Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to Work

Our pond walks are so special, but duty calls and there is work to do in the barn.  Animals need tending to and humans must get ready to go to jobs that keep the farm going.


This pond, man-made by a previous "guest" on this lovely land, makes me wish I could paint.  Sunsets are particularly beautiful and a perfect way to end a busy day.


Cooper, newest dog, loves to swim, but only in selected spots in the pond.  I take him to a secluded place behind a wall of cattails.  Cooper is coming along nicely having spent too much time in a crate.  He's learning to go to the door and bark when he needs to go out.  I expect we'll do some backsliding when I go back to work.   Cooper no longer chases chickens, thankfully.  He's a terrific watchdog and loves playing with his ball.  I'm hoping I can teach him to retrieve it from the middle of the pond, like my sainted Bodie.

Bertha Loves to Swim

Pond Walk

The doggies tell me when it's time to go up the hill.  It's good for me and them.
It's a half hour walk, up, around, and down, but we love to linger and play in the water.  Bertha is quite the water puppy. We've been hiking up to the pond twice a day lately.  I would love to let Bertha and Cooper off their lines, but they would go exploring and take their own sweet time about coming back to the barn.  Besides, I need them to help pull me up the hill.

Monday, July 29, 2013

What About Me?

As I was wandering around in the mist looking at my beautiful sheep this morning, Cooper was standing in the window, all 75 pounds of him, whining to come out with me.  There are times when I don't want dog leashes pulling my arms out of the sockets.  I just want to wander the land with my camera in hand.  With those mournful faces looking after me that doesn't happen very often.

What's On the Wheel?

I'm spinning some lovely yellow Bluefaced Leicester dotted with spurts of orange angora rabbit.  I so enjoy spinning late at night watching TV with the dogs piled around me.  I'd have a cat on my shoulder but the jealous dogs would never allow it.  

Sheep in the Mist

Monday morning has rolled around again.  The cycle of life continues here in the misty mountains of Northern Appalachia.  Market day on Saturday was everything I hoped it would be.  I don't know how I could expect any more out of that market than what it has given me the last three weeks.  A lot depends on how hard I work on it, having the same location year after year, THE WEATHER, my willingness to communicate to person after person the whole wool process from sheep to yarn to spinning, how my bags are sewn, how the soap is made from melting the silk fibers into the lye solution to raising my own goat milk for it.  Whew!  On Saturday I was chatting people up from nine to one.  When we're packing up that's when I eat lunch.  Non-stop snacking on fresh local blueberries helps.  The market is my summer job and I am very thankful for it.  My market vendor friends are running to other venues, this vineyard, that festival, but I pretty much stick to the Hamilton market all summer.  Come September, when school starts and the wool shows start up, they won't see me.   There is another good market on Thursday in Clinton, but I don't want to do it.  I know what pace I can keep up with and I love staying on the farm in the summer.  I am finally hoeing out (a local phrase for serious cleaning) my bedroom.  I have a mountain of clothes and sheets on the floor of the apartment.  I don't think I'll have to go shopping for school clothes other than a new pair of clogs and a couple pairs of pants.   I have so many things going on now I don't know where to start in the morning.  I have a huge amount of Diana English Rose Soap to cut up (in honor of her first grandchild), bags to sew, and, very important, fleeces to sort for sale as raw wool and to put in the dye pot.  My dye stove is still cold and that's not good.   If I don't get the fiber sorted, washed, dyed, washed again, put out to dry, packed up and shipped out to the carding mill I won't have any new fiber for fall shows.  Don't want to disappoint my faithful patrons.  So why am I sitting here?  I think I'll gaze out my window at the sheep in the mist and sip my coffee just a little bit longer.  Sheep are creatures of habit.  They sleep in the safety of the barn until something tells them to get up and amble out to the hillside where the first rays of sun are rising on the other side of the piney ridge.  They eat their breakfast, then go file back inside the barn where the coolness of the hay/manure pack keeps them comfy through the warmest time of the day.  The dreaded blowflies that bite them and lay eggs in their wool, leading to the awful fly-strike, avoid the barn for some strange reason.  I've been out to the barn to feed the kitties, chickens, goats and ducks.  Comet gets his bottle and a few tiny kittens get some sips to help them along the way.   Now it's time for me to make some of last night's eggs for my breakfast, or maybe a slice of Annie's hearts of sunflower bread, which is more like a delicious hearty slice of cake, and coffee.  Ah, yes, more coffee. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Splendor in the Grass

I made another batch of Diana Rose Soap this morning.  Couldn't help myself.  All the pots were out, the Pyrex bowls for diluting the silk fibers in the lye were looking at me, and I had all the ingredients.  I had purchased five pounds of the lovely fragrance from Brambleberry, and it was a fait accompli.  Last night's pot had rose soap stuck to the sides of it, so I soaked it in the bath tub.  I put a plug in the drain and, when it was dissolved, took a bath in it.  What luxury!  I'm sure I reek of it.  When climbing out I was reminded of the handicap bar that spouse has been promising to put on the wall by the tub.  It would have been handy as the tub was covered with soap slime.  Promises, promises.  I adore my huge claw foot tub and am still taking my daily soaks to commerate the year I spent living in a camper with only an intermittently working shower with piece of plastic under it in the corner.  I got a teaching job right away, and had to dress for work every day.   When my little shower froze up - I couldn't get the camper over 40 F. even with two space heaters going - I began sneaking sink baths in the bathroom at the end of the hall in school.  The principal, classy lady, found out about it and offered me the cosmetology shower.  I was horribly embarrassed at the time but I laugh about it now. Spouse is thinking about building an outdoor shower as company never wants to take a bath in my tub.  Maybe they think it is violating my space.  I can make Hannah and Luke take a bath, but not grownups.  Their loss, especially with a bar piled high with my soaps across the top.  I took the doggies on a hike up to the tippy top on the ridge where my dead pile is.  I need bones for the dogs to make them stop chewing on my stuff.  Fortunately the coyotes left some lovely, dry white femurs, skulls and jaw bones for us.  I sat down to take in the view and the sky dotted with puffy white clouds.  What heaven.  Positively intoxicating.  A green glow is starting to cover the hillside where we just cut - maybe we will get more hay this year, with the lower hillside still lush with grass.  As we were moving slowly down the steep hill, with my shirt carrying the load of bones, and less tension on his spikey choke collar, Cooper dipped his head just right and slipped his lead.  Naughty boy.  I know he won't run away as he knows this is his home, but he will run all over the place annoying chickens and disturbing my zen-like state.  We go on daily hikes, sometimes three times a day. Good for the dogs and good for me.  I often stand all day teaching art and I need to keep up my strength.  The new principal, sweet guy who is very supportive, wants me to teach home economics along with pottery in addition to art.  He gave me back my old GED room, which has a brand new kiln never used.  I am already apprehensive about it, but I'll make it work somehow.  I remember standing at the stove with a 15 year old student, teaching him how to crack an egg over a frying pan.  He was thrilled and I found it very gratifying.  The pottery will be more challenging, but I will start with hand built things first.  We don't have a wheel yet.  A little lunch now, a barn check, and Shepherd's Creme this afternoon, along with some sewing on custom orders.  I always have something wonderful to do.

