn't know where she was going and thought it was divine intervention when I pulled up behind her.  I like the idea that everything we do is part of a plan, but I know better, and don't want my free will negated either.    The speaker was fantastic, all about Strength Based Teaching, a noble concept which requires a Christ like patience and love for the abused and downtrodden trusted to our care.   My Mother Theresa badge is showing a bit of a tarnish lately.  Have to polish it off.  No matter how good a speaker is, sitting in one chair all day is torture for someone used to hopping around all day long.  They gave us a tasty lunch and I managed to tuck a few cookies and brownies into my tote bag to bring home to spouse.  Wouldn't you know I was so strung out on the way home I ate most of them.  Took me a while to get over my crankiness and get some things done.  I'm still working on fiber and think I will make my 100 pound goal.  John at Frankenmuth should have received my fiber at the mill, all 56 pounds worth.  I'm always relieved when he gets it unpacked and weighed and sends me the invoice.  Then I know it's in the pipe line.  I have several lovely black fleeces to skirt and take to Maryland.  Still working on getting coats on my black sheep.  It would be worth the effort as coats would eliminate the sunburned tips and enable me to charge more for the wool.   Shepherds are eternal optimists, like most farmers, as there is always next year.  I do have one sheep who has the thickest, loveliest black fleece.  She is a BFL/Morehouse Merino cross, with slow growing wool that has no tips at all.  Will get her shorn and try to sell her fleece.  I  might get some of my black BFL made into felting batts.  Still have a bee in my bonnet about felted bags and want to get a lesson from my felting guru Susanne Hamilton who turns out the most amazing and fabulous hats and bags from my wool.  I trade wool for her very sturdy and beautiful shaving cups.  I love using my wool roving as currency.  On deck for today - a bit of housekeeping as there is a quality of life issue to consider here.  I work a tough job to the best of my ability but I come home to a madhouse at a time of the day when a great many souls have already sapped most of my energy.   I have a dishwasher now, but there is a mountain of dishes so high in the sink I can hardly get to the faucet.  I have to sidestep debris of all kinds to walk across the floor.  I'll get it done little by little while caring for many little souls of other species here on the farm.   I stayed up too late and got up too early, but life is so precious and I want to be conscious of every bit of it before I pass over to the other side of the creek.   I sleep as little as I have to to function properly.  Makes me a bit cranky at times but hopefully God will forgive me and keep me healthy so I can get it done.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Birthday Boy

Matt, reluctant farmer spouse, AKA Wild Irish Boy, AKA Beasty Boy, AKA "Tex" or whatever I can come up with when I'm having retrieval problems, celebrated his 57th birthday on March 12.  I like to call him My Old Man, but that's the funny part because he is younger than me.  He is catching up with me, however, but I can still outwork him around the barn.  Don't tell him I said that.  He has brute strength, or what's left of it, but I have longevity.  I just keep going, slowly but surely.  I made him the obligatory birthday dinner and presented him with his favorite after shave - Old Spice, of course.  He likes it because the girls notice it and tell him it reminds them of their grandfathers.  Yes, Matt will take attention from the ladies any way he can get it. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

