Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Working for the Farm

Craziness rules here.  I don't know where anything is.  Boxes everywhere.  Yes, I have a real job off the farm that requires 100% of my abilities every day, but THE FARM is what it's all about right now.  Luckily I found four more round bales of hay from local hay broker, Wayne Tanney.  We rolled out the last one Sunday and my fields are not ready.  Somehow I have to get the bales in here right away, and two days of rain are forecast here.  Wayne doesn't deliver.  We'll have to take the old landscape trailer which was piled high with stuff.  Matt got it emptied and tires filled yesterday.   Picking up hay in the rain is not fun.  It's only four miles away and the hungry sheep won't care if it's slightly damp.  There's always something.   I really appreciate his help with this because I am packing for Maryland Sheep and Wool, the magnificent celebration of all things SHEEP!

Monday, April 28, 2014


I'm on my way home to take care of the animals and get started on a new batch of Shepherd's Friend Hand Crème.  I'm liking the way it came out, on the heavy side, but emollient and soaking in nicely.  Every batch is people-tested, like on me, and my two faithful friends in the Special Ed office who I rely on for feedback.  Dare I tell the truth....the only thing I measure is the beeswax.  Everything else, the shea butter, the jojoba, the vitamin e, the apricot kernel oil, the sweet almond oil, the grapeseed oil, the lavender essential oil, is done by eyeball.  It is a tricky process, and one that's hard to write down.  I'm still going to do a tutorial one of these days.  In the meantime, I'm looking for boxes to pack all this hand crème in for the trip to Maryland Sheep and Wool this weekend. 

Shiny Shoes

"Mrs. Alexander, why are your shoes so shiny?"  I hear this often from my students.  Guess what?  Shiny shoes are much easier to clean off when somebody's paint comes flying off their enthusiastic brushes onto my shoes when I'm standing next to them.  Not a problem - it's part of the job.  I love painting with the kids.  It's my favorite thing we do.

Georgia O'Keefe in Studio Art

With this cold, wet spring hanging on here I thought we could use a little color in my art classes.  I adore painting with the kids and Georgia would have been pleased with their interpretation of her work.  Staff and students are welcome to participate.  Once in a while I get to paint a little myself.
Our halls are bright and cheery with Georgia O'Keefe's work on display.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


With intermittent rain, and now a hail storm, it's a good day to stay indoors and make Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme for Maryland Sheep and Wool.  I've been making it forever but it's still a careful, tedious process.  I like the way this batch is coming out.  I think the secret ingredient, aside from the unfiltered shea butter from Ghana (unfiltered still has the UV components and natural minerals cosmetic grade shea butter removes for some strange reason) is the Tocopherol, or liquid vitamin E.  It gives the creme such a rich, emollient quality and the benefits of vitamin E are well known.  I'll make more creme tomorrow but standing up mixing, pouring and melting for five hours is a bit tiring.  I feel sorry for people who have to stand on their feet all day long.  I do it every day, but I move around and can sit down and work with kids if I need to.   I would love to sew on Bundaflicka totes all weekend, but that's not all I offer at Maryland.  This year's show will be very interesting.  The festival committee has decided to devote my little building to the fleece sale and has moved me into the Main Exhibition Hall.  I'm all the way at the end, which is nice for setting up spinning wheels for demonstrating.  I'll have some of the same booth neighbors, which will be fun. AJ and Mia are both coming to help out, along with my faithful friend, Kimmie Cornerstone, and we'll have a lot of fun.  I'm looking forward to connecting with dear friends I only see at sheep shows, like Lisa Merian, who lives an hour away but is as busy as I am taking care of her own farm.  Back to work for me.  I am a one-woman-show and it's all up to me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thank You Girlies

Fancy and Matilda are enjoying the warmer weather.  Goats are hot weather animals and relish the sun and heat. I love the girls and still think they are the most exquisitely beautiful creatures.  I wish my painting skills were better.  What a lovely portrait they would make.  They stick together very closely, and never forget where they came from.  Goats are like that.  They go around in their multi-generational family groups, making them even more lovely to behold.

