Wednesday, December 31, 2014


I just got back from a mad run to another post office ten miles away when I missed the closing on my little village PO at 10:30.  I even waited for their 12 - 1 lunch hour to be over. I had orders to mail (thank you, Angels) and my Maryland Sheep and Wool advertising order, which had to be dated Dec. 31 or pay a $50 fine.  Whoops.   Oh, well, as I was shaking my head at their closing when all the other venues in the little town of New Berlin were still open, I remembered to be thankful that I frequent two post offices where I know the workers by name and what's going on in their lives.  That's how it is around here.  I have much to be thankful for and I will list some of them here, in no particular order.

My kids are fantastic.  My grandkids are also thriving, all two of them.  Mia's Nurse Practitioner career is going well.  She will start at the Nyack Hospital in March, heading up a ward all her own with ten patients.  They will help her get the women and child certification she needs to be a hospital NP.  AJ, AKA Father Aaron, is very happy at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.  Bishop Magnus, the head Episcopal Military Chaplain, flew from Washington, DC, to Ft. Sill to spend a weekend with AJ and check out his ministry.  His Grace was very pleased with the way AJ is managing his chaplaincy.  AJ is headed for a week at Nashoda House in Wisconsin to work on his Doctor of Ministry which he hopes to complete next summer.  Eric is making big waves in the Boy Scouts.  The Pine Tree Council is in much better shape than when Eric moved to Maine with his family.  He is renovating the four council camps with the help of the military and doing some major fund raising.  Annie is writing and winning grants for the Boy Scouts and running a scholastic pistol program at Camp Hinds.  Hannah is on the camp staff and Luke is still coming to help Omi on the farm.

Matt is enjoying a challenging and gratifying career in Weatherization.  He is invited to teach energy saving building techniques as far away as Vermont, and is busy writing weatherization curriculum.  Matt's training center is booked with teams from all over New York coming to learn how to keep people warm and safe.

My little farm company is growing slowly but surely.  I am blessed with faithful customers who love my wool and who come to the shows to visit me.  I have two beautiful Wensleydale rams who will bless me with lots of beautiful lambs come spring.  My teaching job is challenging but I work with a dedicated and supportive staff who make it a pleasure to go to work every day.   I'm grateful for my agricultural and artsy  life in this beautiful little valley.  My children are far away but my flock is always here.  I have a purpose and I feel loved.  Can't ask for much more than that.  Happy New Year, everyone.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cold Ducks

This time of year is especially hard on my ducks.  There are no puddles for them to play in and the earth worms have gone deep under the ground.  Ducks need ample water to preen themselves and keep pretty.  The sheep are very thirsty and drink all the water in their hanging buckets - placed high up so the ducks can't ruin the water - and the ducks are left wanting.  I put out water for them twice a day but they have to compete with the free range chickens.  Most of my ducks are males, and are not really doing anything for me other than to amuse and entertain me.  I love ducks.  They parade around the barnyard so prettily and make cute quacking noises.  I am going to order more ducklings in the spring, all females, as I adore duck eggs.  I brought some into school and the students were afraid to eat them.  When I cooked the eggs without telling them they were from ducks there was no problem.  Interesting.  I only have one Swedish Blue duck left.  My other two were taken by the fox that I think is still lurking around.  They insisted on living in the driveway where they had no protection from the White Boys.  I remember the night Madame Fox came to visit.  I heard a terrible cry and ran outside.  Her partner hissed at me as she was still terrified at what happened to her friend.  I tried to follow the fox through the burdock around that side of the barn, but it was pitch black dark and I knew it was futile.  Ducks are  cliqueish and run in gangs that are very territorial.  I have the barn ducks, the hay mow ducks, and the driveway ducks.  If two gangs run into each other there is a big fuss.  

Annie's Socks

Annie has been knitting socks since the kids were little.  She uses impossibly thin needles and the socks can be worn in regular shoes, compared to the boot type socks that I make.  Annie's socks are precision-perfect.  The little kiddie socks Luke wore when he visited me were so adorable I used to hang them on the Christmas tree before I surrendered them back to Annie.  When I visited Eric, Annie and gang for Christmas Annie was repairing old socks.  She cuts off the worn bottoms and knits new ones on to the cuffs.  Positively brilliant.  I have a hand-knitted sock fetish.  I adore them and collect them.  I'm privileged to know several master sock knitters including Kim Parkinson, Henya Kazatchkov and, Sockladyspins Herself, Lynne Rettberg.  I believe hand knit socks have magic powers they impart to the wearer.  They look so good with my Danskos.  I'm downright snobbish about my hand knit socks.  If you want me to love you forever, knit me a pair of socks.

