Saturday, August 31, 2013

Market Day

Got in and out before the big rain came.  Had a fantastic time.  Very validating.  I am humbled and happy.

Friday, August 30, 2013

On Deck

So much to do it scares me to think about it.  Someday I will teach art, read books and knit sweaters.  That might not happen for a while yet.  I can't retire until I'm 78.  Perhaps I will be so dotty by then the powers that be will push me out.  That's okay, too.  I made peppermint soap yesterday and had quite a start when the molten soap did not set up as fast as it usually does.  So many people make soap that it looks easy, but it's a tricky business.  Amounts have to be correct, temperatures have to be monitored and timing is everything.  I'm buying my sodium hydroxide (lye) from the American Homesteaders Store in Norwich now.  The strength of the lye is very important.  Lye is the catalyst that turns oils into soap.  I feared I might have gotten a bad batch of lye.  I stirred and stirred while nothing happened, no trace occurred when I lifted my big wooden spoon over the big pot.  I stifled my panic (soap making costs a fortune and a failed batch is a big loss) and walked away.  Came back five minutes later and, phew!, the soap was starting to happen.  I poured the molten goodness into the milk cartons, packed the mold away in the dark cabinet, free from drafts, to be left alone so that the lye can.  I'm a little apprehensive about opening the cabinet to rub my finger on top of the soap.  I've been making soap for years and years, since 1993, and never take it for granted.  I have to drive 50 miles round trip to pick up labels from my little print shop in Norwich, and more lye from the homestead store.  Everything requires miles of driving here in the Great North Land.  It's the price we pay for living in paradise.  The wool I dyed yesterday was pummeled by a rogue cloud that floated over my farm and let loose such a deluge that when I ran out to cover the wool I was doused by the run off from my steep barn roof.   It's misty and cloudy now so I don't know if it will get dry again.  I want to work in the barn, but the Hamilton market is tomorrow and I want to make Patchouli hand creme and finish a couple of totes.   Many critters are waiting for me to come out and replenish their water containers, toss out corn, and give baby bottles.  There is not enough of me to go around.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bundaflicka Buttons

The latest crop of Bundaflicka buttons are out of the oven.

Cutting Out

I've been cutting out Bundaflicka Knitting Totes with reckless abandon.  Give me a stack of beautiful fabric, a pair of scissors and a clean table (a rarity around here) and I will let loose.  I muse about things people say when they are looking at my bags.  Some that come to mind are:

Do you ever make any bigger bags?
Do you ever make any smaller bags?
Can you make them more east-west than north-east?
You could get more money for these bags in New York City.
Can you put a zipper in your bags?
I adore your bags - I'm on number ---.
Can you change this button?
What is this loop for? (It's a drop spindle holder for spinners.)
Where do you get your fabric?
How long does it take you to make a bag?

I am trying to cut out smaller bags, but it's a struggle.  I am a big strong girl and need a large tote.  My lifestyle requires one, with teaching and crafting.  Sometimes I look at a big bag on a small woman and I think ouch.  Mia has a tiny friend who I'm making a tiny tote for.  Truth be told, big totes are easier to sew, even though they require more sewing and flipping around on the machine.  Little totes are hard to get under the needle.  I adore little bags, don't get me wrong.  I had a pretty little cloth bag years ago, made by Carpetbaggers of America I think - a blue brocade with a flap that had ruffles around it.  I carried it to the prom and the one and only time I was a bridesmaid, at Mimi Thomeir's wedding to Stephen Allshouse in Hillsborough, New Jersey.  Wish I knew what happened to that bag.  I moved around so much it could be anywhere.  I think I'll try to duplicate it, just because.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hot and Humid

