Thursday, February 27, 2014

Snowing and Blowing

I got to Cooperstown for a medical appointment and back without too much trouble.  I like the health care I've been getting from Nurse Tanya and that's where she works out of.  It's 45 minutes with no traffic and clear roads.  Not quite that way this morning but I made it in time with the help of a doctor that was running a half hour behind.  Home in time for a lovely, beautiful afternoon nap.  The weather is getting really weird, with the sky turning dark and horizontal snow blown by a fierce wind that makes my big strong barn creak and shake around me.  The sky will turn blue for a few minutes, then the wind and snow returns.  We are still in the grip of a very challenging winter.  I didn't fully appreciate what I was getting into when I moved here.  I skied in all kinds of intense weather and thought I would be fine.  Taking care of animals in these harsh conditions presents different challenges.  Anyone can hunker down in a warm house and start their cars remotely. When you have to get out there and provide a barn full of animals with everything they need to survive the winter you have a tough job on your hands.  It's not for sissies. You find out what you are made of when the well-being of your animals is more important than your comfort.   I'm so thankful for my big strong barn.  The sheep are two doors away.  It's cold and we still haven't been able to keep a spigot from freezing, but the animals are out of the wind and I don't have to dig out to them.   I'm longing for lambs and kids but truth be told, this is a good winter to take off.  I would be beside myself worrying about lambsickles out there.
 The fierce wind today blew the milk room window open.  Spouse noticed it after he got home from a rough commute on route 20 from Syracuse where the white out conditions caused a five car pile up.  I got it closed and turned the dye stove oven on to prevent the plumbing from freezing.  The kitties love their oven, and sit on the lowered door, soaking in the heat.  Most of the barn cats prefer to snuggle into the boxes of wool I've left around for them.  Everybody gets some warm kitty stew at night, with dry kibble to munch on in the morning - if they can fight the roosters off it.   Spring doesn't come here until Mother's Day, and it will be beautiful.  Would spring be as sweet if we did not suffer through this harsh winter?  I don't think so.