Now it's Cold

Okay my new thermometer says 30 but I think it's calibrated for Florida and won't go any lower.  The weather channel says 16 F. but feels like 6.  I  agree.  When the cold goes through my ski pants it's time for silkies underneath. It's going to take me some time to get used to this cold after the recent warm spell.   Everybody in the barn is even more hungry and even more thirsty in the cold weather.  I put out as much hay as they can eat, and feel very fortunate that I can.  I've put a dent in my hay mow already and it's not yet January.  I have enough to last the season if I keep it up like this.  Most of my ewes should be pregnant by now and I have to feed them like crazy to keep them healthy enough to grow viable lambs.  Hay actually keeps sheep and goats warmer than feed, as it combusts inside them. I saw Gipetto mount the old Romanov ewe.  She's an odd one - kind of foisted on me by a friend of a friend who downsized her flock.  Her wool is like Brillo.  We'll see what comes out of her.  On deck for today - too much to mention or for me to fathom after a few days of Christmas and eating too much, drinking too much Jule Glug, and generally celebrating. I'm getting back in the groove of farm and chores.  My Amish helpers called out of the blue to work last night.  They did some more digging for me.  I have to get people with machines to do the big part of the barn but the boys are doing a corridor between the stanchions and outer wall that I've wanted cleared for a long time.  I asked them how their Christmas was and Lester told me he got a lot of books.  We chatted and I asked him if he likes the Harry Potter series.  He had no idea what I was talking about.  Another world...  I really like those boys, happy and smiling with a dynamite work ethic.  I drove them home in the moonlight and took Hollow Road home.  Lester's 200 farm is at the other end.  I was almost sorry when my little van could hardly navigate the deep ruts.  It was an adventure nevertheless.  

Christmas 2014 #3

Soon it was Christmas Eve and the presents were around the tree.  Annie made baked haddock with pesto sauce and broccoli.  The Yule Glug was perfect.  My Swedish Opa, Knut Birger Alexanderson, brought that tradition to this country with him and we've continued it through the years.  The fiery, spicy, wine warms the coldest, dampest night.  Mia arrived and brought her sunshine with her, along with a car load of beautiful designer jackets and jeans for Hannah  I wore my favorite red plaid granny gown.    Mia and Annie wore matching slinky red pajamas.  We were quite the festive scene.  Annie's newly re-decorated great room, with the trio of white Ikea sofas, was perfect to accomodate our party.  Eric and his friends had just finished installing a gleaming oak floor.  Hannah's tree was a glittering beauty.  We went to sleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, greatly enhanced by Jule Glug.

Christmas 2014 #2

Annie and I did some last minute Christmas shopping in Gorham and I managed to pick out some absolutely spot-on gifts.for AJ and Eric.  AJ loves clothes and we have a running joke about stripes.  When he was growing up I always bought him striped polo shirts, the kind with white collars and buttons.  I found a knit navy blue pullover with a subtle gray stripe across the chest, size large, not extra-large, even though he could use an XL.  I bought Eric a current gun market price catalog, which will give him many hours of joy, perusing the massive volume of tiny print.  I had already purchased a large quantity of Reese's Peanut Butter cups for the kids, and picked up more of Hannah's favorite, York Peppermint Patties.  While Annie and I were shopping, Eric was off doing Boy Scout business.  I love his beard, which was a Christmas gift for Annie.  Sadly, it will be shaved off soon.  Eric likes clean cut Scout personnel.

Christmas 2014

The build up is very stressful but the result is sublime.  The week long Secret Santa ritual was over, and staff members received their gifts.  My gifts are very predictable, but that's okay.  Soap is the gift that keeps on giving, right?  When we were released for the Christmas holiday I started preparing for my trip to Maine to spend a few days with Eric, Annie, Luke and Hannah.  Mia was driving up from New Jersey on Christmas Eve with Captain AJ due to arrive Christmas Night.  I got all my gifts together for a marathon wrapping session that lasted into the wee hours.  The kitties  kept me company.  They love all the rustling of papers and snipping of scissors.  I had not picked up enough wrapping paper and decided to use my old stand-by wrap, the NY Times.  I was delighted at how many colored illustrations the Times included in the issues I never had time to read.   I got the job done and loaded up to head for Maine.  Matt graciously offered to stay home and take care of the farm while building my workshop cabinets.  How could I refuse?  I would not have to worry about a farm sitter letting the pipes freeze, or forgetting a chore.  I was ready to go but the weather was not cooperating.  I drove to Maine with the wipers on high the entire trip.  Eric and the kids were waiting on the steps when I finally pulled in.  I was in heaven.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Back to the Light

