Friday, November 28, 2014

My Tree

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

Nathan and Butterscotch

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Walk With Mia

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


Goaties Love the Snow

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

Thanksgiving 2014

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Storm Coming

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

Monday, November 24, 2014

Passing the Torch

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014


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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Warmer Next Week

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

Not a Fit Night Out for Man Nor Beast

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

Sunday, November 16, 2014


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

Farm Aid

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


I know it's winter when the stove has been going all weekend, the White Boys spend the night in the barn, and I've had on my fleece ski underwear all weekend.  As my body acclimatizes I'll get used to it.  We've been working on the barn, covering up broken windows, re-installing windows we took out to let summer ventilation, and general mucking out.  I ordered a 220 volt milk house heater for the room where I wash and dye wool and where I store grain and cat/dog food.  I've been heating that room with my dye stove, which costs a fortune in electricity when it's really cold.   The milk house heater will hang from the ceiling which is much safer, and much more efficient power wise.  The cats will miss sitting on the stove.  They love when I dye wool and lean against the warm pots to keep warm.  The White Boys don't have any problem keeping warm.  I give them beds of old wool that's stayed too long on the animal and is partially felted together.  I just might stuff the wool into canvas dog beds someday.  There is always some use for wool, even bad wool, if there is such a thing.  More snow and "wintery mix" is coming tomorrow night, with cold temps forecast for next week.  This sudden onset of winter has caught us by surprise, but that's okay since we have more firewood stored than previous years and a BARN FULL of HAY.  Julia is sending me five more second cut round bales today.  They will fill the tiny bit of space I have left in the hay mow.  I want some second cut for the population explosion I'm expecting in the spring. The lambs will come when there are still no flies, and green grass is just a few weeks away.   Perfect.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Farm Day

A day when I can stay home and work on the farm is a true gift.  I did leave to get to the Post Office in the village of Brookfield.  The hours have been cut by the Feds and I can only see Sharon, the postmaster, married to a former teacher at my school (don't you love country living?) between 8 and 10:30 in the morning.  I picked up my mail and sent off two packages, which always gives me enormous satisfaction.  Casting my bread upon the waters, only it's soap.  Got back to the farm and straight away set about securing the Nubian Goat Area.  Matt was very helpful with tying up fence panels and covering windows so the winter wind doesn't chill them.  The goat pen was the pig pen, but there are no pigs here now.  It runs along the barn so the Nubian goats can see the other goats and sheep but can't mingle with them until Spikey has done his job.  We caught Janey, Fancy's daughter from two years ago, and Matilda, big FAT Nubian girl who has never been pregnant.  She is gigantic from gorging on forage and Matt says the runty Spikey will not be able to mount her and do the job.  I'm hoping Matilda comes into cycle and decides to cooperate by lowering her back side to accomodate Spikey.  One can only hope.  The angora goats earn their keep by producing mohair.  The Nubians are supposed to produce goat milk.  So far it's not working out as well as I hoped.  Fancy, who is still on the loose, was a BITCH to nurse and required Matt sitting on a chair with his arms around her neck, holding her still.  She did whatever she could to kick the bucket over every time I milked her.  Good thing she's so beautiful, and that Miss Tammy at the abbatoir behind the Chobani factory does not do goats.   I'm going to give it one more try.  After working on the goats I started scraping and sweeping the milk house where the cats will winter over.  They are being moved from the "work room," a utility room next to the apartment, so Matt can build my cabinets.  Yes, it's happening.   The wood and tools I purchased was delivered on Thursday and is piled in the room.   I don't want to talk too much about it as I  might jinx it.  The milk house room is where my dye stove and wool washing machine is.  It's not a bad place for kitties as they can go in and out via the bulk tank hose trap door.  I bleached and washed all the bucket and feed pans I have in the barn.  Can't remember when I did it last and it took some time.  Gentle snow was falling outside and the sun was showing a bit.  It feels weird to work in the barn while suited up in my fleece pants, rubber boots and a hat on my head, but it's that cold now.  Came on real fast this year, in the Great North Land.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Early Snow