Still High

Temps are low but I'm still high on the weekend I had with my twins, AJ and Mia, in my home town of Morristown, New Jersey.  Maybe when I've been in upstate NY for 20 years, the time I lived in Morristown, I'll refer to Brookfield as my home town...but maybe not.  Morristown is where I raised my kids and where one kid still lives.  AJ and Mia turned 34 on Friday and I wanted to be with them on their birthday.  It had been years and years since we all were together on the special day.  AJ came home from Nevada where he belongs to the National Guard to wait 90 before his active duty assignment.  He's staying with Mia in her cute apartment across from Drew University.  I pulled in on Friday after a five hour drive through, incredibly, torrential rain.  I mean, it didn't let up the whole trip. Between the pot holes, gusts of wind, and wipers going full tilt, I was knackered when I climbed up the three flights of stairs to Mia's place.  Thankfully Father AJ was there to carry up all the birthday packages, bags of grapefruit I bought for her before Christmas, and the 99K Singer sewing machine I bought her for her birthday present.  Mia was still working at Care Station in Springfield so AJ and I went out to Poor Herbie's Pub in Madison.  Mia came home and we had birthday cake, presents, and conversation that lasted to the wee hours.  Saturday morning Mia had to work.  I don't know how she does it.  She had just returned from four days of skiing at Mount Tremblanc and a visit to Montreal where she gave in to some of the bugs she's exposed to from patients and got very sick.  It takes a lot to stop Mia.  I wonder where she got that from?  AJ and I went to the Bargain Box Thrift Boutique which benefits the Morristown Medical Center.  I scored some lovely flatware, lots of matching teaspoons, tablespoons, forks and knives for 25 cents each.  It has a pretty fluted, artsy edge.  I was looking for pants to wear to work but most rich people are very thin (protein cost more than carbs) and everything I wanted was about a size 2 or 4.  I found a gorgeous Saks 5th Ave. camel wool full length men's coat for beans and brought it home.   I love big wool coats and have a couple in the car at all times.  If I run off the road down into a ravine on King's Settlement Road I'll be nice and warm.  No more waist length cutesy nylon jackets for me.  I'm totally into warmth and natural fibers in my old age.   I also found a J. Crew angora cable knit sweater - fantastic buy - for Mia and a "Hand Knitted by Dagmar Lund" Norwegian sweater for myself.  I didn't find a single pair of desperately needed trousers but I'm rolling in sweaters and coats.  After we departed the Bargain Box we met my dearest old friend and the twin's God mother, Aunt Carol Hewson and her son John Scott at the Famished Frog.  We had not been all together for years and had a long, leisurely, delicious lunch that lasted for four solid hours of exchanging and sharing golden memories.  Scott was Eric's first friend in Morristown.  When I went to work as a ward clerk on the dialysis floor Carol was a nurse on the staff.  The rest is history.  I made Carol and Scott promise they would come up to the farm in the spring for a weekend and a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  We left our friends and returned to Mia's apartment where your truly took a sweet little nap before Mia came home.  We set out to Giotto's in Montclair where we were joined by Tim O., Mia's friend, and had a fabulous dinner.  With Mia and Tim going to work on Sunday morning we reluctantly left the restaurant (we closed the joint) and went back to Mia's where we played with the "new" sewing machine until 2 am or so.  I woke up Sunday morning in time to see Mia do her "seven minute workout" and eat the breakfast she prepared for us.  Father AJ took me to the Grace Episcopal Church in Madison - a lovely service filled with little kids and a lovely children's choir.  I was very impressed.  We went to the newly renovated Swiss Chalet Bakery for lunch and the Sunday NY Times.  We bumped into Mia and AJ's friend since B'Nai Or Nursery School when they were 3 years old, Meri Carleton Foglyano.  What a thrill!  I was hoping I would find someone from my past in town and there she was. After a brief visit with Meri and a spinach croissant we headed back to Mia's apartment to pack.   Spouse had called to say he dropped a large log on his big toe and I had to come home.  Somehow I knew something catastrophic would happen while I was gone.  It always does.  I said goodbye to my youngest and drove the four hours north in lovely weather, quite unlike the awful rain that plagued me on the way there.  Spouse was hanging on by a thread.  He removed his sock to reveal a purple, bleeding toe with the nail floating on a bed of goo.  I sent him to the ER right away where they cleaned up the toe and sewed the nail back on to act as a cover for the new emerging toenail.  Ugh!  Monday morning came too soon and I was off to work.  It's Thursday now and I am still high on the weekend I had with my kids, in the upscale, trendy towns we used to frequent and are a rare special treat for me now.  I can't wait to go back, which I hope to do before AJ is deployed to God-knows-where.  In the meantime we are experiencing a ridiculously cold and snowy week.  The bucket of bolts continues to get me where I need to go.  I'm thankful it got me to Morristown and back without blowing a tire in the potholes that are everywhere you turn.  The doggies are still happy to have me back.  Spoiled babies, I adore them...and the babies I gave birth to 34 years ago - one of each - on the same day.  Pretty cool.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


The weather is beautiful - sunny, thirty or so, with the hillside glistening like diamonds under a clear blue sky with wispy white clouds, like streaks of wool thinly spread out.   I was out five minutes before I had to take my jacket off.   I took the doggies up the hill through some drifts to enjoy the morning, and also to stir things up so this machine and miles of wires I have stuffed into my sports bra will record something interesting.   I have to keep it on until 2 pm, giving the cardiologist, hopefully, the answer to why my heart doesn't want to pump regularly.  I'm very grateful to Nurse Tanya for making all these appointments over my vacation week so I don't have to miss school.  I hate to miss work, and I love the fact that I hate to miss work.  It gets me there when the going gets rough.  I would really like to know why my pulse is 40 and skipping at times, then nice and strong other times.   I feel great, just tired at night and sleep fine.  Who knows?
  I have a test tomorrow morning in Cooperstown,  then it's off to New Jersey to be with AJ and Mia on their birthday.  I feel like all this getting checked out is a kind of birthday present to them, so they don't have to worry about their mother, or be burdened with a mother who didn't take care of herself properly and let something catch up with her.  Then I look at the faces of my sheep, and I want to be healthy for them.  If anything happened to me spouse would have them on a truck in the blink of an eye.  We're not going to let that happen.  Who would give Lilly her apples?  My sheep NEVER, EVER get "shipped" which is what sheep people call it when they don't want their animals, or they become old and infirm.  The thought makes me shudder.  Now back to chores and my sheep.