Now we being the long journey back to the light.  I don't mind winter, truly I don't.  Winter is wool time and I am all about wool.  I did my monthly gallery duty yesterday and spent most of the time spinning some incredibly beautiful wool.  I don't know what I'm going to do with this yarn but it doesn't matter.  It's the process that counts.  It's all about living on this beautiful little farm and raising my sheep.  When it's dark outside and I have to wear a head light to do my chores, when the days are so short and the hills are covered with snow and the sheep don't even bother to come out of the barn, that's when my relationship with them grows deeper and I am  even more grateful for their gifts.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sixteen Candles

Sixteen years ago today at the United Methodist Church in Morristown, New Jersey, we gathered our families and friends together to make us legal.  Sixteen years later, by the Grace of God, we are still together.  I don't know how.  The deck was stacked against us every which way, as we were thrown together in a cataclysmic series of events.... but here we are...working the farm together.

Eric and Annie came from Louisville, Kentucky, with baby Hannah Margaret, just five months old.  Mia came home from her freshman year at the University of Vermont.  AJ came from American University in Washington, D,C.  Matt's son from a brief childhood marriage, Sean Redmond, flew East from San Francisco.  Brian Redmond, son of Matt's brother, came to celebrate with us.  My pure silk dress was on the sale rack in the basement of the little bridal salon across the street from the church.  I couldn't believe my luck - it was love at first sight.  I did the alterations myself.   There were three bridesmaids gowns there that were recently returned as they were not the right color.  I got them for a song and loved the color as it went perfectly with the church that was decorated for Christmas.  I wore Mia's gown on our honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean.   Matt's Irish National Tartan was rented from the Argyll in Newark.  He swore he would never wear a "dress" again.  Too bad, as I think he looked fantastic in it.  I made the bouquets with ivy and pine twigs from local land.   The roses and baby's breath was purchased in town.   In retrospect I think I should have made myself a head wreath to match.  I could have been a Swedish St. Lucia bride.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


I have two Wensleydale rams, new this year.  One was sought after, the other happened to me.  Louie is a very high percentage Wensleydale which is a rare British breed known for their lustrous, long locks and heavy fleeces.  Gipetto, three years old, came to me from a shepherd who was downsizing her flock due to unforeseen circumstances.   He is 85% Wensleydale and very handsome, the size of a small pony.  Louie is small for his breed but has lovely fleece.  Both are amazingly docile and get along very well with each other, something that does not always happen with rams. They are pictured above, on the right side of the feeder, standing together, waiting politely for the ewes to finish eating.   Gipetto took over the breeding this year.  Louie will have to wait.  That's okay - I like having another ram waiting in the wings.  The Wensleydales will put heavier fleeces on my Bluefaced Leicesters and help me reach my goal of fewer sheep, more wool.  Lambing should begin in March.  May the Force be with us.

Runaway Bunny

It's been a while since we had a wild bunny sighting.  This "wild" bunny appeared last spring, out of nowhere, sitting under a buck's cage in the barn.  That's why I think it's a "she."  Perhaps someone's pet was dropped off here after a child tired of it?  Happens all the time with cats.  All my bunnies are long-haired angoras.  This bunny has adapted very well to farm living.  She has moved into the hay mow for the winter, living in her own personal smorgasbord of grasses.  I worry about the dogs/foxes/coyotes getting her but so far she has eluded them. I've become very fond of this mystical, magical bunny.  I think she's blessed.  I worry about her finding water, etc.  She's done very well for herself so far, to look at her portly shape.  I think she finds me amusing, as she sat very still long enough for me to fumble with gloves and zippers to get my camera out of my ski pants.  I should call her Greta Garbo.

