Monday, March 31, 2014

Hay is Life

I almost made it through the whole year....the hay mow is looking very empty these days.  I have enough hay to last through the month of April.  This was the best year I've had with hay since moving here.  No hay, no sheep.  Fingers crossed for next year.

500 pounds of goodness, green and fresh.

The cupboard is bare - where's dinner?

Round bales are layered.  Some farmers unroll the bales on the ground in the pasture for the sheep to eat.  We fork down the hay by sticking the pitchfork in the bale and walking around it.  We pitch it through the hole in the wall to the feeder below.  It's a lot of work but beats picking up heavy square bales and tossing them down which gave me a lot of shoulder trouble.   After a year of using round bales I have full range of motion again.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Water Water Everywhere

Thankful for high ground this morning.  The hillside is almost bare with rain all day yesterday and more wet weather to come.  Beaver Creek will be rushing and roaring across the road.  We will likely have flooding locally and in some of the sending districts to my school including Sherburne, Bainbridge and Sidney.  I lived on the Delaware River for four years - the nightmare years I call it but it gave me the impetus to move up here - and watched the water come up 30 feet over flood stage three times in a year and a half.  Neighbor's homes were ruined and cars floated away.  I was cut off from my sheep and had to drive miles and miles to get across the river to New Jersey and my teaching job.  Before the walkway was closed we would stand on the Riegelsville Bridge - a practice copy of the Brooklyn Bridge built by Alexander Roebling before the big job - and watch refrigerators, propane tanks, and all manner of flotsam and jetsam float down the river to the ocean.  I had two pop-up tents ruined by floods including the one at the Garden State Sheep Breeder's annual show when the whole fairgrounds was wiped out.   I love living on a hillside.  I'm squishy enough for the poo to melt and soak in the ground but nobody is knee deep in mud. The barnyard is on shale with a couple of inches of some incredibly tough grass.  No matter how wet, or how dry, or how many sheep stand on it, I always have a few blades of grass. That shale undercarriage comes with a price.  Digging fence post holes requires powerful machinery I don't own.   The inside of the barn has a hefty hay pack, which would suit a Hobbit or Dwarf better than the 5'3" me, but is perfect for the sheep.  I have to call Rob Wilcox to dig it out and spread the poop on the fields.  Was hoping to get it done last fall but here we are.  Shearing was put off due to extreme cold and now they are in desperate need to be sheared.  It will have to wait until after Md. Sheep and Wool.  I am sewing like crazy in between school, animal chores and marital responsibilities such as cooking and cleaning.  If it was up to me cooking and cleaning would be suspended until the the middle of May.  Wouldn't that be interesting?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Color Purple

I adore the color purple.  Happens to be one of my all time favorite movies, too.  I made this tote for myself and carried it all winter, in and out of the truck, tossing it on the floor, under my desk where it's kicked back and forth all day, then dragged up the steps when my arms are about to rip off with groceries, feed bags, etc.  It never shows a ding or a scratch.  No guilt here as this soft-as-buttah fabric is faux leather.  It never walked the earth enjoying God's green grass and sunshine.  I have a limited supply as I bought the six yard piece on line.  I'm offering it now, ahead of Maryland Sheep and Wool, where I'm confident it will fly out of the booth.  At 17 inches high by 22 inches wide it could take you to London for a weekend, or hold a quilt on the way to a guild meeting.  The lovely Gunlocke upholstery lining has six large side-to-side pockets with two inner pockets big enough to hold your electronics or a nightie - whatever you need.  The hand made sheep horn button by Cornerstone Fibres sets off the faux leather nicely with a natural element.   A cedar wood insert supports heavy items.  The Purple Tote is available at

Good news!  This bag is sold!  I have enough purple pleather for one more this size.  Many thanks to my friend in Virginia!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Better Today

I was a bit out of sorts when I got home yesterday.   Preparation for the annual observation took a lot out of me.   Administrators are in and out all year, but this time there has to be paperwork prepared and submitted with standards and incremental plans.  I picked the toughest class to be observed with - not sure why - and told him I could do this because I trusted him.  I haven't always had administrators I could trust.  The glass was always half empty.  With this new guy the glass is always half full.  He promised me if it went south we could do it over again.  Sounded good to me.  My aide cleaned the room so nicely and I even tidied up my desk.  My principal-in-training co-teacher colleague had coached me on how to craft the plan and what to say.  He watched my power-point presentation to make sure it covered my objectives.  Since we teach this class together he would be in the room even though it was my observation.  I knew he would help me if the kids went off.   I had to borrow two more oven racks from the upstairs kitchen so we could cook four pizzas at one time.  I had done big shopping and we had made pizzas with the middle school class the day before to test the method.  The time came and there he was with his Ipad and I started the class.  Sure, there was a kid with chew, and a kid sat on the table, and one kid wanted to go to the men's room.  When I showed the slide of the local pizzeria they yelled HEY!  They sell drugs! and other such nonsense, but all in all, it went as well as can be expected with my student population.  Mercifully, two kids were absent giving us eight young hellians.  Principal left without saying a word.  He had interjected some thoughts while the class was going on, mostly about his own Italian family and how they made pizza.  I had a feeling he would relate to the lesson.  Will it help me?  I'll find out on Friday.  I went home exhausted and fell asleep in the car after I turned off the key.  Their was nothing to cook for dinner and yesterday's dishes were in the sink.  Ugh.  I'm sewing every chance I get, but spouse can't stand the sound of the machine and forbids me to sew after ten.  That's when I get started.  It's cold out there now, and the wind is awful.  Had a terrible time getting the stove started when I got home.  Once I got it going a back puff filled the room with smoke and blew out the little fire.  Got it going again and saw a pig running around outside.  It was Scarlett who had wiggled out of the barnyard and couldn't get back in.  Thor guards the other door to the barn and I suspect he wasn't inviting her inside.  I got suited up and made the slop buckets.  Had to let Thor go so I could get her back in.  She came right along and went back in her pen.  Sue Ellen was in with the sheep so I had to maneuver her back in, too.  Nothing is simple.   Went in to get the dogs out to pee but couldn't let Finn come with us or he and Thor would patrol the farm, only it's not 350 acres any more.  Everybody has to go in shifts.  Finally I'm inside and I'm going to sew for a couple of hours before spouse gets home and wants his hot meal.  Oh, it's a little earlier today due to a water problem at school.  The water pressure dropped and toilets couldn't flush.  They got the kids out and sent us home at 1:30.  What bliss!  I could get used to this!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Travelling Bunnies