Sheep Thrills

Several times in the night a weird scraping sound occurred over my head followed by a loud boom.  The snow load on the metal barn roof slid off and crashed to the ground.  The cats and dogs have learned over the years to get out of the way.  I hope I don't find any flattened ducks in the spring.  Still very cold, five degrees F., this morning.   The forecast says big melt this weekend with extreme cold next week.  Too bad, we were enjoying 20 degree days with a bright snowy landscape.  Perfect for sheep, and humans.   On deck for today:  spin a little more of the alpaca and silk singles I found hanging in a bag from the ceiling.  I had not peeked in that bag for a couple of years and was pleasantly surprised to find a ball of lovely natural champagne alpaca with a Louet skein of silk.  I don't remember spinning them, but am happy to have that bobbin.  I have a habit of filling up bobbins and not doing anything with them.  I don't have an endless supply of them.  Today will be busy with chores then a trip to New Hartford for errands.  NH is the other place I go to for things I need, the same distance away from the farm as Norwich, but north toward Utica instead of south.  I have two lovely knitting totes almost done but need another half yard for straps.  I eek out every inch of fabric but sometimes fall short.  I could substitute another fabric for straps but sometimes that doesn't do the bag justice, particularly with high-end textiles.  Spouse took the day off yesterday to take me to Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, 30 miles away, for a test.  It was a good day for driving over hill and dale to this very classy, upscale town with an excellent hospital.  I'm trying to get checked out over this week off from school, and keep my family from worrying about me, bless their hearts.  I'm very grateful for the medical coverage provided to me by my teaching job.  I can't help but be cognizant of the working poor who would never have access to these expensive tests.  Family news:  Captain AJ is in New Jersey and will stay there for another 90 days before he reports for active duty.  He wants to make contacts with Episcopal churches and offer his services as a substitute priest, kind of like a substitute teacher.  Mia is back from a ski vacation in Montreal, where she decided to go after her flight to Park City, Utah, was cancelled due to weather.  She asked me to knit her some angora leggings for skiing.  It might take me until next Christmas to make them but I have a good start.  Eric, Annie and the kids are very busy with BSA winter camping at Camp William Hinds in Maine.  I'm happy they are growing up in the fresh air of the piney woods.  I'm hoping to get a summer school slot this year, as I can't imagine they will be back to the farm with so much Boy Scout activity going on where they live.  This day is getting going and so should I.  Spinning a few minutes with my coffee first.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Still Grey and Cold

I don't mind this weather.  Would the glorious green spring be as joyous without the cold and ice of winter?  My sheep seem happy, lying about in the snow whenever the mood moves them from the hay pack in the barn to the sunny barnyard.  The East End door is always open - has to be as it's frozen in the ice.   I'm enjoying my week "off" although it hardly seems like a vacation.  I just don't have to worry about the "other job."   This is turning out to be medical week, with a trip to the hospital to get a monitor put on.  Won't they be surprised when they read the results and ask themselves what is this lady doing?  Nothing any other farmer wouldn't do.   Not sure they would get a true reading without my going to school after chores and coming home to more chores.  My room is the farthest away from the parking lot.  I have to traverse the entire school to get to the cafeteria (a good thing).  Then there's the constant angst of working with students so oppositional  their schools have sent them to us to deal with.  Am enjoying the Olympics.  New Jersey, my home state, is so ethnic.  The women's X country sprint just ended with a clean Scandie sweep - Norway, Finland and Sweden beating all the other nations.  The Finns are about to play Russia in hockey.  Putin will be watching.  Heh, heh, heh.   I'm rooting for the Finns, no surprise.   Watching the Russian landscape on TV reminds me of the summer I was in Sweden and Finland when a teenager.  We were riding along in the wild northern frontier of Finland when a Russian car approached.  The driver of my car rolled down his window and yelled MOSKOVITCH!  HEWEE!!! and launched a giant wad of mucous at the vehicle.   Finns hate the Russians, with good reason.    I finished two Bundaflicka totes today.  What joy to sew all afternoon and never leave the farm.  When the farm is covered with snow I don't feel compelled to go outside and climb the hill, or  look for bits of old barbed wire that gets tangled in the sheep's wool.   I am happy today.  My #2 son,  Father Aaron, has received his letter from the #1 Army Chaplain in Washington, DC.  He has been accepted into the Regular Army Chaplaincy and will be leaving his National Guard unit to be full time Army.  We don't know where they will send him for this total military/religious immersion.  His unit and his church, Grace Episcopal, in Las Vegas, will sorely miss him.  I'm very much looking forward to seeing him on Friday, Mia and AJ's birthday, in Morristown where they were born.  I can't remember when we were together on their birthday, it's been so many years.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snowed In