More Wool

I found a few more white fleeces, mostly little lamb fleeces with hardly a pound or two, but so soft and buttery.  I'm working on a new roving run of blues, greens, purple and pinks for a new Pacifica which was so popular a couple of years ago.  I love roving the carded fiber that comes back to me as a long tube wound into a one pound ball.  I can spin it or felt with it.  Roving is a good way to store wool, too.  With so many people getting their wool spun into yarn, I'm one of the few that still sells it as roving.  I can blend colors and different fibers with their own unique qualities and characteristics.  I was worried about having enough wool for Maryland, but I checked my stash today and I still have a lot of fabulous blends.  Not to worry.  Problem is, I tend to spend so much time in the barn at night after dinner, doing chores, playing with wool, hanging with the critters, that I am not sewing the way I should be.  May be light on Bundaflicka Totes at Maryland this year.  We'll see.  It's snowing and very cold again.  I got the doggies up to the pond today after work and got back down the big hill before the snow started blowing in.  Got the stove lit, food cooking, and we were toasty warm.  The last snow/ice melted enough to get the big sliding door next to Thor's area closed.  It had been stuck open six inches, enough to let the frigid North wind blow in.  The far doors are always open at the East End of the barn, as the sheep broke the boards after crashing through them for the six years we've been here.  Another repair on the list.  Still looking for someone to come and clean out the barn and spread the black gold over the fields.  Not hopeful.  I got in from chores at ten tonight and brought some newly dyed wet wool inside to spread out on the table for the heat from the wood stove to dry.  Am still shooting for 100 pounds of wool to be carded this spring.  Forty-four pounds to go.  Am sewing Eco-totes in school.  A well-meaning teacher brought in her sewing machine for us to use.  Wish she had plugged it in to test it before handing it over.  I took way too much time trying to get it to work, with another teacher spending his valuable time to take it apart to oil it completely.  It still jammed.  I threw up my hands and boxed it up to return it to the owner.  Oh, well.  We still have one working machine.  Funny thing about Studio Art - we do some really neat projects but the kids eat them up ravenously and want to move on.  I guess that's a good thing but it really keeps us hopping.  We don't show movies and I've had all but one computer taken out of the art room.   There aren't too many classrooms that can make that boast.  We sure are tuckered out at the end of the school day.  Little Guy, new angora buck kid, is the cutest thing.  He hops around in his little sweater and nibbles on hay.  Oh, I love that little sweetie.  No more kids.  I thought for sure if Guy came into the world that there may be one or two more.  Not yet, and not tonight, I pray, for the wind is howling and the fan on the stove pipe is working over time to keep the down drafts going up instead of in my little apartment.  Better get some shut-eye.  I love to stay up because the late night is the only real time I have to myself.  Everybody is bedded down and the night is mine, all mine.  Trouble is the morning comes too soon and I have to get this place ready to leave and get my behind to work somewhat on time, clean and dressed appropriately.  Today one of the two or three cars I passed coming in the other direction in the 15 mile stretch that is Kings Settlement Road was a State Trooper.  I was flying faster than the speed of light as usual.  He turned around and followed me for two or three miles as I creeped along at 45 and went around the curves at 35, riding the brake.  He was sufficiently satisfied at my cowering in his presence and turned back around to head toward New Berlin.  I motored on to Norwich and was only ten minutes late.  I can't believe they still let me work there, but thank Goodness they do.  Time to snuggle with the doggies and say...Good Night.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sure Sign

Spring must be here as I am getting a hand full of chicken eggs in the barn.  I am very happy to have my eggs back, as the chickens must still be fed, even though they are not laying.  I buy them the very best wholesome egg layer I can find and give them plenty of it.  The wild chickens and roosters who won't stay in the chicken room have to fare the best they can.  Okay, I do feel sorry for them and throw out a scoop of cracked corn, but they don't get the high-dollar egg layer.  I've avoided buying store eggs, as they are produced in the most heinous inhumane way, and don't taste as good as my farm eggs anyway.  Spouse made this lovely omelette for me on Sunday.   It was years and years before he admitted to having the skill to make omelettes, or a cup of tea.

Sewing in School

We are working on our Eco-Totes in Studio Art.  The kids are doing a great job and learning many important skills including the importance of doing small things to help the environment as in avoiding plastic bags in favor of reusable cloth totes, how to raise funds for their cause, and, my favorite, how to sew.  It is harder than you think.  Sewing requires hand-eye-foot coordination and focus on the task.  We measure the seams and draw lines to sew on but still wander off course at times.  The constant re-threading and bobbin-winding of a bargain basement machine can be maddening for a kid who wants instant gratification.  Somehow we managed a nice pile of cut out totes, with the nifty recycling logo, for us to sew the rest of this week.  We are hoping to open a little kiosk in the hall next week.  If we sell our Eco-totes we will buy much needed art supplies and have ourselves a pizza party.  Sounds like a plan...