Two baby bunnies went to school today.  The kids were thrilled.  I only let them hold the bunners if they sit on the floor cross-legged.  Don't want any falling bunnies.  I demonstrated spinning angora on my spinning wheel.  Lots of fun.  The kids work the treadle while I draft the fiber.  We made pizza in the afternoon.  It was wonderfully delicious.  I never made pizza with my own kids.  Too bad - it's a lot of fun and so easy with store-bought dough.  More pizza today with the principal coming to watch for my annual observation.  Here's hoping it goes well again, and that the yummy pizza in his belly helps to boost my points.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Forrest is very handsome and looks a lot like his mother, Lilly, who I miss very much.  It really hit me when I was in the market yesterday buying apples.  Lilly loved apples.  Last night I stood in the dark looking down the barn, thinking of the beautiful times we had together this winter.  I called her name, knowing she was not there, but then something wonderful happened - four or five girls came running!  I have lots of Lillies now.


With the snow melting on the hillside the sheep are anxious to get out and graze. The pigs are not helping.  They are happily digging in the dirt along the barnyard fence.  The dirt and roots on the other side have got to taste better than the dirt inside.  That's just how it works.  We looked outside and found Scarlett wandering around the barnyard, outside of the fence.  I quickly prepared her breakfast and back in she ran, sailing over the part of the fence that needs propping up.  Piggies are very smart - they are always probing for a weakness.  I am keeping their tummies full and their beds fluffed.  When they heard us forking hay down for them, the sheep turned and ran back into the barn.

Walking with the Doggies

What to do on a gray, windy and cold afternoon with a storm approaching?  Go for a walk up the big hill and take in the wide open spaces.  There are tiny shoots of green grass under the brown thatch, waiting for the sun and heat to urge them up and out.  With the single digits we'll have this coming week I think we'll have to wait a few weeks.

Yarn Pockets

I was admiring the yarn bowls potters have been making.  I was reluctant to buy or barter for one, thinking it would surely break with one swipe of a dog's tale.  With all this lovely fabric I thought why don't I make yarn bowls out of fabric?  I've been using them to keep all my sewing and fiber art paraphernalia organized.  They are wonderful to hold round skeins while I ply yarn, and they keep the balls from falling apart in my knitting tote.  I keep my pin cushion in one on the side of the sewing machine.  I fill them with spools of thread.    There is no end to how handy they are to have around.  I love the way I can use up small amounts of fabric that are not enough for a tote.  They are fully lined with a loop to run the yarn through.  When you yank on the yarn and it falls off the coffee table there will be no sound of ceramics breaking into pieces.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


The snow is  melted enough for us to walk up the big hill to the pond.  What a joy for me and the doggies.  The cool, crisp air and the crunch of the snow underneath is lovely.  I call it my "spa treat."  After being locked inside all day the dogs are able to play and do all their business before we go back inside.  It's still cold, 28-30, but considering yesterday it was 2 degrees above zero when I left for work, this is balmy.  I got back down to the barn in time to get a picture of the latest finished tote outside in the natural light.  I have many bags in various states of completion.  Sewing makes me happy.  I am truly blessed with crafts that I enjoy making and using.  Lately I'm carrying a "vintage" Bundaflicka tote, one that I made while living in the little cabin in the wilds of Western New Jersey right after I left Morristown.   I found it the other day, full of odd things that acted like a time capsule when opened.  It is a lovely cranberry red with medieval stags all over it.  I remember buying the fabric at a fancy decorator shop on the Main St. of Flemington.  I put large pockets on the inside and all around the outside, kind of overkill with the pricey, high-end fabric.  I don't like the choice of fabric lining, but I was in my Bundaflicka Knitting Tote infancy.   Wish I could find more of that fabric and thought of calling the shop, but it was almost 15 years ago since I bought it and they might think I was a bit dotty.  Anyway, three totes are ready to take to Maryland and many are in the pipeline.  I have to stay focused and organized.  Really?  Me?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