Home on the Farm

The world is going crazy all around me with Christmas preparations but I am strangely calm and content.  I'm wandering around the farm doing chores at my leisure, enjoying my animals and taking pictures.  Matt wanted to go to Christmas in Cooperstown but I asked if we could stay home on the farm - my favorite place in the whole wide world.  My own little world, in fact.  There is a gentle snow falling and the gray sky tells me it will continue.  There is so much I could/should be doing but it can wait.  Any day when I can stay home on the farm is a beautiful thing.  The goats are the only ones who ventured out today, and it took a little coaxing.  Then I threw down corn for the chickens and the goats decided it might be a good day to go outside after all.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Baby Bunnies

I fretted over leaving my three baby bunnies over the weekend.  The temps dove and I was worried I might have bunsicles in the box when I came home.  I asked Matt to bring them in Saturday night and give them back to Bunny Mama on Sunday morning.  I was greatly relieved to find them wiggling in the nest Sunday night.  I'm continuing to bring them inside at night.  First time mom is a big nervous but jumps in the box to feed them after I feed her the snacks she loves.  I should be collecting enough angora fiber to spin a few skeins for Maryland Sheep and Wool in the spring.  Angora is fabulous for blending with wool and is the first spun fiber to leave the basket at shows.   The buns are absolutely adorable.  I bring them inside and comb out their hair with a dog rake with them on my lap.  There is always enough left on the bunny to keep them toasty warm.

Show's Over

My last show of the season, the Plowshares Craftsfair and Peace Festival, went off without a hitch this past weekend.  I knocked myself out to get enough product made through the week and was a bit knackered by the time Friday came around.  Kim came from Kingston, Ontario, and helped me wrap soap.  Matt loaded the van.  It poured rain through the night and into the morning.  Kim slept in while I did chores and threw some last minute stuff in the van.  We set off in the rain to the Nottingham High School in Syracuse and managed to get the booth set up in the space of an hour.  This festival is delightful, with on-going entertainment, activist booths and top-notch crafters.  We heard Onondaga poetry readers, Celtic singers, African drummers, and watched belly dancers pull people from the audience to dance with them.  Stephanie and Dale put us up at their comfy home in Pompey.  Sunday morning we hit Trader Joe's and Barnes & Noble.  Sunday flew by and we loaded up under the light of a full moon.  I love this show and I also love the fact that it's my last show of the winter.  I'm a little frayed around the edges and need to "fall back and regroup."  Lambs are coming in March and I need to be in good shape for that marathon.  

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Simon and Lester

One night about a month ago there was a knock on the door.   A young Amish man was on the porch.  He asked if I had any pigeons.  I was a bit taken aback by the question.  I knew I had pigeons in the barn at times but the cats had chased most of them into the silos.  I told the young man I thought there might be some in there still but why?  He said someone offered him $3.50 for each pigeon he could provide and that he was going around to local farms asking if he could catch their pigeons.  "That's good money, he said.  Not wanting to discourage this young man's entrepreneurial spirit I said, let's go take a look.  I took him to the silo room where I thought I heard some coo-ing at times.  The silo is sixty feet high and I wouldn't trust the rusty ladder going up to the top where the pigeons roost.  The young man said he was going to get "another fellow" who turned out to be Simon, waiting in the buggy with the horse in the driveway.  I thought I should let Matt know what was going on at that point and went inside to tell him.  Well, Mr. OSHA Instructor came out pretty quick to see what's what.  I was relieved when he said, very nicely, that it might not be such a good idea to climb to the top of the silo to catch pigeons in the dark.  He said it was not the fall he was concerned about but the sudden stop.   The young men were very polite and said if we had any work they could do to please let them know.  Lester handed me his father's business card.  They live near my friend, Julia, who owns Button Falls Farm.  I showed them a strip of barn floor that runs past the milk house door and chicken room.  Years of dropping hay and animals pooping on it resulted in a packed tight layer of mud that prevented me from opening the milk house door properly and annoyed the heck out of me.  Visitors wanting to "help on the farm" never managed to get it done.  I totally understand as it's back breaking work to chip it up then haul it outside in a wheelbarrow.  The boys left and I wondered if I would see them again.   They have demands on their time at home I'm sure.  Last night around seven there was a knock on the door again .  It was Lester and Simon saying they were ready to work if I was ready for them.  Ready?  I said, sure, but did they want to haul manure out in the snow?  They said "We like it that way!" very enthusiastically.  They went to work and boy, did they work - hacking, chipping, shoveling and hauling.  I went about my business with the bunnies, goats, sheep and chickens.  I was thoroughly enjoying the show.  I could get used to this, I thought to myself....young men working feverishly to get the job done.    An hour and a half later I could sense they were thinking this is enough for the night.  I said why don't you guys get going as you must have school tomorrow.  Oh, no, we don't go to school anymore, we're Amish, and we only go to 8th grade.  We're finished.  I paid them and they promised to come back to do my chicken room when they were able to get away.  Lester and his family of eight milk 21 cows, twice a day, by hand.  I offered to pick them up next time, as I was keenly aware of the poor horse standing outside in the snow.  They said that would be fantastic.  It was great walking on a concrete floor last night.  I'll try to keep it that way.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Love in the Barn