Made it up the hill to the pond but the dogs didn't want to get in.  Maybe the black clouds rolling in and the rumbling thunder they hear before I do told them maybe not today.  We made it back down in time to get the load of turquoise Merino off the drying rack.  I grabbed a branch full of apples for my old mama and her four month old wether Cinco (born on May 5).  She loved the hard little apples and the baby ate the leaves and branch.  I got the Merino in but the black clouds rolled by and no rain.  Oh well, it dried a little.  I am going to have a giant turquoise Merino felting batt for sale this fall.  I wish I could hear from the lady who bought one last spring.  I will try felting with it myself to provide a sample to show.  John at Frankenmuth will have to wash this again.  I just can't get Merino fully free of grease.  Maybe my water is not hot enough.  John knows just what to do.  I caught little Cinco in the milk room enjoying the opened bag of cracked corn with his mama.  Can't remember her name but then I am very forgetful these days. I keep telling myself it's the Lyme Disease that ate holes in my brain back in '96.  Maybe not.   Matt was home today so I asked him to hold the little wild guy so I could worm him and do his hooves.  It's so hot and humid we were both covered with sweat when finished.  I didn't pick a good day to get the dye pots going but here we are.  My goal is to get over 100 pounds dyed and carded.  NY State requires us to earn $10,000 to be considered a farm.  In New Jersey it's $500.  Go figure.  That's a lot of wool.  Once school starts and we lose the weather it will be harder to get it done.  I plan on selling raw fleeces at shows this fall, if I can get them picked.  Peppermint soap tonight.  Maybe if I sniff the peppermint oil it will help to jump start my energy.  Right now I could lie down and take a nap.  Maybe ten minutes will do the trick...

Zack and Miss Tammy

My gentle old ram, Zack, went to visit Miss Tammy today.  Miss Tammy is the lady who helps them get across the Rainbow Bridge.  She lives four miles down the road in South Edmeston behind the Chobani factory, in a pretty red building called The Farmer's Place.  Zack is a registered Border Leicester ram who is as gentle as a lamb.  He gave me some lovely lambs, Margot and Margareta, Robert and Duvall, Robin and TJ, and Marcellus, called Marky-Mark.  He also produced Joseph and Nicholas who live on a horse farm in Cazenovia with a Morrisville College professor.  I found Zack at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, in the sheep barn with his 4-H family.  I am partial to the 4-H program as I grew up in the Somerset Cottontails in New Jersey.  I'd been thinking about putting a more heavily wooled ram on my Bluefaced Leicesters for some time and Zack, a Border Leicester, was in the same wool group, British Longwools, as my Blues.  Libby Llop brought Zack home to her farm for me.  She kindly kept him on her beautiful 500 acre farm in Western NY until the next spring.  Zack never butted me or anyone else.  He was a polite gentleman who we never saw mount a ewe.  Zack was the Stealth Bomber.  I bet he got some licks in this month, but maybe not.  Zack is very overweight, even on grass alone, and has some joint issues.  I knew he had to go soon or I would risk him breeding his daughters.   I gave Zack a last meal of his favorite cracked corn and told him what a good boy he'd been.  Miss Tammy was waiting for us in front of the abbatoir.  I immediately felt better about taking Zack when I saw her.  I think she saw me resist the impulse to give her a hug.  I know Miss Tammy has a big heart, but she is very professional and keeps the emotional aspect of her profession at bay.  Matt brought the Chevy Blazer around back to the loading bay.  Miss Tammy said why don't you walk through with me and you can get to your truck.  I said I don't want to see anything going on back there and she said don't worry, you won't.  The shop is bright and shiny and sparkling clean.  A young woman was preparing sausage in a gleaming kitchen.   We went through a door and two young men in aprons and baseball caps were unloading Zack.  He came out exactly like he came in,  cooperative and gentlemanly.  I said to the men please be gentle with him and they enthusiastically said we will, we always are, and thanked me for bringing him in.  I'm teary but relieved that Zack no longer hurts when he walks and won't have to be put back in the rear pasture to spend the winter (which is not so bad as it comes with a walk-in silo room piled with hay and another gated walk in to see the rest of the flock in the barn. No animal of mine will ever, ever, go to auction.  I love my animals too much to put them through that kind of fear and terror.  I would never know what happened to them, where they went, or if they are being properly taken care of.  Now I will know exactly where Zack is, in my freezer, and Thor, Finn and Knut will have bellies full of delicious mutton.  Cooper, Bertha, Izzy, Tanner and Reba will have hard bones filled with minerals to gnaw on.  The cycle of life continues.  It is all a part of the story of my farm.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