Just in Time

We just made it back from our hill walk in time for the rain.  Cooler temps today after a spike to 70 yesterday.  The bunsters much prefer this weather and so do I.   The sun and heat makes the grass grow so I'll deal with it, but this cool, rainy weather is great for wooly creatures and somebody who loves to wear wool, in any way, shape or form.  My bunnies need grooming but it will have to wait, along with so many other things, until after the big show next week.   I'm sewing, I'm working with soap, I still haven't started making Shepherd's Friend Hand Creme, or packing fiber sample bags.  I will have a busy weekend.  What gets done will get done and that is all.   We'll have a fabulous time in Maryland.  I'll come home and get Big Jim Baldwin over here to shear everybody and I'll have more wool to play with.  Summer is a great time to wash and dye wool.  The sun and breezes dry it so nicely.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Back to Work

School starts tomorrow and I won't have nearly as much time as I would like to get ready for Maryland.  I spent a good bit of time with AJ this weekend, cooking for him and catching up on the latest news about his new duty station.  I loved every minute.  Wish he could have stayed longer.   I did manage to make another Purple Pleather Tote with the last bit of pleather I had left.  The sheep horn button is exquisite.  I even squeezed a purple Yarn Pocket to match out of it.  When in Hamilton on Saturday we took AJ to see Captain America at the Hamilton Cinema.  On the way home we stopped at Susanne Farrington's studio to pick up some more of her fabulous cups.  I poured clove shaving soap into them tonight.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church

We worshiped at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Easter morning.  Father Aaron went incognito.  The service was lovely, with a string quartet and trumpeter along with a choir.  We walked over to the Canal Barge Coffee Shop after the service, and lingered a while chatting about this and that before journeying back to the farm.  AJ was getting ready to go back to NJ but I said not before we walk up the hill.

Captain AJ Comes Home for Easter

We met AJ at Frankie's in New Berlin for dinner Friday night.  He drove up from Mia's in Madison, NJ, where he's been staying before he travels to Ft. Sill in Oklahoma for his active duty assignment.  AJ really likes the NY Pizzeria and their eggplant parm.  I had the grilled salmon and greens.  Splendid.  We chatted for a while, catching up on all the news, and the Holy Week activities including Passover in Randolph with the other side of the family.  We brought AJ back to the farm where he showed us his US Army Cavalry sword, presented to him when he left his Nevada unit.  We got AJ settled in Hannah's Celebrity Trailer, which we use for guests now.  AJ says it's very cozy in the trailer and took Tanner as his dog company for the night.  Thor, Finn and Knut are back outside now and did a good job of keeping the coyotes away for the night. I'm surprised Captain AJ got any sleep at all.  Saturday morning I made Swedish pancakes, the way my Swedish Opa, Knut Birger Alexanderson, made them for us when I was growing up.  We didn't make them out of fresh duck eggs, that's for sure.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Piggies at Play

Scarlet and Sue Ellen are outside more than in now that the weather has turned for the better.  I knew this would happen.  They are Tamworths, also known as Irish Grazers, and graze they do.  These pigs would rather have roots and grasses than feed.  It is much easier for me to raise pigs in the winter, as I have the perfect long run between the wooden cow stanchions and the wall of the barn.  The girls have been breaking out of their run for some time now, which requires some creativity in getting them back in for feeding.  I prepare the slop and let them see me parading by with the buckets.  They start squealing and snorting among the sheep, and follow me around to the side of the barn where their pen is.  I have to undo the gate which I have tied up with rubber straps to keep them in.  They've broken out way in the back close to the barnyard but cannot get back in on their own.  I pour the slop then prop their gate open while going back to let them out of the sheep pen.  I swing the door open and they trot out, making a bee-line for the slop.  The girls are so big now they will be able to break down any gate they want soon.  It's time to go to Miss Tammy, but that fateful day will have to wait two more weeks until Maryland Sheep and Wool is over.  The trailer to transport them is full of last year's show stuff, which has to be sorted through and organized.  I just can't think about dealing with piggie processing right now.  I'm sure Scarlet and Sue Ellen won't mind.  They are having too much fun.


Walking is my great stress reliever.  I call it my "spa treatment."   I don't take a single pill for any ailment, mental or otherwise, and have to remember to take my multi-vitamin in the morning.  I pride myself on staying healthy and away from doctors.  It's the Scandie in me I think.  I know what I need to do to keep the temple in shape.  The doggies tell me when it's time to get away from the sewing machine and get going.  Cooper runs to the door and barks when it's time for our walk.  The weather is delightful - for me, that is.  Cool and sunny, with little spots of snow on the ground.  Just right for a sweater - wool, of course.  I finished a messenger tote before I got dressed, then off we went for a little walk around the field before chores.  It was just what I needed to perk up and face the rest of the day.  A lone kitty followed us up the hill, one of Lizzy's beautiful calicos.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Some things I'm thinking about to avoid distress about everything I have to do with limited time.