After a gloriously sunny sparkling winter day it's snowing again on the farm.  I'm sewing Bundaflicka totes and have four lovely bags hanging from the rafters so far.   I'm adapting the inside to hold more knitting needles securely without changing the traditional structure people like so much.   My plan is to make more folding knitting needle carriers this year, along with the Yarn Pockets - fabric bowls for round skeins of yarn.  Trouble is, whenever I make a Yarn Pocket I tend to fill it up with spools of thread or my own yarn.  They are just so handy to have around and don't fall and break like the ceramic yarn bowls that are so popular now.  I would give it a good yank and pull it right off the coffee table, or my dogs would wag a tail and send it cascading to the floor.  Not with my fabric bowls. They are sturdy and pretty, and can be squeezed into a tote bag, preventing the spool from coming undone inside.   Sewing totes is my first love, but Yarn Pockets are a good way to use up small amounts of fabric.   I finally went to see Nurse Tanya yesterday, after putting if off for years.  I'm so healthy and active, and hate anyone poking around The Temple.  Could not avoid it any longer after being turned away for donating blood.  Nurse Tanya is going to figure out why my pulse is 40, about 20 points lower than the low normal for my age.  I'm not a marathon runner so what's going on?  I feel fine but want to stay that way.   I have to go to Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown tomorrow to get fitted with a halter monitor to wear while I go about my business.  Sure hope I don't get sheep/pig/duck/chicken/dog/cat poo on it.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Still Snowing

You know, I never really mind the snow.  I have so much to do indoors that cold inclement weather gives me an excuse to stay in and do it.  The sheep are inside too.  I give them everything they need.   I go out with the dogs several times a day, and down to the dumpster with garbage.  I always stop to take in the lovely vistas all around me.   I live in a Currier and Ives calendar setting.  Does anyone ever display Currier and Ives calendars anymore?  Am I dating myself again?  When I was growing up they were ubiquitous, in so many homes and offices.  It's just so beautiful around here.  Who needs  Vermont?  Today is the first day of my "mid winter vacation."  If my phone alarm went off I didn't hear it.  I find myself needing more sleep lately, and thoroughly enjoying it.  I fought to stay awake through Bill Mahre at ten o'clock last night and didn't make it.  I'm not getting a lot done and have to step it up.  I've said it before, Maryland Sheep and Wool waits for no woman.  It's the grand hurrah for sheep people like me.  I love this show - it's all about sheep.  Maryland is very supportive of the sheep industry.  Yes, they let a token alpaca or two into the show, for the tourists, but Maryland is for sheep and shepherds.  Let's see, I have ten weeks.  Not a lot of time for people like me who make or raise everything they sell.  I am going to New Jersey this weekend to visit Mia and AJ for their birthday.  It's been more than a year since I visited Mia in Morristown to bring her gas during Hurricane Sandy.  AJ is flying home from Nevada to spend his birthday with his twin and soul mate.  I am hoping to take a basket weaving lesson Sunday morning in Flemington with Martha Dreswick, the master weaver who makes all the baskets I use in my farm booth.  We'll see if the weather cooperates.  Very much looking forward...

Friday, February 14, 2014


My Studio Art classes spent several weeks creating a Valentine Quilt.  They were required to cover six inch squares with some form of heart motifs and a LOT of color.  Staff joined in and we had a lot of fun.  I mounted the squares on a large piece of cardboard that enclosed a new door that was delivered to the school.  We had quite a time getting the large wobbly cardboard to stay on the wall.  The heavy hitters, men from Buildings and Operations, were called to assist us.  They worked their magic and voila - there was our beautiful Valentine Paper Quilt, hanging in the hall of our wing for all the world to see. It really brightens up a very cold, snowy and dreary winter.

Chinese New Year Dragon Parade

To celebrate the Chinese New Year in January we staged a Dragon Parade with my middle school Studio Art classes.   We spent a couple of weeks learning about the Chinese New Year customs and making masks, noisemakers, lanterns and a big dragon head.  When January 29 arrived we donned a long striped dragon's body and marched around the school.  Students from the various tech programs, teachers and office workers came out to cheer and take pictures.   Aimee Piedmonte, our media center coordinator, immediately nominated us for the Artist of the Week award and took our parade paraphernalia  to display in her window.   Some of our kids are very shy.  For them to parade around the school making noise and cooperating while walking connected by a fabric tube was wonderful to behold.  Next year - cowbells for better noisemaking.  The coffee cans with pennies inside were great, but oatmeal containers did not make enough noise.  We have to be sure to chase those evil spirits away.