Random Thoughts in No Particular Order

The weather is lovely and cool this morning and I have the most wonderful foamy cappucino coffee in front of me.  I also have five dogs who need to go out and pee.  Woe is them for a few minutes.    The doggies are such good company.  After chores we all hunker down on the two big sofas and hang out.  I have one or two wedged up against me and they make little growls when the others come near.  I've never been so popular.  Money can't buy this kind of love.

The apartment smells divine thanks to the Diana Soap I made yesterday.  I made an extra strength batch of English Rose, to honor the first grandchild of Princess Diana, may her memory be a blessing in our lives.  I adore the soft rose scent, and often have people say, OH, this is so nice, that it reminds them of their grandmothers, or they want to put it in their nightie drawers.  It reminds me of the Crabtree and Evelyn stores I used to frequent when I lived in New Jersey.    AJ and Mia's teachers always got the Crabtree heart glycerin soap.  I've always loved soap.  It's the gift that keeps on giving.  This soap will be ready in a couple of weeks, depending on the humidity, etc.  It set up so quickly yesterday I couldn't get it in the molds and had to spread it out in a box lid.  Maybe it's Diana's life force helping it along.

Thor has a favorite kitty in the barn.  He's a little black and white Tom who reminds me of Hannah's Fergus.  The kitty rubs up against Thor with his back arched.  Thor nuzzles him all over with his big nose.  Thor can be very moody.  I saw him kill a cat that got near his food bowl.  One bite, kitty was gone.   This kitty appears to have captured the heart of his savage beast.

One of the North Side Duck gang is sitting on a nest in the hay mow.  Luke counted 17 eggs.  She likes to hang with her girlfriends (I think they are girls - hard to tell with ducks) and comes in for corn at chore time before going back to her nest. I thought the nest was abandoned but noticed the eggs were carefully covered with feathery threads of hay and down.  Chickens stay on the nest until they hatch.  Ducks take breaks apparently.  I bet the three friends will form another Mama Posse if these eggs hatch.  I adore the ducklings.  Thanks to Thor, Finn and Knut, along with Tanner who is another self-appointed bard yard guardian, the fox who lives behind the barn on the ridge stays away.   Tanner will stand in front of her den and bark for hours unless I bring her in.  It sounds like she's saying "Don't even think about it."

On deck for today - a new batch of Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme, which I enjoy making once I get the big set up done.  Lots of bottles and buckets requiring counter space which I don't have.   I may have acres and acres but I have a Manhattan kitchen.  Go figure.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


The weather gods have gifted us with a picture perfect day.  After a cool night where I closed the windows and turned off the box fans,  a clear, lovely day has dawned.  I will venture out to Norwich where I need to make several stops including the homesteader's store for lye and oils,  the sewing machine guy for drive bands, Haye's office supply for labels, and feed store for dog/cat food.   I might be tempted to stop at La Maison Blanche, where talented artists from Manhattan create incredibly delicious pastries for we upstate people.  I have two bags about to be assembled.  They are made from water resistant fabric, which I do not enjoy sewing on, but makes fabulous diaper or beach bags.  We walked the hillside in my LL Beaner nightie,  wandering through the grazing sheep who are wary of the dogs, but continue to eat - something I so enjoy doing, because I can.   Still amazed at how much clover and grass is on the hill.  Last year it was dust by now.   Once I get my lye I can make the Garden Rose soap I've been looking forward to.  It is not an essential herbal oil, which I prefer, but the smell is divine and I adore it.   There is something to be said for scent without a purpose.  I'm enjoying watching the morning shows, something impossible for me when school is in session.  I have to catch the news later in the day when there's a break in the action, which is when the kids leave school.  CNN has a new morning show, which I like. A little more emphasis on news instead of human interest but that's okay.  The moderators wear less sensational and sexually explicit clothing - arms covered and reasonably fitting.  One of them is a bit zoftig.  Like real life!  I don't like bare shoulders and cleavage on the news.  What a prude I've become.   Oh, Anthony, please bow out and start a homeless shelter or something.  How I will miss Mayor Bloomberg.  More coffee, morning chores, then out to see if my truck will start after five days of sitting idle.  Ain't it grand.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No Swimming Tonight

I don't think I'll get in the pond tonight.  It was a life-saver in the intense heat.  I do love it so.  It's cool today and I don't like to swim alone.  If anything happened, and you never know, it would be days before anyone would even come looking for me.  Poor doggies and kitties.  The sheep would have grass and water.  Isn't it weird to even think about it?  Farm life can be very, very, weird.  In the meantime I can enjoy the lovely sunsets and listen to the Froggy String Band...

 without getting in.

What's on the Wheel

I would love to duplicate this run of  purple mohair, salmon wool and  turquoise angora.  I adore this fiber and won't sell any more of it.  Would love to get some socks made of this.  I can't possibly match this run because I never have the same amount of fiber, don't measure the pounds of fiber vs. dye, and should have the proper alignment of the planets, which is impossible to figure out.   I will get the dye pots fired up soon.  It's an incredible amount of work, sorting, picking and washing in preparation for dyeing.  Then the cooking starts, followed by more washing to get the dye residue out before the fiber is set out to dry.  Protecting it from cats, chickens and rain are also things to be considered. 
 Last night I was thinking I would swoon from the heat coming from the dye stove.  Today I'm turning off the fans and reaching for a fleece vests.  What heaven.  Much easier on the animals, too.  I lost one little goat in the heat wave and am thankful that's all. 