Monday, March 11, 2013


The day flew by.  We had two classes of "little kids" and finished our hanging fish and kelp.  Custodians took our ladder away.  Good thing the tables can hold a hefty teacher.  We also made cartoon sheep portraits with cotton balls.  Adorable.  The little ones are not proving to be difficult at all.  If one has a problem one of the aides pulls him out of the room so as not to interrupt the art lesson.  We are starting our Art Supplies Fund Raising Project with the high school classes and it's going nicely so far.  We are sewing canvas shopping bags with the universal recycle logo on them - think arrows going around in a circle.  We looked at many logos - I wanted a green and blue earth logo - but found them too difficult for most kids to manage.  The recycle arrows are perfect.  We have some lovely, sturdy canvas donated to us by Alan Rock-Blake who operated his own hand bag business - Smart Duck Bags - with his wife before they both went into academia.   Currently, our only working sewing machine is a donated Brother which sounds like a Tommy gun when sewing.  People love to give us machines but there are usually reasons why they give them away.  We don't have sewing machine repair in our budget.  If only my clever spouse would take an interest in learning how to keep sewing machines running I would be so grateful, but I won't get my hopes up.   Our nice young new principal is working on Alan R.B. to donate a couple of his sewing machines that are now sitting dormant.  On the farm front - I shipped two runs - total 56 pounds - of beautiful Bluefaced Leicester, angora and kid mohair fiber to the carding mill.   Can't wait to see it carded.  I am definitely in a orangey/magenta/chartreuse mood lately.  I have more fiber to combine with other colors for the new version of Pacifica I'm working, but I have to break away to sew and make soap.  The fibers are hypnotic and consuming and I love them, but Maryland is a spring show and people are not thinking wool as much as they do in the fall at Rhinebeck.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Lovely weather today, had to take off my sweatshirt in the barn while forking hay.  I have mohair drying on the rack outside.  It is still frozen into the snow, but there's a warmish breeze blowing and sunny.   I got two big Mother Fiber Roving runs together and loaded in the truck to ship to the carding mill.  Always a big relief when they are on the way.  It's very exciting to open the box when they come back.  I never know exactly how the colors and fibers I've chosen will come together.  John has been my "personal carder" for many years now.  He is a master at variegating the colors for maximum effect.  I was very disappointed to learn that Frankenmuth will no longer travel to shows.  Abby Frankenmuth's new husband decided it was not cost effective.  They will ship back to the shepherd postage free.  Works for me.  As long a John cards my wool. I've decide to work on a new version of Pacifica next, as I have some purple and apple green done already. All I need is teal, sky blue, and more pink.  I'm very happy to be past the fiber and able to concentrate on designing Bundaflicka knitting totes and yarn pockets, along with soap and hand creme.  The fiber is sooo labor intensive, but it is a gift from the angels in the barn and it thrills me.  

Tax Time

What was that about death and taxes????  I called "Uncle Darryl" (he doesn't know I call him that) and asked for an appointment on the weekend.  Trying not to be absent from school if I can help it.  He said yes and I got the numbers together.  Darry Lanning is a retired business teacher in Oxford. Gretchen and Laurie at school hooked me up with him.  He's a great guy and never blinks at my crazy life style or accounting methods.  He just tries to keep my head above water and out of trouble.  God knows I need all the help I can get.  NY State requires me to make 10K on my farm or I can't be a farm.  New Jersey only requires $500 - go figure!  Anyway, it's always a stressful time.  Much hand wringing and tearing out of hair, but I got there on time with my scratch pad in hand.  Darryl always puts me at ease.  On the way home I stopped at Le Maison Blanc Bakery for some self medicating.  Oh, those kiwi custard tarts are good.  Brought some home for Matt but they never made it.   Got more apples for Lilly and the old girls too.  I figured since I had just womaned up and did my taxes I could take it a step further and stop at Mrs. B's Warehouse in Norwich on the way home.  I scored a neat nylon spring raincoat with zip out wool lining,  a lovely lambswool bathlounging/ robe, two $5 suede jackets which I intend to cut up and make hand bags out of,  and a pot to melt my beeswax when I make hand creme.   Motored home in the loveliest weather.   Started straight away on picking a beautiful but filthy black mohair fleece. Took a good 2-3 hours but watched documentary on Chaco Canyon which was excellent.  Beautiful glossy locks felted together with much chaff.  My tendonitis is healed sufficiently so that I can pull locks apart.  It takes much pulling and yanking but worth it.  When I don't get the mohair off the animals in time this is what happens.  Wool has much more longevity on the animal than mohair.   I put some wet wool out on the drying rack but the glorious sunshine was not quite enough to get it dry today.  I had picked a  black lambswool fleece and got it cooking in purple RIT dye before I left for the accountant and got that washed.  It's drying in the house with the heat of the wood stove now.  I am backed up with wet fiber to dry again.  If it's nice tomorrow I'll try again outside.  Matt consented to hold a young angora buck for me tonight so I could get his mohair.  Gosh, it's so soft and lovely.  I got it off him just in time.  Just my luck spouse tossed a giant fork full of hay down the hole right on top of him tonight.  Took an hour to pick it out in front of the TV.  Will dye it blue and blend it with some chartreuse wool.  Am trying to duplicate a previous run but don't think it will be the same.  Always a challenge for me to duplicate a run of roving as I only use my own fiber or Kim's angora.  I figure she's part of my organization so don't consider it my fiber too.   I don't always have the same amounts of fiber or dyes on hand.  Do what I can.  It's getting into the wee hours now and I think I will put this box of mohair up high so no kitties or dogs can get into it and call it a day.  I my really have to break off from the Fiber Fanaticism to do more soapmaking and sewing.  I do tend to get on a jag and run with it but that's how I get things done.  Think I'll make some Lemon Ginger Tea and call it a day.  Wait a minute - lost an hour tonight. I told the sheep to hold on, spring is on the way, even though it's 36 in the barn tonight.  Little "Guy" had his sweater folded up on his back tonight and I was worried.  I guess Mom was smooching with him and pushed it up.  I hate to step in their pen with dirty boots.  I checked on them later and he was snuggled in with Mom looking very contented.  No shivering at all.   The design of  my lamb sweater  with a turtleneck and the chest covering along with the back flap keeps babies covered and warm quite nicely.  Good night all.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Mo' Mohair