I rushed off to work thinking OH, how beautiful!  The sun shining through the icy branches and the hills covered with a lovely dusting of snow.  My joy was short-lived when I had been traveling on route 8 going south toward New Berlin and I noticed the cars coming the other way were creeping along with emergency flashers on.  I drove on a little way and had almost reached the Chobani factory when I saw traffic stopped and several rescue vehicles.  Two cars had apparently collided and were smashed to half their size.  I tapped my brakes to stop and guess what.  No stopping.  I kept sliding and sliding and was fast approaching the back of the vehicle in front of me when I had no choice but to steer off the road to avoid it.  Luckily there was no culvert to dive into at that spot and a lovely mile marker pole stopped me.  I put it in reverse and backed out onto the road which was a solid sheet of invisible ice.  Not a bit of silt or salt or grit had been spread on it.  We were eventually allowed to pass and I had to make a quick decision to either go miles down route 8 and cut over on 23 to Norwich, far out of my way, or risk going over the hills and dales to school the way I usually go.  I took a chance only to find a big truck stuck on Columbus Hill, not able to go forward or backward.  It took ten minutes for him to inch upward off the hill and pull over to let me and the one car behind me pass by.  I found out later that was my co-worker, Fawn, behind me, equally shook up over finding herself on impassable roads.  Low and behold when I creeped down the mountain into Sherburne the temps were high enough to melt the ice and route 12 was fine.  I pulled into the school parking lot and jumped out to check the front of my new-old Honda van.  The metal pole had not done much damage and I recalled the two totaled cars on route 8 with the policeman picking up a back pack out of one of them.  I wondered if it was a student and a fatality since I didn't see the ambulance speeding away.  Still don't know.  I asked Fawn how she made out on those awful roads and she said I was right behind you!  We got through our day and now it's Friday night.  I'm still chasing Spikey around the barn.  Got him in a dog pen now until I can fashion a secure space for him.  He's so cute but such a runt.  Maybe I can trade him with somebody for a full sized buck my girls might want.  The angora does, smaller than my Nubians, think Spikey is adorable, but that's a line I don't want to cross.   I'm in from chores at nine and pretty well knackered.  There is a mountain of dishes in the sink I should get up and wash before nighty-night.  Thing is I want nighty-night even more than a clean sink.  Wouldn't it be nice if the Irish faeries would come in the wee hours to surprise me?  Not a chance.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Snowy and Spikey

Went to the market to do shopping for the classroom - and me - with a stop at TS for goat minerals and various things.  I love to shop in Norwich because I frequently see my peeps from school supporting the local economy along with me.  By the time I got on the road heading home it was snowing.  Really snowing.  I was reminded how uncomfortable it is to negotiate winding country roads in the dark.  Pulling in the farm lane I was greeted by Reba, who was jumping with joy to see me.  Matt was home working on the barn door today but the dogs were still frantic about their mama.  Got the groceries in and a bit of dinner together before chores.  We brought Knut in the barn to hang out with Thor and the sheep.  Finn, the spoiled baby of  the three White Boys, is sleeping by the wood stove in the house.  The ducks are inside the barn and so are the sheep and goats.  Everyone is acting like this first snow is a blizzard.  I had some excitement tonight when I noticed that little Spikey, the adorable but runty Nubian buck, had escaped from his run and was cavorting with one of my lovely black angora does - a nightmare scenario as a mating with her would result in goats that would be good for neither mohair nor milk.  It took me a half hour in a semi-bent position (the barn floor is rather high due to the manure pack) chasing the entire flock around in an effort to capture Spikey and put him back in his pen.  His little ankle slipped right through my leg crook several times.  I decided to try a pan of corn and that did the trick, but I had him by the tiny horns and couldn't let go or I would lose him and he would be back mounting my gorgeous black angora girl.  I called for Matt who held him while I slipped a halter on him.  I asked Matt to kill him for me so I could feed him to the dogs, but he said no.  The Nubian girls don't want him as he is half their size and they hate him.  The smaller angoras think he is adorable and would give it up to him any time.  My plan for producing goat milk to feed to bottle lambs instead of expensive milk replacer is slipping away.  I'll have lambs in March but I can't even get the Nubians bred.  Maybe I can trade Spikey, who is adorable, for a big, bad ass Nubian buck who will make Fancy and Matilda melt.  Easier said than done. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