The Mommy-Posse takes the four baby ducklings around the farm, never leaving them alone.  One mom per baby.  The bio-mom is especially protective.  I found one little duckling in the weeds on her side.  I thought, oh, no, what happened and picked her up.  Bad idea.  Mom came flying at me and I let go of the baby and ran.   I'm very impressed with the collective effort on behalf of the little ones.  There is a nest of 17 eggs up in the mow but I fear it's been abandoned.  That makes four failed nests that I know of in the last couple of years.  It also makes these four babies more precious.  I just hope they are females.  Very hard to tell with ducks.


Little Comet was calling for Luke to come out and give him his morning bottle.  I was ignoring him as I had just made myself a bleu cheese omelette and was thoroughly enjoying it.  The little guy wouldn't let up and ran around the other side of the barn where he spied Sister Bernadette in her yard.  He decided to hit her up for a bottle but no go.  He had his own sister, Boo-Boo- with him.  Maybe he thought she could help him find his breakfast.  They have a mother with milk, and Boo-Boo takes advantage, but Comet is stubborn and likes the powdered stuff.  Sister Bernadette kindly called me to come and get him.  Bottle administered, peace on the farm.

Cloudy and Cool

Woke up to a dark, cloudy sky and cool temps.  Perfect for walking the doggies up the hill. Had to do it twice before poor Cooper could do his business.  He spent too long in a crate before he came to me and has a hard time letting go.  We are making strides with his house training.  He runs to the door and tells me it's time.  Luckily I'm home on the farm to help out.  Sewing for me again today.  I'm on a roll and enjoying it.  Good way to watch the Royal Baby news.  I guess I'm more of an anglophile than I realized.  Maybe I'm deriving vicarious pleasure from their fairytale lives.  If only Diana had it so good with Charles.  William and Kate have everything she wanted but couldn't have with that dud.  It's all about finding the right mate.  I have so much to do and feel like I'm running out of time.  Should be making soap but have to make a run to the homesteading store in Norwich for lye.  Haven't started the truck in three days and don't want to, but need creme labels from Hayes Office too.  Looks like a fait accompli.  I have everything to make creme but the kitchen is a mess after me being home alone and sewing all the time.  Nothing is 100 percent.  Rained yet again on the  40 acres of hay across the road.  It's not my hay but I can't help but feel for them.  Don't know who the people gave the grass to, but they used a whole lot of diesel to cut and rake it.  Now it's plastered to the ground after being rained on three times.  The weather here is very tricky.  The report can say clear and the water is coming down - like today.   Rips your guts out.   I'm hoping the hay in my barn is dry enough.  Looks like I might be getting a second cut, if I can keep the sheep off it.  The grass down below is still lush and green.  Fingers crossed.  Farming is a series of heart breaks punctuated by some sublime satisfaction once in a while in between.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Five new totes to take to the market on Saturday.  Need to build a bigger rack for the fall shows.  The doggies are being so good about taking extended naps and letting me sew between walks.  Sewing is also good for watching the Royal Prince coverage.  Can't get over how radiant and fantastic Kate looks after an extended labor and 8 pound baby.  The Brits are so good at getting women through childbirth without drugs and intervention.  No wonder she looks so good.  I bet there is another little royal before too long.  I can't imagine taking a baby home to such luxury and pampering.  Maybe that's why we are so in awe of them.  They look so normal but they are so fabulously wealthy.  Still, Dad has to go back to work in two weeks.  I read that Will and Kate's favorite supper is pork and beans on toast.  Impressive.   Kate has fingernails that look like mine, short with no polish.  I spotted a little gouge on her knuckle.  Maybe she does do her own housework?  Speaking of work, all this sewing, and spinning at night, is getting me behind in housework.  Need to sweep the floor in here, and rake the barn floor.  Miss my little man helping me and keeping me company with chores.  Need to do a big kitchen cleaning to get set up for making Shepherd's Friend creme.  When the baby coverage wanes I'll be out in the dye room.   Supper tonight - spring greens with crumbled bleu cheese, tomatoes, red onions, black olives with balsamic dressing.  I don't think I'll be tempting the doggies much with that salad.   The sun is back out and we'll get a good walk in tonight.  There must have been three inches of rain last night.   There is forty acres of cut hay flattened to the ground across the road.   What a shame.  Did they watch the weather report?  My second cut should be getting a good start with all this rain.  In August the hurricanes start coming up the coast and the sun will wane.  Fine with me except that school will start and I will have to leave the farm.  Don't want to think about that now...The barnyard is teeming with mother hens and their chicks.  My gosh, these moms are amazing, turning out their babies and, for the most part, keeping them alive amid all the hooved animals moving through them.  I have to watch where I walk and when I close doors.  I picked up one of the four baby ducks who fell behind the group today and was immediately threatened by the mother duck and her posse.  She has three girlfriends with her at all times making one adult for each baby.  It's been so wet lately that the ducks always have somewhere they can find water.  So nice not to have to worry about the ducklings drowning like the baby chicks.  I still put out fresh water every day in a garbage can lid and shallow pan in the driveway for them.  So cute to see four baby ducks together in a pan having fun.  When I approach with a camera the moms whisk them away.  I need a telephoto lens for Christmas!  

Little Prince

I kept an eye on the news all day yesterday, waiting for the grand news, and mentally going through labor with Kate.  It was hot, muggy and cloudy.  I had been hoping around pretty much all day, and laid down on the sofa for a nap with the doggies.   I drifted away and had the most lovely nap.  Dreamed I heard the phone ringing.  It stopped and rain again.  I staggered over to the nasty bugger and looked to see who it was.  I don't get a lot of calls, mostly ads due to my commercial farm listing (bad idea) but when they rang twice....It was a very annoyed Sister Bernadette telling me that baby goats were in the driveway, running toward the back of the barn where the silos are.  Sister Bernadette is the sister of Farmer Chris, who still lives in the little farmhouse next to my barn.  His family worked this farm for fifty years.  Sister Bernadette and her sibling, Sister Grace, nailed up the roof over my head so she gets special consideration from me.  The roof never leaks.  I knew I would hear from Sister Bernadette sometime this summer, and it wouldn't be good news.  Farmer Chris is a saint, and never complains about my wild menagerie swarming over his little patch of land adjacent to mine.  The Sisters like order, and boundaries and rules obeyed, which I have never been good at.  I peaked out the window at the driveway and didn't see any baby goats.  Back to the sofa and the news to find I missed the big announcement.  I'm not a celebrity followed by any stretch of the imagination, but I am fascinated by the Royals.   I stayed up all night to watch Diana's wedding.  I adored her.  I'm so appreciative of the attention the press is giving her with regard to William and Kate's baby.  I identified with Diana in many ways.  It's complicated.  Anyway, I'm loving this event.  I've got a stack of Bundaflicka totes on the machine, and, after chores and doggie walking, I'll be stationed there, in front of the telly, watching for a glimpse of The Little Prince.