I have some very hairy angora goats waiting to be shorn.  With the weather warming up this weekend, and a big doe conveniently caught in the fence around the new born kid pen, I decided to give her a trim. The goat was not amused and really thought it was a dirty trick.  I stradled her and went to work with my Fiskar scissors, leaving a nice coat on to keep her warm.  I got a shopping bag full of lovely mohair.  Her girlfriends stood by and stared.  They are next...

Hanging Aquarium

We are having a wonderful time building our hanging aquarium in the classroom.  We even made kelp for the little fishes to hide from sharks.  Today was Pieter Mondrian's birthday so we made drawings of his Neo Plastic paintings.  Very cool.

World of Wonder

My little as yet un-named goat kid is curious about the chickens that float in and out of his pen.  He is adorable, and I love his little sweater.  I crocheted this lamb sweater a while back instead of knitting it.  The double crochet stitches work great and the sweater does not shift around his little body.  I am still amazed that more people don't try this approach to keeping their newborns warm instead of heat lamps.  The lamps are costly and require plugging in to an outlet which is not always nearby.  The baby can move away from the beam of heat and still freeze.  The sweater stays on, yet can pull off if the lamb or kid gets caught on something.  The cape keeps the back and rump warm while allowing pee and poo to fall freely.  I will write the crochet instructions down soon.  I'm about to rush home and check for more goat babies.  If this little guy was born, well, you know there could be others.  Goat mothers are fantastic.  I've only had one BAD goat mother in all these years of raising angoras and that was not entirely her fault.  I found the mom in the throes of labor and something was wrong.  The baby was stuck, probably a shoulder on the mom's pelvis born.  I got the baby unstuck and delivered safely, but mom was so traumatized by the pain and my interference that she never wanted that little black doe.  I adore black doe kids. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Life and Death