I woke up and went straight out to the barn.  Her head was down and my worst fears were realized.  There t were her eyes - fixed and lifeless.  Lilly had died in the night    My heart ached.  What could I have done to make her live a little longer?  All the mornings and nights with buckets of warm grain in her belly.  All the pounds and pounds of apples for a night-night snack.  Lilly was the only sheep that knew her name.  The only sheep that came running at the sight of me.  We were so bonded.  So many years together and so many stories we could tell each other.  As I stared at Lilly who was still under her blanket I heard a banging and thrashing not far away.  What was that?  The barn was still dark in the morning but I could make out something black shaking and kicking by the old wooden stanchion wall across the barn.  I ran toward the sound which could not be anything good, and there was my lamb, Cinco, born last May 5, with his leg caught in between two boards.  I climbed over the wall and freed his leg.  Who knows how long the poor thing had been there, perhaps all night.  That wall is where I stand with the pig buckets to let the sheep lick the grain on the bottom.  I pulled him up and steadied him.  He swayed back and forth in a daze.  With very little time before I had to leave for work - ugh! - I made sure he could walk and left him to get his bearings.  My heart was very heavy with the loss of my friend Lilly, but the fact that I saved my lamb from a horrible fate told me the rest of my flock needed me.  I took it as a sign that  I can't go off the deep end over a sheep who lived a long and happy life with my total devotion over the last 13 years.  I have too many other lives I am responsible for.   Little Cinco is okay, with one eye swollen from lying on the dirt, but otherwise fine.  His lovely hogget fleece was ground into the dirt with his thrashing, but will wash out fine.  No broken or sprained leg that I can see.  I have several old girls like Lilly.  They have yellow and red tags.  I don't tag sheep anymore.  Can't stand to do it to them, and the tags rip out or fall out over the years.  I know who they are.  Even if I can't remember their names I know who they are.  We are bound together.  I promise them that they will never be "shipped" or gotten rid of, and they make me happy in return.  As long as I can work and feed them we will remain happy together.  Matt took care of Lilly tonight for me.  When I got home from work I looked at her again, somehow hoping she was alive and I was wrong when I found her this morning.  She is not up on the ridge, at the sacred place where we offer up our dead to the wildlife to go back to the earth - she is grazing on a pasture that is forever green and lush, where the apples are so plentiful the boughs almost touch the earth, and the spring water is cool and sweet.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday Monday

 Sometimes I open my eyes and rest awhile in the dark, contemplating a variety of things.  I missed my kids a lot this morning. I hugged that little Izzy and whispered my secrets into his ear.   As wonderful as the farm is, I wish I was closer to my children.  People  around here have extended families within a few miles.  They are always going to school functions or family parties, sometimes complaining that they can't make it to all the gatherings in one weekend.  They are so lucky.  I've missed watching my grandchildren grow up.  They've moved all over the country and are not seven hours away - the closest they've been to me in their lifetimes.  That's where the farm comes in.  My sheep fill in an enormous void.  They ground me in a wonderful way. and give purpose to my life.  The paradox is that they keep me grounded in another way.  I can't get on a plane to visit my kids, or take a weekend break, without elaborate planning and expense...and someone always dies.  They always do.  I go anyway when I feel I have to, but there is always a price to pay.  Nobody takes care of the farm like I do.  Good news - when I opened the door this morning and looked into the barn I could see Lilly's ears silhouetted in front of the light bulb over the sick pen.  She is slowly improving.  I gave her selenium and vitamin e (BOSE), thiamine, LA200 (I feared pneumonia) and vitamin B.  I've been making her swallow a healthy shake twice a day.  Last night we brought her into the sick pen with the other Bluefaced ewe who was not doing well (she is coming around nicely).  Lilly's ears were down and her vitamin shake was crusted on her pretty face.  I covered her with the scratchy but warm Army blanket, which does not slip off and goes down to her feet, covering her legs.  I called home and the report is that she nibbled on some cracked corn this morning.  I'm hopeful but realistic.  Lilly is a little a 99 year old lady in human terms.  If she goes I want it to be after being lavished with much love and attention.  She survived two moves, and some very hard times on the farm.  There is something about an animal that's stuck with you through so much.  They become part of your collective history.  I no longer get attached to my sheep the way I did at the beginning of my shepherd adventure 13 years ago.  Maybe that's a good thing, but something is lost.   Better get home and mix that apple/oats/molasses shake and make sure Lilly's blanket is on her back.  Blues don't have a lot of wool and it was minus 2 F. this morning.  Don't think it's going to be much warmer tonight. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Beware the Ides of March