1.  I'm sitting down for a few minutes looking at the most beautiful hillside view in the whole wide world.
2.  A big white dog is tongue-washing the side of my face as I write.
3.  I'm sewing on luscious fabric that rich people paid hundreds of dollars a yard for, and I have stacks of it.
4.  It's cold and snowy outside but so pretty.  I love winter.
5.  The wood stove is blazing and there's a lovely stack of wood next to it.
6.  I don't have enough space to set out my soap to cure but I'll figure it out.
7.  I decided to ask a couple of people for help wrapping soap so I can do other things.
8.  The piggies are ready to go to Miss Tammy and I'll never have to worry about what's for dinner.
9.  Cyndi Lauper is on the Today Show - I've decided to dye my hair RED, well, maybe not.
10.  Father Aaron is coming to the farm this weekend before he reports to his new duty station in Az.

The snow will melt, the grass will grow, and the sheep will be fat and happy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

If I Make It...

they will come.  Today's tote is lovely.  Could hardly take a photo with the brisk wind that is blowing today. I love this fabric as I am drawn to circles and spirals.  Was I worshiping the sun at Stonehenge in another life?   I have a ton of soap to cut up for curing, which takes all the shelf space I have available.  My living space is covered with piles of beautiful fabrics and baskets of wool.  I'm very much looking forward to building the fiber art studio with adjacent bedroom in the massive space above me.  I will use every inch of it, with my looms, cutting tables and shelves.  I can hold spinning gatherings and family dinners.  Right now, all focus is on Maryland Sheep and Wool, the premier fiber art and wool show on the east coast.  My building was taken over by the fleece sale and I've been moved into the large exhibition hall.  I was not happy about this at first, but I'll enjoy the increased traffic and exposure.  I will have some of the same booth neighbors as I did in the old building.  We are bonded with each other and look forward to catching up every year.  Maryland is a real head trip and the first show of the season.  Back to work...

Lovely Weather

Halfway into April and the weather is more like spring every day.  The hillside has a slight tinge of green and the sheep are straining against the barnyard fence.  Can't let them out until the grass is up a few inches.  They would tear up the tender shoots and turn the hill into mud.  I have two more weeks worth of hay.  I have a couple of local places to try, thanks to a good hay year and people who put some away to sell to people like me who run out.  It's tee-shirt weather in the barn.  Flies are buzzing and I have two ducks sitting on eggs.  The mud/poop in the barn has thawed making chore time very slippery.  Would love to spend a couple of hours shovelling and sweeping every day but I'm very busy getting ready for Maryland Sheep and Wool in two shorts weeks.  Maryland waits for no shepherd.  I love this show and this year both AJ and Mia are coming to help me, along with Kimmie Cornerstone, my faithful fiber art sidekick.   I'm hoping Annie and Hannah can make it, too.  With Boy Scout activities, shooting camp, a cruise I hear they are taking, and Hannah's school, I'm wondering if they can make the trip.   It's so much fun to work all day, then party down at night at the campsite.  I am "off" for spring break which is a bit of a joke but truly a blessing.  I'll derive vicarious pleasure from others taking vacations to the tropics.  My house is covered with fabric, wool, and giant blocks of soap waiting to be cut up and set out to cure.  I love being home to work on product.  The doggies hang on to my every movement until about ten o'clock when they collapse on the sofas.  They are used to me being at school every day and sleeping their time away.  I'm very happy with the way my Bundaflicka Knitting Totes are looking.  I have to bang more nails into the rafters to hang the new bags and bags in progress on.  The ceiling is the only safe place to store them.  I love to sew, and am running my little machine every chance I get, between chores and critter cuddling.  I'm making some familiar totes which are good for people who come by looking for that tote that they wish they bought last year.  I still keep that woman in mind who so wanted a horsey tote, and went to find her husband in the crowd at the Fingerlakes Fiber Festival four years back.  He wouldn't buy it for her and she was sick about it.  With him there I couldn't say here, take it, and send me the money when you can.  A year later she came back to get the tote with the cash in hand.  It was long gone and I didn't have an inch of that fabric left.   That's life.  I'm eating my heart out while looking at pictures of all the lambs and goat kids people are posting.  This is the first year without babies in a dozen for me.  Am hoping to pick up a Wensleydale ram from Ann Meriwether in May.  My plan is to have fewer sheep with more wool.
We'll see how that goes.  I picked a good winter to take off, with many 20 below nights and me at work every day.  I was blessed with a rather healthy winter in spite of the harsh weather.  Not a single cold or tummy flu, just a bit of wackiness with my heart and a ski-knee that is bedeviling me now.  I am paying for all that fun I had tearing down mountains as a young woman.  I don't know what a doctor could do for me and don't trust surgery.  I think I need to do more yoga and reduce the weight on the knee.  The former is much easier than the latter.  Time to feed the piggies, who are so big they are pretty much running the place now.  I can't even think about taking them to visit Miss Tammy until after Md. Sheep and Wool.   Yeah, right, me and what Army?   I have to buy a freezer anyway.  Good excuse for putting off the inevitable...for now