Monday, July 22, 2013

What to Do...

Spouse has gone off to teach weatherization in Queens all week.  I'm holding down the farm.  What joy - I can tend to critters, tidy up, then do all the crafts I want.   I have so much planned for myself that I'm getting a little headache thinking about it.  No matter, some toast and rhubarb/strawberry jam will calm me down.  I've already spread out two mohair fleeces out to skirt.  I have to clean off the dye stove, wash all the buckets, feed pans and chicken waterers I have piled in the slop sink, and fire up the dye pots.  I found a giant tub in the upper mow filled with lovely black Bluefaced Leicester fleeces.  I'll use them for myself, but all of this year's black fleeces will go as raw wool.  I have all the ingredients I need to make my Shepherd's Friend, even two pounds of lavender essential oil, except maybe for labels.  Not anxious to make a 50 mile round trip to Norwich but I need a drive band for my old Singer and might be able to get one there along with the creme labels.  Note to self - stock up on extra drive bands.  This one is held together with super-glue.  The day will fly by.  If the band goes I can cut out bags for days with all this gorgeous fabric I have.  I have plans to make knitting needle cases and Yarn Pockets too.  The bags are my first love.  When your life is busy and complicated, or scary and horrific, make totes to carry the weight.  Hoping to get up to the pond again tonight.  We went up with the dogs last night hoping to take in the full moon, but the cloud cover was so thick there was no sunset brilliance or moonglow either.  She showed herself momentarily on the way back down the hill to remind me she was really there.   The royal baby is on the way.  Oh, wouldn't it be nice for all babies to be so anticipated and loved.  Annie's home made hearts of sunflower seed bread for breakfast.  I hid some in the freezer for myself.  It's too good to put jam on it, just real butter, with pulpy orange juice.  Life is good.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Comet keeps looking for Luke, making little bleets and looking at the doors and windows.  I'm trying to get him weaned off the bottle.  I put a spoonful of milk replacer in the bottle to flavor it and lots of warm water.  He's eating green grass and gets his cracked corn treat at night.  Comet has a twin sister, Boo-Boo.  They tootle around the farm together.  She's the smarter of the pair and got the reluctant mother to let her nurse early on.  Comet was intent on keeping the bottle coming.  I much prefer it Boo-Boo's way.

Sunday Morning

Lovely to sit outside in the coolness of the morning and watch my sheep graze in the mist.  Mother hens are leading their chicks around, teaching them how to scratch in the dirt and drink droplets of dew off the blades of grass.  New Age music is floating out from the barn and hummingbirds are buzzing over my head.  The sheep are staying close as there is still so-much-grass on the lower hillside.  What a difference a year makes.  Last summer this time the hillside was dusty and covered with thistles.  The sheep kept running up top where I was trying to grow some second cut.  Couldn't blame them.  They were hungry.  Still thinking about the moonlight swim last night with the burning fuschia and mango sunset filtering through the cattails and reeds.  Wispy storm clouds partially obscured the moonglow.  No little boy to push me around on the raft but that's okay.

. Should be full moon tonight.  I'll be there. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Market Day

Hannah, Luke and parents took off for home in Gorham, Maine, near Portland, and I took off for the market.  Matt had gone early and set up for me.  It was good for me to get out of here after the kids leaving.  I have lots of "kids" here, but I still miss my human
 kids.  The market was slow at first, with other events happening around the area, and July 4th tourists gone home, but I did okay.  I sold a gun metal gray nubby tweed messenger to a very tall manly man.  It was a bit of surprise as this bag was the last bag I expected to sell today.  I really thought I would have it for Rhinebeck this fall.  I got the fabric from Sally Newhart Slipcovers in New Orleans.  The lining is from the Gunlocke haul courtesy of Crayonbox Designs.  Sometimes I hold fabric for years before I find the perfect lining.  This was a great match.   I am psyched to sew this coming week, with several totes cut out and ready to put together.  This time last year I was searching the tractor shed for fabric I brought with me from New Jersey.  Not this summer.  I have more beautiful cloth than I can possibly sew.   I have a mountain of fleeces to sort, and another  mountain of clothes to go through in my room.  I saved them from the possums in the tractor shed a couple of years back and never sorted them out.  Who knows what treasures I will find in there?   I drove home from the market in the rain.  A cold breeze is coming through the fan in the window, not a hot, moist, dragon's breath like yesterday.  I'm a little upset that ghastly heat lasted through Hannah and Luke's visit.  We can't do much about the weather, can we.

Last Day

We decided to go to Button Falls for our last day activity.  We have not visited the waterfall all summer.  Julia, the dairy farmer who does my hay, owns the falls.  We called to make sure the bull is not out and it's okay to swim.   Julia herself was at the falls with her family.  Luke was able to climb the rocks and jump in the pool a few times while Julia and I chatted.  Hannah played with Julia's daughter.   Eric and Annie were on the way from Maine to collect the kids. They both start Boy Scout camp on Sunday.  Hannah will be a Counselor In Training and Luke will be a first level Boy Scout camper.   Luke wants to work on merit badges.  With his focus and enthusiasm I know I'll be attending his Eagle Court of Honor in a couple of years.   I wish I could keep them all summer, but those days are over.  The kids are growing up and will be moving on to other things.  I have Luke's motor bike here so I know he'll be back.  Hannah is 15 and will be driving next year.  The farm doesn't hold the magic for her anymore.  She was terribly homesick for her cat, Fergus, and the celebrity trailer is not the same as her girl-cave at home.  Hannah perked up considerably when her parents arrived.   It was still horribly hot last night, but cold front is moving in.  Thunder was rumbling as we sat outside and a light sprinkly drove us inside. I was hoping for another moonlight swim, but it was not to be. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Round Bales and Moonlight Swim