One week until school starts and my world will be turned upside down.  I'm thankful for my teaching job, especially in this precarious financial time where many don't know how they will make ends meet.   I heard it again at the market - oh, there are always jobs somewhere, but that's not true.   There are not jobs for everyone here in this upstate rural area.  The grandparents who always need help on the dairy farm are gone. College graduates are taking the Walmart jobs.   "As long as I have my job nobody can tell me I can't have my sheep" is a mantra I frequently repeat.   I am, however, doing some long-range planning which includes having fewer sheep that carry more wool.  I adore my Bluefacec Leicesters, and they are amazing animals, but they don't produce enough wool to earn their keep.  I bought a registered Border Leicester, Zack, a few years back, but his fleece is a bit coarse for my liking.  We'll see.  On deck for today after morning chores - I have quite a bit of wet dyed wool to get dry.   With two gray, wet days in a row I won't be putting it outside.  Time to clear off the table in the "spare" room and spread it out,  turn on the ceiling fan and close the door.  That's how I do it in the winter.  I'm waiting for a box to arrive with jars and essential oils including my beloved Patchouli.  Oh, I do love it.  The doggies have gone back to sleep for a while.  We usually take our big walk up the hill and around the pond late in the morning.  How can I tell them as of Tuesday they have to hold their BM's until five in the afternoon?   Poor babies!  I'll try to dig out some good bones from the dead pile up on the ridge to keep them occupied during the day.  Still - it's a big adjustment for them and me.  I will worry about them all day long, along with the baby goat twins Comet and Boo-Boo, my seven little ducklings following their mama around, and the two little ducklings still in the cage (I'm afraid to let them go as they have no duck mother to steer them away from danger). I will have to get up very early to do everything I need to do around here and get on the road in time to be on time at school.  There is one big Gotta Deal looming large on this farm.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hay Feeders

Anyone who knows me knows I've been suffering from hay feeder angst for many years.  My dear friends Daryl and Kim moved in with their kids for four days so we could have a much needed long weekend in Maine with our family.  I didn't ask them to do anything because taking care of all these animals is a lot of work in itself.  I kinda knew they would be doing something because they like to keep busy, and they love everything to do with farming.  Daryl and Kim live in the town of Kingston, Ontario, but Daryl grew up farming in the western provinces.  Well, I was happily surprised to find a very sturdy pair of hay feeders standing in the barn.  Daryl only had two days here as he had to go back to work on Monday.  He must have really hustled to get them together.  The sheep are standing around them in circles waiting for them to magically fill up with hay.  The baby goats think they are playground equipment built just for them.  Matt Redmond only said humpf....maybe you should marry Daryl.  I said I would but he is young enough to be my son, and he is already taken (by my good friend Kim).  There is also a conspicuous absence of roosters in the barn.  A few outliers escaped the clutches of the neck wringer Daryl and they are sticking to the barnyard, far away from the scene of the massacre.  Thank you, Daryl and Kim, for everything you do for me. 

Sew Nice

I've had this fabric for years and am finally making some totes with it.  I know why...because I have the perfect buttons for it, thanks to Kim and her tools, along with some gorgeous sheep horns courtesy of our friends Mother Katherine of Zoar Farm and my long suffering shearer, Big Jim Baldwin.


The button makes or breaks a tote in my opinion.  Kimmie Cornerstone makes these gorgeous, artsy buttons by breaking up sheep and goat horns by smashing them with hammers or cutting them with a band saw.  She sands the edges then drills holes.  The natural intrinsic beauty of the horn speaks for itself.  I love fashioning my own buttons with Femo or Sculpey clay, but these horn buttons are the cat's meow.  I was blown away when Kim brought me a bag of extra large horn buttons for my Bundaflicka totes.  I've already sewn four of them on new totes.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sunday Paper

I still have the paper I read while speeding along at 60 mph on Maine country roads.  It was a bit tricky turning the pages but I managed.  I loved riding in the sidecar of the Ural.  Harleys sped past us and waved.  I thought we had a much more classy bike.  Wish I could travel to school in such a vehicle - or be driven there, even good weather, that is.