Weather was mild  promised and remained throughout the day.  Snow and cold came back by evening.  I got out to the PO and was delighted to receive the camera charger and batteries Mia sent me.  I was without a camera for a month or so and the Canon point and shoot Mia gave me was dead.  Now I can show off some lovely totes I'm working on.  Motored on to the Louis Gale Feed Mill and picked up more pig feed and cracked corn to get me through the week.   I delayed chores until after I got back, which took me until almost one to finish.  I cut out some knitting totes, needle holders and yarn pockets until dinner, then set about chores until ten.  I swear if I keep up like this I will have to skip Md. for lack of product.  I did not regret being outside and looking at the moon, which I might have missed had spouse had decided to help with chores.   The moonlight showing through the slats of the barn as I forked down hay was delightful.  I opened the magnificent big doors to the upper hay mow (every year I say I'm going to put matching Christmas wreaths on them with a spot light) and was treated to a breathtaking view of the hillside, covered with snow and illuminated by the moon.  Clouds raced by chased by a cold wind and bright stars twinkled here and there.  It's moments like that when I'm reminded why I'm here.  I needed a little boost, as I found my beloved Lilly in the back of the barn, lying by herself.   I think the pig pen episode took a toll on her.  Two mornings ago when I was taking the pigs out of the sheep pen and into the pig pen, Lilly followed.  I tried pushing her back in where she belongs, but no deal.  I was in my work clothes, and running late, and thought okay, now she can spend the day with the piggies, who get along with the sheep just fine.  That night Lilly was not in the pig pen, nor were the pigs, and I marveled at how the three of them managed to get out.  Maybe it was the ample amount of food, or the exertions of getting out of the pig pen, I don't know.  Lilly won't get up.  I gave her Vit. B complex, and water with molasses.  I figure Lilly will be 13 years old on Easter.  I am ridiculously attached to her.   Sheep don't ordinarily live that long but Lilly is special.  She was born to a BFL/Romney cross purchased from Lisa Rodenfels in Ohio, and a purebred Bluefaced Leicester ram.  She is long and lovely, with ballerina legs.  I put slices of apples in her mouth and she spit them out.   This is serious.  Woe is me. On deck for today - taking care of Lilly and all the other lives that depend on me - and sewing.  Sewing is good.  I also have the cutest bunnies in the world that need tending to.  The babies are ready to be separated from mom.  I'm anxious to get them out of the milk room and into the big barn where the ventilation is better.  Oh, those bunnies.  They really are the cutest things, and the angora is to die for.  Good day to hug a bunny.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday the 14th

Coals were still hot in the stove this morning.  The fairies had stoked it in the middle of the night.  The forecasted warmer temps are not here yet.  Maybe tomorrow.  I got out to the barn to do my chores and found only one piggy in with the sheep - Scarlett, the bigger Tamworth.  I toyed with the idea of leaving her in with her sheep friends but I noticed Sue Ellen was still in her pen, sleeping, like a good pig.  Scarlett saw me and started snorting and squealing "I want food."    I got her slop mixed and attempted to let her out the sheep pen door while holding the bucket of slop to entice her.  Bad move.  I should have poured the slop in the pig pen then let her out. 
It's worked before.  Holding the bucket in view of the sheep, who get to lick the bottom of the buckets every morning after I feed the pigs, was too much for Lilly.  When Scarlett came through the gate Lilly busted through and no pushing or shoving on my part would stop her.  She, and Scarlett, followed (or pushed) me into the pig pen and dove their snouts into the warm slop I poured.  Guess who is spending her day in the pig pen with the pigs?  Yes, Lilly.   There was no time to get a halter and pull her out.  I had to go to work.  With the principal's warning that I had better start getting to school on time, I said good bye to Lilly and rushed out the door.  The slop that covered my shoes would have to wait for cleaning.  My truck dash said 14 F. with wind blowing snow across the icy road.   Shortly before I reached route 8, I passed an Amish woman walking with a bag and something small held in the crook of her arm.  Her head was bent to keep the wind off her face.  She only had on that thin little cloak Amish women wear in the winter, and no gloves.  I realized the bundle in her arm was an infant child.  Oh, how I wish I could have turned around and taken her wherever she was walking!   I can't stop thinking about her, and that baby, wrapped in a blanket that did not look very substantial.  I got to school, on time, and cranked the heat up in my class room, which I hardly ever do.  I hope that Amish woman got herself and her child in front of a roaring wood stove before too long.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cold Again

After a brief tease of spring weather we are back to awful, penetrating cold.  Zero on the farm this morning and yes, we still had school.  I haven't heard about anyone getting hurt and that's a blessing.  Snowed and blew all day but coming home was a little better.  Many drifts over ice to make things interesting.  I think the principal picked the wrong day to speak to me about being on time.  I think the staff deserves medals for getting to school today.  Gotta deal.  He did give me credit for being a farmer and doing chores before work, etc.  Good thing I love the guy.  Got a couple of packages mailed out - always a good feeling - and headed home.  Ten F. in the barnyard and 48 inside the house. I pulled on a cashmere turtleneck, fleece ski pants and a big Irish sweater.  Doggies still had to go out so I put back on my oversize Harris Tweed, wool kerchief and rubber boots.  Spouse says I look like a Eastern European refugee but who cares?  I am perfectly comfortable in my woolen tent that covers my legs and the kerchief is wonderful for covering my big Scandie head, cheeks and neck.  Thankfully the dogs ran back to the door after their pee and poo.  Fine with me.  I felt like a real wimp as I watched the little chickadees holding on to the bird feeder in the wind.    What a blessing my barn is - any barn is - in this horrible cold wind.  I see several pairs of horses - and herds of cows - on the way to school with no blankets and no shelter.  Their backs are covered with ice.  One farm just outside of Norwich has a great big barn filled with little goats and the two horses are fenced off from it with a tiny lean-to that only fits their heads.  One horse was trying to get her body into it as I passed today.  Would like to give the owners a piece of my mind...then there is the group a few feet down the road from me...