The weather yesterday was lovely.  Sunny and breezy weather is perfect for drying fiber.  I was shopping in New Hartford and couldn't wait to get home and spread out the chartreuse mohair that was in the washing machine tub.  With the days so short now it didn't get completely dry, and I'll have to figure out where to spread it out inside as today's weather took a turn toward winter.  The kitties love when I put fiber out on the rack.  They jump up and rub their faces against my hands as I pull the locks apart.  I'm going to send this fiber out to be spun into yarn.  I'm phasing out of the roving process.  I have way too much wool and mohair to spin myself.  I'm years behind on spinning the roving I have stored here.  I've been a hand spun snob forever, and it will be an adjustment, but I'll get used to it.  Roving is hard to display in a booth and takes lots of room to transport.   I will always have a hand spun basket in my booth, but now I'll have mill spun, too.  It will still be my Mother Fiber, from happy sheep who are not raised for meat and who never, ever endure the horrors of an auction.  Now to decide which mill to use.  Any suggestions?

Buttoned Up

With winter closing in we need to get the barn ready.  This building becomes our entire world during this season.  Windows that were taken out to allow more ventilation are put back in, if we have those windows, that is.  If we don't, we nail sheets of plastic over the openings....anything to keep the cold winds out.  A barn can't be too tightly closed up or the sheep get sick.  I don't have to worry about that.  This classy old barn is huge - 240 feet long and 40 feet wide - and has many "holes" for air to get in.  The animals are out of the wind and are dry but it still gets very, very cold.    The sheep are still grazing and will continue to do so until the snow over the grass is too deep.  Once the drifts are so high that they can't get to the grass we start forking hay twice a day.  That requires climbing ladders to the hay mow where the round bales are.  We've already started forking in the evening.  Matt is working on fixing the giant sliding East End door.  The wooden slats on the door have long been bashed and broken by sheep herding in and out.  He's going to build a small door within the door so the big door can be closed but the sheep will have an opening to get in and out of.  Sheep like to eat snow and I want them to be able to go out and get some sunshine on nice days.  The concrete slab at the far end has to be cleaned off before Matt can work on the door.  Mud slides down the hill and settles in front of the door.  The slab was put there for cows and I'm glad to have it.  The land directly in back of the barn is marshy - future pond site? - and the slab keeps the flock's feet dry.  We'll get through winter, we always do, but it's a lot of work.  All water has to be toted out of the milk house and poured into hanging buckets.  I've tried various ways to keep the flock watered.  Giving them all the water they need twice a day works best.  There is no bulk tank to get dirty or pooped in, or for lambs to drown in. When sheep are on hay they are much thirstier than when they are grazing on juicy green grass.  The milk house drain will freeze and I won't be able to wash my wool in there until spring.  The bunnies will be switched to aluminum bowls instead of bottles.  I can bang the ice out of the bowls a lot easier than defrosting bottles.  The bunners need water twice a day, before work and in the evening.  No need for trips to the gym here, just yoga every day while my bath is filling up, to keep these old muscles from pulls and spasms.   Then there will be lambing come March.  Am I nuts?  I don't know.  I think I have one or two more lambing seasons in me.  A shepherd with no lambs?  Nah, don't think so. Just wouldn't be right.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I was flying along the road to Utica this morning when I saw a wagon full of cabbages.  I turned around and went back to check it out.  The farmer's wife was selling cabbages, brussel sprouts, squash and potatoes.  I adore cabbage.  I'm famous in my school for the cabbage soup I used to make for a certain student to keep him coming back to school.  Cabbage is very, very good for you.  It keeps colds and viruses away and tastes delicious.  Sadly, spouse hates cabbage soup.  He calls it Russian Prison Soup, after the books he read by Alexander Solzinitzen.  Whatever.  I bought 20 of the big, beautiful cabbages and three brussel sprout trees.  I gave two cabbages to my chickens who feel the same way about cabbages as I do.  I figure they will thank me with delicious eggs.


Annie said she was coming to pick up her van but I didn't believe her at first.  She had been in Maryland for ten days sitting with her sick father and I didn't think she really wanted to get back on the highway again.  Her VW Westphalia camper had broken down when she and Hannah picked up Luke from the farm last summer.  She got two miles away and had to hike back to the farm.  They got back to Maine in a rented car and the camper was towed to a guy who knows how to fix them in Marcy.  The camper has no heat and they had to get it back to Maine before the weather got bad.  They arrived Saturday night and we had a big dinner of Luke's favorite baked beans, marshmallow yams, roast ham, fresh pork roast and corn.  For Hannah's sake I had nothing green what so ever.  Hannah hates green leafy food.  We chatted and got caught up on each other's news.  I don't see enough of my Eric, as he is very busy heading up the Pine Tree Council in Portland, Maine.  He has been wildly successful in revitalizing the district and I'm so happy for him.  Sunday morning we had Swedish pancakes and then they were gone, as quickly as they came.   They had to get back to their pets at home.  I resent these lightning visits as I always feel like we didn't have enough time together but I'm thankful they all came to see me.  Annie is very happy to have her van back.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Spike Lee