I went out in the barn later than usual yesterday.  I took care of the dogs and cats who are anxiously waiting for my truck to pull in the driveway, and made myself a cup of tea.  I stood in the snow and took in the lovely bright blue sky and sunshine then went back inside to sew a bit.  Matt was staying late at work and I didn't have to make dinner for a while.  When he did come home and the evening meal was out of the way we made our way out to the barn and found "Old Mama,"  my 14 year old Grande Dame of the flock, stretched out with a dazed look on her face.   She drew her last breath as if she had been waiting for me to come out and do chores and now could say good bye.  The moment I had been dreading had come.  I was losing Lilly's mother, the ewe who came to me from Ohio as a grown sheep, when I still lived in New Jersey.  This wonderful girl was incredibly hardy from the beginning.  She gave birth to Lilly on Easter Sunday.  I hauled her and the others around from rental to rental before finally deciding I had to have a farm of my own and ventured north to the wilds of upstate New York.  It was all about the sheep.  I was tired of moving them, and me, around and wanted my own land, a permanent home.  I bought the best barn I could find that was still standing.  For the sheep.  Old Mama was very withered and bony, with ears that hung down instead of standing up.  I didn't shear her this year for fear she would freeze over the winter.  Imagine she made it through this far, almost all the way to another spring.  I'm so glad she had her beloved apple slices last night.  It was always Old Mama first, then Lilly, then the other old ladies, and then rotating back to Old Mama.  As we were standing by her we heard a little newborn cry.  Then again.  Nothing springs a shepherd to action like the cry of a little one in the bitter cold.  It was a tiny baby goat kid!  The timing could not have been better.  My heart went from aching over this sheep who had spanned my entire history as a shepherd, to leaping for joy that I had a baby this winter after all.  That little red buck who escaped from the back pen must have gotten his licks in.  Who knows what else will come now?   I caught him early enough in the ten degree cold to get a thick wool crocheted sweater on him.   Matt helped me catch the new, and wild, but hungry (always an aid in catching a goat) mother when she went for the hay we put down.  I had to trim around her udder and nurse out the very few drops I could squeeze out of the virginal teats.  I got a syringe barrel full and made the baby swallow it.  That's how I make sure it gets where it needs to go.  Love the way the thick gooey magical elixir makes them sleep, then bounce up with the energy necessary to nurse.  It took quite a bit of running back and forth to get my act together after not having played midwife since last October when Robert and Duvall were born the night before I left for Rhinebeck.  I tossed and turned last night wondering if I should have left them in the cold, did Mom drink enough of the warm molasses water I prepared to get her milk going?  Would he shake off the sweater which would surely mean freezing to death?  Would Mom decide she didn't want to be a mother and jump out of the pen?  I was wishing I had more panels to shore up the walls but all my extras were used to build the ill-fated hay feeders which are busted up pretty good now.  This space would have to do.  I was much relieved when I went out in the early morning and saw mom lying up against the newborn.  She jumped up when she saw me but stood by her baby and let him nurse.  She hunched over slightly when he latched on, as a new mother would, but stood quietly as he drank.  I put my hand under the sweater and he felt toasty warm.  God bless those sweaters.  No heat lamps needed.  My sweaters are better than lamps.  I petted Old Mama once more and closed her eyes.  I have no way to bury her with the ground frozen and no equipment.  She will go on the dead pile where her beautiful bones will go to feed the coyotes and other wildlife.  Sometimes I go up there to look at how the bones of my loved ones are scattered.  It's clear the bodies are dragged away from the dead pile and then consumed.  Now they are part of the land.   I'm going to get home ASAP and pray everything is alright.  It's a lament I've had for the 12 years or so that I've been a working shepherd.  I hate to leave them, and tell them I'm doing it for them, and try to forget about them all day long, but I never really do. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

New Tote

Work went well today.  Much positive feedback from the new principal.  He's a great guy and very supportive of my art program.  It was his idea to make me full time art, and he's given me much encouragement.  The little kids, two classes of them came today.  We have another class of youngins on Monday, too.  Our hanging aquarium is looking very nice.  We have tropical fish, crabs, sharks and shells along with some kelp swimming around over our heads.  Our art classes eat up the crafts, then I fall back on painting.  Painting is my favorite.  It's what art is all about.   I just taught them about Fauvism with the broad brush strokes and vivid colors.  Next we'll do Impressionism.  I think we will paint a Monet's Garden mural for the hall.  Our Water for Elephants mural kept falling down so we dismantled it and hung up the elephants in our room.  Drove home in lovely weather - crisp and cold in vivid blue skies.  Would love to lie down but getting up again would be difficult.  I'm drinking Gevalia's Afternoon Revival tea - appropriate name - and sewing a Bundaflicka tote which I will take a picture of and enter in the Colorscape jury.  My images are due by Monday.  I love this upscale show which takes place in Norwich on the town square.  It is the start of the fall season for me, and many of the patrons are people I know from school.    Right now all my efforts have to be focused on Maryland.  I'm very excited about the annual trip to the Mecca of All Things Fiber.  The weather here in the North Land is still cool the first week of May, but Maryland can be boiling by then.  One year Kim and I stopped at a, yes, I confess, Walmart to buy some cheap shorts and sandles it was so hot.   I will have a new booth neighbor on one side as the weaver from Montana is not coming back.  I have an idea for some chicken wire screens to use as booth partitions.  Very farmy and I would be able to hang things on them.  Better get to work on that soon, along with everything else.  All the wool I get carded will go right to the Farmer's Market in Hamilton the week after I come back from Maryland, and then Bouckville in June.  All very exciting.  Better get to work.   