We rushed home from Hamilton with chicken mcnuggets and a burger for Matt.  I couldn't wait to see what was going on back home.  With all the delays and equipment breakdowns, sons who have to get some sleep so they can work the night shift in the Chobani factory, yada, yada, yada, I was anxious to see if my hay was being baled as promised.  Matt took the day off and spent six hours in the dreadful heat and sun raking the hay.  Rain was forecast for last night and I still didn't know how I was going to get the hay in the barn, if it was baled.  I don't have to tell you this hay business is a killer.  Way too much stress for this old lady.  I'm already planning on how I can raise fewer sheep with heavier fleeces to cut down on hay.  I digress....As I reached the top of the hill and looked out on my land, there was the tractor and round baler.  We were in business.  I got the kids unloaded and called Julia Berger.  She gave me the name of a local guy who might be able to get my round bales in the barn.  Local dairy farmers leave their round bales out in the weather, not me.  They say, oh, the cows pick through the rot.  Not sheep and certainly not my spoiled rotten sheep.   I called Rob Wilcox, who was baling down the road.  He said, sure, I'll be right over.  I couldn't believe my ears. Rob, along with his brother and father, got my bales in the barn with their nifty equipment.  They went up to the tippy top, loaded the bales with their skid loader onto a flat bed truck and brought them down,  then unloaded them at the door to the mow.  Matt and I started rolling them in, then Rob's dad took over my part.  I was relieved in more ways than one.  Those bales are heavy and yours truly never got the mow mucked out properly, making rolling more difficult.   By the time the moon rose and darkess fell, the barn, once again, had 50 round bales in it.  They are not as dry as I would like, with a couple slightly dampish, but they are loosely baled and we left them by the door to dry out.  It will bother me for a while, then I will deal with it, and pray it will be alright for the sheep.  Now it can rain again and we might get a second cut in September.  I am thrilled to know the Wilcox gang who said they would give me a price on cleaning out my barn and spreading it on the fields this fall when haying is over.   I handed over my bottom dollar to Julia and Rob, all this fun comes with a hefty price tag, and I wondered how I would get through the rest of the summer.   I put my worries aside and played with Lukie on the bales.  We decided to take a moonlight swim in the pond, as it was still 90 plus in the dark and we were about done in.  I let the White Boys go, as they would patrol around and make sure no varmints dare come near us in the dark.  The water was divine and truly restorative after a worrisome week.   Lukie pushed me around on the raft, and we talked and talked.  The White Boys paced around and around the water, doing their guard dog thing.  The Froggy String Band performed for us while moonbeams danced on the rippling pond.  If I had a tent up there I would have crawled in and stayed the night on the hilltop, which is now very bald.

Hannah's Felted Hat

I took Hannah and Luke to visit my friend Susanne Farrington in Hamilton for a lesson in wet felting hats.  We've done some wet felting together, but hats take a special expertise and Susanne's got it all figured out.  She welcomed us into her lovely home studio and her friend, Brad, got Luke comfortable with an X box game.  Susanne's studio home is high up on a hill outside of town, sheltered by shade trees.  She had soft classical music playing and I thought I could just move in here.  Every dish in Susanne's kitchen was her own hand thrown pottery.  She built all the beautiful knotty pine kitchen and bathroom cabinets herself, and even made the ceramic drawer pulls.  I don't have to tell you my mind was spinning with plans to copy them at home.  Hannah and I got to work on our hats.  Susanne is very precise about felting and taught us things like how to hold our hands for maximum pressure and effectiveness with felting the fibers.  We laid out the wool, Mother Fiber from Maggie's Farm ofcourse (because Wool is the Mother of All Fibers), and wetted it down with poured water - not sprayed!  It took quite a bit of work, more than Hannah or I realized, but we ended up with a very serviceable hard felted hat.  Susannne made us a lovely lunch half way through, thankfully, as felting is hard work and cannot be done sitting down.  Hannah did have to take a couple of breaks to sit down and check her I-Phone.  A girl's got to do what a girl's got to do.  Maggie was a tad apprehensive as the afternoon wore on, as clouds were forming and hay was being baled back on the farm.  I did think once or twice that I really need to make excuses and say good bye, but I really wanted Hannah to learn this skill.  Nobody embellishes felted things more beautifully than Hannah, and I was determined that she be able to make the accessory itself.  Rain started to fall and I kept telling myself that is might not be raining on the farm.  That's the way it is around here.  You can have a deluge going and ten miles away, not a thing.  We thanked Susanne profusely, and went on her way.  I was so grateful for Hannah, and Luke's, cooperation and perfect behavior over the course of the afternoon that I broke down and bought them the first McD. meal of the vacation.  I secretly did not want to have to cook in 100 F. heat when I was getting hay in the barn.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Making Hay