I have been very frustrated with Spikey, my purebred Nubian buckling, and his unwillingness to take on the big, fat Nubian girls I want him to breed.  Without babies born, goats don't produce milk.  Just like most other mammals.  It's not Spikey's fault.  If he was a full grown Nubian buck he would "persuade" the girls to give it up.  Spikey is young and rather runty.   When Fancy, Matilda and Janey kicked sand in his face, Spikey turned his attention to my angora goats who are smaller, sweeter, and more cuddly.  Not a match made in heaven.  A dairy goat bred to a mohair producing goat is neither here nor there, and I love my mohair.  We caught Spikey several times "out of bounds," that is, out of his pen and in with my "choke" angoras.  I can barely talk about it.  I just hope nature did not take it's course.  We had to resort to desperate measures and tie Spikey in the Nubian goat pen on a long lead.  It took a bit of getting used to, but he adjusted, grudgingly.  I was about to offer Spikey to the local Indian restaurant when I witnessed a beautiful thing night before last.  I was feeding my English Angora rabbits when I saw Matilda, big three year old Nubian doe, standing very still next to Spikey.  To my delight, little Spikey reached up as far as he could, stretching himself to maximum height and length, to mount Matilda.  She didn't move and turned her head to look lovingly behind her, at Spikey.  He jumped down, then repeated the process at least SIX times before I went back in the house.  I noticed yesterday that Spikey was looking very tired and lying down in the hay.  Fancy, my other purebred Nubian doe, was standing next to him, as if to say, "It's my turn."   I suspect I will be having Nubian babies around the beginning of May, and lots of goat milk.  Lambs will come starting in March.  I will be a busy girl.  The barn will be full of life, as it should be.


Friday, November 28, 2014

My Tree

When I lived in New Jersey I would go out and pay a LOT of money for the biggest Christmas tree I could find for my development house living room.  I would spend a month devoted to decorating my five bedroom, four bathroom, Dutch Colonial with the perfectly manicured 3/4 acre lot.  I had a large weeping cherry tree that I would wind Christmas lights around every branch.  I drove up and down in front of my house at night to check the decorations people would see in the living room as they drove by in their cars.  My fireplace mantle was a top priority, with imported nutcrackers standing at attention, in graduated heights, among candlesticks and fresh pine boughs.  My children's stockings were sewn by myself and hand quilted, of course.  My life has changed so dramatically over the last few years and it's taken some getting used to.  I have no idea where my imported German nutcrackers are, and I don't have a mantle.   I now live in a tiny apartment, with only one bathroom - horrors! - and a teeny tiny kitchen.  My beast of a wood stove is on a slate slab with fireproof wall covering behind it.   What I do have is the most gigantic and wondrous BARN where my beautiful animals live.  Front and center in the barn yard is the most magnificent Christmas tree in the whole wide world.  Who needs Rockefeller Center?  I adore this tree.  She gives me beautiful pine cones every year and shelters the birds who come back and forth to the feeder.  I can tell the weather by looking out the window and checking the sway of her branches.  This tree shelters Knut, who lives under her in the summer, and me, when I sit at the picnic table and sip my coffee.  If I had money to burn I suppose I would get a cherry picker in here and string lights from the lovely branches at Christmas time.  Maybe not.  She is perfect just the way she is.

Nathan and Butterscotch

I know Nathan and his family from the Hamilton Farmer's Market.  Recently Nathan's mom saw a picture I posted of my angora rabbits.  She told me her son, Nathan, is looking for a buck to breed with his beautiful angora doe from Pamela Kurst of Dancing Bear Farm.  There are not many English angora rabbit breeders around here.  Fortunately I have a buck, all the way from Wisconsin, who is perfect for a match with Butterscotch.  Nathan and his friend, Tom, brought her over for a date with my buck.  We decided to leave Butterscotch overnight, as we did not see a real mating take place.  My buck was doing his best but Butterscotch, sweet little thing, is shy.  Nathan came back to get his baby, took one look at her and said, "She's a MESS!"  Apparently, my buck was working on her through the night.  Let's hope Butterscotch was receptive to his advances and will give Nathan a litter of kits in a month's time.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Walk With Mia

Mia loves to walk the land.  I love to walk it with her.  After a night of eating delicious food and drinking whiskey and egg nog, we needed to hike the hill in the cold, fresh air.  Gentle snowflakes were all around us.  I think this is the loveliest snow that we've had in a long time.