Snow Day

What a gift!  Teachers and students rejoice!  My school receives students from several different districts and they all have to close for us to shut down.  It's sometimes a nerve wracking process, wondering if I should hit the bath, rush through chores and warm up the truck.  We started with a two hour delay then moved to closing.  I bet my colleagues from Syracuse had already hit the road as they have 50 plus miles to cover one way.  In the past I've arrived at school to find nobody there but custodians and office people.  I've learned to wait a bit and see.  Still snowing and cold at about 15 F.   Oh, I do love being under the same roof with my sheep.  Four foot drifts in the driveway.  Spouse got out the hrududu and plowed early.  What to do with all my free time?  Hah, hah.  There is too much to do so I'll put a nick in various things.  Spouse took my 4wd to work in Syracuse so I'm not going anywhere.  I have everything I need.  Wish I brought home the gallon of milk in my class room fridge, and all that pink fudge left over from our fabulous Valentine Bake Sale yesterday.  I am off all next week!!  Very exited about seeing Mia and AJ in Morristown on Feb. 21.  The weather looks promising.  Now to get out there and do morning chores.  The piggies are used to getting their warm mash at 7 am, not ten am.  I know Lilly and the old ewes are waiting to lick the bottom of the buckets.  I have to turn the oven off in the milk room.  It keeps the baby bunnies, and milk room kitties, warm through the cold nights.  I have dishes in the sink from the last couple of nights.  Sometimes when I come in from chores I can't face the dinner dishes and they wait.  Isn't going to the grocery store, buying it, hauling it home and into the house, putting it away, taking it back out, then cooking enough?  Nope.  Not enough.  I would love to put on a pot of chili today.  We were going to have a chili cook-off at school today, cancelled due to weather.  Luckily our Studio Art Valentine Bake Sale was a big success yesterday.  When buses were arriving to pick up students early we quickly put out the goodies and staff members came out for us.  I should call the school and ask the custodians to put out the left over pink fudge for themselves.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

February 12

Today is my mother's birthday.  She died 15 years ago at Christmas.  I can't talk about it - yet.  Maybe someday, but it's still too tender, even after 15 years.  I appreciate her more as I grow older.  We had our differences, mostly having to do with my brothers and her male bias.  I can't go there - yet.  She was incredibly capable and talented, with a big personality and much stamina.  She's gone but, for me, she's everywhere.  She would never understand the farm thing, even though she came from farmers.  It's not what she wanted for me.

My heart feels better today.  Pulse up to 68 and steady tonight.  I'm taking it easy, eating healthy food, taking vitamins and getting some rest after work and chores.  

Big bake sale tomorrow to raise money for Studio Art.  We've been working hard all week, baking Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, White Chocolate Dream Drops (with lovely meringue from my duck eggs), Cheesecake Brownies, Linzer Torte Cookies, Peanut Butter Kisses, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls.  We wanted to do more but with four classes of watercolor hearts painting and two classes of Global History - did you know St. Valentine was a Byzantine monk who liked to give anonymous gifts to people? - we could only do so much.  A snowstorm is threatening us tomorrow morning.  Let's hope we get to have our bake sale.  We are still trying to raise money for a pottery wheel.

I knew it was cold this morning but I didn't realize how cold until I got in the truck on the sunny side of the barn and it said minus 12.  Oy.  The bucket of bolts is running fine and is great on snowy roads.  It's a real gas hog but I feel safe in it.  Just turned 170 thousand miles.

The sheep are fine and happy.  They don't seem to be stressed living in the barn.  The east end door is always open and they can wander out to play in the snow, or stay inside and lie in the hay.  The ducks are not enjoying the winter as much.  They are a little dirty due to not enough water to wash themselves.  I put down buckets of warm water every night but it's not enough to really get clean.  They'll be thrilled when the snow melts and they can swim in their favorite puddles and eat worms and grass.  Warm mash and hay does not do it for them.

The baby bunnies are so cute.  The three does will be ready to go soon.  I'll keep one of them for breeding. I think I'll bring them to school for a visit soon.   The six little ones are getting ready to jump out of the box.  One has been out a few times already but hides under her mother.  My moms are so steady and unflappable.  I can use the hose to clean under their cages and they don't flinch.  Good girls.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Still Cold and Snowy...