Hopefully the warm air coming on Saturday will give them some comfort - and me, too.  My sheep still have their wool on them - thank you God.  Goats, too.  I'm not so selfish that I would strip them of their protection in this weather.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Good things come to those who wait, isn't that what they say?  Right now I'm waiting for my next class to come in.  The St. Patrick's Day Leprechaun drawing tutorial is ready to go.  Paper, pencils, markers, all on the tables.  I'm watching the rain, waiting for it to turn into the ice and snow that will make my trip back home to the farm absolutely miserable. I'm always worried about getting home to my animals.  My truck is packed with blankets, a shovel, a jar with a candle, matches, my headlight, etc.   Gotta deal.  A few teachers stayed home today, including my aide, so I'm glad I made it in.  Our staff is so small that whenever anyone is out, particularly in bad weather when subs don't want to come in, it matters.  Good to be needed.  I work with the nicest people in the world and don't want to make things harder for them.  Tomorrow will be a different story after snowing all night and high winds predicted.  I have lots of firewood, propane and hay.  Will stop on the way home to get something special to cook for spouse's birthday today.  This morning, while we were discussing a possible overnight in Syracuse if he can't make it home,  he said he is so pretty he should be a kept man.  Okay, if you can find somebody to keep you then God Bless, go party.  I don't blame you a bit.  Quite frankly I planned on being a kept woman myself.  Life is what happens when you are making other plans.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Sharon told me it was 55 F. outside before I walked out the door.  The weather is absolutely glorious, with only a sweater needed to go out with the doggies once I made it home.  Stopped at the New Berlin post to  get some packages off.   I got four packed and mailed for $31, Priority Mail, with two of them on the larger size.  Can't beat it.  They even provide the boxes. One order went to Sidney, which is 40 miles south of here, and cost $7.50 to ship.  I don't think I could have hand delivered it for that money.  Not with gas at $3.81 a gallon and not in the bucket of bolts.   I had a customer complain bitterly about the price of shipping my creme.  I told her I have to pay to get supplies shipped to me and I sympathize with her, but what can I do?   I threw in a surprise for her to ease the pain.  I wonder if she orders anything from Ebay or Amazon?  I don't like when they add a "packing charge" of $3 in addition to shipping and handling.  Wouldn't packing be handling?  I don't know how they get away with it, but I keep buying from them and that's how they get away with it
.  I had to get out early for a before-school meeting in Norwich High School.  It was short and I got back to my school before the kids came in.  Still have to catch up from the time change.  Wouldn't it be nice if we had a snow day tomorrow?  A big storm is forecast, which is hard to believe with this lovely weather.  6 - 10 for my area.   I love the snow, but not when I'm stuck in my classroom, watching it come down and wondering how I'll get back to the farm.  Poor Matt, driving home from Syracuse on his birthday in that tiny little Saturn.  Not fun.  Truth be told I'm not up for dealing with commuting in this storm.  We'll see what the morning brings.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Down the Drain

Lagged behind all day due to time change.  Never understood it myself.  I guess I go on such a narrow margin of needed sleep that when I'm short an hour it doesn't work.  I was out of Friday for yet another medical test and am always concerned when I go back to work after being "absent."  Everything had gone fine except for the story I heard about electronic devices being allowed to be used in my room.  Very disturbing.  I will have to get to the bottom of that.  Not allowed, not ever.  No smart phones, no Ipods, just art.  Wonderful.  I got my numbers to the tax man today, on time for the March 15 deadline for businesses.   I've been going to this guy, a retired business teacher, for several years and like him a lot.  He's kept me out of trouble so far.  He's non-judgmental and never chastises me for my unconventional record keeping methods.  Maybe he should.  On the list of purchases for my little farm business - a Quicken program to replace my scraps of paper.  It's all up to me Baby.  While I was away teaching school and journeying to the wilds of Smithville Flats, south of Oxford, spouse was holding down the farm.  He did a beautiful thing for me today - he unplugged the frozen drain that was causing the milk room to flood.  He swept out the nasty standing water too.  Now I can wash feed dishes and buckets in the sink instead of the dirty floor.  It's the little things.  I arrived home to find him coaxing the piggies back into their pen and he was having a rough time of it, resorting to harsh language and pushing.  I showed him the error of his ways and how the magic of the bucket of corn works wonders.  Opening the pig pen before you get them to the gate helps avoid a jam up of pigs and farmer holding bucket.  There is a serious set of tusks behind those piggie lips and it's best of keep everybody moving.   My sick sheep is slowly coming around.  She's standing up and nibbling ever so slightly on the cracked corn, then lying down from the effort.  I stopped the shots but am still giving the nutri-drench, molasses, water and ground apple drink.  She does not cooperate and I smell like cookies.   Spouse helped me with chores so we could get back inside by nine thirty or so.  It's a bowl of yogurt topped with my rhubarb/strawberry preserves from last summer and beddy-bye for this girl.  Up early to make it to a 8:15 meeting at Norwich High School.  The week grinds on.