Goaties Love the Snow

Monkey and her friends enjoyed the snow today - unusual for goats who tend to stay under cover in bad weather.  Monkey is the Grand Dame of the angora goat herd.  I have one goat who is older than Monkey, but she doesn't have nearly the AT-TI-TUDE that Monkey has. The sheep love to eat snow and I was surprised to see them staying in the barn for most of the day.  I only saw one sheep venture out to check the weather.  I'm not surprised as they have all the delicious hay they could possibly want and room to lie down and relax in the barn.

Thanksgiving 2014

Mia arrived in the wee hours Wednesday morning.  We cooked all day and had a great Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday evening.  In between food preparations, we did chores together, mucked out the barn and wrapped soap.  The meal was huge considering we were only three people, but that's okay.  We have food for days and days.  Mia prepared her first turkey and made the stuffing with apples and red onion - fantastic idea which I never would have thought of.  She made the perfect gravy and treated us to her own apple crisp for desert.  I had her all to myself for a little over 24 hours, which seems to be the most any visitors stay on the farm.  Everyone has their own busy professional and personal lives.  Mia had to be in New Jersey today, Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, to pick up her brother, Captain Father Aaron, at the airport.  They would be spending the rest of the day with their NJ people.  When Mia leaves it's always tough for me to see her go.  I have a million things to keep myself busy, and many, many little, and big, friends to keep me company.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Storm Coming

Snow is forecast for the Northeast, just in time for Mia's visit.  I'm not worried about her driving here tonight, but she might have to pick up AJ at Newark Airport on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, which might be a bad day to be on the roads.  AJ has plans to spend the holiday with family in New Jersey and I won't see him this trip.  We will meet in Maine to spend Christmas with Eric, Annie and the kiddos.  Such is life when we are spread out all over the place and have professional/farm/military obligations.  I think Thanksgiving dinner will be a small, intimate affair with several doggies at the table instead of humans.  I have a plethora of projects and creatures to keep me company.  I hear my co-workers talk about their large, local family gatherings and always become very envious.  Such is life.  I cut up a giant batch of Peppermint soap last night, and washed with it this morning.  Who am I kidding?  I can't find soap like this anywhere - so creamy and luxurious.  My soap is more than superfatted, with honey, oatmeal, shea butter and castor oil...and I don't know anybody who spends more on essential oils than I do.  Or anybody who wraps their bars in quilt fabrics.  Maybe I'll keep making soap for a little while longer.  We'll see.  The sheep are adapting nicely to their life in the barn.  The old girls - the ancient ones - come running to the rail next to the rabbit cages.  I make sure the oldest ladies - the bag o' bones - get a mouthful of rabbit pellets every morning.  I have one little black angora wether who has a slight curvature of the spine.  I make sure he gets a treat, too.  I love the fact that I don't sell any live stock.  Selling live stock means you have to cull (kill) the odd balls and ones that don't make the grade.  I like to keep everybody.  I'm expecting a blessed bunny event this weekend.  This doe is gorgeous - from the Wisconsin bunnies - a gift from Molly Colesgrove.  She is running around the hutch with hay in her mouth.  I have a large water pan in there for her to build a nest in.  It's still warmish but not for long.  I hate to move her inside as she is happy where she is in the barn, but any kit (baby bunny) that misses the box coming out will surely freeze.  Rabbits can't carry babies around the way cat and dog mommies do.  They stay where they fall.  Some times mom doesn't realize what is happening and the first baby pops out.  She figures it out and jumps in the box to put the rest in the nest but the first one is out of luck.  I've revived many over the years, if I get there in time.  I adore angora rabbit fiber.  When blended with wool it turns the most mediocre fiber into something marvelous, more than alpaca or cashmere can do.  I plan on bringing some bunnies inside for grooming while I relax on the sofa watching TV.  The dogs always find that very amusing.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Passing the Torch