"Spikey" is my Nubian buck, purchased to breed Fancy, Matilda and Janey, Fancy's daughter, so I can have goat milk in the spring.  I'm expecting lambs in March and would like to have goat milk to use as lamb milk replacer if I need it.  Milk replacer is ridiculously expensive, especially when you consider it is powdered whey, a by-product of cheese and yogurt making.  A bottle lamb can cost a fortune, and, if you are the Jewish mother of the sheep world, the bottle feeding can go on for six months instead of the recommended six weeks.  Spikey is adorable, although a bit small, and the Nubian ladies are not interested in him.  Goats are fussy and go for the biggest, most macho buck they can find.   We put them all together in the lengthy pen running along the side of the barn and waited.  No signs of the activity we hoped for.  Then the big girls escaped.  I'm still not sure how, but they did.  Put them back in, another escape.  I was conflicted, as there is still lush green grass on the hillside and I felt guilty about denying such nutritiousness to the girls.  I can't let Spikey out as he might breed the angora does and they would be ruined for mohair as Spikey is a dairy goat.  I went about my business and continued to feed and pet him.  This afternoon when I returned from town I went out to the barn and - no Spikey!  Oh, crap, I thought.  He must be having a joyous romp with the angora does.  Thankfully, he was restricted to the barn yard with the sheep, who had not been let out to graze yet.   I couldn't help but notice he was "all over" a very aged white angora doe, nudging her the way bucks do, and nuzzling her until the tail.   A little while later I saw them together in the barn where I treat the goats to cracked corn, a trick I use to get them inside while the sheep are out to graze.  Luckily, I was able to lasso them and I put them in Spikey's pen together.  Spikey was delighted, as he is in love.  The old doe is happy to have the attention and be in a pen where she is given grain twice a day and doesn't have to fight off the younger goats to get to it.  When spouse returns from his weatherization trip we'll put the Nubian does back in the pen with Spikey and his old lady.  Maybe they'll be jealous and "give it up" so I can have my goat milk for my lambs in the spring.

Heartwork Quilts

I finally made it to Heartworks Quilt Shop, in Hartwick, on the way back from Cooperstown, today. What a pleasant experience.  This comfortable shop has an expansive array of fabrics, including quilt cottons, decorator fabrics, fleece, flannels and woven wool yardage.  I gave myself a half hour to browse the two floors and made friends with the resident spaniels.  I used to quilt, years ago, but when I discovered the wonderful world of natural fibers and spinning, quilting was left by the way side pretty much.  I still lust after quilt cottons, and use them to wrap my soaps.


Honey for Sale

I adore honey.  I think it is a miracle substance and have it every night in my chamomile tea and sometimes in my coffee.  I put it in my hand made soap.  I'm very concerned about the plight of the bees.  Many local hives have failed.  I buy honey from local beekeepers as often as I can.  Honey never goes bad so I feel it is a good investment.  Who knows - honey may be unavailable someday.   When I was driving to Cooperstown a while ago I noticed some lovely bee hives painted rainbow colors.  I was in Cooperstown today and made a point to slow down so that I might snap a photo of the pretty hives.  I noticed a sign and a table with jars.  That was a perfect excuse to stop.  I love when people put their wares out for sale.  I like to support their entrepreneurial spirit and reward them for their hard work and trust in the public to pay for the goods.  I bought the four jars on the table and took a picture.   I think I'll have some of the new flower honey tonight.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Still Swimming

Cooper and Bertha are still enjoying a daily swim in the pond.  The other dogs like to get a good long drink or delicious spring water while still on solid ground.  The pond is our favorite walk destination.  We check out the few remaining gold fish Madame Blue Heron has left us and walk all around before heading up to the Tippy Top or downhill to the lower hill top pasture and back down to the barn.  I'm thinking we have another month before the pond of frozen over and the doggies will be skating instead of swimming.