...just the way it should be in February, in the Great North Land.  The wood stove is chugging away, giving off glorious heat.  We're running low on wood, which is more easily found than the poor people with pellet stoves.  I've heard it is very hard to find pellets now, with this extreme cold depleting supplies in stores.  I have enough deadfall on the farm to keep us warm if we can't find wood to buy.   Am enjoying the Olympics at night, particularly the downhill racing and the ice skating.  The barn animals all seem to be doing fine with regular and ample feeding of hay and water.  The ducks and chickens are getting warm mash now along with the pigs and old ewes.  I found three duck eggs today.  Two more of the summer born ducklings are laying, to my delight.  I brought some to school to make meringue cookies for our Art Studio Valentine Bake Sale on Thursday.  Chores take between an hour or two at night, depending on how much time I want to play with Lilly and her gang, feeding them mash, then giving them apples when I'm all done with everybody else.  I'm off next week and have a stack of Bundaflicka totes ready to sew.  I'm very much looking forward to visiting AJ and Mia in New Jersey for their birthday.  We've spent too many birthdays apart.  AJ is moving East from Nevada and will be staying with Mia in Morristown while waiting for orders from the Army.  I have an appointment with Nurse Tanya early next week for a check up.  Will be relieved to find out why I have an irregular pulse of 48 - 50, which was revealed to me when I attempted to donate blood yesterday.  I've been taking it myself and it's true.   I was turned away, the first time in 30 years they wouldn't take my blood.  Very disconcerting.  I'm sure Nurse Tanya will find out what the problem is.  I wake up every morning feeling fine and keep active on a daily basis.  Maybe I need another kind of vitamin.  Time will tell.  I think I need to spin more wool.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Weekend Done

It went by so quickly.  The Fur Ball was so much fun last night.  The band, Splash, was amazing and we danced and danced.  My farmer's market friend, Cindy, and her husband were there, along with a former school colleague and the fabulous Chenango SPCA people.   Thank you, Tracy L., wherever you are, for taking home my Maggie's Farm Goody Box.  May you thoroughly enjoy everything I put in that lovely box.  I do hope you are a knitter and a spinner, since I added a lovely linen Yarn Pocket with a big ball of two ply Bluefaced Leicester hand spun yarn, pictured below.   All the goodies were nestled in a pound of Mother Fiber, which I hope you felt or spin, or, if you don't do either, give it to a felter or spinner.  Anyway, it's yours now and a few homeless kitties and doggies will have another day or two of meals.  Today was a bit slow getting started as I slept in all the way to 8:30, a miracle.  I picked up a student in New Berlin to come out to the farm and work a few hours.  I worked along with him, mucking out the bunny/kitty milk room.  I will be happy when the baby bunnies can go out to the hanging cages in the barn and the poop/pee can just fall to the floor.  It's much too cold to put them out there now.  One little tiny cutie jumped out of the nest - a fawnish/brown baby from my black angora doe.  Oh, I am enjoying raising rabbits again.  I took my student back and came home to catch some Olympics and fell asleep on the sofa for three hours.  It felt grand but put a dent in my plans for today.  Not to worry, I got chores done in time to catch the downhill racing, my absolute favorite Olympic sport.  Oh, the excitement.  Then came the skating pairs while I was making dinner.  After kitchen clean up I got set up to make Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme for some waiting orders.  Tonight's creme came out fantastically smooth and emollient, soaking in and leaving my skin silky soft.  I'll take some jars to school tomorrow in case any one needs to save their hands/face/body from this harsh winter cold.  Every night after I say my prayers I reach for a handful and start with my face, rubbing a little extra under my nose so I can inhale the lavender essential oil.  Then I massage my neck, arms, knees and feet.  Then sleep overwhelms me and I sleep so well.  A fan recently told me she can't go to sleep without my creme.  I totally understand...