Mondays are never easy for me.  I have to scramble to get the farm ready to be without me for a day.  It's like leaving a giant day care center unattended, with dogs to take care of everything.   I'm still reliving my walk Friday night, in the dark, up the hill, with snow crunching under my feet.  The air was crisp and clear.  When I started up one star had emerged to the north, with the last rosy glow fading on the other side of the valley to the west.    As we reached the top of the hill I turned to find barnyard lights turned on down the valley and up the Edmeston hill, a very long way off.   Stars were dotting the sky.  I don't have the same sky view I had when moving here eight years ago.  The massive Chobani yogurt factory complex glare has put a shadow on the sky.  The little village of Brookfield has new street lights, way too bright, three miles away.    Hamilton, seventeen miles from me, contributes to the glare.  I remember opening my trailer door one moonless night eight years ago and feeling my way to the picnic table so I could lie on my back and take in the magnificence.  The Milky Way was a white streak across the sky.  It's not quite so well defined now.  Too bad.  I spent most of the weekend on the farm, working in the barn,   I made Peppermint soap and did some spinning.  I'm very excited about Mia coming tomorrow night.  I'm teaching her how to make Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme.  Passing the torch.  I've made it for ten years and now she wants to make it.  She has some excellent business plans and a partner to help her.  I've decided to get out of the soap and hand creme aspect of my farm and concentrate on fibers and fabric.  I have a giant stockpile of beautiful fabrics that I hardly have time to touch.  I'm expecting more sheep this spring and my angora rabbit population is growing.   I want to make yarn, not soap.   I've made it for twenty years.  Time to pass on that torch, too.  How lucky I am to have a talented and energetic daughter who wants to learn from me.  It will take a bit of time for her to hone her skills and I will be happy to pass on her contact info when she's ready.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


It's not until tomorrow but since Thursday is almost over I can start celebrating Friday.  Would Friday be so dear to me if Monday was not so painful?  I don't think so.  There is a quiet euphoria in school when Friday rolls around just knowing we can stay home the next day.  For me it's a chance to be with my animals and play with all my toys.  I am challenging myself to go through the mountain of clothes in my bedroom that I saved from the possums in the tractor shed.  Yes, I know, that was a long time ago that I went into the giant pole barn to find clothes I hauled up here from New Jersey and discovered possums living in them.  I salvaged what I could and brought them into the house.  I have a hard time giving up clothing.    If I wait long enough it always come back into style.  Most of my stuff is classic country and that never goes out of style.   I don't have to dress up for my job and farm living does not require a stylish wardrobe.  I do like to have something nice to wear to the Fur Ball in February and occasionally to church.  It's snowing outside, just a soft little snow, but more will come tonight.  The barn water was frozen this morning and I'm in full tote water mode.  Twice a day, morning and night, I carry water out of the milk house and pour it into the hanging buckets for the sheep and goats (keeps the ducks out), chickens in the chicken room, bunny bowls (five cages, soon to be more), and two dog bowls.   I put out all they can drink, twice a day, and that seems to be enough.  This way they are always drinking clean water and nothing has a chance to drown in a tank. It requires about six trips in and out of the milk room.  I have one container filling up while I carry two out to empty.  I use old large kitty litter containers with handles.  I've used the same containers for several years, a testament to how long they would last in the land fill.  Like forever.  The door on the milk house room doesn't always shut correctly while I'm toting water out and the goats pry it open.  I come back for more water to find six or eight goats with noses in the feed sacks and chicken flying everywhere.  I have to chase the goats out, then shoo the chickens with a broom or they will roost over my dye stove and poop all over it.  Life on the farm.  Never a dull moment in the Land of Poo.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Warmer Next Week

Won't it be lovely to have a warming trend next week.  The barn was frozen up this morning when I went out to do morning chores.  The water I gave them this morning was frozen when I got home.  I have to carry around warm water and pour it over the ice in the bunny bowls, dog bowls, chicken and sheep buckets.  Cold air makes animals very thirsty.  Eating hay makes them thirsty.  Sheep will eat snow, in fact, they love to eat snow.  Goats will not eat snow.   Speaking of snow, the folks out in Buffalo have six feet of snow and it's still coming down.  No snow here today.  The Tug Hill Plateau, two hours north of here, is getting pounded, too.  We'll get it at some point in time, but not yet, please.  Mia is coming for Thanksgiving and I want her to have a safe trip.  We will make hand creme together and help me clip the last remaining angora goats.  We'll light the big pile of scrap wood and debris outside for a bonfire.  I'll make sure we have a good supply of whiskey and egg nog so we can bundle up, sit under a blanket by the fire at night, and have a drinky-poo.  I just poured a batch of lavender soap and the pot is making the kitchen smell so good.  The wood stove smells divine and wafts into the barnyard when I'm out there.  As I was walking the dogs up the hill after work I saw a big late model tractor coming down the road pulling a trailer with five round bales.  Sure enough, it slowed down and pulled into my lane.  It was Julia's son, Paul, delivering the second cut bales I wanted for my ewes when they lamb.  I asked him to drop a bale over at Chris' barn, my neighbor next door, for his calf.  Merry Christmas.   This is the first winter I'm confident I will be able to make it all the way through without scrambling around for hay in April.  I have 40 more round bales than last year.   Hay is life and life is good.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not a Fit Night Out for Man Nor Beast