Sunday, March 09, 2014


I have so much to do today and don't know where to start.  If I sit here and type a while maybe it will all fall into some kind of perspective I can deal with.  Maybe.  Randoms thoughts shoot through my mind like meteors, or space debris that caused all the havoc in the movie Gravity.  Wow, what a tough chick she was.  I have to remember her.  I found the piggies roaming the barn this morning, as usual.  They had tossed all the hanging water buckets and any remaining water under the ice was spilled.  Some ran across the concrete floor where I walk back and forth and froze.  I have to tip toe or slide.  It takes three trips with three large kitty litter containers to give everybody water.  The hungry piggies thought maybe there was food in them.  There are two big pans full of frozen pig feed in their pen which they escaped from.  I know they could break it up with their tusks if they figured out how to get back in the pen.  You should see them get excited when I bring new buckets of warm slop.  I have to move Thor, or he won't let them pass by him, open the sheep gate and keep the sheep back while letting the pigs out, then pick up the buckets quickly and run over to the pig pen, undo the strap and bend back the panel.  This I do with them grunting, squealing and sniffing my legs.  The knowledge that pigs are omnivores does not escape my mind.  They are also very large and strong, but, fortunately, they are very nice piggies.  I can't take them to see Miss Tammy until I find a freezer.  As it is I don't know how spouse and I will get them out and down the road four miles to the little house behind the Chobani factory.  Will cross that bridge when I come to it.    I am going to fork hay now.  Gave spouse a break because he is on his back under the Saturn replacing the radiator.  He spent a fortune on replacing anti-freeze then bought another radiator to put in.  It's cold and windy but he's in the tractor garage.  I'm sure he's got his smart phone out and is entertaining himself by getting on to Conservative sites and starting political arguments with people.  It's an Irish thing.  Speaking of Irish, the Wild Irish Boy has a birthday next week.  Funny how someone who doesn't believe in birthdays will remind me that his birthday is coming up.  Thank goodness for tools, socks and Carhartt.  I'm still waiting for my birthday present from last October, but he informed me that his continued participation here on the farm is a daily gift.  Okay, whatever.  I have a giant box of receipts I need to go through.  Shoot me now.  Totally my fault for letting it go.  I need a computer program to enter all this stuff into.  Anybody have a favorite?


Spoke to Nurse Mia.  I sent her my labs and heart monitor reports.  She pronounced me "very healthy."  I knew that, but hearing it from Mia is lovely news.  This barn will remaining standing for a long, long, time.  Nurse Mia is on duty at the walk-in clinic, Care Station, in Springfield, New Jersey, today.  If you have a problem she will take excellent care of you.  I love my daughter.

Time for a Change

Woke up and thought oh, I can linger here a little longer but Nature had other ideas.  Once I am up the dogs are alert for any activity that looks like I might be taking them out.  I wish I could "let" them out, but Cooper and Bertha need leashes.  Planning on a dog yard but it would have to be quite tall and would probably need electric around the top.  My dogs can jump like deer.  I also want an outhouse and the Amish neighbor family has three for sale in their yard that would do very nicely here.  I could use it when I'm around the barnyard and visitors would not have to come inside.   For years when I asked carpenter spouse for an outhouse he would say here's the pick-axe, when you get six feet down I'll build you one.  He was confident that would never happen.  I know an excavator right over the hill, the same one who put in my septic.  Problem solved.  I put new batteries in the kitchen clock, changed the time on the clock and my watch.  Everything else is digital.  The weather report says warming up today but sure doesn't look it, with the sky dark gray above the snow. It was warmer but still damp and chilly yesterday.  I prefer cold and crisp it's so much healthier for the animals.   I've been fiddling with the fire and it's going nicely.   I play a little game with myself in the morning.  I try to start the fire with whatever coals or warm ash left over from the night.  I did stoke it around two so I managed to get a flame with newspaper and kindling.  Spouse has been great about getting wood and kindling inside for me.  If I had to tote all this wood I might be tempted to reach for the thermostat.  I think I touched it once this winter, to turn it down after spouse got sick and turned it up.  With all the hot water I use, the oven in the milk room to keep the plumbing from freezing, and lights, my bill is still ridiculous.  I don't know how people live.  Speaking of living, I have to continue working on my taxes today.  I see Darryl Lanning, retired Oxford business teacher and tax man, tomorrow after school.   When I tally up what it takes to run this farm I am floored.  It's up to me to make it all worthwhile.  I am sewing every day, and I love it.  When I sew I forget about everything.  Two totes went out the door yesterday, to a friend I went to St. Elizabeth College with in New Jersey.  What a thrill to send them to her.  Will I have enough for Sheep and Wool?  It's all up to me.  My sick sheep is coming along little by little.  She wiggled through a board that was pushed out by the sheep straining to get at the pig slop when I was carrying it to the pig pen.  She didn't know what to do once through the hole and got chased by Thor and Knut who knew she was not where she was supposed to be.  She jumped into the duck pen, went off her feed she was so upset, and got sick. Same thing happened to another old ewe before spouse got the board back up.  Only took a week.  I thought, oh, she has a friend and I can spoil them both.  Sick sheep is standing up, turning around, but still not eating.  I thought I saw some powder from cracked corn on her nose so she is thinking about it.  I am blending oatmeal, apples and molasses and making her drink it three times a day.  No more shots, I've stabbed her enough.  If she wants to live, she will live.  She's a purebred Bluefaced Leicester.  I would hate to lose her.  Thankfully, this is the only sheep or goat casualty of this very cold winter.  I've heard El Nina will give us a warm one next time.  One can only wait and see.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Warming Up