Pine Tree Beach

I can't imagine living a half hour away from such a lovely beach, but that is what my family enjoys in southern Maine.  The sand at Pine Tree Beach is dark brown and reminded me of the black sand beaches in Hawaii.  The water is calm as it is protected by the cove - perfect for young kids and old folks whose days of braving the rough New Jersey beaches are over.

Camp Hinds Summer Tradition

At the end of the camping season the counselors at Camp Hinds in Raymond, Maine, part of the Pine Tree BSA Council, have a tradition we were lucky to observe.  I was happy to see about a half dozen female teen counselors in the group.  They bore the brunt of it being pushed back in every time a girl climbed out.  An hour later we all attended the end of summer dinner where the women looked none the worse for wear.  Hannah will join the summer counselor staff next year.  I hope she is the primarily the shover not the shovee.

Stone Craft

The Parkinson kids, Lindsay and Jarred, surprised me with a lovely stone wall around my little fire pit in the barnyard.  My farm is loaded with lovely flat slate rocks, extracted from the soil when the farm was being created two hundred years ago.  The kids even made air ducts to keep the fire going.  I love it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pine Point Beach

Whale Tales

Booth Bay Harbor is a lovely, quaint little touristy village a couple of hours north of Portland.  We ate lunch in a cute cafe overlooking the harbor before boarding Cap'n Fish's Whale Watching boat.  Twenty miles out and we spotted three small minke whales and a pod of dolphins riding in our wake.  The captain apologised and told us we had to turn back, time was up.  Just then a Fin whale appeared to the delight and relief of all aboard.  This magnificent mammal is the second largest whale.  All we saw was the sleek, long back and the characteristic dorsal fin that resembles a hook, diving, coming up, diving again.  I managed to get one shot with my point and shoot. Memories last forever.

Maine Vacation

Short but wonderful.   We drove to Gorham, Maine, where Eric, Annie, Hannah and Luke live.  The next morning we jumped in the Russian Ural motorcycle and took off for Booth Bay Harbor and whale watching.  Annie made reservations for us with Capn' Fishes' Whale Watching outfit.  The weather could not have been more perfect - sunny and warm, but cool enough on the water to make me glad I brought my jacket.  Lobster pots everywhere, even miles out to sea. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Kitty Stew Recipe or Severe Seperation Anxiety

Kimmie Cornerstone will be mixing the kitty stew for a couple of days while I'm away on a very short, quick vacation.  Gone are the days when I go on a real vacation.  The last one was 14 years ago but that was B.S.  Before Sheep.  Eric and Annie invited us to visit them in Maine and go whale watching.  Yes, "whale" was all it took.  We'll be motoring from Portland to Booth Bay in Eric's Ural motorcycle. I saw "in" because I won't be "on" the bike.  I'll be riding in the side car, nice and cozy, with a blanket and my knitting.  Won't that be just duckie.  In the meantime, here is my Kitty Stew Recipe for Kimmie Cornerstone and Crew.