The wood stove is eating up the firewood, one log after another.   The wind is buffeting the barn and it's creaking all around me.  If I don't keep a roaring fire going I get down drafts blowing smoke into the house.  I need one more section of pipe on the chimney.  On really cold nights, like when it's minus twenty,  I will push the sofa in front of the stove and throw logs in every couple of hours.   Driving home today wasn't as bad as I feared.  The temps were just night enough that the rain stayed wet not icy.  With more intense cold coming who knows what the week will bring.  Even the ducks came into the barn again tonight.  They are the last ones to seek cover.  I love those ducks.  They are tough birds.  I've even seen them sneaking food from Knut's bowl in his igloo outside when he wasn't looking.  That's risking life and wing.  They love to dirty his water bucket.  I've seen them on the hillside in the worst weather, pulling worms out of the ground, happily quacking away.  When the ground freezes and the snow covers all their food, they move inside.  It's sad to see their lovely white feathers get dirty for lack of water to preen themselves.  I put buckets out but it's not the same as puddles, streams and ponds in the summer.  It will be a long six months for them.  The sheep seem to be going into winter mode already.  They are inside early instead of grazing late into the night.  We're all going to have to make adjustments.  We got another goat clipped tonight.  I say clipped instead of sheared because I leave an inch of hair on them.  I still get most of the curly mohair.  The goats have to be wormed and feet manicured too.  It's amazing how fast the mohair is growing back on the goats  I've done so far.  No coats necessary.   I cut up Tea Tree soap tonight.  127 bars out of this batch.  It cut so nicely, like soft cheese.  I've been making soap for twenty years and it still amazes me when it comes out right.  I've had enough batches go wrong to truly appreciate when it goes right.   Many variables seem to effect the outcome, including the alignment of the planets, sunspots, and the kind of music I have playing at the time of creation.  I've become very good at "re-batching" soap gone wrong and making it something that people love.  Won't have to with this Tea Tree.  Very strong essential oil that smells a bit like gasoline.  You just know it will kill germs and make your skin lovely and soft.  That's what I like.  I'll stoke the stove one more time then go horizontal.   Here I come.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


I try not to let this happen.  I check all the places where a mother hen might hide her eggs and pull them regularly.  This mom found a good hiding place, probably up high, and hatched seven little chicks.  I heard the familiar peeps when I opened the door yesterday and there they were.  Mom did a great job of keeping them warm, but how to feed and water newborn chicks in a barn with sheep and goats are running hither and yon?  I decided to let nature take it's course and she got them through the night okay.  Today when we were chasing Spikey around after yet another escape I noticed the mom had brought the brood out into the middle of the barn where the chaos was happening.  What was she thinking?   I found a suitable cage but newborn chicks can wiggle through the smallest wire.  I was able to find a box to fit snugly inside the cage.  Matt helped me catch the family, not an easy task with a panicky mother hen alternately trying to escape and attack us.   Now they are warm and protected with food and water until I can find a better cage.  There is always something.   The world would be a better place if all mothers were as determined and protective as mother hens.  Motherhood prevails.

Farm Aid

Matt did a great job rebuilding the East End barn door.  He scraped the mud/manure off the concrete slab making it a lot easier for the sheep and goats to get in and out of the barn.  Instead of a giant sliding door to open and close, he built a smaller door within the door.  Very clever.  This magnificent old barn needs more work than we could ever do in our life times.  It would take an Amish community to restore it to it's former glory.  I love this old, classy barn, and still say ahhhhhh when I drive over the hill and see it looming in the distance.   I think it's the prettiest barn in Brookfield Township.  More importantly, it provides shelter from the storm to many, many lives inside it.   We're fairly well buttoned up for winter now.  No drafts on the bunnies.  The milk house drain hasn't frozen yet.  Life is good.