Monday, March 04, 2013

Monday Night

Lydia is better tonight, so much so that she jumped out of her sick box and bolted out the door into the dark and cold.  Could not find her but will keep looking.  Very, very cold out there tonight.

Started a new project with the little ones today - stuffed fish.  Seemed appropriate for the Pisces People.  The kids cut great big construction paper tropical fish out, then painted both sides before stapling them together and stuffing them with newspaper.  Fawn and I are hanging them from the ceiling and they look so cool.  The kiddie classes are working well, and the two or three 18 year olds I have the same period are joining in with their projects.  Sometimes it's okay to be a kid again.

Stayed after school to do some special ed paperwork due today.  Arrived home to find the doggies had been very, very naughty.  New dog, Cooper, is 1 year old, and, if the theory holds true, he is 7 in human years.  That figures about right.   We have a long way to go with this boy.  Good thing he's so cute.

The sheep had their apples tonight.  When Matt went into town yesterday to get the Sunday paper he said no the the apples.  Said there was no way he was going to pay $5 for a bag of apples.  Okay.  I got them after work today and gave them to the old ladies, on small slice at a time.  Love those girls, and if a sliver of apple puts a spring in their step and a twinkle in their eyes, well, so be it.

Sewing Bundaflicka totes.  In this small apartment the sound of my clickety-clack sound of my sewing machine is very loud.  I like to sew at night.  Spouse likes to watch TV.  Therein lies the problem.   Heck, I think I will throw in the towel and go horizontal.  Izzy is giving me that longing look that says he is ready, too.  Nighty-night.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sunday Night

Cold, gray and snowy outside - warm and snug inside.  Was going to take a walk up the hill but the day ran away from me.  The whole weekend got away from me.  It was just so wonderfully relaxing to be home and not have to get in the truck once.  Sure I work all weekend, but working at home doesn't seem to be work to me, especially if I can do it in my jammies.   Aside from spending some quality time with my animals I got a bit done.  Lavender and Peppermint soap, a couple of skeins plied (needed to free up my bobbins) more fiber dyed and dried, four totes cut out.  Was hoping to do some sewing but didn't get to it.  One of my favorite cats, Lydia, is not well.  Don't know how old she is but she's old as the hills.  I found her on Coffeetown Road in Riegelsville, on the Delaware River, where I lived before I came here.  I was driving home from work when I went around a sharp turn in the road, about a mile away from my house.  There were five little kittens sitting on the side of the road, lined up like they were waiting for a bus.  I put on the brakes to look at the little group and marveled at the way they stayed on the side.  How did they manage to avoid the traffic and stay alive?  Who did they belong to?  They were in front of an empty house.  I was to find out the details of the house later.   I pulled over just in time to see a large calico cat bounding across the yard across the road from where the kittens were waiting.  The kittens got excited when they saw her, and they all ran into the bushes.  I worried about the family of cats, and saw them again on the side of the road.  I decided to capture them and managed to get the kittens.  Can't remember if I got Mom at the same time, as my memory is getting rusty about more than a few things, but I know I got them all home.  The kittens were thriving, but I couldn't keep Lydia in the house.  She escaped and I was devastated as I had become attached to the whole group and taken responsibility for them.  The kittens didn't need to nurse any more, but I still wanted Lydia.  It was several weeks before I found her again, near where she lived in the bushes with the kittens.  I was driving home and saw a woman holding something in her hand, like she was offering it to something on the ground.  I stopped and asked her if she saw a calico cat with a black mask and she pointed to the shrubs.  Sure enough there was Lydia.  I scooped her up and brought her home again.  I got her fixed so there would be no more kittens to worry about.  Shortly thereafter we moved to the farm.  Lydia loves the farm.  It's just the right amount of wildness for her. She has the entire tractor shed to herself.  Sometimes I don't see her for days.  Other times she's waiting for us on the enclosed stoop where I keep boxes of wool for the kitties to keep warm in the winter.  Lately Lydia has been trying to come inside, and I let her.  She's been sitting in a box on a blanket for three days, not moving much at alll.  When I realized she was not eating I gave her mashed up salmon cat food mixed with water - a slurry as my vet calls it - squirting it in her mouth with a big syringe barrel, not allowing her to spit it out. I wormed her and gave her a shot of penecillin.  When I touch her she arches her back and purrs, very encouraging.  I hope this is not the end for the brave courageous cat mother who gave me Petunia, Lizzie, Pounder and the others.  I have no idea how old she was when I picked her up seven years ago.  I have plenty of cats, but there are some very special kities who will loom large in my collective memory - and Lydia is one of them.  