 Half fill three little red buckets half full of dry dog kibble.
Fill the rest up with warm water.
Feed/water the chickens and collect their eggs.
Bring buckets and eggs to the big table inside the barn.
Divide eggs among the three buckets, throw shells on the floor for chickens and ducks to eat.
Open and dump a can of Friskies in each bucket.  Roll up sleeves and mix up eggs, kibble and cat food, squeezing it between your fingers to really mix it up.  If too squeamish use a red scoop.
Pour half of one bucket in the big metal dish for the cats.   Divide half of another bucket among Thor, Finn and Knut's dishes.  As you carry out the dog dinners one at a time, add a can of cat food to each one.  Watch out for hungry attack kitties while you do this.
Climb ladder to hay mow with half to 2/3 bucket of stew.  Pour into dishes at top of ladder.  Helps to have someone hand the bucket up to you.
Pour contents of another bucket into dish on top of the armoire in the barn and in the dish on the front porch.
Dry food is for snacking in between time, but you have to guard it from the marauding attach chickens.
Fill the milk room kitties' dishes with dry food and put some on the milk room steps, but throw corn out for the ducks and chickens on the driveway or they will steal the cat food on the steps.  Same for mixing the kitty stew.  Give the goats their corn in the cow stanchion bowls or they will jump on the table while you are mixing the kitty stew.  Sprinkle some on the floor for the chickens, too.
Don't forget the dog bowls in the kitchen and the water/food bowl in the former Kitty City.  The mik room is now Kitty City.
The sheep are easy this time of year.  They have a lot of grass to eat.  Fill their water buckets inside the barn with the green hose.   Thor's bucket is inside the barn.  Finn and Knut have water buckets by their igloos.
OH, and two cats, Lizzie and Portia (all white) get a can of Friskies in the bathroom every morning.  Portia was out for a few days and came back not feeling well.  I'm trying to get her back on her paws.

Yes, this is complicated, but you can do it.  Call with any questions.  Thanks a million, Kim and Darryl!

Thursday, August 15, 2013


With so much to do before going to Maine for the weekend I was keeping the doggies waiting for their walk.  Every time I got up from my seat they would run for the door.  I finally gave in and I was not sorry.  The weather is fantastic - cool, sunny and breezy.  We walked up the hill diverting through the apple orchard.  Apples are already starting to drop from the boughs, giving the sheep and goats the snacks they desire.  I still harbor visions of a rejuvenated orchard, thinned out so the sun can get inside, with trees pruned in the fall.  In the meantime there is a shady wonderland inside.


I adore this color.  I'm dyeing a big part of this spring's white wool teal.  Not that it needs any other color blended with it but I can't help myself.  I'll have it variegated with purple, magenta and maybe canteloupe.  Not sure yet.  Won't this lovely fiber make beautiful yarn, or felted works of fiber art.


I opened the door to find this happy scene.  I make sure the pans and lids are filled with clean water every day, although the barn roof run off from all this rain is helping.  The duckies are very appreciative.  We are down to seven ducks from nine and holding.  Nature takes a toll on the young and vulnerable but freedom to roam builds stronger, smarter animals.

Blue Skies

Looks like the weather has taken a turn for the better.  Might get some wool dried today.  Many bags of wet wool lying around with two giant dye pots still on the stove waiting to be rinsed.  Maybe Kim will get them out on the rack for me while I'm away for a long weekend.   Very much looking forward to seeing the kids again.  Weather permitting we are taking off in Eric's Ural motorcycle to Booth Bay Harbor for a whale watching excursion.  It was almost 20 years ago I was on the deck of a cruise ship playing shuffleboard when a giant whale tale came up out of the water and flipped water all over me.  What a thrill.  I spent some time cutting out bags last night.  I've had this fabric for a couple of years and oh, it is lovely.  Very easy for me to sit down and sew, forgetting about "other things" I should be doing, but sewing is much more fun and I love the results.  I'm blitzing through my white Bluefaced Leicester fleeces, and oh, are they wonderfully soft.  Like buttah....but very, very light.  How can great big sheep have such  a small amount of wool?  They are great sheep, healthy, need no grain, friendly, but I wish they grew more wool.  Long range plans include fewer sheep that carry more wool.  My chickens are giving fewer eggs, which I put into my "kitty stew" every night.  It's oatmeal with nanners and honey for me lately, and, yes, good strong coffee.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Great Weather for Ducks