Still hot as Hades, but just what we need to get some hay in the barn.  Last year was perfect - all the equipment was working and the operation went smoothly.  I had high hopes for the same scenario this year, but farming doesn't work that way.  Murphy's Law refers to problems an Air Force officer was having with an operation, but it could easily apply to farming.   When Julia's mower was broken,  Matt fixed it, but then the tractor was broken and Clinton tractor came out to fix it.  Now the mower is broken again.  With this run of hot dry days slipping away I was a bit worried.  Enter Dennis Owens, a Brookfield farmer who Julia helped out recently with another hay issue.  He returned Julia's favor by mowing my fields.  And so it goes with farmers helping each other out.  Matt is up there raking the hay - turning it over for drying and setting up rows for baling - on his '46 8N.  The next step is for Julia to come over and turn it into round bales.  I won't be out of the woods yet.  It still remains to be seen who is going to bring it down to the barn before it gets rained on.  All this trouble is worth it, as it will prevent me from having to get hay in during the winter, in the bad weather.  My sheep are getting FAT on all this green grass.  This time last year the hillside was dusty dry.  Now it's covered with a bed of clover with clumps of lovely green grass here and there.  The daily drama continues.  In the meantime Hannah and Luke are taking it easy.  Annie is coming to bring them back to Maine and Boy Scout camp next week.  Matt is travelling to LI to teach weatherization all week long.   I will immerse myself in wool and other fiber crafts.  I am sitting directly in front of a large fan while I write, otherwise I might wilt and become totally distracted, unable to focus.  It's 80 F. in the house.   There is a conspicuous absence of house flies this year, even with all the wet weather we've had.  This time last year I was hanging up fresh fly strips in the kitchen every day.  Maybe the five thousand chickens in the barnyard are earning their keep.  Chickens love flies!  The DMV came to Bridgewater, 15 miles north of here, for the one morning a month they offer services to we country people.  I turned in the plates for the old van I gave to a favorite student so he could get to his job, given to him by another teacher's family business.  I was in a line with some scruffy, all white, farmer types, a far cry from motor vehicle in my home town of Morristown, New Jersey, which could be mistaken for an immigration services agency.  Only four hours away but different as night and day.  I stocked up on chocolate ice creme for Luke and Matt.   I  bought a bag of vegetables from an Amish woman on the side of the road.  She was under a tree, with no horse attached to a buggy in the sun, which really irritates me.  I bought potatoes for Hannah which she loves dripping with butter, and various veggies including some swiss chard for our one bunny.  I bought a box of peas and ate them raw all the way home.  Delicious.  On deck for today, more sewing, which is a good way of being productive while not moving very much.  Why, oh why, did I not buy more fans when I was in town with the kids at the movies???

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lying About

Heat wave hits the northeast.  This feels much more normal for this time of year.  No rain for the last two days.  Hannah and Luke don't mind lying low one bit.  We hit the movie theatre yesterday for Despicable 2, during which I had myself a lovely little nap, between munchings on Hannah and Luke's extra melted cheese theatre nachos.  We motored over to Barnes and Noble where a good number of people had camped to soak in the AC.  I treated myself to a chai tea and tiramiso.  Soooo delicious.  The kids spent an hour or so on the carpet perusing a variety of books before we hopped over to Staples to get some more felting bubble wrap.  When it's so hot going from parking lot to parking lot saps your energy and we decided to head home.  I regretted not buying some cold dinner out when I ended up cooking dinner in a house that was already 80F with multiple fans going.  No cooking tonight!!  Cold chicken sandwiches!   I got out early this morning and filled up all the water stations around the barnyard.  The sheep and goats have several places to get water, the closest being the cistern behind the barn.  It was built for cows many years ago, and always has water in it, but in the worst heat of the day they prefer to stay close, in the darkness of the barn, parked on the cool manure/hay pack.  It's duck heaven back there with all the springs coming down the hillside converging behind the barn and continuing toward the road and Beaver Creek beyond.  I have several groups of baby chicks who are too little to drink from the dog or sheep waterers so I keep a garbage can lid filled in the driveway on the south side for them.  The north side chicks have their own little bowl of water.  To deny them water in this heat would be certain death.  The duck mommy is parading around with four ducklings - a cross between my Swedish Blues and the big white Pekins.  The mommy has three girlfriends, a mommy posse, that roam around with her and the babies, bodyguards against any dogs.  The two inside ducklings who were not able to keep up with the pack are now the adored pet of the two sons of the caretaker of the Wm. Hinds Boy Scout Camp in Portland, Maine.  Annie took them home with her and dropped them off.  The caretaker is threatening to eat them if they are males, but if, and we can only live and hope, they are girls they will provide the family with wonderfully large and wholesome eggs.  We gave up on hatching our own eggs when a nasty fluid started oozing from them.  I am so enamored of my ducklings as I've seen three different duck nests abandoned and scattered in the three years I've had ducks.  Oh, they are so cute, and they are born to live in water, smacking their tiny gills in it and wading around.  On deck for today - the kids are reading and relaxing.  The only time I really crack the whip is at evening chore time.  Hannah and Luke both live such busy lives at home in Maine.  Summers are a cherished, unstructured kiddie time.  Speaking of structure, they are both being retrieved by their mother on Friday to start Boy Scout camp. Hannah will begin three weeks of Counselor In Training camp and Luke will be with his scout troop.  There will be no holding down the sofa, or shutting oneself up in the trailer with a good book.  I think I will cut out some bags from this treasure trove of fabric I have all around me.  I made a match to the bag the Maori warrior purchased for his lady last weekend.  I have bags and bags of wool to wash and dye.  Waiting for the bug to bite me and I'll be a rabid picker again.  You would think a box of new Dharma Dyes would do it, but this heat is conspiring against it.  I'm taking two cool baths a day in my big claw foot tub.  A bit of the suburban princess still left in me?  Ah, to be 11 years old and not care of I ever took a bath again....

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hannah and the Market

Annie brought Hannah to the farm last night and I took her to the Hamilton Market with me today.  We were worried about the weather as we woke up to rain despite a very favorable forecast.  We decided to chance it and arrived around nine, fashionably late.  Instead of the big set up we usually do we put up one table and no pop-up, with the bag rack holding my Bundaflicka totes and baskets of yarn and fiber on the grass.  Turned out to be just fine as traffic was brisk and we had a great day.  Patrons were fascinated with Hannah's lovely needle felted embellishments on wet felted hats.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Field Walk

Luke and I took a walk/ride up the hill to look at the lovely hay fields before they are mowed tomorrow.  The grass is growing up above the beautiful wild flowers, which will all be food for my hungry sheep this winter.  The sun is hot and a light breeze is blowing. I hope this is the beginning of a new weather trend, one that will not leave us wet and so hot the only relief is to jump in the pond.  Luke brought his camera to take pictures of the flowers.  That's the kind of kid he is - curious about everything.