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Fur Ball Tonight

Very much enjoyed the opening ceremony to the Winter Olympics last night.  I loved the historical narrative and stunning visual effects.  I took Russian Revolution in graduate school and it is daunting.  I thought the little girl tip-toeing through Russia's history was fascinating and beautiful.  The ballet, the ball room, the train, the flame, I loved it.  There is something ethereal about the Olympics that transcends politics no matter how much people try to interject their agendas into it.  It's all about the athletes and the host country doing their best to make the games happen.  And I love the Ralph Lauren sweaters worn by the US team!!  Stars and Stripes forever!   No Olympics tonight as we are going to the tenth annual Valentine Fur Ball at the Canasawacta Country Club in Norwich.  This glitzy affair supports the Chenango County SPCA, located near my school.  I dropped off my Maggie's Farm gift box at the shelter yesterday.  Last year's basket was very well received and raised $180 for the homeless dogs and cats.  I could not find a basket that could hold a candle to the large vintage wicker one I found at The Key in Cazenovia last year.  Instead I used a large hat box with a bed of a pound of my Blood Orange Mother Fiber to nestle all the soap, hand creme, shaving mug and yarn in.    This year I added a heavy linen Yarn Pocket with a ball of Bluefaced Leicester yarn and Mei-Mei needles inside it.  I hope that will tempt someone to take the plunge and put their money down for the shelter.  The challenge of what to wear was solved when I went in The Pink Door thrift run by the Ladies Auxilliary of the Chenango Hospital.  I didn't want to wear the Mother of the Bride gown that Mia bought for me for the third time and my other gowns are about a size 6.  I ventured in the shop and the pink jacketed ladies called out in unison "You have FIVE minutes!"  Low and behold there was a subdued black lace and chiffon short dress that looked like it might fit.  I said how much and they said three dollars....and it fits!  Don't ask me how that happened but it was GREAT.  No long golden swirly satin gown with bejeweled jacket this year and that's okay.  I'm trying to get chores done early but it's just so cold and it's taking a bit out of me.  It was minus 14 F. on this farm this morning and everything is frozen.  All the animals are hungry and thirsty.  They act as if that one meal I'm giving out is the lifeline to another day of surviving this winter.  If I had not paid so much money for the tickets I would be tempted to stay home under the covers in front of the fire... but then I would miss the fabulous food, desserts and music by "Splash," and I want to see how my gift box does at the auction.  I suspect it will be an early back home to the farm for us.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Snow Day - Hooray!!

What a gift...a snow day!  Teacher's rejoice.  There was enough notice about this storm to build anticipation and give me time to hit the grocery store for coffee, cat food, and a meal to cook and make the house smell good while I'm home.  Spouse is home, too, sick with a nasty cold which I'm praying I don't catch.  So many colleagues out with various vague illnesses.  Keeping as healthy as I can with vitamins, veggies and rest.  Farmers are in the same boat with moms of little children. We can't get sick.   I'm blessed with good health and if this old ski injury on my right knee - the one that a sheep decided to bash a few years back - would leave me alone I'm pretty good to go.  On deck for today... enjoy the storm, tend to critters, and do some sewing.  I finished my friend Rebecca's purple faux leather messenger tote and will get it shipped tomorrow with the Blood Orange Mother Fiber she wants.   I can't wait to see what she does with it.   I'm waiting on an order of lavender essential oil that was delayed down the line due to weather.  Can't be without lavender.  The piggies must be doing their happy dance out there in the barn, waiting for the sound of the door to the milk room where I mix their slop.  I love to see them jumping out of their hay bed and running to the fence.  I don't love the way they fight over the warm mash and flip the pan to make it easier to get to.  Lilly's aged ewes line up for the bottom of the buckets but are now being joined by some fatties who don't need the extra food.  One cute addition to the bucket brigade is the little wether,
Cinco, born on May 5 while I was on the way home from Maryland Sheep and Wool.  He is my youngest sheep and is sporting a lovely hogget (first fleece) coat.  He was a surprise, born to an aged ewe with a twin that didn't survive despite bottle supplements and much TLC.  With no ram on the farm there won't be any lambs this spring.  I am working on finding a new ram for some fall lambs.  We'll see.  A sheep farm with no lambs in the spring is not the same.  I have a duck who is trying to decide if she wants to sit on a clutch of eggs under a little igloo in the duck pen.  I saw her sitting on them and feathering the nest around her, so I didn't pull the eggs.  Last night she was not sitting.  I'll keep an eye on her and if she's not intent on hatching them I will pull them for us to eat.  Not a lot of eggs right now.  I got one last night in the chicken room where they get steady food, water and hay.  I get more eggs from the birds loose in the barn but I have to find them.  Still snowing out there and I'm in from the morning doggie walk.   It's a fine, silty snow and the road in front of the farm is covered.  Wonder if we can hope for another snow day tomorrow?  Not a chance.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Freshly Squeezed