This is October weather!  Forty at night, damp, rainy and cloudy.  I've been cranking up the wool pipeline the way I should have done a month ago, but with two days of rain I have a serious drying problem.  Lots of lovely soaking wet teal Bluefaced Leicester in bags.  Was hoping to get a package off to the carding mill before we leave for Maine.  Radar shows a clear sky coming, we'll see.  Good news - little ducky has a friend.  This baby is not as viable as the first egg buster.  He pecked a tiny hole but no more.  After a day of watching his little beak gasping for air I "helped" him bust out.  Good thing - the placenta that was keeping him alive had gone bad. He's slowly coming around with me teaching him how to drink water.  First little duck is scrambling around, climbing over him, pecking at him, etc., but I think that helps keep him stimulated.  One more egg to hatch.  We'll see.  Outside duckies are loving this rainy weather.  I find them bathing in containers I've left around, following Mama Duck everywhere, eating grass and bugs.  Was horrified to look outside when a heavy downpour was going on to see Mama had not taken the babies back in the hay mow.  She was flapping her wings and opening her beak to the rain while the babies shuddered and cowered.  I guess she was teaching them that rain is a good thing for ducks.  They are strong, hardy babies.  I'll be relieved when they are bigger and less vulnerable.  The Pekins are not as aggressively protective as the Swedish Blues.   This mama runs away with the babies when she sees me coming.  The Swedish Blue mama flys at my head and bites!  Good girl!  On deck for today - more wool dyeing and critter tending.  I'll drag the market tables inside to cut out some totes, then spread out some wet wool on them.  Not as good as sunshine and gentle breezes, but better than sitting in bags on the floor.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Bertha has a new friend.  Little Duckie is very friendly and curious about all of us.  I sit down next to him when I write to keep him company.  It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the outside once he is old enough.  I'm hoping another one of the rescued eggs hatches so he has a team mate.  

Everything's Just Duckie

I'm hoping another egg will hatch to keep my little friend company.  He is very frisky and perky when I sit next to his cage.  Another egg has a peep hole in it and I can see movement.  A duckling can take days to break out of his thick egg.  A hook on the beak is used as a tool to crack the wall little by little.  It's important not to interfere, although it is tempting...


No wool drying outside today.  Woke up to pouring rain and I don't see the clouds parting.  Was hoping to get a package out to the carding mill this week.  I'm working on a big batch of black mohair blended with brightly colored wool.  Love the way mohair adds luster and slip to the roving. 
I dyed this Border Leicester wool with Dharma's Pink Orchid.  I can't see much difference between Jacquard Deep Magenta and this dye.  I'm very happy with the Dharma dyes out of California.  I have way too much fiber to use naturals dyes.  I would need truck loads of leaves, roots and berries.  I might use some of the poke weed berries once they come out, if the birds leave some for me.

Monday, August 12, 2013


I love stone walls.  If I was younger, and I often wish I had found this life many years ago, I would be repairing the fallen down walls on my farm.  I often think of the endless backbreaking work it took for human and horse to get these rocks out of the ground so they could graze their animals.  Surely all these wide open fields were covered with forest two hundred years ago.  Some of the walls were knocked down to put fence posts in for barbed wire.  Ouch!  Others just fell down over the years.  The hillside is mostly shale.  Little by little my sheep are improving the fields with their manure.  What a beautiful farm this must have been years ago, when it was being worked with teams of horses, and the founders were braving the harsh winters and trying to keep their animals alive without baled hay.  They were made of some kind of stuff.   Sadly, they lay in the cemetery across the road, which I do not own.  Their resting place is in the same shape as this wall.  We used to try to right the fallen stones and read the names.  Lydia, the founding mother whose spirit inhabits my barn, rests there, along with her husband, Elisha, and many of their children.  They buried many children there.  I like to think they approve of what I am trying to do here.  I sometimes hear of people buying farm land and letting it go back to it's natural state.  Trees and bushes are fine, but I wonder if they realize what hard work it took to make it grassy fields.  


I must have been a shepherd in a former life.  Wool excites me.  I love working with it.  I know I sound like a crusader but wool is a miracle fiber.  It is weather resistant, flame retardant (the US Army is taking advantage of this) and breathes......I can wear a wool sweater in the barn in the coldest winter temps and feel good.  Tried wearing an alpaca sweater once and tore it off me when it felt like I was cooking in an oven.  Don't get me wrong, alpaca, and angora, is great for blending with wool but Wool is the Mother of All Fibers.  Raising my own fibers is like a potter scraping the clay for her work off the banks of a stream instead of buying clay at the art supply house.  It's taking my craft to the most fundamental and satisfying level.