Much less humid and rather pleasant today.  Still strange weather with gray clouds dotting the blue sky, but we'll take it.  Much going back and forth about making hay.  Julia and I speaking daily on the phone about what day might be the best, who is available to work, etc.  Matt went to her farm last night after getting home from Syracuse and fixed her broken hay rake.  After grass is mowed it has to be fluffed and raked into rows for baling.  Tough to do that with no rake.  Many complications including a son who works nights at the Chobani factory, a hired man who is scheduled to work at the Madison County Fair Demolition Derby this weekend.  The derby is a very big deal around here.  We are hoping to cut hay tomorrow and bale on Monday.  If it gets rained on I will ask her to wrap it as baleage.  That will present me with feeding challenges but hey, I will deal with it like everything else.  I want to get this waist-high grass cut.    The second cut is growing up through the first cut.  I need to know I have something to feed my sheep this winter.  Who knows, if it keeps raining there might be a second cut.  The sheep are FAT on all this clover and grass on the lower hillside.  This time last year it was dry as dust and they were wandering uphill looking for food.  Annie and Hannah coming tomorrow.  I'm working on Annie's bag made of lovely black fabric from the famous Marsden's in Portland.  She generously bought enough for me to make her a big tote and another smaller one to take to the farmer's market.  Lukie will be glad to see his mommy.  The farm is a wondrous place for a boy but Luke is a family man and misses his people.  I wonder if they can pass his little white goat off as a dog in the fancy development they live in.  Comet would get fat on the golf course they call a lawn and Annie would have less mowing to do. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Sometimes I want to freeze a moment, or scenario, and save it forever.  Lukie is sleeping, New Age music is playing softly, doggies have gone back to bed, the sheep are grazing on the hillside giving me a lovely view out my window, and my tummy is full of wheat toast with butter and jam with Most Pulp OJ.    Life is good.  It will be even better if I can get some hay cut this weekend.  There is a break in this hot, moist, rainy weather or so the forecast promises.  There are so many variables that come into play here.  Julia wants to do my hay again this year but her rake is broken, her son is working at the Chobani factory all weekend, and Matt cannot take any days off to help me roll the round bales into place in the mow once they are delivered to the barn - if we are so lucky.  If I can pull this off it will be a miracle.  One can only live, hope and try her best.  I'm getting some raking done in the barn.  Toughest part is hauling it out to the compost pile, which is across a rutty lane and up an embankment.  My good wheelbarrow is broken due to students I hired filling it up too much with chicken manure and breaking the handles off when they tried to lift it.  I use a plastic garbage can which must be dragged. Trick is don't fill it too much.  I like having a clean concrete barn floor to walk on to the milk house and out Thor's door.  Forget about the rest of the gigantic barn where the animals live.  There is a hay pack two feet high again.  I think my friend Mary is right when she says if you feed baleage - pickled hay wrapped in white plastic bags - there is much less waste.  If Julia can't get dry hay done for me I will ask her to wrap the wet grass in bags and feed it that way.  Trouble is, the bales weigh much more and can't be moved without a tractor with a special forking implement.  The 1946 tractor my spouse chose to sink the last three years of his life into doesn't even have a front loader and I doubt if it could pick up a heavy baleage bale even with the proper implement.  The sheep have to eat and I will deal with whatever challenges are presented to me, but, heck, I'd love it to be a little easier.  In the meantime, I have to find a used washer.  My dyes are here from Dharma and I need to get cooking.  I have some lovely black fleeces I am going to skirt and sell as is, a market I have not taken advantage of the way I should have long time ago.  This is what I'm talking about when I say I need a partner to tell me - Maggie!  Get those black fleeces ready to sell!  I didn't even have any ready to put out at Bouckville.  Hannah is coming on Friday and I'm looking forward to doing some wet felting with her.  It's a lot of work, but oh, so wonderful.  She is very talented, tall and strong, and does the most amazing needle felted embellishments.  If we can get some hats and bags done she can take them home and do them up.  Better get cracking and let the day begin.

Monday, July 08, 2013

More Rain

Hot as Hades all day yesterday.  The kind of day that makes you want to cut that hay, for surely it will dry enough in one day to bale it.  The same heat and moisture results in thunderstorms almost every day.  Sure enough the sky began to darken around six and the White Boys told me the rumbling had started before I heard it.  I see some fields have corn growing, but others have standing water on them, dooming the crops to failure.  This was going to be the year that I would finally get all the hay I need for the winter in the barn.  Short of a miraculous shift in the weather, like that high moving off the coast, that will not happen.  So life goes on, and I am going about my summer, but the hay issue is an anvil hanging over my head.  Father AJ went back to New Jersey yesterday morning to do Army things before he flies back to Nevada for National Guard annual training at Fort Irwin in the high desert of California.   Loren came and we got to work on the milk house, or milk room which used to house the gigantic bulk tank.   The concrete addition to the barn has a seperate roof made of some strange panels that leak.  We can't find anything like them in building supply stores.  The milk room is where I keep my dye stove, slop sink, and wool washing machine.  Over the winter I would store bales purchased on my way home from work after the round bales ran out as it is close to the driveway.  The feed sacks for chickens, goats and rabbits are stored in there, too.  When the roof leaks the spilled hay gets wet and sticks to the floor, an invitation for barn kitties seeking shelter from the cold and rain to use it as a latrine.  Forgotten fleeces get buried under pans, buckets and other farm paraphernalia.  All contributed to a very messy situation.   Loren was asking for work and I warned him, this is a messy one.  He came and we got to work.  Four hours later we had everything dragged out, the floor scraped, raked, swept and hosed off.  We discovered a hidden drain that actually worked, making the hose water easier to deal with.  By one Loren was done in and I needed the sofa.  Lukie, smart kid, was keeping a low profile on the sofa with his little book machine and the dogs.   He's such an easy keeper, and faithfully comes out to help with chores every night.  My nap was short lived as I wanted to attend the Bouckville post-festival board meeting at Quack's Diner in Madison.  Half hour away, but the AC in the old Saturn was working fine.  Was a bit put-out when Madame Director said she was not exactly sure what to call me, in terms of what I produce.  I know she was referring to all the stuff I make in addition to the wool.  I am of the sheep, for the sheep and by the sheep.  Everthing else is extraneous, insurance to be sure I can hustle a buck to feed the sheep.  I was also called to task why I didn't get the free-to-vendors coffee and tea table set up early enough Saturday morning. There were three complaints about it on the surveys.  Golly, gee, whiz, she asked me to bring animals, which involves much chasing around and a seperate transport from my booth, which is ample.  I made six 40 cup pots over the weekend, all free to vendors, and there were still complaints.   Next year I'll go over there on Friday night, set up the coffee, and ask an early bird to switch it on at the crack o' dawn.   On deck for today, let Lukie sleep - he did one 14 hour stretch Friday night - then look for a movie for him.  I have to call the used appliance shop for another used washer.  I have more wool backed up than ever before, after unearthing about a hundred pounds of wool in the milk room.  If I don't get to washing, dyeing, and shipping out wool to the carding mill, I won't be ready for the fall shows.  Woke up to rain this morning.
Will it ever stop? 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Visit with Father Aaron