Still enjoying the grapefruit purchased before Christmas from the Conservation kids at my school.  Loaded with vitamin C and a great appetite suppressant when I want to eat something naughty....which is often.  What is it about cold weather and sustaining my fat layer?   What am I?  An Eskimo?  I'm not alone.  My sheep are hungry all the time.  I forked hay yesterday morning a little later than usual.  The sheep were swarming around the feeders, with the big fat sheep in front, pushing the older and smaller ones away.  I have to be sure to toss some farther out for them.  The little angora goat wethers are good at sneaking in under the sheep to nibble at the hay that falls on the floor.  We counted the bales and figured we have hay until May 1.  Very nice.  I have to get on the phone and get eight more round bales in here to see us through until green grass comes up.  I like the round bales.  It's easier on my elbows and shoulders to fork off the layers around and around the bale instead of lifting, carrying and cutting apart square bales.  And they are cheaper to have made.  It's all about grass, water and hay.   My heart aches for the state of California and the dreadful extreme drought they are experiencing now.  Northern California, that mystical, magical place, is a fiber art mecca.  I can't imagine my sheep and goats lined up at the fence, begging for food, with nothing to give them but sticks.  I've been there, here on the farm, but it was for other reasons.  Two years ago my hillside was dust in August due to lack of rain, but the trusty farmers around here hustled to get a mammoth first cut in early in the season and saved us all.   This past summer saw record rainfall and lush green pastures, and Julia got my round bales done during a rare week of sunshine.  The hay is wonderfully delicious.  You know who loves hay even more than sheep?  My English Angora bunnies.  I have a new litter - five little black babies, safely snuggled together in their nest in the milk room.  I'm still keeping the oven on in there, even though the temps have moderated, my electric bill be damned.  I love the little bunners.  With no lambs coming this spring, the baby bunnies are very much appreciated.  The three does from the first litter are growing fast and I've already had an inquiry about one.  I got a bobbin of white wool spun last night while watching Captain Phillips - good movie - last night, and will ply it with some brushed mohair I got from Betty Todd, my Mohair in Motion friend.   So much fun....

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Warming Trend

It's in the thirties today, absolutely sublime.  I pulled in the driveway yesterday after work and was not reluctant to open the door and get out of my vehicle.  The air smelled a tad like spring, or is that wishful thinking?  The ice in the water buckets is still freezing at night, but thawing a little during the day.  Work was good yesterday, with many kids out for conference day in their respective districts.  My Chinese New Year parade with two elementary classes went fantastically.  Fawn and I scrambled to get the two sides of the big dragon head glued together before the kids got off the buses.  I tried the long striped fabric tube on her to cut the head holes.  The noisemakers and masks we made all week were ready.  The kids came in and everybody was fantastic about climbing in the tube one by one.  We marched around the school shaking our noisemakers to welcome in the Year of the Horse.  There are times I am having so much fun I can't believe I'm getting paid for it.  This was one of them.  Home on the farm Saturday morning.  The kid I had working with me last week was a no show when I went into town to pick him up.  Called mom who said he spent the night with a friend and he had not asked her for a ride to where we meet.  Bummer.  I'm trying to save a life.  Not always easy but nobody said it would be.  I'm going about my chores, chumming with my critter friends who are all so cute and wonderful, and will do some sewing this afternoon.  Sewing always makes me feel good.  I took a walk to the back of the barn that I never see during the week.  The barn is 240 feet long, with an extension that opens up in the East End.  I found some duck eggs back there and saw the two shy Swedish Blues.  Now I know where they hang out.  I bet if I put some nesting boxes back there I'll get some eggs in them, maybe ducklings in the spring.  Love those ducklings.  The principal suggested I hatch some eggs in the classroom.  Wouldn't that be wonderful for the kids.  Might be a bit stinky and what to do with them on weekends?  Much to consider, but good to know he likes the idea.  I have some lovely fleeces growing on those sheep.  One ewe is hobbled by an old square bale cord.  Have to get spouse to help me catch her.  Hate those cords.  No more - the round bales have a netting around them which is discarded when we roll out a new one.  I admit it was convenient to have those old cords around when I needed to tie panels together,etc.  Will invest in rubber truck straps.  The piggies are growing bigger and bigger. They are so cute but soon they will be big enough to crash through gates and make nuisances of themselves.  Makes it easier to say goodbye to them.  I have to call Miss Tammy and make an appointment, then buy another freezer and line up some piglets to ease the pain of losing Scarlet and Sue Ellen.  I know pigs are in my DNA.  Not a surprise since I come from a long line of Southern hog farmers on my mother's side.    Love those piggies...