Back from Cooperstown and the last test for the winter.  After years of under utilizing the magnificent benefits of my teacher's insurance I am finally taking advantage and getting myself checked out.  It took getting turned away from a blood donation to get me started.  I made a stab at it five years ago when a friend my age died suddenly of blood cancer, but, being the exceptionally healthy person that I am, I quickly forgot about things like annual exams, etc.   I am very fortunate that, God forbid, if anything happened to me my kids would be just fine.  Not so my farm.  My farm needs me.  My sheep need me.  My dogs need me, and so it goes.  I got lost on the way back from Bassett Hospital.   Went about forty miles out of my way.   Easy to do in upstate New York.  The roads just go on and on through beautiful wide open spaces with a sign every now and then.  Yes, there is one of those machines that tell you where to turn,etc. in the glovebox but yours truly didn't hook it up.   Luckily it's a gorgeous, warmish day with blinding sun on a slushy snow-cone snow.  I did pass a Price Chopper and was able to pick up some apples for my beloved Lilly.  Four dollars for three pounds of apples?   89 cents for a lemon?  How do people live????  I have a sick sheep - my purebred Bluefaced Leicester ewe.  She got out of the sheep pen and the dogs chased her into the duck pen.  She looked very comfortable there and was able to snack on the duck corn so I left her in there for the weekend.  I needed help getting her back to where she belongs and spouse is more amenable to doing more than chores on the weekend.   Yesterday - when it was TWENTY BELOW outside, and 18 F. inside the barn, I found her lying down with her ears back.  On closer examination I found some discharge from her nose.  Looks like pneumonia to me so I started immediately on LA200, B complex, and Nutri-Drench.  I covered her with an Army blanket last night, as BFL's don't have much wool to begin with, and she was lying on the cold hay pack.  This morning she was still there, with the blanket on, and her head up.  Always a good sign - head up.  I gave her more shots and made her drink some warm molasses water.  Sure hope I don't lose her.  I had a terrible falling out with my vet three years ago - can hardly speak about it still - and haven't found a new one.  Truth be told, I don't know what vets could do more than an experience shepherd, besides give you the meds you need.  This sheep is not a spectacularly fantastic girl.  She never gave me a decent lamb.  I love her, and she's pretty as a ballerina, but carries about two pounds of wool, soaking wet.  Was hoping to breed her to a heavier wooled ram, but she didn't care for my hefty Zack.  Zack is now in heaven so there's no chance there.  Better get out to the barn to check on her and the pigs, who are growing in leaps and bounds.  True to the Tamworth breed, they are tall, long and lean.  They break out every day, but march back into their pen for feeding at night.  They know to wait for breakfast before they break out when I'm at work.  I love the girls, and don't plan on bringing them to see Miss Tammy for a while.  I have to buy a freezer, as the old one that spouse brought home from a job site years ago had died.  Just my luck it died with a lot of old Zack inside it, and is still that way in the tractor shed.  I'm afraid to move it.    A new freezer would be put closer to the house.  I plan on taking one piggy to Eric and Annie's this spring.  I like the idea of feeding my family.  I better line up some new piglets before that happens, or I will go into serious pig withdrawal.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Warm in Here

While we were out to chores the temp was diving.   Five below, eight below, ten below.  Stopped looking.  It was around 20 F. in the barn and manageable without my gloves on.  Can't use the hose and mix slop with gloves on.  Everybody seems fine except for one poor dead chicken I found frozen in the pen.  I've been giving the chickens sunflower seeds and buckets of slop to keep them hydrated.  Hopefully that will be my only loss this winter.  I had a "chilling" thought tonight as I was working out there...what if this is the beginning of a trend and we are in for another winter like this, or a few?  Quite possible if not probable.  I asked my dear friend and shearer, Jim Baldwin, if we could put off shearing for a while.  I was hoping to shear March 15 but I love my sheep too much to strip them naked in this cold.  Not with temps diving below zero at night.  Certainly not the goats, who are desert animals and don't take the cold as well as sheep.  Another month and I think we will be out of the woods.  My kitties are doing alright.  Two Toms, Pounder, son of Lydia and brother to Lizzie, and his buddy, Big Red, live on the front porch.  Matt enclosed it with translucent panels in the fall so they are not snowed/rained on.  I put boxes of wool on the porch for them to snuggle in at night.  Although there is water all over the barn - I know because I toted it there - the porch kitties want their own food and water.  I love the boys and give them what they need.  It's just a few extra steps.  Cats are so territorial and I have several groups in the barn - the Hay Mow Kitties, the Milk Room Kitties, the Work Room Kitties and the Wool Kitties who live on piles of wool fleeces where Thor and Knut hang out.  Yes, they all get separate feeding.  No wonder I am out there for two hours every night.  Time for a snack and jammies, then chamomile tea.  If it was good enough for Peter Rabbit, it's good enough for me.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Sunday Morning