Having a lovely visit with Chaplain Captain Father AJ.  We did Frank's NY Pizzeria Friday night for his and my favorite eggplant parmigian.  Saturday all day at the farmer's market.  Hot, hot, hot.  Was doing AM chores before leaving for Hamilton when I grabbed the horns of a buck I've been trying to catch for weeks.   Tied him to a post and went to get AJ to hold him for me.  Got him wormed, hooves and sheared.  Feisty guy who kept trying to bite me but AJ kept the snapping jaws away from my hands.  He's sold to a man who raises Jacobs as soon as I can deliver him, along with another handsome junior buck.  So lucky to get the boys out of here before they can do any damage.  I have enough red goat kids.  Would so much rather get a little $$ for the intact boys instead of putting them in the freezer...the dark side of farming.  Got Lukie ready and motored over to the Hamilton market where Matt had set up and was already doing business.  Market was slow but picked up with many July 4th tourists coming through.  The market can be the agony or ecstasy.  More the latter than the former this week, luckily.  My handspun basket is looking very healthy these days with me spinning every chance I get and with contributions from Annie and Kim.  I love the stuff and don't care if I ever sell any of it.  Funny how I'm not anxious to knit with it, either.  The fantasy of what I can make with it always exceeds reality.  Wish I was a better knitter.  I always have something on the needles but often it is a less exciting yarn I'm turning into a sock - notice singular sock. I suffer from "second sock syndrome" where the other foot is neglected.  The morning wore on with Lukie reading his book under the table, munching on Robin Mizrahi's granola, and much chatting with customers/friends stopping by.  Susanne Farrington came for more wool and I picked up shaving mugs from her.  Some Morristown NJ friends, the Fritze family, stopped in to visit and found out they live right next to Mia on Madison Avenue.  I've stared out of her third floor bathroom at the magnificent and massive Victorian, wondering what kind of people live in such a palatial house and turns out I know them!  Didn't make their acquaintance until I move here.  Small world.  Packed up - oh, so nice to have all the hands to help - and ate lunch at the cheap and delicious Indian buffet on the square.  Would have been more enjoyable but the lack of AC made us feel like we were really in Bombay and not Hamilton.  Lukie had rice and nan bread.  Back at the farm there was only one way to cool us down from the heat of the day.  Funny how the cold spring water of the pond straightens me right out.  Young Bertha joined us with swimming out to us and back several times.  She let me hold on to her and gave me a ride across the pond.  Dogs are funny, some wade in and barely allow the water to touch their bellies.  Bertha is turning out to a water dog, like my sainted Bodie, who was the best water dog ever.   Father Aaron floated around the pond on a raft with Luke conspiring to tip him, which he accomplished.  I cooked dinner, Lukie requested burgers, in the hot apartment but after cooling off in the pond it was not so bad.  The boys watched an awful movie, Batman Dark Rises, which dragged on forever and kind of spoiled the high of the day for me.  Would much rather have been sitting around a camp fire outside, but the boys have to have their computers and games going.  I pull them away for evening chores, hah hah.  Woke up to the White Boys telling me something's up.  Looked out to see a black sky, rumbling thunder and white flashes across the sky.  Looks like it's rolling through.   Matt and the boys are going to services at the Episcopal Church in New Berlin.  I have Loren coming at 9 to help me with a nasty job - emptying and hosing out the milk room.  Disgusting things growing on the floor and corners with junk and old hay, etc.  Got to be done and Loren's asking for work.  Won't make him face this one alone.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Pause and Reflect

John Adams said there should be great fanfare and much celebration of our independence.  The more I studied history the more I began to realize the colonists were left alone so long - the concept of benign neglect - by England that ofcourse they considered themselves independent.   England did go to great lengths to secure North America for the English and not the French.  The English invested a lot of money in the colonies and wanted payback in the form of taxes and trade restraints.    Americans became resentful and wanted no strings attached to anyone.  And so it goes.  It will be a quiet day on the farm, with some fireworks tonight.  I don't care for them, truthfully.  The noise causes great anxiety among my dogs.  In past years a neighbor has put on quite a show.  We park our chairs on the hill and enjoy the lights.  Very hot and muggy here.  It was so ghastly cloudy and close yesterday that we stayed indoors with fans going full tilt.   Luke is like me.  He has so many little activities to amuse him he can stay put with no problem.  By the time dinner was over and chores were done we were so hot we climbed the hill, stripped down to our underwear and jumped in the pond.  It was 9:40 with the very last rays of sun sinking below the hills.  The humans and dogs were totally refreshed and invigorated.   When I piled my clothes, phone and glasses in the weeds I somehow lost track of my only headlight.  I felt around for a while but no luck.  Luke did a great job of riding his motorbike down the sheep trail in the dark, with me and the dogs following after.  I heard Luke say "I had a great day today. ' I worry about him being bored, or homesick, but he's just fine.  What a wonderful little companion he is.  Cheerios for breakfast, peanut butter on toast with strawberry jam for lunch, and white rice with chicken for dinner are his current  favorite things to eat.   In all likelihood we will be back in the pond again tonight, in better light, and maybe with bathing suits.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Bag Jag

I'm sewing every day now.  What a joy to get up, make coffee, take the dogs out, check on the critters, and sit down to sew a while before chores.  I enjoy it so much.  I was down to less than half a dozen bags after Maryland, and am now building up my stash for fall shows.  With the influx of gorgeous fabric from Carol Crayonbox and Sally Newhart, I am good to go.  I'm working with some snazzy purple faux leather now and I like it.  Feels like buttah. 

 I will debut several bags at the Hamilton Market and see how they are received.  There are always nice bags around, but none of them have my pocket assembly inside, and most are not suitable for rugged use like mine are.  The weather is hot and sticky, with more rain threatening.  I set up a fan next to the sewing machine table and spend some time with my little black girlfriend.