Friday, March 01, 2013

Oh, So Sweet

Not even a barn full of sheep can keep me from missing my kids.  Oh, they were so sweet.  If only I could have them back to do it all over again.  They are all grown up now.  Eric has his own Boy Scout Council in Portland, Maine - the Pine Tree Council.  He is very successful in his new position.  He says, "They love me."  What's not to love?  Father Aaron is joining the Episcopal Church,  and will be official as of September 7.  I hope to attend the ceremony at Grace Church in Las Vegas.  AJ is busy ministering to his Army troops and just finished a "Strong Bonds" weekend with single soldiers at a desert retreat.   Mia is very busy with her surgery group in Morristown.  She is a Nurse Practitioner for two busy surgeons and routinely puts in 12 hour days.  Tonight she is off to ski in Vermont where Killington has been blessed with 14 inches of snow.  The kids are all grown up and have demanding and rewarding lives of their own.  I think I'll go hug a lamb.

Home Sweet Home

There is something so sweet about pulling in to the farm driveway on a Friday night after a looooonnng week at work, knowing I don't have to leave the farm all weekend.  I stayed at school until 5 or so to work on Special Ed. paperwork then drove home in the snow and falling temps.  We've had snow for a few days in a row - nothing substantial but enough to make driving difficult with roads covered with ice and slush.  To go over 40 is to risk your life on the roads I travel.  Bless their hearts the people at work never give me a hard time about being a few minutes late in bad weather.   I'm so glad to be home with my sheep, dogs and cats.  I made an easy dinner of tuna on the local Heidelberg Bakery's French Peasant Bread, then we headed out to chores.  I've been staying in the barn late at night working on fleeces and tonight was no different.  I have a rhythm going.  Pick the wool, pulling locks apart and taking out bits of dirt, hay, dried poo and burdock.  The wool goes in the washer with hot water and detergent.  I watch the tub fill then swish it around with my hands.  I leave the wool in the washer overnight, then spin it out the next day.  I have two giant pots ready on the dye stove filled with water, dye and mordant, either vinegar or citric acid.  I divide the wool between the two pots, bring it to a boil while stirring and lifting the wool, then turn the heat down to a simmer.  I get another fleece or two ready for the washer while the pots are cooking.  I turn off the pots before I got to bed, or, when it is very cold, I leave the pots on a very low heat to prevent the milk room pipes from freezing.  In the morning I take the washed wool out of the washer and put it in a bag, then dump the cooled down dyed wool in the washer for rinsing.  The dye pots are prepared and the washed wool goes in.  And so it goes.  I have quite a back log of dyed wool waiting to be put out to dry.  The best place to dry wool is the "kitchen" table next to the wood stove.  The intense heat is fantastic to dry wool and since it's right under my nose I can continue picking and pulling apart locks.  I can't leave the wool out when I go to work because new dog, Cooper, likes to jump up on the table and lie on the wool, causing most of it to fly off the table.  Nothing is easy around here, but I get it done.  I'm thinking I have three or four runs of roving done.  I love roving.  I don't care for mill spun yarn but roving is still close enough to the fleece stage that I can remain in touch with the animal.  I adore hand spun yarn, and Kim is still loving to spin.  Now Hannah is spinning which is absolutely wonderful.  Can't wait to see what they both bring to Maryland.   I'm hoping to get all this wool packed up and off to John at Frankenmuth by the end of next week.  I'm hoping to get 100 pounds done and shipped.  At $40 a pound, you do the math, that would go a long way to paying for hay, taxes and the lease on my extra land.  One can only live and hope...