Managed to stay horizontal until 8 am.  Natural called prior to that and I tip-toed over to the BR in the dark to not wake the sleeping dogs.  Didn't even stoke the fire as it would signal to them that our day is starting and it's time for them to go out.  On weekend mornings I put that off as long as possible.  Spouse takes care of the dogs and forking hay on workday mornings.  I make the coffee, tote water, feed cats/dogs and slop the hogs.  Slopping the dogs also means letting Lilly and the old girls - now joined by Cinco, my lamb born last May and some little goat wethers - lick the bottom of the slop buckets.  Being the Italian mama of the animal world, I've started making a separate bucket for the sheep.  Lilly is very aggressive about her bucket and will dip her entire snout up to the eyeballs in the warm mash, doing her best to pull the bucket close to her and prevent the others from getting any. This often results in a big splash on my ski pants, but not a problem as the dogs like to lick it off me when I go back inside.   Once Lilly has a good drink/chew on the oatmeal like goo I pull it away to let a couple of the other ancients get a mouthful.  I think this practice has helped get the old bags o' bones through the cold winter.  Lilly, a black Bluefaced Leicester, doesn't have that much wool to begin with.  The Merino crosses and the Border Leicester crosses are covered with thick coats of wool so no worries.  The intense cold continues through this week and I can't see any real warming up coming soon.  Spouse had another load of wood brought in so I can feed the beast with reckless abandon.  On deck for work due tomorrow, tidying up around here - always an exercise in futility - maybe some hand creme batches (it saves my hands and face in this awful cold) and sewing.  I have some ideas for knitting needle holders which can double as paint brush holders for artists.  I'm anxious to dive into the box of linen that arrived from New Orleans.  OH to think that some rich people actually have entire pieces of furniture covered in this fabulous cloth is more than I can take.  Thick, luxurious, glossy, natural linen that looks like it was hand loomed.  I would sleep on it every night.  For now, I'm going to finish this huge cup of cappuccino in front of me in the cup that my friend Susanne Farrington made.  I'm looking forward to seeing her at the Hamilton market this spring, which will be in eight short weeks.  Oh, the glorious greening of my hillside.  We will all rejoice and keep in the back of our minds, that another cold winter is coming.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

March 1

I'm beginning to see the light at the end of this long, cold winter.  I really don't mind it too much, but taking care of the animals, pets and livestock, is so much harder.  No more grazing on God's green grass and drinking out of the pond.  I have to provide them with everything they need.  I have hay to last until May 1.  Have to make some calls today to get in the round bales I'll need to get through until I can let them out to graze.  They line up at the gate at the first sign of the greening of the hillside, but I can't let them out right away.  My barnyard fencing is so rickety they could knock it down, but they are good sheep and wait for the six inches or so I like to see before letting the girls loose.  I am enjoying the close relationship I have with the flock over the winter.  We interact much more closely than we do in summer, when I might not see Lilly for days and days.  We are still having sustained stretches of very cold temps.  Another storm is going to hit south of us.  Mia and AJ will have more snow in Morristown, where I was last weekend, enjoying very balmy temperatures.  Glad I was able to travel there for their birthday.  Big news - Captain AJ, AKA Chaplain Father Aaron, has received his active duty Army post.  They assigned him to the base of US Army Intelligence - Fort Huachaca - in Arizona, near the Mexican border.  He is very pleased.  Active duty assignments are very hard to get.  AJ has to report to his new base in May.  In the meantime he'll stay with Mia in New Jersey, dabble in local politics, and make Episcopal Church connections.  I'm hoping he'll come to the farm and spend some time here.  I have some jobs I could use a hand with.  I applied for a coveted summer school slot this year.  I need fencing and wood for projects inside.   I got one last year but turned it down when Hannah and Luke wanted to come to the farm in the summer.  I don't think I'll see them here this summer.  Hannah doesn't like the farm anymore and they are both busy with BSA activities at Camp Hinds in Maine.  I knew the time would come when they would outgrow the farm.  No other grand kids coming up the line.  Better go hug a sheep, or a goat, or a pig, or a duck, or a chicken, or a dog, or a cat, or a bunny.  That's about it for species and I guess that's plenty.  I'll busy myself with getting ready for Maryland Sheep and Wool, which is eight short weeks away.   Yikes, I'm hardly ready.  Somehow I make it happen.  I don't know how.  My camera died, probably from carrying it in the Cradle of Civilization around the farm.  Mia gave me her Canon point and shoot, but he lost the charger.  I was okay until it flashed charge the battery.  No luck in Radio Shack.   Spouse went out and bought a charging apparatus but it was the wrong fit.  I matched the model numbers to a charger on Amazon, waited two weeks for it to come and it doesn't fit.   Most of this weekend will be spent on chores, some sewing, and writing student education plans, due Monday, of course.  Some good news - Julia, my dairy farmer neighbor called and will do my hay again this year.  She has new equipment and is ready to go.  She has a neighbor who has round bales for sale.  What a relief to know I have enough hay to feed my animals.  Better get out to chores and talk to the piggies, who are very feisty and handsome girls.